Daily Archives: December 4, 2008

Mise en scene

We’re the first to admit this blog isn’t timely.  But Sarah Palin, who visited Georgia this week, will apparently never become passé.  Palin’s post election exploits remain improbably au courant. One of our favorite local pols is proudly circulating his photo with Palin on Facebook, the image captured at a Gwinnett Co. rally Monday.  And this week, two cute old lady bloggers analyze her (and Max Cleland) in a post called “Sarah Palin’s accomplishments are greater because she did it with half a brain.”

But we’re here to take a moment to explore the most controversially-framed TV interview in recorded history.

Lenslinger’s take on the incident is pretty dead on.  The turkey-killin’ guy in the background spent way too long staring at the camera.  That was the distraction that would have cued most photogs to zoom past him and tighter onto the face of Palin.  His gruesome task isn’t really evident until about forty seconds into the interview, long after the grim reaper of fowl breaks off his unsettling stare.

The photog is an Anchorage guy named Scott Jensen.  Turns out Jensen is well known and well respected in the photog community.  He showed up late for the interview.  His framing was somewhat the result of having the last tripod on scene.  From Viewfinder Blues:

Jensen then framed his shot just as it appears, even warning the Governor of the ensuing slaughter so clearly visible behind her. “That’s fine,” Palin reportedly replied, “Let the people see where their food comes from.”

To his credit, Jensen has defended his work on b-roll.net.

‘I’m a photojournalist. It is my goal to convey every scene I shoot as close to reality as possible. I want truthfulness over tastefulness – every time. From my perspective the background dominated the scene. It wasn’t way off in the distance. It was like ten feet away! Guess what?! It really was distracting! Ask anyone who was paying attention. The video I made portrayed the scene exactly. I believe that is what we are supposed to do.”

It’s a good argument.  It’s also problematic.  Aside from the distraction, it made Jensen seem to be either a) clueless or b) a partisan enemy of the politician he’s videotaping.  Surely his instinct kicked in and said “this ain’t right,” even after Palin gave him the go-ahead to shoot with the slaughtering operation behind her.

Many photogs would have halted the interview and said “Governor, sorry, but neither you nor I want this in the background.”  Photogs do control their background, bypassing “truthfulness over tastefulness.”  The pro sports locker room is an excellent example.

And yet, history will show that Jensen made the right call.