Brian Edwards Media

If a picture is worth a thousand words, just what are these three pictures trying to tell us?


Michael Bradley/Fairfax

Michael Bradley/Fairfax

Kevin Stent/Fairfax

Kevin Stent/Fairfax

Chris Skelton/Fairfax

Chris Skelton/Fairfax

The Sunday Star Times chose these three photographs to illustrate its story today about the impact being Leader of the Opposition might have on the candidates’ partners. Shane Jones is seen with his partner Dot Pumipi, Grant Robertson with his partner Alf Kaiwai, and David Cunliffe with his wife Karen Price. The paper labelled David Cunliffe ‘protective; Shane Jones ‘reinvigorated'; but offered no summary of Robertson’s mindset.

Why did the paper choose these particular photographs, what was it trying to convey by that choice, and what, if anything, do you think the photographs tell us about the candidates themselves?

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  1. The captions certainly say a lot, ‘Protective’ Rejuvenated’ ‘Private Lives’ clever stuff from the SST.

  2. 2

    Diane Gilliam-Weeks

    That Cunliffe and his wife don’t cuddle?

  3. I think its obvious that there is significant visual communication engineering when the press decides which photos to publish however we also need to take into account the degree to which people’s personal situation should impact on their jobs.The fact of Helen Clarks’ lack of children for example labelled her for many years.Personally I think they all look ridiculous and unprofessional which is what was intended. Cunliffe is irritatingly austere and his wife’s picture will only add to that image.
    I think its time to look at the PR machine of the monarchy which has turned a crumbling dynasty into a hot favourite.Perhaps Cunliffe and Shane Jones could have a baby together and name him PIGGY.

  4. Of course the photographs tell us more about the Sunday Times than the candidates. Namely that sexuality and prejudice still sell papers.

  5. What on Earth have their partners got to do with their ability to be the leader of the labour party? What a personal setup job from the increasingly right of centre Herald. Have we ever had My Keys relationship with his wife judged (away from his leadership of the National party)? Have we ever had Mr Keys two sisters or his relationship to his mother uncovered for all to judge? No, not a single word. Would the herald have even done this piece if Grant Robinson wasn’t gay? We might have a legally non discriminating society but when it comes to peoples personal beliefs, this country like most, is a country mile from truly non discriminatory behaviour and attitudes.
    This is setup job by the herald specifically designed to judge these men not on their politics and policies, but on the side of their lives that just should never enter into politics.
    When Helen Clarkes relationship with her partner was brought into the public arena by the media, she very clearly showed her complete disdain for this kind of gutter journalism. Herald, what a shameful scandal rag you have become.I think its way past time that we put the spotlight on your editors and journalists private lives or don’t you have the stomach for it?

    • Slightly unfair since the story and photographs appeared in the Sunday Star Times, not in the Herald.

    • “We might have a legally non discriminating society but ………..a country mile from truly non discriminatory behaviour and attitudes.”

      Of course. We don’t need the law to tell us what to think, do we? If you put yourself up for public office, you’re public property whether you like it or not and the press (and presumably the GCSB) are entitled to whatever they can dredge up – as long as they stick within the law. If Paul McCartney can keep himself private when it suits him, so can Grant Robertson.

  6. I think the SST see Cunliffe as the front runner, and they are conveying that with their choice of photograph. Jones photo suggests that they don’t take him seriously. As for Robertson’s picture I am not sure anyone wanting to be a serious contender for leader of a major political party, charged with putting up a serious challenge to the incumbents, would want to be seen as cuddly at this particular moment.

  7. Dot’s hand placement bothers me.
    Grant’s conspicuous greenstone tiki – as a sop to Maori? – makes my skin crawl.
    Hell, there is only one normal-looking couple, left.

  8. They have each married a partner who looks like them. They have married themselves really. When I saw the picture in the SST this morning I was immediately struck by the resemblences to the #3Amigos.

  9. When I read the paper earlier I just saw three normal, happy looking couples and never gave it a second thought until I saw this. Now I am scratching my head and wondering what is the profound thing I am missing that makes these pictures particularly noteworthy ?

    • I suspect it is part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to paint Grant Robertson, in particular, in a bad light.

      Or maybe it is simply filling in the human interest angle:

      (Dame) Ruth Kirk
      Glen Rowling
      Thea Muldoon
      Naomi Lange (but not for the full term!)
      yeah, ok, I can’t remember Geoffrey Palmer’s wife’s name
      Yvonne Moore
      Joan Bolger
      Burton Shipley of sheep dagging-fame
      Peter Davis
      Bronagh Key

      (only had to look up a couple to make sure).

      so what’s the issue with a family mug-shot of a prospective PM?

      • For once I have to agree with you. I don’t think the pics are a big deal. Let’s face it, the subjects seemed to have posed for them which surely signals that they agreed to have their pics taken and that they knew they would be used by the SST. No subterfuge involved here.

        I imagine there are less flattering pics of the couples that the SST could have used…

  10. Re the above comment. I’m sorry I attacked the wrong the paper (force of habit?), but the sentiment still firmly stands. What on Earth does someones personal life have to do with their leadership ability or their political acumen. This article shows just how incredibly gender defined we are as a species. Logical, well though out voting process, or ‘eenie meaney minie, “the cutest one with the cutest wife” mo.

  11. “Of course the photographs tell us more about the Sunday Times than the candidates.”
    I agree with Alan on this one
    Did I just say that ?

  12. Cunliffe wears a name badge when with his partner, and they lean away from each other. The other pairs seem to be comfortable each other. We may as well get used to the partners now as they will be part of the 2014 election campaign.

  13. One thing is for sure – none of these photographs carry the message “vote for me”!

  14. Cunliff – detached, functional relationship. Bill and Hillary?

    Jones – young wife on sugar daddy’s lap, ties in with credit card purchases.

    Robertson – if being gay turned conservative islanders off, embracing each other with heads touching will make them spew.

  15. As far as I know the photograph of Grant Robertson and hia partner was taken at their Civil Union ceremony a couple of years ago. Since it was a private ceremony I presume Mr Robertson’s permission was given to use it for the Sunday Star Times article.

  16. I do not know what these pictures are trying to tell us but I do know that when I opened my paper on Sunday morning I thought —
    Ah these are likable people and I am glad that they are looking to lead the Labour Party .

  17. They are all lovely photos. They seem to all be very happy and comfortable with each other.I feel like I know each of the candidates a bit better.

  18. Reading this in a hotel in Bangor Co Down and finding the view from this distance most interesting. Strangely the activities of the NZ Labour Party are not making the news in the local media. I am not sure whether it was coincidence that David Shearer waited until I was out of the country before announcing his resignation.

    It must be jet lag because my first reaction was that Michael Bradley bore an uncanny resemblance to David Cunliffe and puzzlement about a woman called Fairfax.

    Apart from that I felt the photos were contrived and wondered whether professional photographers could not have produced more imaginative images. They look like something out of Uncle Fred’s photo album taken with a box brownie at Skegness. All that is missing is a ‘kiss me quick’ hat.

    I shall now return to enjoying my holiday and put Cunliffe and co out of my mind whilst hoping world war 3 does not start whilst here which will render the contest somewhat irrelevant.

    As an aside had most interesting tour of Belfast by Black Cab which gave an alternative view of history. Strangely the driver had never heard of Ireland’s most famous son, Brian Edwards.

  19. The pictures may not clinch the election ,but the mindless drivel of the education minister this morning is better than any picture

  20. The photo of Shane Jones and his partner-in-schoolgirl pose made my skin crawl. It’s obvious who has the upper hand in that relationship. And the article mentions that his ex-wife left him after the pornos-at-taxpayers’ expense debacle. Then Jones claims that’s he’s “popular” with women around New Zealand, but the “feminists” don’t like him. Does he realise that feminism is simply about wanting an even playing field for women; a society that doesn’t exploit or degrade women, and that both men and women can be feminists? No of course he doesn’t because he’s a dinosaur who still thinks men like him are born to rule. And let’s not forget his unswerving support for Sealord as a corporate stooge. This is a man I’m supposed to admire and consider as a potential PM? Shane Jones is an embarrassment to Labour – he should be running for leader of the Shane Jones Party.

    • You’re right. It makes my skin crawl as well. That coquettish pose is a stark reminder of the very seedy side to Shane Jones. And there are drongos who want this less- than-wholesome character to be PM one day.

  21. Well, I do not care who has what partner and so forth.

    As for the media in New Zealand, I am despairing the further their standards deteriorate. Is there any remaining attention on things that matter, or are we now truly, forever, in silly land, where trivialities, infotainment, distraction and total subjective bias rule?

    I thought things were getting bad in Europe, having come back here years ago, has caused me to rethink and recheck my own sense for reality and sanity.

    Move on, and let us deal with what really matters!

  22. I must say, the DOM POST has certainly be using a very unflattering shot of Cunliffe to illustrate its leadership stories over the last fortnight or so. It’s not only that he has a highly-confused look on his face but also that the shot’s quite distorted – like an extreme close-up taken with an ultra-wide-angled (or fisheyed) lens. Very, very odd. These sorts of photo selections don’t, of course, happen by accident.

    (Incidently, thanks to Kimbo, Maureen and Bidrom for kind comments on previous thread. I haven’t replied because I have so little time available for the internet at the moment that this is the first time I’ve actually seen the comments. No snub intended, believe me).

  23. The photos tell me that the couples were in the case of a) interrupted at a public function, b) at their own civil union, and c) in an office with no sofa.

    I think SJ was probably told they were going to use a head and shoulder shot. DomPost photographers pulled the same trick on Helen Clark and her husband, didn’t they?

    Markus is correct about the DomPost: it’s pulling out all the weasel stops to obliterate Labour – for example, reporting not the Opposition’s assertions and policies but National’s rebuttals of them, and giving the headlines to National when they do so. This is not the procedure they adopt under a Labour government, when they do the reverse.

  24. There are no books in most of the shelves behind Jones, merely a single row.

    Jones is a smart man, but this is puzzling.

  25. OK BE, Ill play.

    Cunliffe and his wife looks like they cannot stand each other
    Robertson looks like he just picked up some rent boy from Mexico
    and Jones looks like he was getting a lap dance when he was so rudely interupted.

  26. I’m not exactly sure what they were trying to convey but here’s one interpretation:

    (1) Cunliffe & his wife: Conventional, safe, sensible, dignified and representative of middle New Zealand. They seem natural and at ease and the smiles are welcoming and sincere. Their relationship is good and solid and they have real affection for one another.

    2) Robertson & his partner: An unconventional and curious couple. Is Robertson one of those middle-aged, white gay guys who has a thing for younger brown skinned men? The sort of guy most people know of but have never known? Can a guy like that be trusted? The homosexuality, the brown partner and the matching greenstone necklaces all signal where Robertson sits politically and his likely priorities if made leader. And Alf, he is flamboyant and mischievous and his relative youth and good looks make for a noticeable contrast with Robertson’s plain and stout appearance. What is their relationship all about?

    3) Jones & his partner: Just look at the horny old dog with his wahine in his lap and eager smile on his face.

    • Not bad, Jim T.

      (1) The “affection” is formal rather than intimate.

      (2) Never trust a guy who wears a gold chain bracelet and/or necklace. And that goes for a greenstone tiki, especially, when wearing over the shirt.

      (2) And a grin not too unlike that of a tomcat who’s stolen the “milk”, speaking of which…..

  27. David Cunliffe looks a cold individual. I have always thought that, but looking at this picture of him and his wife sure does confirm that to me. I guess it doesn’t help that I just don’t like his personality at all.