September 28, 2008

Do You Trust This Man? Look at the Details.
Henry Paulson on Newsweek

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Newsweek’s Cover (see larger version)

To paraphrase M. Night Shyamalan’s famous line from his film The Sixth Sense, “I see details.” I am hyper vigilant when it comes to noticing the particulars of everyday life. I’ve often felt I’m different than the average person. This recent dialogue between Steve Portigal and Dan Soltzberg on noticing reminded me of this. This power has been both the bane of my existence and my salvation. But it aptly describes who I am.

This sixth sense is often distracting, constantly poking me in the sides (every time I walk past this restaurant near work and notice its incorrect typographic signage I literally cringe). Yet it’s also helped me write and photograph about slices of life that on the surface might appear inconsequential but bring to mind to new insights in the world around me. Life Outtacontext is filled with these musings.

So when I received the latest issue of Newsweek with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson’s portrait on the cover I was immediately mesmerized by it. My magazine subscriptions always make their way to my special bathroom library where I do a lot of my periodical reading. And each time I sat down I stared at his face.

Why did they choose to print this hyper real photograph of him? At first I thought he should have smiled. But then “happiness” wouldn’t be the type of message he and Newsweek would want to convey about this huge economic crisis. Yet, his dour face made me fear him rather than the mess financial lenders had gotten us into. If, at that moment, we needed to trust his judgment, what kind of signal was this image conveying?

“King Henry” read the huge caption. My future was in the hands of this bigger-than-life figure. Yet, as the week progressed and I continued to study this visage, my eyes settled on King Henry’s chin. He had missed a part of his face when he shaved that morning and it clearly stood out.

Now I know what it’s like to shave when you’re eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. It’s easy to miss something as you observe your work through the slightly blurring optics you have acquired over the years. Sometimes I think it’s nature’s way of softening the effects of getting older. Everything looks fine, just the way cinematographers and photographers used Vaseline or a nylon stocking to soften the lens and keep aging stars looking young. But I always put on my glasses for a final look before I rinse my razor.

Why did Newsweek choose to print this detail? What did it mean? Khue Bui, the photographer who shot this cover, could have easily mentioned to Paulson that he might want to take a minute to “freshen up” before the shoot. Or they could have easily have eliminated his whiskers in post-production (surely no one could be called on the carpet for this little bit of Photoshop retouching). What did this detail mean?

Were they saying that while he might be king, he was human and that we still were in major jeopardy? If so, it was awfully subtle. Or were they saying this man can’t be trusted to shave, how can we trust him to save our life savings?

As the week wore on this small detail became bigger and bigger. I couldn’t put it out of my mind. Was I the only one to notice?

View Most Recent Story:::Notify me when there's a new missive!


Interesting post, Jeff. It is indeed funny the things that jump out at us at times when you we look at pictures. With all the pictures available and with the large editorial staff at Newsweek, you can bet that this picture was selected for some purpose. The question might be - what image of Paulson would Newsweek like to present? Would Newsweek have an agenda besides just presenting the “news”? That’s also an interesting consideration to throw into your mix.

Posted by: Rob on September 28, 2008 3:41 PM

Comments are now closed for this post. But there are a few other entries which might provoke an opinion or two.

Related Posts with Thumbnails