I chose to analyze a picture of Rick Perry that I found on governor.state.tx.us. The picture presents Perry standing in front of a Texas flag, dressed in a suit with a red and white tie. It’s a simple picture, one that dozens of candidates have done before, but looking closer, one can see the little intricacies that aren’t visible at first glance.
One thing I found interesting about this photo was Perry’s face. In Barthes’ lecture, “Photography and Electoral Appeal,” Barthes mentions “the good looking chap, whose obvious credentials are his health and virility.” In the previous class, we looked at a picture of Ronald Reagan wearing a cowboy hat, a blue flannel shirt and smiling at the camera. I specifically remember us discussing how his wrinkled face was less of a hindrance for him and more of a help, due to the fact that it gave him this rugged, handsome look. I see this same look in Rick Perry’s photo. Compared to candidates like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, Perry’s face has these deep wrinkles around his mouth and eyes that give him a Reagan-like look. His smile is also similar to Reagan’s: the smile doesn’t consume his entire face the way Santorum’s smile does, but it has this quiet, inviting way about it.
Another important aspect of the photograph is the Texas flag in the background. Since Perry is governor of Texas, it makes sense that he would have a Texas flag in the background, but it’s also important to think about what the Texas flag was meant to symbolize. The flag is made up of a single star (the “Lone Star,” as some people call it) along with the colors red, white and blue. According to the state of Texas, “the blue stands for loyalty, white for purity, and red for bravery.” By having this flag in back of Perry, Perry seems to be attempting to adopt these ideals for himself. Not only is he showing that he’s a symbol of Texas by having the flag there, he’s also showing he’s a symbol of loyalty, purity and bravery.
If you look at his clothes as well, you can see these colors at work. His tie isn’t quite solid red, which has symbolized power and confidence in other candidate pictures. Instead, it’s red with a blue and white pattern scattered over it. It seems as if Perry is not only trying to convey a sense of power and confidence with the red tie, but he’s also trying to show his patriotism and his love for his state of Texas with the multiple colors.