Worth a look: Kai-Huei Yau’s Football On the Campaign Trail portraits

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.

Jon Stewart slams Time Magazine (and Pellegrin’s cover image)

Time Magazine - covers for International and US editions - February 20, 2012 | Vol. 179 No. 7

Dismissing Paolo Pellegrin’s portrait of Mario Monti as a stock photo for a heart disease ad, Jon Stewart takes Time magazine to task for the lightweight cover stories on its American editions. The current issue, shown above, the American edition of the magazine has a cover about animal friendships, while the worldwide editions have a cover featuring Italian prime minister Mario Monti. This isn’t the first time there’s been such a disparity between the various editions, though it’s not always the Americans who get the lightweight cover.

This is pretty easy criticism that shows up every time this happens with Time, and it isn’t entirely fair. The different covers make Time look bad, but if anything, a closer look shows that the difference between the editions reflects more poorly on the American news consumer than on Time magazine. The contents of the US and various international editions is basically the same; both cover stories are in all editions. The covers are used primarily to attract readers at the newsstand, and this has got to be the reason behind different covers for different markets. In the US, the magazine is on stands in grocery stores and airports alongside fluffier magazines. Time needs to compete with the likes of O, People, and Cat Fancy. Outside of the US (in my experience, anyway) the magazine is most often sold in locations frequented by business and government travelers next to copies of the International Herald Tribune and the Economist. I don’t have Time’s per-issue circulation figures at hand, but I’d bet the lighter covers sell much better in the US than covers relating to hard news and international affairs. So, while I’m usually on board with Jon Stewart’s comedy, I think the Daily Show’s reading of Time magazine’s covers misses the mark with a simple reading of the magazine and its marketing.

Be sure to check out this short video of Pellegrin’s less-than-15 minute portrait shoot with Monti.

And also on the subject of newsweekly covers, here’s a look at all the cover options Newsweek tried for its recent sex issue.