Saturday, September 18, 2010

Photos of the Day: Telling the Story with Hands

Talk to the hands: Sarkozy and Basescu feel each other out
I confess that as an editor (and sometime photo contest judge) I had a bit of a prejudice against hands. I saw so many portraits that focused on hands that I just got tired of them. Beautiful hands. Gnarled hands. Worried hands. Sweaty hands. Hands covering eyes. Hands covering mouths. Hands over hearts. I understand that many young photojournalists are taught to work with hands, and that hands can indeed reveal a character. But anything can be overdone, and I feel that hands are overdone. Where others see character, I see cliche.

Sometimes, though, hands cannot be avoided. That would certainly seem to have been the case at the recent European Union Summit in Brussels. Hands were all over the place, and they all apparently had something to say.

The photo above, for instance, shows a confrontation between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Romanian President Traian Basescu over France's plan to remove Roma (gypsy) migrants. (The photo was made by Yves Loggha for Associated Press, and it was featured on the New York Times's Lens blog.) I love the way Basescu's hands highlight Sarkozy's closed visage: It's almost as if the Romanian is feeling for a force field around the French president.

Now look at these other images, which I found on the Corbis website, and see how the story changes in subtle's a lesson in the dynamics of photographic story-telling.

The secret European Union handshake: Can we talk?
In this photo, the two presidents seem to be on more equitable terms. This photo is by  Wu Wei/XinHua/Xinhua Press/Corbis. 

J'accuse: French finger pointing diplomacy
Now the thrust of the conversation appears to have shifted to the French side. Is Sarkozy making an accusation? Is he simply driving home a point? Or is he playing that old, "There's something on your chin" joke? We don't know, because still photos, no matter what story they appear to tell, don't reveal such information. This photo is by Oliver Hoslet for epa/Corbis.

Below find more handiwork from the photographers at the summit:

Germany's Angela Merkel and Sarkozy ©Oliver Hoslet epa/Corbis
Is she embracing him or holding him at bay? (Whatever, she's more comfortable looking than when this happened.) Photographs are often as inconclusive as revealing.

British PM David Cameron and Merkel ©Oliver Hoslet epa/Corbis
More finger pointing, this time between the Brits and the Germans. Cool Cameron keeps his left hand buried in his coat pocket while the French Foreign Minister looks on.

Leaders of Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Greece ©Benoit Doppagne epa/Corbis
Please note that I couldn't find any pictures of David Cameron hugging or kissing anyone, the way Demetris Christoflas and Jean-Claude Junker are doing. Meanwhile Georgios Papandreou is holding his hands inappropriately, which I why I like this picture best.

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