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Flag poles
Flag poles
Source: Salzburger Nachrichten, 12. June 2004, p. 3 © APA-IMAGES / epa / Christian Hartmann

Original Caption
"The political balance of power in the European Parliament decides the direction of European politics. Even before the election, one thing is certain: The influence of the parliament is growing and growing."

Picture Analysis
The photograph takes up the flag motif, quite obviously in the European Union context, and modifies it. It pictures, very much from below, the national flags of the EU-member states in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg in such a way that the viewer is obviously intended to see this as a photograph and not a document of an event: The flag poles draw lines that soar up through the picture into the sky; the sun is partially hidden behind the French flag which therefore seems almost transparent; in the background of the picture, dark against the light, the characteristic rotunda of the European Parliament is easily recognizable. In short, we obviously have to do with the desire for photographic composition, which has used the favourable moment - blue sky, sun low on the horizon, soft light - for the production of a picture that primarily shows off its own artistic skill.

The result of this artistic skill is EU-mannerism. Studied, affected, capricious, charged with tension, so one could describe the picture of flags, poles and parliament building and then turn to solve the riddle of what the photograph actually presents to the viewer: Why in fact do the national flags form a cordon screening off the Parliament? Why do the flags shine in bright light while the parliament threatens to sink in shadows? The answer seems simple: At the end of the European parliamentary election campaign in which domestic topics were of primary concern, the picture expresses quite adequately the ruling balance of power in Europe. This is betrayed by the first sentences of the caption under the picture: "The political balance of power in the European Parliament decides the direction of European politics." If the photograph tells the truth, it is the weight of the nation states that decides the direction of European politics.

© Demokratiezentrum Wien

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The Picture Atlas is an outcome of the project ICONCLASH. Collective Icons and Democratic Governance in Europe

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