Culture

An examination of that remarkable photo of the Obama Situation Room

Since White House photographer Pete Souza uploaded it to Flickr yesterday afternoon, the photo above — taken in the White House Situation Room as the president and his closest confidants watched the raid on the Bin Laden compound go down — has been circulating widely on the web (It’s been viewed over 1.4 million times as of this writing). Yes, people are still talking about the photo I termed “an indelible image that future generations will identify with this moment in time,” and now web entrepreneur Rex Hammock has posted an interesting deeper analysis of the photo on his blog.

In an essay titled “Why the White House situation room photo is so powerful,” he writes:

At first, I thought it was the intensity of the President that made the shot — it did when I first saw it. Obama’s crouching position (while others are erect or leaning back) is probably going to be analyzed by body-language experts, but any group of people who’ve watched a TV sporting event (and I apologize in advance for the following comparison, considering the serious nature of what they were watching), will recognize Obama’s position as that of the person in the room who in addition to being a fan, has just made a call to his bookie.

But, upon further examination, I’ve decided this photo’s true power can best be understood by looking at it, as one can do on Flickr, at the original size it was posted, 4996 x 2731 pixels (click to slide show, then “view all sizes). At this size, you can see the photo as its photographer saw it through the lens — or the photo-editor who chose it might.

At 4996 x 2731, you can immediately see the photo’s focal point is Hillary Clinton — more specifically, her eyes.

The photo tells a story of an entire room of people, but this is a photograph of Hillary Clinton. And, frankly, it is one of the most powerful, honest photographs you’ll ever see of a public figure.

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