The Photo As Politics: Clinton and Clinton

As the Iowa caucuses near and the Democratic race for president between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama tightens, the political narrative changes. That change is certainly evident in the campaign, and in the images emerging from it. The Clinton camp is increasingly trotting out the Big Dog himself, former president Bill Clinton, but it’s a tricky maneuver.

As the Iowa caucuses near and the Democratic race for president between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama tightens, the political narrative changes. That change is certainly evident in the campaign, and in the images emerging from it. The Clinton camp is increasingly trotting out the Big Dog himself, former president Bill Clinton, but it's a tricky maneuver. So much of this is new: a woman front-runner; a former president who may return with his wife to the seat of power; a charismatic husband who may become the first First Gentleman; a political team running for office where only one can make the decisions. How do you sell it? What kind of political narrative will make sense of this novel situation? An article about the campaign in today's New York Times points the way with two different images by two different photographers, one aiming high, the other low.
At a recent Iowa campaign event, Getty Images photographer Brendan Smialowski captured the former president literally at his wife's feet. The symbolism couldn't be clearer, politically and sexually: Her heels are modest in size but nonetheless we know who the submissive partner is supposed to be in this political relationship.
Meanwhile, a photo made at a Clinton fundraiser last week by Associated Press photographer Rick Schultz shows the stagecraft involved when a husband and former president speaks out for his wife and perhaps future president. No matter how popular Bill Clinton is with Democrats—and he is very popular—he must be dwarfed in comparison to the image of Hillary. Pulling these two shots together to illustrate the article was simply brilliant.
--David Schonauer