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Liebling was always on the lookout for pictures that revealed a politician's true character…

My photographs tried to find the politicians at their most wary, most vulnerable, and perhaps most truthful moments. I wanted the photographs to reveal the person through stance and stare, when he or she was most reflective or off guard, in order to measure the person and event unfolding.

–Jerome Liebling, The Minnesota Photographs, 1997

Besides teaching photography at the University of Minnesota, Jerome Liebling was often hired by politicians to make photos of their campaigns. Liebling was always on the lookout for pictures that revealed a politician’s true character, even though that wasn’t exactly his assignment.

This photograph, taken at a rally in Minneapolis, is a good example of what the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called the “decisive moment.” The decisive moment is a concept that photographers everywhere understand. Cartier-Bresson explains, “Sometimes you have the feeling that here are all the makings of a picture–except for just one thing that seems to be missing. You wait and wait, and then finally you press the button–and you depart with the feeling (though you don’t know why) that you’ve really got something. Later, to substantiate this, you can take a print of this picture . . . and you’ll discover that, if the shutter was released at the decisive moment, you have instinctively fixed a geometric pattern without which the photograph would have been both formless and lifeless.” (The Decisive Moment, 1952)

Liebling certainly caught the two politicians in the photo at a decisive moment. Their faces at this moment tell a story about their temperaments–one worried, uncomfortable and tense; the other relaxed, in control, with a tiny triumphant smile on his face. It is this sort of attitude that politicians don’t like to reveal, but it was just what Liebling was looking for.

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Minneapolis Institute of Arts