If you follow the U.S. Republican presidential candidates, you’ll remember that back in early August of this year, Texas Governor Rick Perry addressed a large prayer meeting in Houston’s Reliant Center. The event, called “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis,” was held under the auspices of the American Family Association. Today’s image post is taken from the excellent photojournalism blog BagNews. It was shot by David J. Phillip for the AP.
There’s a lot in this image that bears thinking about. The perfect placement of the hands, the closed eyes, and the composure of Perry’s facial expression, all three of which say so much about the bodily construction of the self in contemporary American evangelicalism. The meticulous dark suit, the virile red of the tie, and the hair — oh, the hair…
Then there’s the weirdness of the monumental, dark, looming projection behind Perry, which simultaneously amplifies him and dwarfs him. The JumboTron, or something like it — a technology developed for stadium sports and concerts — here acts as a visual channel for conveying a particular kind of political theology. The image underscores the dazzling element of spectacle that many of us have gradually come to take for granted in public events, whether political, religious, or both. (Personally, I couldn’t look at this photo without being reminded of Citizen Kane.)
I wonder if any of our readers can point us to some resources on the development of this particular style of political iconography. While poking around the Library of Congress website, I came across this campaign poster for Taft (1908). With its bright colors and straightforward design, I can easily imagine it being used as a backdrop for some whistle-stop oratory, but I’m just guessing.
If you’re interested in more photos from the Response, visit BagNews for a few more great shots. There’s also a gallery at Flickr posted by the radio station KUT Austin, which has a couple of remarkable images as well, such as this one (taken by Jeff Heimsath), showing Perry alongside pastor C.L. Jackson. (Jackson appeared at Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally last year.) Click the image to view full size.
And finally, I think this last shot, taken (like today’s featured post) by the AP’s David Phillip and published by Elizabeth Tenety in the Washington Post‘s religion blog, is also notable for its composition, as well as for some of the same reasons I already noted.
Read more about The Response at the New York Times (more or less neutral) or from Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches (not neutral at all). There’s also a decent-quality video of Perry’s remarks on YouTube.