A Picture Is Worth X to the Nth Power Words

In the past few months there have been a few things in the newspaper that have been interesting to me, not for what the article says but for the accompanying photos.

First there was the front-page article and photo of people celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge.  Smiling, happy faces greeted the morning sun.  I took one look at the picture and gasped in horror.  My children looked at the picture but didn't see anything that could have bothered me so. 

"Look at what they're wearing," I instructed.

"Jackets and scarves," they replied.

"This picture was taken yesterday.  Stonehenge is in the south of England."  They nodded.  I continued, "We'll be there in two weeks and we'll be well north of Stonehenge."

Blank looks.  Then the Aha! moment when they realized it would be much, much cooler in Scotland and England than it is here.  Time to rethink the wardrobe choices.

A second photo in this Sunday's paper caught my eye.  It accompanied a full-page ad from BP with Robert Dudley saying that he knows the beaches very well since he grew up in Mississippi.  The photo showed a whole line of what looked like only men wearing blue jeans, tee-shirts, gloves, and wellies.  They were filling plastic bags with debris while three foreman-looking people either looked on or were handing out more plastic bags.

In shock and skepticism I showed it to Mr. Gaelic.  "Can you believe how racist this is?" 

He looked closely.  All the men at the water line were black; the three "overseers" were white. 

"Is it racist or reality?" he asked.  "Maybe it's the only job they can find and maybe nobody else wants the job.  But also, contrast this to the other pictures we've seen of cleanup crews wearing full body jumpsuits and heavy-duty rubber gloves."

It wasn't until I went searching online for a copy of the photo from the ad to include in this blog that I discovered what I consider to be the truth behind the picture.  I never found the picture online.  What I did find were article from such widely read sources as The Root, AlterNet, and The Stranger all noting that, while coastal residents are out of work, BP is using prison work crews for cleanup.  What BP gets by hiring prison crews is cheap labor, people who won't talk to the press, and a hefty tax write-off.

I jumped to conclusions about a photo without having all the information. 

Sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words.  Sometimes it's just the tip of the iceberg.

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