Recently I come across a photo of Russian president Vladimir Putin and formar United States president Barack Obama in meeting. In this photo Putin is captured taking sip of tea/coffee and Obama explaining him something. I started wondering about what is the message media wants to convey through this specific moment.

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We come across thousands of such a photos everyday through newspapers and web articles.

I am quite aware that we can come to different conclusions about such specific photos. and also the selection of photos published is sole choice of publisher and different sides choose different photos from same event to suit their respective agenda and to highlight their leaders etc.

So I'd like to ask: are questions asking regrading explanation of what a particular photo or photo moment is trying to convey us loosely from perspective of political science/ analysts or in general is on topic here on politics SE ?

Note - I am specifically asking about photos of political figures in specific poses , moments, gestures and facial expressions and not of any other political photos in general.

Image source


2 Answers 2


I don't think that such questions would be very useful for this website, because the answers would be mostly speculative. We can not read the mind of the editor who chose this picture, so we can not answer reliably what they want to intentionally convey with this image and what's just coincidence.

If one really tried, then you could interpret something into every single detail in this picture. Perhaps the green desserts represent ecologic policy, and that Putin's desert doesn't have a cookie on it means Russia doesn't take environmental problems seriously enough? Then perhaps the parasol symbolize how the political elite blocks out the consequences of climate change? Likely not, but can you prove me wrong?

Yes, media outlets can and do manipulate with the way they choose and crop pictures, but it's hard to prove in the individual case whether their decisions are based on politics, aesthetics, availability of pictures or a mix of these.

  • On the cucumber silly side, the parasol suggests Burns doesn't like [sun]burns? Mar 1, 2023 at 3:19

screenshot from How Michael Dukakis' tank ad symbolized his 1988 campaign l FiveThirtyEight

The winner in 1988 was:

not the guy in the iconic (infamous) tank photo

From the video:

Mary Matalin with Bush '88 campaign: We wanted to make a parody; if you wanted to caricature what common sense Americans thought of the rabid anti-war liberals, that was your picture.

Matt Bennett with Dukakis '88 campaign (and who "helped stage the infamous 'Dukakis in a tank' photo-op that helped sink Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential campaign."): It taught me the power of political imagery which is overwhelming. Dukakis gave a really good speech about important things, no one heard it, and no one cared.

I just watched How Michael Dukakis' tank ad symbolized his 1988 campaign l FiveThirtyEight linked in this answer to Why do attack ads focus so much on Joe Biden's mental state but not Donald Trump's?

I think an argument can be made that questions about the uses of images by campaigns can certainly work here, and in certain cases, if there is overwhelming consensus from both sides after the fact there seems to be in this case, that "How well did they work?" can sometimes be asked and answered in a relatively fact-based way.

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