As some of you know, I've just completed my first pass at a project examining photographs of President Obama pictured with White House art. In addition to presenting it at the Texas A&M Obama conference last weekend, I also got a bit of fun campus pub with this story and narrated slideshow. The photograph above is an example of what I call a "hailing" photograph: a photograph that hails objects of art in ways that turn them into characters in the photograph. With this image recently uploaded to the White House Flickr photostream, I've hit the trifecta: not just the bronze bust of Lincoln and Rembrandt Peale's Washington portrait, but also the bust of King just behind Obama's chair.
As a result of this work I have paid quite a lot of attention to the White House Flickr photostream lately. I have noticed over time that many photographs depict Obama in the act of listening. For fun, this morning I decided to do a search of the word "listen" within the photostream. That search turned up 112 photographs in which the caption included the word "listen" (e.g., listens, listening, etc.). Roughly a third of them depict people listening to Obama, and the rest depict Obama listening to others.
Hardly scientific, but interesting in the context of ongoing public conversations about whether Obama spends too much time deliberating, weighing evidence, and listening to others rather than making decisions. And a different picture of leadership than the (belated, in my view) "going on offense" stance of this photo from the front page of the NYT this week.
image credit: "President Barack Obama listens to staff during a meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 23, 2010." (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)