This is the campaign photo of Congresswoman Michele Bacchman taken from her campaign website’s homepage. Barthes, in his essay regarding this type of electoral photography, reveals, “what is transmitted through the photograph of the candidate are not his plans, but deep motives, all his family, mental, even erotic circumstances, all this style of life of which he is at once the product, the example and the bait” (91). While not belittling Barthes’ ideology, one can conclude from his argument that the cliche “a picture is worth a thousand words” most certainly reigns true in our material and heavily influenced society. Therefore, this photograph that Bacchman’s campaign party chose for her official website was not picked on a whim. There is a clear message Bacchman attempts to convey through the photo, one that “offers to the voter [her] own likeness, but clarified, exalted, superbly elevated into a type” (91). Despite being written in the early 1950’s, Barthes’ essay acknowledges how photoshopped, retouched and glorified photographs usually are, in order to effectively transmit whatever message needs to be sent to the masses.
What initially strikes me is how aged Bacchman truly looks in this picture. Simply based on my underdeveloped knowledge of photography, it appears that some sort of editing was used on this photo – the image appears to be shallow focused, meaning the background is blurred while the foreground remains in focus -, however, no wrinkles or lines were erased. Presumably, Bacchman wishes to evoke a sense of the wisdom that societally and inevitably comes with age. Like the images of Reagan we looked at in class, Bacchman attempts to relay the message to voters that she has enough experience under her belt to successfully succeed in a presidential campaign, and ultimately win.
Ms. Bacchman looks undeniably polished and professional. Her creased, cool grey suit evokes this same wisdom as her wrinkles do, while showcasing how proper and old fashioned she is. In this sense, Bacchman reveals that she most likely upholds the traditional values this country was founded upon. Her American Flag pin right above her heart similarly displays her strong, unwavering patriotism. Likewise, Bacchman’s matching pearl earrings, necklace and bracelet, while beautiful, suggest that Ms. Bacchman is well-to-do and financially stable, two very admirable and attractive qualities. This proves that Bacchman would be able to financially lead our country in the right direction, based on her experience.
Finally, Bacchman’s facial position and gaze directly correlate with Barthes’ observations of the meaning behind this type of “three-quarter face photograph” (92). Bacchman’s “gaze is lost nobly in the future” (92) leaving her exact thoughts and plans up to the interpretation of the viewer and voter. As voters, we do not consider her gaze dangerously mysterious or mischievous. Rather, we are meant to feel hopeful and patriotic just like Bacchman, and trust that our future with her is bright, successful, and of course, free.