The Visual Framing of Ukraine, US Politics, and the Climate Crisis – Chatting the Pictures

Chatting the Pictures is a video series featuring Reading the Pictures publisher Michael Shaw and visual academic Cara Finnegan analyzing key news photographs.

VII Insider is pleased to partner with Reading the Pictures to bring episodes of Chatting the Pictures to the VII Insider community every couple of months.

We began in March 2022 with a close reading of some of Ron Haviv’s work in and around Kyiv. Throughout April 2022, Michael and Cara published three episodes of Chatting the Pictures analyzing images of war in Ukraine, which we posted on the blog here.

Chatting the Pictures produce episodes every two weeks, and we are pleased to share three here examining the war in Ukraine, American politics, and the climate crisis. The text accompanying each episode below is written by Michael Shaw.

In this episode, we look at a photo taken by John Moore for Getty Images. It shows a local resident in Hostomel, Ukraine returning to inspect the damage to her multi-generational home in this suburb of Kyiv on April 25, 2022. The woman, named Oksana, is leaving what remains of the structure after it was rocketed by Russian troops while her mother and grandmother were downstairs. They were evacuated uninjured.

In the video, we discuss the visceral impact of the intimate photo edit and how the visual parallel to tornado and hurricane photos might bring the war closer for western viewers. We also focus on the powerful metaphors including the house as a face or a head, and the profound outcome of walking away.

Brandon Bell took this photograph for Getty Images. It shows 24-year-old Rachel Nix sitting on a curb outside the Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, after the judges overturned Roe vs. Wade. The quote on the sign says: “Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.” The bottom lists websites for abortion funds and one for abortion pill information.

In the video, we discuss the subtlety of this photo and how much it has to say about time and state of mind. We also analyze the ways the animation in the background can be interpreted, from confusion to determination to women on the move.

This photo was taken by John Locher for AP. It shows a formerly sunken boat sitting upright in the air with its stern stuck in the mud along the shoreline of Lake Mead on Friday, June 10, 2022, near Boulder City, Nevada. Lake Mead’s water levels have dropped to historic lows, bringing the nation’s largest reservoir less than 150 feet away from “dead pool” status — when the reservoir is so low that water can no longer flow downstream from the dam impacting millions of people across Arizona, California, Nevada, and parts of Mexico.

In the video, we discuss the symbolism of the boat carcass and what else is washing up in drought-stricken bodies of water around the world.

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