Next in my ongoing and unplanned series of posts covering the manipulation techniques in use today and being put to such good use in the General Election by the Conservative party.
As anyone who takes pictures or is photographed a lot, the camera angle is critical, the way the shot is posed, the person being pictured, the surroundings, all are important and can make the difference between a fantastic picture and a waste of time and effort.
The difference between that perfect holiday picture and having half of aunt Edith's head cut off by the edge of the picture.
I'm not going to talk about holiday photo's, but rather the use of pictures and videos as manipulation, the use of the visual image to support a narrative or to say those thousand words in the way you want.
The use of the right camera angle is well known to our media, every camera person learns to use angles, distances, shot framing and more to project the 'Right' image, we've been doing it for centuries, long before we had cameras. Walk into any museum and look at the paintings to see the use of the techniques I am talking about.
After all, every picture is an image so you want it to be the right image.
Camera angles as manipulation.
A picture is a very limited thing, it shows a single angle of a view, it shows what is inside the edges of the picture and nothing else. So you need to include what you want inside the image or keep it outside if you don't want it.
Pictures of people are often taken from slightly below to make them look taller, of beside something smaller than they are for the same effect, you can create the impression of entire crowds by getting close to people so all you can see are the people.
A speech can be well attended or mostly empty depending on how you frame that picture, pack people behind the subject, fill the fore ground with more people's heads so it looks like you are taking your picture over the heads of the crowd and viola, a big crowd. Or pick and angle and stand at a distance to make the people look few in number and smaller and the crowd is tiny.
It's probably easier to show you what I mean so here are some examples from the General Election in 2015.
David Cameron speaking to an audience at a rally in Wadebridge, Cornwall. Lots of people sitting and standing, the battle bus in the back ground. Looks like a nice turnout.
Here's another angle, lots of posters, lots of supporters. Mass printed banners and placards.
Pictures from The Spectator
But when you pull back a bit it's maybe not such a huge crowd. If you consider that the party loyalists and activists are the ones holding those signs and all the reporters and photographers are there as well. it's now not the massive rally that it was perhaps pretending to be.
Also note that the reporters and camera people are on one side, facing Cameron and that the crowd is notably more packed behind Cameron (the right of the picture). So those people aren't an audience, they are staring at his back, instead they are the backdrop, the scenery, the framing that changes the image being presented.
Picture from Skynews.
So far this election we have seen an almost compulsive effort on the part of the Conservative Campaign to hide Theresa May from the public, which given her performance in the handful of actual interviews she has done so far, is a very good idea. If she can't actually answer one single question she is asked by Andrew Marr her chances facing a possible hostile group of voters are very slim indeed.
Instead we have seen stage management, the big lie and camera angles used to present a carefully manufactured image.
Once you know what you are looking for you should be easily able to spot what I mean, simply look at the pictures in the papers, look at the speeches or news clips on TV.
For example, over the last few days we have seen our Prime Minister visit buildings after the staff have left, or walked around a factory when all but two of the staff have been removed. When you see these pictures look at the background, the foreground, look at everything other than the politicians. Then ask yourself a few questions.
Now yesterday I watched a prime example on Sky News. Theresa May had turned up in Bristol, something of a surprise but Sky were reporting that she had been seen and that demonstrators were rushing to the area. Then we had the announcement that she was giving a speech and she did exactly that.
The entire speech was close focused on her, basically the first image below. The poor camera person was obviously having trouble because she moved a little while talking and you could almost see the effort going into keeping the broadcast angle so small and tight, most of the room was never on camera.
Then at the very end the camera pulled back a little to show a few more people but at no time was the room ever showed, no indication of how many people were in front of her other than the handful of allowed reporters.
Note that there are three rows of people behind her and a handful of scattered heads in front of her
Carefully stage managed to look like a big busy meeting attended by lots of people, except that it clearly wasn't and by paying attention to the care being taken to keep those camera angles tight you can see just how much trouble they were having.
In addition, those well dressed young people to the right of the Prime Minister, they went around at the end collecting all of those placards and signs and helped to tidy up, they were in the background when Faisal Islam did his follow up broadcast just after May left.
Picture Matt Cardy via Getty Images
Now I've focused on the Tories here, the Cameron example is just too good not to use it and May is doing her very best to demonstrate what I am talking about. But you can see the same thing with the other parties. The tight pack of loyalists and activists behind every camera shot, the many bright and colourful (and professionally printed) signs and placards and the camera angles that carefully don't show what is in front of the candidate or speaker. Every picture carefully presented to give an image of well attended events, big crowds, lots of supporters.
In fact you can spot the random public stuff very easily once you know what to look for, as you watch the news play the game of guessing which is a stage managed event and which a real public event. Anything involving actual members of the public and the real world is far more disorganised and chaotic compared to the carefully control staged events.
I covered the big lie already with STRONG and STABLE for you to watch out for and count, now the game is to spot the stage management, to identify the use of careful camera angles to present an image that may not be representative of the truth.
That's a polite way of saying the picture is a pile of steaming male cow droppings.
For those of you playing General Election Bingo, this one is safer to play as a drinking game.
We live in a world where what you are told, what you see, what you hear, what you read, are all manipulations. If you know what is being done to manipulate you then you can resist that manipulation.
Knowledge is strength, those without knowledge are nothing more than prey to governments and political parties.