Behold the Media’s Photo-Propaganda

Behold the Media’s Photo-Propaganda, by Jay Caruso.

Recently, New York magazine published a profile piece on Donald Trump’s White House counselor and campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. The profile itself is well-written, and overall I found it to be fair and interesting. That said, when I saw the accompanying photos, I couldn’t help but be taken aback. I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years, and I’ve done editorial and corporate headshots before. What I saw in New York magazine is something I would never present to a client.

Below is the photo used in the piece:

As you can see, the photo uses unflattering light. As you can tell from the shadows, it’s diffused, but is still not all that pleasing. Any photographer with any experience shooting headshots will tell you that having a subject stare straight ahead into the camera is a poor choice. Most people have an issue with one eye being slightly larger and sometimes not aligned entirely with their other eye. The easiest way to address this is to have subjects slightly turn their heads to the side to address it. Also, there were no touch-ups on Conway’s face. She is a fifty-year-old woman, and no photo editing software can make her look 20 years younger, but some simple edits can easily make the photo appear more pleasing.

I took it upon myself to download a copy of the photo and edit in Photoshop. Without the source image, my options were limited due to the lack of detail in the photo file. Still, after only ten minutes, I produced the following image: …

See the link for other examples: giving Michelle Bachmann crazy eyes on the cover of Newsweek, making Mitt Romney look much older, and portraying Obama as striking and mysterious.

It likely would not have bothered me so much if I didn’t see something similar to this in the past. Bias in journalism can, unfortunately, extend to bias in photojournalism. … It’s as if the staff at Newsweek went through every image they were given and picked the worst one to use. …

It’s impossible to prove if the bad photos in question were selected for political reasons, but if you look at Michelle Obama for example, whenever she appears on a magazine cover, she looks stunning. Michelle Obama is 53 years old and looks terrific for her age but every portrait of her features very soft lighting, no distractions, and enough editing to remove almost every blemish. …

As the history of visual propaganda reminds us, images can be as powerful as words in promoting ideology.

Reminds me of the cold war era movies. In American movies the Soviets were always bad looking actors and the Americans handsome, but in the Soviet movies the Soviet agents were handsome and the Americans looked almost deformed.