For my analysis, I chose a picture of Mitt Romney from his campaign website (http://www.mittromney.com/issues/foreign-policy). It is a three-quarter face photograph, which plays a special role in addressing the topic of foreign policy. In describing his policy as, “A strategy to secure America’s enduring interests and ideals,” Romney emphasizes America’s ideals as a pivotal factor in his foreign policy. Barthes wrote that the angle, “suggests the tyranny of an ideal: the gaze is lost nobly in the future, soars, and fertilizes some other domain, which is chastely left undefined.” His gaze into the upper right, away from the stage and into the unknown, is representative of his projection of idealism out into foreign territory. This implies a policy that is both challenging as well as uplifting as a whole.
In his analysis of the full-face photograph, Barthes notes that a candidate appears to be looking directly at a “problem.” When considering that politics (as defined by Barthes) is a “body of problems and solutions,” the gaze of a candidate becomes important as an indicator of influence. While a more direct photograph does imply more attention to a problem domestically, the gaze away in the context of foreign policy makes more sense when considering the problem/solution gaze dynamic, as the problems he is addressing in his foreign politics are literally further away than can be addressed in the intimacy of a full shot.
Physically, Romney does not necessarily stand out as the “good-looking chap” or narrow-eyed intellectual. His well-groomed appearance and professional suit show that he is respectable, and his slight wrinkles and graying hair stand out as a sign of experience. Still, they are not so prominent as to detract from his features or suggest too much age. His prominent chin is emphasized by the three-quarter shot, giving the impression of the “strong-jawed leader.” The presence of the microphone, a visual question, is answered by his mouth, which is turned into a slight smirk of confidence. In combination with his eyes, the smirk gives a sense of “fight” about him, as though he is ready for the challenge presented by the microphone. In the context of foreign policy, these attributes emphasize strength and resilience, characteristics associated with conservative politics.
Additionally, the divine glow that seems to come from the object of his focus displays his good intentions in foreign politics. The problem that Romney has found somewhere outside the photograph is accepting of his American ideals as a solution. On the foreign policy web page is the statement, “The best ally world peace has ever known is a strong America.” His strategy is “sanctified” by the divine light and compliments his strength with the righteousness of his character.
This photograph represents Romney as a strong, confident, and idealistic patriot.