Photographers who’ve been covering the 2008 presidential campaign have had precious few chances to capture truly candid moments with the candidates this year, says Temple University’s Andrew Mendelson, chair of the journalism department. Mendelson told a gathering a the Newseum yesterday that the public needs to understand just how “managed” campaign images really are.
As an example, he showed this photo of Barrack Obama
and compared it to this one of another Democrat running for president more than 50 years ago:
Adlai Stevenson had a reputation as an intellectual, aloof and a bit elitist. The photo helped to humanize him, although it didn’t keep him from being trounced by Republican Dwight Eisenhower. Mendelson admitted he’s a bit of a cynic, but he couldn’t help wondering if Obama’s staffers had image management in mind when they allowed a photographer to take shots of the candidate with his feet up on a desk. “We aren’t getting intimate moments,” he said. “They make sure the photographer is let in.”
It’s obvious to working journalists that campaigns manipulate images. Background, lighting, angle–nothing is left to chance. But Mendelson’s lecture was a reminder that part of our job as journalists is to be transparent, and to let the public in on what we know.