Politics and perception
Several months ago I came across this photo of Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni taken during Obama's visit to France:
The depiction of an angry and bitter Michelle Obama staring icily at her prettier, more accomplished, and popular 'friend' was obvious yet still irresistible. Ann Althouse invited a flurry of political and psychological speculation by hosting one of her more humorous caption contests. One commenter did a good job explaining the context of capturing such a quick moment in time:
I enjoy this sort of exercise as much as the next guy, but as a professional photographer I'd like to point out that a still photo like this should NEVER be taken seriously. A fraction of a second captured like that can seem to show something that just was not there. It looks to me like she's actually looking behind the other woman. Or, it could be that her face just looked like that for a fraction of a second between smiles because she was uncomortable in her seat. If you take enough pictures, there will be some that are flattering to the subject and some that are unflattering. That's just the way it is. A long time ago, I was actually hired to get some unflattering shots of a politician. I shot him at a press conference and it was really easy to get some shots of him looking sullen or angry, even though it was a generally happy occasion. I'm not proud of that, and I wouldn't take a job like that today, but back then I needed the work and I did what was required.
The Obama-Sarkozy 'ass-scandal' exemplified this point perfectly:
It would seem that while Obama is exonerated from this breach of social etiquette, Sarkozy tramples it with an obviousness that would embarrass Bill Clinton.
I asked a friend of mine who had recently been to Paris how it was the French so easily tolerated a ban on smoking in cafes. 'Smoking in a French cafe' - the phrase seems as true as saying 'water is wet.' Though in the Western world's sprint to the most bloated government France can nanny-state with the best of them, this one was far more of a cultural intrusion. Her reply was "the French simply ignore the petty laws they don't like." Revealing yet unsurprising. She said Montreal was very similar with their disregard of inconvenient by-laws. What was so blatant, and funny, about Sarkozy's stare was not that he made no attempt to hide what he was doing, but that he was smirking the entire time. A particular brazenness that oddly is nice to see from the French once in a while.