Stories, Musings & The Vision Thing

What’s Wrong With This Picture

Today there was a historic meeting between Hillary Clinton and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi.  And this photo ran in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s opposition leader, in Yangon on Thursday.


What I see is what seems to be a cordial meeting.  They’re both smiling and seem pleased to be together.  I also notice that Hillary is wearing white and wearing her hair pulled back, as is Aung San Suu Kyi.  I take that as a sign of respect on Hillary’s part.  But other than that, the photo seems very straight forward, especially given the headline in the NYT  “U.S. Will Ease Some Limits on Myanmar, Clinton Says”

When I went to the Wall Street Journal I noticed how they portrayed the event.  Here’s the Photo they ran:

WSJ version

You can tell from the camera angle it was most likely taken by the same photographer.  The pose is almost identical, but compare the images and the pictures tells a different story. 

NYT/Post version

The NYT/Post picture is “warmer” with the red, yellow tones slightly more present and the whites brighter and more distinct.  This makes the picture look more lifelike and more pleasing to the eye.  My guess is that this is pretty much the way things actually looked.  I say that because Hillary’s skin tones look good and the white levels seem correct.  When you work with images, if you pay attention to the skin tones and the whites, everything else usually falls into place.

WSJ version
The WSJ image is more grayed out, flatter, with a slightly greenish tinge.  Green skin is not eye appealing, it makes people look more sickly and unpleasant.  And the whites are dulled too, giving it an overall dim, muddy quality.  Not appealing at all.  

What about the captured moment?

NYT/Post version

In the NYT/Post image, Hillary is just beaming and that, in itself, says a lot. Look at how the two women are with each other and you can see they’re connecting and seem happy to be together. Look at the tilt of Aung San Suu Kyi’s head and you can almost see positive energy flowing between them.

WSJ version

In the WSJ image they seem to be sizing each other up.  They are certainly more formal with each other and their bodies seem more rigid, as if they’re not together by choice.    

More importantly, in the NYT/Post image you see a meeting of equals and it certainly casts Hillary in a proactive, positive light. In the WSJ image, Hillary is much less attractive.  And they’ve made it easier to see her in a poor light – figuratively and literally. For me, that’s what’s wrong with this picture, it’s a subtle way of shading the news.


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  1. Interesting Dan. But don’t forget you have your own personal filters too!

  2. Anonymous

    Wow Dan, this is great stuff for a discusion! Thanks for doing it!
    Hi Mary.
    The use of the word “But” probably means disagreement. I’m curious. In what ways do you disagree with Dan’s analysis?

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