Sunday, 12 July 2009

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A stubbornness in the face of fact that is unbecoming of an academic. (Before I get started, I want to acknowledge that I know Ann Althouse is an attention fiend, and as such revels in any that comes her way. Furthermore, I know that giving her the attention she craves will only embolden her to spout even more outrageous nonsense in the future. However, the white-hotness of her intellectual dishonesty here compels me to consider it a vacuity of historical import. Future scholars will read this post and realize that this was the moment crypto-conservatives discovered the fact that no matter how shallow their waters were, Zeno and his paradox prevented them from ever being emptied altogether.) It may not be breaking new that the President copped a glance at a young Mayara Rodrigues Tavare last week: But I want to call your attention to Ann Althouse’s “close-reading” of the photograph: Obama’s arms hang free, emphasizing the tilt, and either gravity or will causes the left arm to hang inches away from the torso. See how much lower the right hand is than the left? His neck is craned out and around so that the line of sight is directly at the ass. His mouth is open as if to say: That’s what I want. When presented with video evidence to the contrary, she curtly replied: I have seen the video, and I stand by my analysis of the still photograph. She watched video evidence that refutes her analysis and stands by it anyway. But I believe she can be forgiven for insisting, essentially, that photograph is what it is, because she knows nothing about photography. A competent photographer would know, for example, what forced perspective is, and that the effect sometimes occurs accidentally, such that a child innocently swatting an insect might appear to be brutalizing a baby (Exhibit 1). This occurs because both subjects are within the depth of field: The Batman who is too close the camera is as blurry as the one too far away. Only the Batman within the depth of field is in focus. Accidental forced perspective happens because auto-focusing cameras increase the depth of field and flatten the picture. Objects both near and far remain in focus, such that when you innocently shoot this: You end up with this. Modern cameras flatten images by making it appear as if everything within the depth of field is the same distance from the photographer. The effect can be exaggerated by having one object both further away and occupying higher ground (Exhibit 2, Exhibit 3, Exhibit 4, Exhibit 5), but the general principle remains: so long as both objects are in focus, they will appear to be the same distance from the photographer. The video of Obama clearly shows that not only is he moving toward the camera as Ms. Tavare walks away from it, he is also moving from a higher position to a lower one relative to the photographer. In short, anyone with any knowledge of photography would know that Obama looks to a right that is...

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