Anatomy of a photograph: the Situation Room

Intensity, concern, undivided attention.  By now, everyone has seen this photo of the President, Secretary of State and others watching the events unfold in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan this past Saturday.

Pete Souza, White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 Credit: AP Photo/The White House, Pete Souza

This is such a compelling photo for many reasons.  Even if it had not been released along with the monumental news of the day, we would still know that whatever was going on had the full focus of these people, and that it was big.  As we look at the faces, all but one are concentrating intensely on one thing.  Laptops, notes and coffee cups cover the foreground table, indicating a great deal of effort and energy has been invested, although at the moment, those instruments are idle, overshadowed by something greater.

People in the back are craning to see, people with better positions are transfixed, arms folded, jaws clenched.  The President leans forward, almost grimacing, the Vice President and others are motionless.

But the most compelling face in the crowd is that of Secretary Clinton – one hand holds a pen and balances momentarily inessential notebooks on her lap.  Her other hand is clasped to her mouth, demonstrating… shock, incredulity, anticipation, fear?

When asked why she was holding her right hand that way, Mrs. Clinton said she might have been stifling a cough.  Hmmm.  I respectfully disagree Madame Secretary – I am confident that you were feeling what everyone else in the Situation Room was feeling at that moment, and what everyone else would have felt in that place at that time.  Your image is honest and human and conveys the hard reality of what was happening on the other side of the world.  It is the focal point of this image.

This photograph, one of many that White House Photographer Pete Souza has made, will have a long life as an iconic reminder of these historic events.

For more of Mr. Souza’s photography, please visit his website.                                        Posted by Ed


About Ed Spadoni "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
This entry was posted in Images, Inspiration and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Anatomy of a photograph: the Situation Room

  1. Ed, I have to tell you, the first time I saw this photo I really only studied two faces, Obama and Clinton, and of the two I kept coming back to Clinton. I have the same thoughts RE this photo that you do.

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