Presidential candidate Barack Obama on Instagram
RQ1: How do images on photo-sharing applications, in this case Instagram, function in the rhetoric of the presidential candidate Barack Obama?
RQ2: Which is the specific audience that the presidential candidate Barack Obama is trying to reach through the photo-sharing application Instagram?
RQ3: How does the photo-sharing application Instagram help presidential candidate Barack Obama to reach his audience?
RQ4: Does the presidential candidate Barack Obama uses Instagram to deliver messages against his opponent Mitt Romney?
RQ5: Do the messages delivered through Instagram by the presidential candidate Barack Obama help him gain more votes for the elections?
Barack Obama on Instagram
The smartphone photo-sharing application Instagram, allows users to apply filters to photos taken on their cellphones and also gives them the opportunity to share them via other social networks. Interest has grown in the application since Facebook acquired the business earlier this year after buying it for $1 billion dollars. (Benjamin, 2012).
President Obama’s re-election campaign joined Instagram on January 2012 as @BarackObama, becoming the first presidential candidate with an account on this application. The first photo shared by Obama’s account was an image of the President addressing supporters in Iowa by videoconference the day of the state’s Republican caucauses. (The Washington Post, 2012). The President account is run by campaign staff members and has attracted more than a million users since its launch. Followers are also encouraged to contribute with pictures adding the hashtag #Obama2012.
This analysis is focused on the presidential candidate Barack Obama and his use of Instagram as a visual resource for his campaign. Omaba’s account was chosen because it is the only candidate of the 2012 campaign that uses this photo-sharing application to promote his political views.
@BarackObama on Instagram
Opposed to ordinary users on Instagram, Obama’s account does not present pictures from the President’s point of view. Images uploaded to Barack Obama’s account are normally presented so that the presidential candidate appears in the pictures. Most images present President Obama in the different locations where he is going with his campaign.
Some images present the word “Vote” or show different graphic designs created for the 2012 campaign. There are also images presenting Obama hugging or saluting people that sympathize with him. There are other pictures of the President with the First Lady having dinner or at formal events. When the President is not giving a speech, Obama is normally presented smiling or laughing to his audience or the person he is in the picture with.
Most pictures are uploaded using Instagram’s digital filters. It is noticeable that the most used filters by Obama’s account are Nashville and Valencia. The Nashville filter sharps images with a magenta-meets-purple tint framed by a distinctive film-strip-esque border, but the border is not always used. @BarackObama usually uses this filter with landscapes of the multitudes on his campaign. On the other hand, the Valencia filter gives true-to-life contrast, with slightly gray and brown overtones. Obama’s account normally uses this filter on pictures presenting close-up faces. Instagram users have the choice to upload pictures without a filter, but this is not very common on the President’s account.
The presidential candidate’s account portrays Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and delivers different messages to its followers. Many symbols from the Democrat party are shown in the pictures as well as Obama’s trademark: The letter “O”. This “O” was specially designed for his first campaign in 2008 and it’s supposed to symbolize a sunrise. This sunrise could lead to an interpretation of his verbal campaign that proclaims change and progress. Most pictures are uploaded with the hashtag #Obama2012.
The absence of personal pictures can be perceived in Obama’s visual campaign on Instagram. Since the main purpose of this account is to promote Obama’s presidential campaign, pictures of the President’s ordinary life are not displayed in the account.