Therethey are, sitting side by side in a photographic balance of power. PresidentBill Clinton looking his sartorial best and Chairman Kim Jong Il looking his janitorialworst. Thisphoto released yesterday by the Korean Central News Agency, is designed todemand the respect the totalitarian state of North Korean so desperately wants.This tableau is so perfectlychoreographed that it begs visual analysis.
ThePresident’s delegation, appearing like pallbearers, is standing at attention.The flanking members are striking the classic “fig leaf” pose. The Premier’snotorious hair do is fortunately subdued against the dark suit behind him, wornby an aid that is suspiciously diverting his eyes. Is he trying to avoidlooking down on the comb-over before him?
Aninternational manager at IBM once told me that whenever they did business inAsia they always sent their tallest salesmen as an intimidation strategy. Hmmm?It may not be intentional but in the President’s team, even the womaninterpreter, looks like she would tower over the diminutive Mr. Kim. JohnPodesta, 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 realstar in this picture is the tremendous painting in the background. It dominatesthis cast of characters. Is it a raging symbol of strength? Is it a tsunami ofpower? If it’s to send a message that North Korea is a force to be reckonedwith, they should probably lose the tacky casino carpeting in the foreground. Ilove this painting. It lends energy to a pose that could serve as a model for awax recreation in a Pyongyang Madame Tussaud’s.
Judgingby this photo, one would never believe that this was to commemorate thetriumphant release of two American journalists who were facing twelve years ofhard labor in a North Korean prison for illegally entering the country. Thisevent is simply a footnote to Mr. Kim’s larger political message.
Fortunately,Laura Ling and Euna Lee were probably boarding their freedom flight home asthis shot was taken. President Clinton probably knew this. I sense atwinkle in his eye and pride in his heart at being on the international stagehe so enjoys.
Ken Carbone is among America’s mostrespected graphic designers, whose work is renowned for its clarity andintelligence. He has built an international reputation creatingoutstanding programs for world-class clients, including Tiffany &Co., W.L Gore, Herman Miller, PBS, Christie’s, Nonesuch Records, the WHotel Group and The Taubman Company. His clients also includecelebrated cultural institutions such as the Museé du Louvre, TheMuseum of Modern Art, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Chicago SymphonyOrchestra, and the High Museum of Art.