In the subjective world of picking the “better” photo, I like to think about what conveys a personality (in the case of a portrait) or captures a scene/event most effectively. In the case of the presidential debates, picking a single image to summarize the “tone” is challenging given the contentious vibe and 1.5 hour format against a static background. But we’re always up for a challenge, so let’s take a look at two The New York Times photographers working two different debates.
Doug Mills is one of my favorite political photojournalists, and he shot the photo below at the second presidential debates for The New York Times – it appears on the front page on October 17, 2012. Doug’s been covering Washington DC politics for years, and I’m constantly surprised at the variety of images he can get in the same old places with the same old characters.
Doug’s photo effectively captures the two men talking over one another with the accusatory finger pointing gesture. It almost doesn’t matter what the question was because the answer is, “It’s that guy’s fault.” The colors of the background and the candidates’ ties is obviously scripted, but it’s still a very iconic and appropriate look.
You’ll remember that Doug is famous for his shot of the President and his wife walking down Pennsylvania Avenue at the 2009 presidential inauguration. He’s been with the Times since 2002, after 15 years with the AP.
Richard Perry shot this one for The New York Times at the third debate and it appeared on the front page October 23, 2012.
This time we still get finger pointing, but ironically it’s host Bob Schieffer who’s got a double pointing gesture, and Obama is passing it around the table. Both candidates are still talking over one another (as was the case throughout the entire series of debates).
Verdict: My vote goes to Doug Mills. The contempt the candidates have for one another shows through the glossy smiles and tailored suits, which better conveys the debates that I watched. Speaking of voting, make sure you do too!