Reading The Pictures: Focusing Past The Mourning Show

05/25/2011 12:05 pm ET
  • Michael Shaw Publisher of the visual politics and media literacy site, Reading The Pictures.


Why is this the newswire's most impressive pic of Bush at Virginia Tech?

It's because of the visual quid pro quo.

We have a photo-op White House that has always approached any event, first and foremost, in terms of its "backdrop" potential. We have an administration, lately reduced to a clown show, desperate for absolutely anything that can run off with the news cycle. And we have a hyper-vigilant Karl Rove who, since New Orleans, has had an eye for any disaster-opportunity which could help restore some face post-Katrina.

Therefore (whether an overt or instinctive move), the photographer "built in an equalizer," trading off the foreground for the background, and placing attention in the most politically unlikely of places -- where it was more necessary and real.

For more coverage of the Bush visit to Virginia Tech, visit here at

(image: Larry Downing/Reuters. Blacksburg, Virginia, April 17, 2007. via YahooNews)