DAD IN CHIEFWhat the shady, boring Beto photo shoot by Annie Leibovitz tells us about the candidate Quartz


As you may have heard, Beto O & Rourke, a former Texas representative and failed US Senate candidate, formally announced his presidential campaign Tuesday (March 13), calling on a local Texas television station on the informed of his intention to run via SMS.

While his main opponents have released detailed policy proposals, O & Rourke has been criticized for being bankrupt for his diehard fans and the excitement and ability of his previous campaign to raise funds while away from a certain ideology or compelling had reason to run.

Beto & # 39; s Vanity Fair cover.

What does a campaign based on pure charisma look like? Look no further than the cover of Vanity Fair. Perfectly orchestrated for his campaign announcement, O & Rourke appears on the cover of the magazine, shot by Annie Leibovitz, outside his truck on a dirt road, complaining his dog Artemis behind him.

The journalist Joe Hagan, who wrote the story for the magazine, tweeted that he had researched the story for two months before he casually looked at R & Rourke on his porch. The resulting profile follows the history of O & Rourke in Texas and New York City, his relationship with his father and (his father's political legacy) and his own evolution from burnout musician to politician. It also contains the most retouched photo in my opinion of a man driving a Toyota I've ever seen.

Leibovitz is one of the most prominent portrait photographers of contemporary public figures, but in the 1970s she made her legs as the lead photographer for Rolling Stone, toured with musicians and caught moments of rock and roll & # 39; s golden age behind the scenes . You would think that the photographer who made iconic images of Mick Jagger would be the perfect match for O & Rourke, who played in a large number of bands as a young man and quoted Washington DC pun legend Ian Mackaye as a central source of inspiration in his life .

So it's a little disappointing that her shoot with this political rock star was so … boring. Leibovitz let O & Rourke sit on the couch with one of his sons (Artemis furiously shaking his legs). We see him making pancakes, in what could almost be a stock image of a & # 39; involved father & # 39 ;.

Annie Leibovitz / Vanity Fair

A glimpse into the life of Beto O & # 39; Rourke.

Cut to the basement, where he is jamming with his children in the "music room". Later the whole family cuddles awkwardly during a walk.

Some also noted that the attitude and outfit of O & Rourke showed a striking number of similarities to a 1981 Time Magazine cover by Ronald Reagan, the future president. Although their policies are different, R & Rourke is running a similar campaign, positioning himself as the simple Everyman, and relying on a warm, idealized version of American bipartisanism.

The images lack the impeccably high production lighting from Leibovitz; most seem shot with completely natural light. Rather than emphasizing the youthful dynamics of O & # 39; Rourke, he looks like a fairly normal suburban father on a Sunday afternoon, and then a fairly normal politician in a flag-waving rally.

Annie Leibovitz / Vanity Fair

O & # 39; Rourke led a demonstration against Trump & # 39; s rally in El Paso. It was a unique moment in O & Rourke's political career, but it feels like an approach to every other politician who comes to the office.

It is not Leibovitz's fault that her subject has done anything special, but in a political environment in which Democrats more than ever want to find a sinking figurehead to unite, these photos don't matter much about R & 39. Rourke for the person to lead that fight, other than demonstrating his ability to traditionally be president. (That is, a young lady with square jaws in a shirt with a button-down, unlike the rest of the Democratic field.)

This apparently innocent photo series is a strange choice for a politician who has made his name by breaking through the rigid narrowing of campaigning. Like an Instagram influencer, he has already made love with millions of voters (and their purses) with viral videos & messages on social media. He has generously streamed his life through Facebook Live, and notoriously even Instagrammed a visit from a dentist.

For a candidate who has built up a national profile as a scrappy parvenu, it's a little odd that R & Rourke used his moment in a glossy Annie Leibovitz photo distribution to remind us of his normality.

If this story and the accompanying photo spreads reveal something, it is that O & Rourke sees his best path to presidency as a friendly tonic for President Trump & sour, flamboyant billionaire persona. Perhaps that's why the Beto that Annie Leibovitz met is just the kind, boring father next door.