What’s in a Picture

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Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, left, and Premier Doug Ford speak to the media last year. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
Source: CBC News

Under the headline Ontario PCs want to make it next to impossible to sue the government was the photograph above. The caption specifically points out that it was taken last year; that is it was not taken specifically for this news item. This means the editors had a choice and this was the image they selected. Why?

As the headline points out, the news item is about the Ontario PCs, therefore it makes sense to have the PC Leader, and Premier, Doug Ford in the photograph. As well, since the article is about legislation related to suing the government, it makes sense to include the Attorney General, Caroline Mulroney. But two things interest me about the picture.

First is the composition with Mulroney blurred in the background. Second, is the expression on her face.

That she is physically behind the Premier suggests that she supports the legislation. Yet, being out of focus lends some ambiguity to that assertion. She’s there … but not completely? Her support is fuzzy? The ambiguity is amplified by the expression on her face; is that a look of support or disbelief or somewhere in between?

Another way to look at it is by composing the camera focus on the Premier he becomes the primary subject of the image, attracting the viewer’s eye, and suggesting he is the one pushing this legislation. Mulroney’s image, residing in the blur, becomes a secondary subject. As noted above, by being in the blur, it lends ambiguity to her support. It’s like a half-full or half-empty question; where is she coming from? Does she support it or is she just going along with it? It brings to my mind a political question, given Mulroney is the daughter of a former Prime Minister, successful lawyer, perceived moderate, and former PC leadership candidate, how does this legislation play with her own image and aspirations? Is this the act of a moderate conservative, or if not, was she inappropriately labelled or is she trying to break away? Depending on how one feels about making it more difficult to sue the government will determine the feelings attributed to Mulroney. Yet, there remains the look on her face that contradicts the answer to the first question.


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