Thursday, March 11, 2010

Picture This

This came up on Slate’s twitter feed: “Check out the stock art on this awful story about a dad who raped his daughters.”

So I went and looked. It's a cropped, black-and-white photograph of a man holding a woman down - his hand, at the end of a hairy forearm, is locked around her wrist, her fingers are curled into a not-quite fist; some strain is showing. They're both Caucasians. You don't see anything more of him; part of her head and body are showing - just enough to tell she's wearing a white t-shirt.

Some of the remarks in the comments section complained about the photo being in poor taste, but it just seemed, well, there to me. (I don't know how else to put it.) What really caught me about it was the idea that it was a stock photo. Someone staged that picture, and put it up on iStockphoto for sale. And that's what struck me as strange. Don't ask me why, because intellectually, I guess it makes sense - after all, CBS News decided that it was just the picture they needed, since they didn't have (or wouldn't/couldn't post) a mug shot, press conference, home or anything else germane to the story. So I guess the artist made a small commission on the piece. But still, I have a hard time picturing that shoot. I find myself intensely curious as to what went on.

"Move your hand a little farther up, Jack."

"Turn your head a little to the right, Jill."

"Should I slide over a little bit?"

"I don't think that light is in the right place."

In the end, I guess it's just like any other photo shoot. A photographer comes up with a concept and hires a couple of models to play the roles, and some time later, one or more professional photographs come out of it. But it would never have occurred to me to set up something like this particular picture. In all honesty, I understand that is says something about me, more than anything else. But I don't know what.

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