Does one photo say more than a thousand words?

The context of a photo

Why this photo has been posted on front pages of media all over the world today, is probably the fact that the Russian president held the first domestic press conference in his three-year-old presidential term. Although 800 journalists were present and you would expect interesting news coming out of the press conference, coverage I’ve seen has been limited to articles in which hard news is lacking. Some media only placed a photo caption and framed the photo around the context of whether the president would seek re-election.

My story: backstage at a press conference

Without knowing more context of the photo, for me, this photo evokes colourful and powerful images of my own.

If I look at this photo it reminds me of the morning of so many press conferences of Heineken N.V. During 7 years, As the Company spokesperson, I was part of the inner circle that prepared the CEO and CFO of Heineken N.V. for Earnings Results press conferences amongst others. Only a few advisors were allowed to be around the Executive Board on the morning of the press conference, on location, and I was lucky to be one of them. Contrary to the Medvedev photo, photographers were not allowed ‘backstage’ at Heineken and we had good reasons for that.

What we used to do on these hectic mornings was have breakfast, go over the news of that morning and rehearse key messages. We would discuss any potential new issues that could trigger journalists to ask the Executive Board questions about. We were focussed and avoided any distraction.

Make-up is allowed in the Boardroom

It was then, when both the CEO and CFO would go into make-up. I remember that years ago, when we first advised the Executive Board that they should have make-up, they were not too thrilled. “We don’t need make-up”, they said. Being men, they were not used to put make-up on off course. Now they know it’s part of the script, but years ago, we had to convince them that the long hours of the night before showed on their faces and that they needed a little bit of colour, especially because there would be TV cameras present. As you can see on the enclosed photo, even the Russian president needs make-up before a press conference!

If you look at the president in the photo, who looks at his watch and is not at all interested in having his make-up adjusted, you get a feel for similar situations of CEOs and politicians before a press conference. It’s funny how the Russian president abruptly decides that the make-up artist should be ready. He takes his jacket and starts to move around. It’s a great moment in action, it tells a story that I can relate to.

If you look once more at the photo, you see the make-up room and a mirror in which there is one man with papers in his hand. During make-up he probably has briefed the president and now they agreed that it’s time to start the press conference. That’s another reason why I think this photo is brilliant. My framing of this photo is a behind-the-scenes moment, the busy minutes before the start of a press conference. You can almost feel the excitement, the tension.

Although this photo was probably staged, I’m glad that this is a different photo than the ones we usually see in the media.

Share it on this blog if you should have a similar experience with a photo that tells its story without knowing much context.

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