|Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post|
Michael Shaw offers his typically blockheaded discussion here, which I will request that you peruse at some point. Let us inventory the thing. Back to front, let's say.
A sunset, or possibly a sunrise. A statue of some sort with a standing figure, a bowed figure, and some other shit I can't make out. Small and out of focus, but probably recognizable to anyone familiar with the statue, unrecognizable otherwise. A fence and some kind caution tape, possibly but not certainly to barricade the statue. Some people out of focus doing various things, nothing particularly recognizable. One might be taking a photo, or drinking from a flask as far as we can tell. Some temporary waste containers.
Two figures in the foreground.
A young black women with braided hair, un-striking clothing, a bandanna-style mask with writing on it, pulled down off her face. Her posture is mostly relaxed, hip slightly cocked, hands behind her back. Posture might have a hint of some kind of tension in it. Her chin is up, she gazes upwards slightly, eyes rolled further to the sky. Her expression is neutral. She has an attitude, maybe, of studied calm. Consistent with a sense that she is waiting, almost but not quite patiently. Equally consistent with a sense that she is listening intently and with focus.
An older white man a couple of feet away, close, looks directly at the young woman with brows apparently furrowed. One hand is in his pants pocket, the other is spread wide, possibly but not certainly gesturing at the statue. Possibly also at the waste bins, or something else, or nothing at all. He leans forward toward the young woman, there is a clear intensity to his posture. He appears hot, possibly excited. His posture is consistent with talking intently to the young woman, with a degree of tension. He is masked, so we cannot be sure he is even talking, but we guess that he is.
We are, I think, certain that there is some interaction between the two foreground figures, which has been going on for a little while at least. More than the last few seconds. Perhaps at least a minute or two, and maybe a lot longer. The two figures appear to be interacting, with intensity but without any obvious tell of pleasure or satisfaction.
The overall structure of the photograph certainly suggests an intense discussion between the two figures, and the photographer has indeed placed the backlit statue dramatically between them. Since, according to the caption, they were indeed arguing about the statue, the structure of the photo does indeed match the ground truth. Good job, Evelyn Hockstein.
Now would be a good time to read Michael's analysis if you haven't yet. He does his usual prog-left "analysis" which tells us a great deal about Michael Shaw and very little about the picture. He does the weird thing where he notices random geometrical coincidences, and assigns meaning to them. He does not tell us what he intends here, though: Is this meaning the photographer intended? Is it meaning that everyone would see? Is it just meaning Michael sees? Who knows! It could be anything, because Michael is not going to say. He just notices the juxtapositions as if they have import, and moves on. Why doesn't he notice that the texture of tree resembles the texture of the young woman's hair? Why not notice that the word TRASH is written on WHITE plastic as if to label the man as WHITE TRASH? Who the fuck knows.
But let us stipulate that apart from a few minor quibbles what Michael sees in the photo is a perfectly good reading, and much of what he sees people of his political stripe would see.
I will note that Michael says Or who has the greater exposure to the virus? and what he surely means is that people of color are getting sick more than white dudes. What is present in the picture, though, is an unmasked black woman interacting with a masked white man, and let us recall my mask protects you, your mask protects me so we have a little conflict here which Michael, being a prog-left dolt, simply ignores.
Anyways. Michael sees mansplaining, whitesplaining, a white man's rendition of history. Which, sure, you can totally read into this.
What Michael does not notice is the equally reasonable alternate reading, which is of an earnest white man trying to engage with a young woman who is responding by rolling her eyes and waiting for him to stop making mouth noises because OK boomer. This is surely what someone who wants the statue to not be torn down would see in this photo.
The man can be understood as irrationally furious, earnest, tired, or any and all of those things. Depending on your politics, you will see him in whatever way suits you. The woman can be understood as listening intently, or as arrogant and dismissive, or anywhere in between. Depending on your politics, you will see her in whatever way suits you. Regardless, the way you read this photo will reveal much about you, as it has revealed (again) much about Michael Shaw.
Honestly, how can you take the white guy more proximate to the waste bin seriously? Shaw is like my high school English teacher who found symbols for Jesus and for sex in every book.
Me? I think you should take all the monuments down. Monuments are stupid. Or, leave 'em all up, but march all the schoolkids past 'em every year as teachable moments. Anything but leave them there to catch bird shit and do nothing. Honestly, people don't even see these things after a little while.