November 2014

Unveiling of White House Christmas decorations, 2013, AP Images/Charles Dharapak.

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When the Photo Op Goes Wrong

The photo opportunity, or the photo op as it is more commonly known, is usually a carefully choreographed affair in which PR advisors stage-manage the visual representation of a public figure stepping out in front of the media. Even the smallest detail in the photo op is planned long in advance: the central focus of the image, the vantage point of the cameras, the distance between the camera to the main event, the lighting, the time of day, the length of the photo op, the visual appearance of the public figure, whether there is interaction with the media or whether the media remains in the position of the silent observer.

Yet as Charles Dharapak’s photograph taken in 2013 during the unveiling of the White House Christmas decorations clearly shows, photos ops don’t always work out as planned. In the photograph we see a little girl, two-year-old Ashtyn Gardner…