Monday, 19 September 2011

Facing the Future: A Light Hearted Look at Election Posters

The election posters are beginning to sprout, like some strange kind of ivy that attaches itself to lamp posts, and is carried by the wind, so that it soon flourishes on all posts rather like a paper bindweed. Route Orange, for example, has a massive cluster of Sean Power posters, one per lamp post, so that the same face hits the driver repeatedly head on.

Others are more circumspect - Ian Gorst has gone for the large but strategic poster, placed in positions to give a one-off maximum impact, with not just a head, but most of his body, so that you can see he is fresh-faced and healthy looking. Some candidates deliberately eschew that, and knowing them, I can understand why. It is an art to show more of yourself than the head and shoulders, and avoid that middle age spread!

And the roundabouts have posters with names or just with large writing, all shapes and sizes, and often looking remarkably tacky and tatty, especially after the wind has blown past them, so that they are not pristine and vertical but disheveled and one-sided. But perhaps leaning to the left, or right, or being laid back, is the impression the candidates want to convey.

The modern style of professional photograph is easily spotted. Head and shoulders, with the torso facing slightly to one side, and the head looking at the camera. It's a convention of how things are done, and we are used to it, though I dare say, like all conventions of portraiture, it will seem remarkably dated one day. It is an attempt to make the sitter look natural, although if you sit down, and turn your head at 25% to your shoulders, and keep it there for 5 minutes, you will soon see how unnatural the posture really is.

It can be relatively easily spotted by one shoulder appearing slightly higher than another, and a slightly twisted neck. In the case of poor Kevin Lewis, glimpses of the photo as one drives past gives the uncomfortable feeling that he is doing a Quasimodo impression, perhaps for a forthcoming film event. The degree of the angle probably causes this effect, and perhaps some statistician could work out the "Quasimodo Quotient" for poster pictures.

There are also "right sided" humps and "left sided humps", James Reed is a left sided Quasimodo, while Sir Philip Bailhache gets the hump on the right side. Whether than has to do with political leanings is a question I leave to future research.

Francis le Gresley's is very unusual; his shoulders are the same height, but it is his head that is tilted to one side, and I've found the strangeness of that posture, compared to the conventional hunchback style, catches the eye.

Of course, it is a case of damned if you do, and dammed if you don't. Terry Le Main has very little of a twist to his neck, although surprisingly one shoulder is still slightly higher than the other - perhaps a result of years of nodding off in the States Chamber. Instead, with an open shirt, and no tie, he looks directly at the camera - no doubt to give a "casual look", but instead looking like a police "wanted" picture.

Whether to wear a tie or go for a more casual look is another problem for candidates. Sir Philip Bailhache goes for a dark jacket, white shirt, and finely checked black tie. Freddie Cohen has a striped blue shirt, and a colourful red tie, not completely pulled tight around the collar, giving him more an informal, jaunty look. Trevor Pitman, surprisingly for one of his political leanings, has a blue tie. James le Feuvre goes for no jacket, a casual shirt open so much it disappears off camera and shows the start of a hairy chest! St Lawrence may well see a testerone charged campaign for Constable!

Some women tend to go for a more formal look, but of course have more options in terms of clothes to wear. A light red, and a red rosette give a colour co-ordination to Deidre Mezbourian. Rose Colley is wearing a bright pink, but smart jacket. . Margery Holland-Prior has a jacket. Angela Jeune has a bright pink jacket and top. Linda Corby is moving to casual with a cardigan. Ann Dupre and Susan Pinel in St Clement have both gone for a fairly informal look. But there's a degree of playing safe - no one seems to have gone for the wonderful vivid purple outfit, purple rinse and rosette of Corrie Stein in days gone by.

Most photographs have a bland background of the standard photograph. In contrast, Susan Pinel has out of focus green countryside behind here, and Jeff Hathaway has the unmistakable background of St Aubin's Harbour. The message is: your candidate gets out and about in your district. It makes a nice change, and catches the eye.

Next time you are out and about, take a closer look at the different election photos on lamp posts. Does the candidate sport a hunch, like Quasimodo, and is it to the left or right? Formal or casual style? Plain or local background? And does the smile look natural, or forced? But if you are in a car, do drive carefully - I won't be responsible for accidents as a result!


alane said...

Only you, Tony, would write an article like this! Fascinating. Now the poor candidates will be all self-conscious.

TonyTheProf said...

Well I'm big fan of George Orwell, especially his "As I Please" essays which often took a slightly off-the wall approach to politics!This is one of his from 1941:

Looking through the photographs of the New Year's Honours List, I am struck (as usual) by the quite exceptional ugliness and vulgarity of the faces displayed there. It seems to be almost the rule that the kind of person who earns the right to call himself Lord Percy de Falcontowers should look at best like an overfed publican and at worst like a tax collector with a duodenal ulcer.

But our country is not alone in this. Anyone who is a good hand with scissors and paste could compile an excellent book entitled Our Rulers, and consisting simply of published photographs of the great ones of the earth.

The idea first occurred to me when I saw in Picture Post some ‘stills’ of Beaverbrook delivering a speech and looking more like a monkey on a stick than you would think possible for anyone who was not doing it on purpose.

When you had got together your collection of fuerhers, actual and would-be, you would notice that several qualities recur throughout the list. To begin with, they are all old. In spite of the lip-service that is paid everywhere to youth, there is no such thing as a person in a truly commanding position who is less than fifty years old.

Secondly, they are nearly all undersized. A dictator taller than five feet six inches is a very great rarity. And, thirdly, there is this almost general and sometimes quite fantastic ugliness.

The collection would contain photographs of Streicher bursting a blood vessel, Japanese war-lords impersonating baboons, Mussolini with his scrubby dewlap, the chinless de Gaulle, the stumpy short-armed Churchill, Gandhi with his long sly nose and huge bat's ears, Tojo displaying thirty-two teeth with gold in every one of them.

And opposite each, to make a contrast, there would be a photograph of an ordinary human being from the country concerned.

Opposite Hitler a young sailor from a German submarine, opposite Tojo a Japanese peasant of the old type — and so on.

TonyTheProf said...

A correspondent writes:

One from me (as I had the same thought as you while driving around):

Nick Le Cornu squints out at us from a bright yellow background looking positively myopic, as if he has mislaid his glasses on a sunny day. Does this say anything about his political vision?

Anonymous said...

So tempted now to do some posters for my campaign with the slogan Facing the Future :)