It’s not often that a local newspaper’s fall football preview package doubles as on-the-money political satire, but Kai-Huei Yau’s portraits of high school football stars for the Tri-City Herald in eastern Washington state do just that. The spectacle and pageantry of the national presidential campaign has been distilled to its essence in these portraits of competing football players from area high schools. And what do we have in the national presidential campaign if not a high school popularity contest writ large. Just as with high school football players, the politicians have supporting team members, cheerleaders, adoring fans allied to one team or another rather than a particular player, sponsorship and recruiting deals, and parades playing to the hometown base. In one image (above #3), we have a stern looking player appearing to deliver a serious speech with the word “Bombers,” the high school’s team name and mascot, written across his chest; at the Republican National Convention last week, Senator John McCain’s might well have worn the same jersey during his war-mongering foreign policy speech. In another (see the whole series here), we have a player wearing a suit with dirty and bruised fingers standing at a podium holding a football; it’s a perfect visual metaphor for the compromises made behind the scenes that underpin the clean images that candidates present to the public.
Kudos to Kai for his work on this piece. Not all of the images are entirely successful (he’s relying on the acting chops of high school football players, after all), but the idea is right on the money. High school football coverage can be a bear to do, but this silly, over-the-top send-up of high school is creative commentary on the national political campaign process and beats the pants off of most other fall football previews I’ve seen.
Be sure to check out his blog post at the paper’s website for more images from the project and explanation of how he pulled off some of the shots.