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The Image(s) of Leadership: The Bush Years

U.S. President George W. Bush walks back to the Oval Office after making remarks on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act at the White House in Washington March 13, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES)

In his essay titled The Stereoscope and the Stereograph which appeared in the June 1859 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809 – 1894) a physician, professor, writer and father of the Supreme Court jurist, characterized photography as “a mirror with a memory.” Errol Morris, a contemporary documentary filmmaker, effectively uses Holmes’ quote in summing up a great post “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” for his Zoom blog of the the NY Times (January 26, 2009).  Morris interviewed “the head photo editors of (3) news services — Vincent Amalvy (AFP), Santiago Lyon (AP) and Jim Bourg (Reuters) — to pick the photographs of the president (Bush) that they believe captured the character of the man and of his administration.”

RUSSIE, ODINSOVSKY: US President George W. Bush (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin wave as the two presidents go for a ride in Putin’s 1956 Volga before dinner 08 May 2005 at the his residence outside of Moscow. Bush hailed Russia’s “bravery and sacrifice” in defeating Nazism, as he met Putin ahead of ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Bush, who the previous day criticized the decades-long Soviet occupation of central Europe, said he was looking forward to the 09 May ceremony on Moscow’s Red Square, to be attended by over 50 national leaders. (Tim Sloan/Agence France-Presse)

In my earlier  post, The Image(s) of Leadership, I took a look at photojournalism during the 2008 Presidential campaign through the lens of the BAGnewsNotes blog and I wrote:

The effective exercise of leadership requires the ability to communicate a message to its intended audience. Fortunately during election time, we have many opportunities to observe and learn about simplifying and communicating complex messages to large audiences. This is something most of us will never have to do at this scale but monitoring and analyzing the candidates activities affords us the incredible opportunity to learn from their successes and failures.

Photography plays a huge role in how a President is presented to and remembered by the nation. Many times the images can be controlled or influenced by the Administration but sometimes things just don’t turn out as planned. Talking a look back at the Bush Presidency with insights from 3 people who had significant influence over his public image is very interesting and well worth the time it takes to read Morris’ long post. If nothing else, please visit Morris’ post and check out the images that the photo editors chose to discuss, most are classics not soon to be forgotten.

As rescue efforts continue in the rubble of the World Trade Center, President Bush puts his arms around firefighter Bob Beck while standing in front of the World Trade Center debris during a tour of the devastation, Friday September 14, 2001. Bush is standing on a burned fire truck. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said 4,763 people have been reported missing in the devastation of the World Trade Center. (Doug Mills/The Associated Press)

You also might be interested in the Reuters photographer blogs where Larry Downing, Kevin Lemarque, Jim Young and Jason Reed share their thoughts and experiences of photographing President George W. Bush.

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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Posted in General Leadership, Media, Politics + Government.

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