Thursday, May 3, 2007

Her Majesty

Queen Elizabeth is visiting the US in part to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown. I was surprised to learn it is just her fourth State Visit across the pond (the previous ones occurring in 1957, 1976, and 1983). I just recently watched The Queen and while its clear that Helen Mirren really did deserve her accolades for the work in this film, I was pretty underwhelmed by it. I thought Her Majesty appeared cold and stodgy, unsympathetic and I don't think that is really the kind of person she is.

What has captivated me is the recent photographic portrait taken by Annie Leibowitz (you can find better images around the web, I'm sure):

I absolutely love this photo but apparently it hasn't been received so warmly by all parties. I find the lighting really interesting---illuminating her gown and face, the floor before her but all else in relative shadow... it would be interesting to hear the photographer talk about setting this up but to me, the lighting suggests the challenges of her position as monarch, the changing nature of our world and the monarchy... The critics write it off as overly traditional but I actually find it pretty rock-and-roll...very contemporary even given the contrast of the traditional regal trappings.... I like it much more than the recent portraits of the Clintons. Furthermore, this may be the first official head-of-state portrait whose frame includes more than the subject proper---showing her in the room allows us to see her in relationship to the world---giving us reason to contemplate her role in it. I like the pensive gaze...

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