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  • 08.06.09

Bill and Kim’s Excellently-Posed Adventure

What’s up with that photo of Bill Clinton and Kim Jong Il that was released yesterday? Ken Carbone has some careful analysis.

bill and kim

There
they are, sitting side by side in a photographic balance of power. President
Bill Clinton looking his sartorial best and Chairman Kim Jong Il looking his janitorial
worst. This
photo released yesterday by the Korean Central News Agency, is designed to
demand the respect the totalitarian state of North Korean so desperately wants.
This tableau is so perfectly
choreographed that it begs visual analysis.

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The
President’s delegation, appearing like pallbearers, is standing at attention.
The flanking members are striking the classic “fig leaf” pose. The Premier’s
notorious hair do is fortunately subdued against the dark suit behind him, worn
by an aid that is suspiciously diverting his eyes. Is he trying to avoid
looking down on the comb-over before him?

An
international manager at IBM once told me that whenever they did business in
Asia they always sent their tallest salesmen as an intimidation strategy. Hmmm?
It may not be intentional but in the President’s team, even the woman
interpreter, looks like she would tower over the diminutive Mr. Kim. John
Podesta, standing behind Mr. Clinton’s left shoulder, might be the exception,
but looking like something out of a Bram Stoker novel, he is sufficiently scary.

The real
star in this picture is the tremendous painting in the background. It dominates
this cast of characters. Is it a raging symbol of strength? Is it a tsunami of
power? If it’s to send a message that North Korea is a force to be reckoned
with, they should probably lose the tacky casino carpeting in the foreground. I
love this painting. It lends energy to a pose that could serve as a model for a
wax recreation in a Pyongyang Madame Tussaud’s.

Judging
by this photo, one would never believe that this was to commemorate the
triumphant release of two American journalists who were facing twelve years of
hard labor in a North Korean prison for illegally entering the country. This
event is simply a footnote to Mr. Kim’s larger political message.

Fortunately,
Laura Ling and Euna Lee were probably boarding their freedom flight home as
this shot was taken. President Clinton probably knew this. I sense a
twinkle in his eye and pride in his heart at being on the international stage
he so enjoys.

[Photo: REUTERS/KCNA]

Read more of Ken Carbone’s Yes to Less blog
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Ken Carbone is among America’s most
respected graphic designers, whose work is renowned for its clarity and
intelligence. He has built an international reputation creating
outstanding programs for world-class clients, including Tiffany &
Co., W.L Gore, Herman Miller, PBS, Christie’s, Nonesuch Records, the W
Hotel Group and The Taubman Company. His clients also include
celebrated cultural institutions such as the Museé du Louvre, The
Museum of Modern Art, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Chicago Symphony
Orchestra, and the High Museum of Art.

About the author

Ken Carbone is a designer, artist, musician, author and teacher. He is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Director of the Carbone Smolan Agency, a design and branding company in New York City.

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