Errol Morris takes a page from BagNewsNotes in his latest New York Times blog post about the visual record of George W. Bush’s presidency. Morris has a history of photographic deconstruction on his NYT blog, and but this differs in that, rather than forensic investigation, he asks the heads of Reuters, the Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse, to show and discuss the images they feel best represent the character of Bush and his administration in the over the past 8 years. Vincent Amalvy (AFP), Santiago Lyon (AP), and Jim Bourg (Reuters), choose a lot of the usual suspects: there’s Bush watching Hurricane Katrina’s damage from an airplane, hearing about the World Trade Center attacks, and standing on the rubble at Ground Zero. But in addition to seeing the differences between the 3 agencies’ takes on the same situations, there’s some discussion on the nature of covering a president, how these photos come about, and what they mean. Midway through the piece, Errol Morris also happens upon a very crucial point in modern politics: photographs have the power to define public figures more than just about anything else.
Bush, at his final press conference, was asked if he regretted something; it’s that regret question. And when Bush said he regretted “Mission Accomplished,” it was as though what he regretted was the photograph. Regret that this photograph had made him look bad, had compromised his public image.”
Santiago Lyon of the AP, continuing the thread, mentions the so-called “Turf Builders” in the Reagan administration:
There were the “Turf Builders,” photographers who accompanied the White House advance teams in the Reagan era, sending one photographer to reconnoiter the photo opportunities on foreign presidential travel. They visited the scenes where the president was going to be photographed and took notes on the locations and distances to assist the photographers who would later travel with the president. They produced a guide that told you what lens to use and what the light was going to be. They no longer do that, but I feel that the existence of such a procedure spoke to the orchestration of White House photo opportunities.”