This photo, featured on the 11.30.10 HuffPost landing page, is one of my favorite politically-themed photos of the year. It depicts a perfect little scene. Whoever took it for Getty Images deserves a prize. Its composition is precise, balanced and economical. In terms of storytelling, there's a lot going on in the frame.
Mitch McConnell is the key to the photo's drama. The play is all on him. His eyes are riveted on Rep. Cantor. It's as if President Obama does not even exist. Whatever Cantor's doing is agitating the shit out of Mitch. His chin is clenched like a fist and he appears to be biting his lower lip. His eyes are a directed a little right of the center of his face, which adds a kind of suddenness to their focus, you can feel their movement. It just happened.
What is Rep. Cantor doing? He's seeing Obama eye to eye, that's what, and that cannot be a good thing for McConnell. The evenness of Cantor's gaze, and his relaxed (not lower lip biting) collegiality in Obama's presence is a threat to the old bull. The photographer caught McConnell at the precise instant the news is getting to his brain.
If there's any doubt in our minds, Nancy Pelosi, to the left and back in the frame, underscores the emotional dynamic and keeps our eyes moving across the frame. She's got her eyes on McConnell and a satisfied expression on her face, like a delivery person just arrived at her door with flowers.
The reactions are all extremely subtle, of course, that's the language spoken in these rooms. If the photograph had not frozen them, maybe no one would have noticed. But it's there. Power is moving, and it's this movement that makes the photo an especially good one.
Mike Bonifer is the author of GameChangers -- Improvisation for Business in the Networked World. and the CEO of GameChangers LLC