Is it just me…

…or does this picture make Barack Obama look exceedingly dark-skinned?

profile of Barack Obama

Now, knowing how much effort news agencies put into selecting the perfect shot and even air-brushing things to make them look a particular way, it makes me wonder why this picture–which really isn’t a good photo in any way–would be selected to accompany a story about the first African-American to win a major party’s nomination?

I mean, compare it to these, also from CNN:

Obama speaking and pointing

So, why use the photo that makes Obama look the most like a stereotype of an angry black man?  Especially when accompanying an article in which he says expresses that it is an ” enormous honor” to (presumptively) receive the Democratic nomination?

I know, I know, some of you will think I’m paranoid. But a picture is a powerful way of communicating–one that is sometimes able to bypass our critical thinking.  So why choose this image?  Because it was a choice.


7 thoughts on “Is it just me…

  1. His skin looks darker in the picture up top, but because of the pensive expression on his face in the darker shot, he looks angrier to me in the shots where he has light skin and he looks like he’s lecturing somebody.


  2. Interesting, CC. I think I see “anger” in the top photo because his jaw seems to be clenched and the veins or ligaments or something are popping out and are clearly visible. That is a definite sign of anger in my son, who looks enough like Obama that I am probably projecting…
    I hope others join in with opinions.


  3. Personally, I think it’s a rather powerful photo. Shadow is a common way to increase impact. Yes, it makes him look darker, but it would make anyone darker, not just someone who happened to start out dark. Then there is the look on his face. Pensive? Angry? I’m going with either pensive or just plain determined. The eyebrows and forehead aren’t saying “anger” to me. They’re relaxed.

    What’s really interesting to me, though, is the angle. I see two possible messages here. 1) He’s looking to the future (one that looks brighter than where he is currently?) and 2) He’s taking the lead. He’s not facing a crowd. Rather, the viewer is behind him, as if ready to follow.

    Yes, it’s unconventional, but it’s really much more interesting than the standard “making a speech” shots that we see so much of. Those don’t really tell a story. Limited impact. A portrait would have even less impact.

    As for the problem of using a picture like this to “accompany a story about the first African-American to win a major party’s nomination.” In that, I agree, though for different reasons.

    Yes. He’s black. We know. It seems to me that by continually bringing that up, the media is almost promoting a racially charged contest. Ooooh. The first significant non-white candidate. Yeah, it’s a big deal. But his skin color has absolutely no bearing on whether or not he can do the job. It would be great if they’d lay off the race card completely and report actual news.

    Come November, this country does not need to have people screaming that Obama only won because he’s black, or that McCain only won because he’s not. This is exactly the outcome the media seems to want.

  4. I think you’re right.
    Of all the good images I’ve seen with dramatic lighting, in profile, etc. This has a horrific background, framing, and facial expression. Surely they had others but chose this one for a reason. The only thing special about it seems to be skin tone.

    I am also bothered by the 3/4 profile, which prohibits the viewer from connecting to the person (can’t see the eyes).

  5. I agree with Christina that the more Barack is identified as ‘the black’ candidate, the more he will be alienated from whites who have been made to feel he is ‘out of touch’ even though they agree with his positions. Race is one of many distractions from the issues and message that have gotten him this far.

  6. Sean: Yes, the picture highlights his complexion as being dark but I am not seeing the anger you mention. I see more anger in the other photos you posted but even they do not come across as overly angry perhaps more forthright in making a point. The emotions I see in the first picture is more wistful, more contemplative of the possible future. The shadows are too strong for me to see if his jaw is clenched or if his veins are popping out in his neck that you describe seeing. I do see a crease in his skin on his neck perhaps that is what you saw as veins. But we bring to photographs our own history and experiences so who knows what the intended impact of this photo was to be and what the public will take away from it. If future photographs begin to highlight his darker complexion then I think you have an argument. But after one photograph, I wouldn’t go there quite yet.

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