What was most significant about the presidential election of 1960, excluding the fact of who actually won (JFK)? If you said, the television, then you win huge, like pizza party huge! 1960 was the first televised debate for a presidential election. John F. Kennedy looked handsome and strong. He had a wonderful charisma that the tv loved and as a result, the public fell in love with him. This public love propelled JFK across the finish line in the minds of the public.
The History Channel’s overview of the Kennedy-Nixon debates emphasizes that these televised matches “not only had a major impact on the election’s outcome, but ushered in a new era in which crafting a public image and taking advantage of media exposure became essential ingredients of a successful political campaign.” – Mark Lubell, executive director of the International Center of Photography.
Image and the projection of image is vital to individuals, businesses and especially to political candidates. Images give us, the public, something to associate that candidate with. We have all seen the stunning images of JFK and Jackie Kennedy, but also the highly staged rally photos of the Trump campaign – the huge plane with the name TRUMP clearly visible above the candidate’s head as he spoke. Trump knows the essence of a brand within a brand. JFK had recognized early on that images would help shape his presidency, so much so that he hired an official White House photographer, Cecil W. Stoughton. The same can be said of President Obama, who like other former presidents also had an official White House photographer (Pete Souza) on hand throughout his entire 8 years and gave him unprecedented access to capture, for history, the story of Obama’s years in the White House.
A simple image can speak loudly, set a tone and ultimately shape a candidate’s interests, values, lifestyle, etc. The old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is simply not the case with a political campaign, since the majority of the population simply may not take the time to research the candidate’s talking points and history.
A single image is simply… everything. But, just as a great image can change the trajectory of a campaign so too, can a “bad” image, just ask Michael Dukakis. His staged press photo-op with him driving a tank ended up sending his image crumbling with a visual impact that seemed to say he was ‘small and kid-like’. George H.W. Bush used that very image (that Dukakis had planned) in a campaign ad depicting Dukakis as unfit to be a military leader.
As the election cycle heats up again here on the Texas Gulf Coast and across the nation, if you are actively seeking a political office, take the time to assess your image and how your image can speak for you.
If you are interested in more information about political campaign photography, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 281.993.8267.
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