Picture Perfect: The Art And Artifice Of Public Image Making

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9780465057542: Picture Perfect: The Art And Artifice Of Public Image Making
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When the photograph was invented, it was celebrated for its realism. Now we are aware as never before that pictures can deceive. Talk of photo opportunities,” sound bites,” and spin control” has become standard fare in the media and part of our everyday discourse. But has our growing awareness that pictures can be fabricated enabled us to see through the artifice of professional image makers? In this important book, Kiku Adatto concludes that, in spite of our growing sophistication, we continue to be moved by the pictures we see on television, in movies, and in photographs because they tap into ideals and myths still alive in our culture. Based on hundreds of network newscasts and on interviews with reporters such as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, and Ted Koppel, as well as with political consultants such as Roger Ailes and Frank Shakespeare, Picture Perfect shows how the media find themselves in the paradoxical role of getting the best possible picture, even if this makes them accomplices in artifice, and then puncturing the picture to reveal the image as an image. The result is even more exposure for these contrivances. Picture Perfect traces the rise of our image-conscious sensibility beyond politics to art, popular culture, and social criticism, beginning with the invention of the photograph itself. With examples ranging from the Reagan presidency to Andy Warhol's hyperrealistic pop art to Oliver Stone's film JFK , Adatto documents the blurring of the boundaries between event and image, and the consequences for our understanding of ourselves.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Adatto--billed by the publisher as the first journalist to warn of TV's ``ever-shrinking `sound bite' ''--now tackles, semi- successfully, the media's effect on American politics. The author argues that style has superseded substance in modern political campaigning--certainly not a novel idea. Discussing the 1988 presidential campaign, she criticizes reporters for considering as news--and for insufficiently noting the artifice of--staged media images created by ``spin-control artists.'' In extensive interviews, a range of TV journalists including Walter Cronkite, Ted Koppel, and Dan Rather battle it out with Adatto, alternately defending their actions, conceding fault, or laying blame. Meanwhile, as the narrative jumps back and forth from 1968 to 1988, it deteriorates into a lament for the good old days: In 1968, we learn, the average sound bite ran 42.3 seconds, as opposed to 9.8 seconds in 1988. Next, Adatto shifts her focus to modern-day photography (e.g., by Warhol, Arbus, and Winnogrand, who became ``bound to the images they try to deflate'') and movies (Die Hard, High Noon, Rambo, etc., in which the ``maverick heros'' are both ``insiders and outsiders''). Adatto ties her commentary together with a nice comment: ``In response to the growing sense of disempowerment, a number of presidential candidates...have intuitively portrayed themselves in the mode of the maverick hero depicted in American movies--an outsider to Washington and the political establishment, as redeemers of...ideals....'' She goes on at length to explain just how these candidates position themselves- -but fails to explore the underlying reasons why they do so. Some intriguing insights but by no means revelatory. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

With the recent election and its media coverage fresh in our minds, Adatto, who writes about popular culture for the New Republic and other publications, offers us a critical framework for reconsidering the power of images in the political process. In her examination of the "rise of a new image consciousness," Adatto finds connections among television news, art photography, and popular movies. She watched videotapes of the three major networks' news coverage of the 1968 and 1988 elections, interviewed media personnel and political participants, and viewed popular movies made from 1968 to 1992. Even though journalists have become sophisticated in reporting on the manipulation of images, their critical commentary has not undercut the power of these images. Adatto traces this power to the use of photographic images and film in popular culture. This provocative book should promote discussion and belongs in academic and large public libraries.
- Judy Solberg, Univ. of Maryland Libs., College Park
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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