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Political commentators are saying that today’s primary in Michigan is a do-or-die test for Mitt Romney, who has yet to post a “W” in the presidential race. Romney grew up in Michigan, and his father was the state’s governor, so losing there would be an embarrassment. But in courting votes he may have made an embarrassing photographic gaffe. A picture of Romney having coffee with an out-of-work Michigan mother was publicized by his campaign, but some important information was not made public. The woman in the photo, Elizabeth Sachs, is the mother of a paid Romney campaign worker. (Go here for the entire story.)
Should this matter? Yes. As we’ve noted here before, photographs purporting to serve as evidence of one kind or another are almost meaningless without good captions. In this case, local and national media reported on the event (the photo here is an Associated Press image), but apparently didn’t disclose at first the family connection between Sachs and Romney, whose campaign likewise did not mention the connection.
The basic facts of Ms. Sach’s predicament would be the same whether or not her son worked for Romney: She’s a single mother who lost her job and health insurance. She needs help. The presidential candidate was lending an ear. But by disclosing only part of the story, and not the entire truth, the Romney campaign ended up seeming a little shifty.
For all of us interested in photography, the point is this: Honest imagery is easily turned into propaganda without accurate reporting.–David Schonauer