[ by Charles Cameron — two popes, two images, and vive la différence ]
It seems that back in the day, I missed this classic example of what I call DoubleQuotes in the Wild:
I was reading an article in the Catholic Herald this morning, because they’re changing format in response to “just how much technology had reshaped the world in the eight years between the elections of Benedict XVI and Francis”, and my attention was caught by this para:
That change was captured beautifully in an image that did the rounds during the conclave. It showed two crowds waiting for the white smoke. In the first, dated 2005, the faithful milled around under street lights, with just one clunky clamshell mobile phone visible. The second, dated 2013, presented a twinkling ocean of iPads, Nokias, iPhones and Motorolas. The message was simple: almost everyone today is online, seemingly all the time.
That expresses the power of DoubleQuotes very nicely — but I hadn’t seen the twinned images, so I went in search of them, and discovered that NBC New’s Facebook page had posted the image under the caption:
What a difference 8 years makes: St. Peter’s Square in 2005 and yesterday.
That’s accurate as far as it goes, but others presented the two images just a tad differently, as in:
NBC posted a powerful image of St. Peter’s Square showing how different things looked in 2005 when Pope Benedict was chosen from the new world of 2013 with Pope Francis.
and that’s not quite right. As Emi Kolawole pointed out in About those 2005 and 2013 photos of the crowds in St. Peter’s Square:
A composite image has been making its way around the Internet that appears to juxtapose images of the throng in St. Peter’s Square in 2005 during the announcement of Pope Benedict’s election with the audience present during that of Pope Francis.
But here’s thing, the photos weren’t taken at those times.
Post photojournalist Nick Kirkpatrick did a little digging and found that the lower photo (shown below this paragraph), which features a sea of smartphones and tablets, was, indeed, taken during the announcement of Pope Francis’s election. But the top photo (shown above), which shows an audience with far fewer gadgets was taken during the funeral procession of Pope John Paul II — a very different mood and event type. There was no one addressing the crowd from the balcony, for example. So, the comparison isn’t quite accurate.
Indeed, Kolawole’s piece reproduces the original caption to the upper photo:
People fill Via Della Conciliazione boulevard about half a mile away from the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican after Pope John Paul II’s body was carried across the square into the Basilica for public viewing on April 4, 2005. With tens of thousands of mourners outside hoping for a glimpse of the body, 12 pallbearers flanked by Swiss Guards carried the late pontiff’s body on a crimson platform from the Sala Clementina, where it had lain in state since the previous day. (LUCA BRUNO – AP)
— and follows up with photos like this one, of the crowd in St Peter’s Square when the election of Pope Benedict XVI was announced:
— which does indeed show more than a few digital cameras raised to capture the event, though not as many as at the “comparable” in 2013.
But then the photo of the 2013 announcement was taken looking towards St Peters, over the shoulders of the crowd, while the photo from 2005 was taken facing into the crowd — and the 2013 announcement was made at night, when the presence of so many digital cameras and phones lit up the square, whereas the announcement of 2005 was made in broad daylight.
So. With DoubleQuotes, wild or otherwise, it’s always a matter of caveat emptor.
Stage Two of any rigorous use of the DoubleQuote mechanism, after the juxtaposition has been made, should therefore take the form of critical thinking, providing a clear analysis of the similarities and differences between the two “quotes” (texts or images or whatever) so that we are not misled by superficial resemblances into conclusions that jump the proverbial shark.
Nor is Francis — though both be Peter — identical to Benedict.