Obamagraphic of the Year

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TIME magazine is getting some blowback for featuring a Shepard Fairey illustration on the cover of its Person of the Year issue. In an article entitled “Propaganda of the Year,” Sasha Issenberg writes:

“[TIME] takes its usual pains to make the world-historical case for its choice. But the image the magazine chose for its cover strives for little such distance: Time is decorated, quite literally, with an Obama campaign poster…Not only has Time abdicated a journalistic opportunity to freshly interpret Obama’s significance in visual terms, but it outsourced the work to the campaign itself: the graphic equivalent of headlining an Obama profile ‘Change We Can Believe In.'”

Leave aside the fact that Issenberg refers to Fairey as “the campaign itself,” which is a misleading description of his role. It doesn’t matter: these images were a genuine phenomenon outside of any official role they played in the campaign (and outside of their aesthetic worth). When images of this cover made the rounds online, I was unclear if the illustration was actually by Fairey, or just a riff on the phenomenon. Either way, it seemed wholly appropriate that TIME would represent Obama in what has become his signature style.

C’mon! The stuff was everywhere! It was a year-long festival of Obamagraphics! As we’ve documented all year, the posters have been exalted by Obama partisans and pilloried by his opponents. They have been parodied by satirists of all political stripes. The imagery has been appropriated for dozens of purposes, some ideological, some merely commercial. The impact of this imagery was broad & deep, even when the image itself was used in a narrow & shallow context:

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I do think TIME’s decision to use this imagery is worth discussing, but not because this is some example of the liberal media at work.

For a different view: visit the always-interesting BAGnewsNotes, where Michael Shaw makes the more nuanced and perceptive point: Fairey is just a shallow hack who’s looking to cash in.

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Categories: Critical Discourse, Current Events


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