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Thomas c. Jackson

Capturing reality, U.S.A, 2006

Oil on canvas 172X330 cm

At the edge of a group of U.S. citizens huddled together, stands President Bush offering them his hand. He has just finished speaking with the media, to rally their support for one of the bills he’s about to send to Congress.

The image lays considerable emphasis on the hierarchy of subjects in our field of vision. The President is situated at the centre of the event, a positioning which lends him great importance; the security guards, with their white collars, surround him in a ring which is also emphasised in its importance; the media representatives take third place in the composition’s order of status – and the crowd of citizens standing in the shadow and depicted somewhat sketchily are the last link in the chain of hierarchy, of marginal importance.

“Watching through my camera viewfinder, the scene unfolded like a well-rehearsed ballet. I asked myself, what is the reality here? Is it the actual event that was entirely pre-planned? This was experienced only by the people physically in attendance. Is it the edited sound-bites that would appear on television and radio? Are the journalists recording news – or being used as a public relations tool by the administration – or using the administration to fill the 24-hour ever insatiable appetite for news-related entertainment?

What facts do the public have the right to know? Is the presence of the security men comforting or a reminder of a dangerous world? If I were photographing for a newspaper or magazine, I would be focusing on a close up view of the President with one person or a small group of people. The Secret Service, the cameras, and boom microphones would be cropped out, not part of the story".

This painting operates on several levels symbolizing a number of problems and opportunities of national and international communication in the 21st Century. What is, what should be the relationship between an administration, the media, and the public? Events can be covered worldwide almost simultaneously. Great good and great damage can be done by words and images very quickly. Technology allows any individual with a computer, anywhere, to challenge conventional media. When does a selected, leaked fact, while legal, break accepted ethical standards?