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...a sweatshop of moxie

Friday, January 16, 2009

Guess What Barack Obama Was Doing On January 13 at 5:38 PM?

He was sat sitting having his first official photo took!

The first portrait of President Obama has officially been released. It’s the first portrait of a President taken by a digital camera. The EXIF data says that the picture was taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, probably one owned by the White House’s newly appointed photographer Pete Souza. The shot was taken on January 13th, 2009 at 5:38 pm with no flash, using a 105mm lens stopped to f/10 at a 1/125 exposure, with an ISO of 100.

Though it doesn't say, I presume this was taken by Pete Souza in the Hays-Adams Hotel in Washington, the highly aristocratic hotel in D.C. where the Obamas are lodged (until they get into Blair House, having kicked out that Aussie John Howard at last).

I must say I rather like this photograph, and it's a good job too, as this is the official Presidential photograph we'll see in military bases, US Embassies, government buildings, etc. etc. for four long years.

Let's critique the hi-res photo, shall we?

First off, I like President-Elect Obama's general expression. It's resolute without any of that gravity-defying pose his chin sometimes has. There is even a twinkle in his eye, almost as he is sharing a joke with his accomplice, AKA the viewer.

He's also looking straight at the camera, but it doesn't make the viewer flinch (in part, because unlike a stranger assuming the same pose, the visage of a famous person makes us less uncomfortable. The same is true of their voice on the radio).

His now-trademark white shirt has been doffed, and in its stead is a powder blue one, with a rather elegant tie for a man not given to much variety in neckties.

And yes, he's somehow not forgotten to put on the US flag on his lapel, a gesture which nauseated Liberals when Dubya did it, but they wink when its Obama, congratulating him for playing "the game" he really doesn't want to play -- that of rank sentimental patriotism.

This photograph somehow makes me sit up and take notice. It's a cathartic moment in an observant American's life, when you see officialese acknowledge that there has been a changing of the guard.

Like seeing the first minted stamp of a reign when an old monarch has died, it suggests that one door has resolutely closed in history, allowing the entry of the new leader, at last unfettered by his predecessor's presence.

Of course, not everyone is bowled over by it as I am. The tart tongues over at Gizmodo had other things to say:

"its weird when you think about that he will be the most powerful Black man in the history of mankind"

[It's always about the race with some people, isn't it? I don't even notice that he's black. He's just Obama]

"Ahhhh, the Canon 5D Mark II - Obama approved!"

[Nikon here I come]

"I think he should have the first moving portrait. Like harry potter sh*t or something."

[Moving portrait? I don't get it, is this an inside joke?]

"that is not a very good photograph...."

[Strictly speaking, no, it's not. The composition of the American flag over his shoulder looks somehow off]

"They should have let him hold up is BlackBerry in frame, just so he has something to remember it by.."


"his hair bothers me, you'd think they'd try to make it perfect or at least photoshop it"

[His hair? I don't see anything wrong with it. It shows his white hair already peeping through. Much worse is that heavy Nixonesque five o'clock shadow, especially over his lip]

"I usually do not critique, but the crooked mouth, the bad crop on the OoF flag, and the harsh shadow in the outer corner of the left eye; I would have retaken this and moved the fill reflector a bit. I understand the lighting they are going for, to get some texture in the face, but I just do not think it was well executed."

[That's the kind of comment we expect from Gizmodoistas]

"I'm disappointed that he felt it necessary to wear a flag pin on his lapel. After taking a much more mature position on those pins earlier in the campaign, when right-wing blowhard morons were criticizing him for not wearing one, he seems to have caved. I mean, there's a giant flag right behind him. Is it really necessary to stick one on your jacket too?"

[Ahh, there we are. The undeniable whiney sounds of a genuine Leftist in full flummox. God forbid the man should put on a flagpin. What next? Hand over his heart during the anthem???]

"i hope he plays warcraft and like blizzard can make him..."

[Wha? That's not English, surely]

"Someone need to get that little hair off his jacket..."

[Keen eye! Actually, now that they mention it, there are three hairs on his jacket -- or at least, three white bits of fluff]

What are your thoughts about this official portrait?

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