On page A21 of yesterday's New York Times readers were greeted with this visual juxtaposition accompanying a story about the Kennedys' endorsement of Obama:
Both candidates, the captions tell us, were speaking to crowds of college students. Apart from the obvious and heavyhanded attempt at juxtaposition (Clinton is alone, separated from the student crowd by a barrier that seems unnecessarily far away; Obama is mobbed by screaming students eager for a glimpse and the mere touch of his hand), the Obama photo also perfectly visually performs one of Obama's key themes: it's not about me, it's about you. The photograph is all about the crowd: the open-mouthed excitement of a diversity of faces, the hands reaching out and being grasped, the cellphones and cameras pointed at the face of a man we can't even see. And the perspectival vanishing point lies well beyond the top frame of the picture, with the effect that the crowd extends as far as the eye can see; it's visually infinite.
Another rock star image, by the same photographer, appeared on the front page of Monday's paper. This time, Obama is encircled by attentive reporters and microphones.
From what I can tell from my admittedly anecdotal tracking, the rock star theme is coming to dominate visual representation of Obama-at least for the NYT photographer following his campaign. There's a danger in this, I suppose, if it starts to come off as style with no substance. But the two rock star images here seem to balance that: the electricity of his mere presence in the top image offset, perhaps, by the apparent interest in the substance of his voice and ideas in the second. At any rate, I'm keeping an eye on it.
images, top to bottom: Obama-Damon Winter, NYT; Clinton-Todd Heisler, NYT; Damon Winter, NYT.