Analysis: Margaret Thatcher Photo Covers

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Photographer Brian Harris, Independent

Photographer Brian Harris, Independent

Overview of the UK newspaper front covers and photography following the death of former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Subtle use of imagery discloses politics and personality

1. Larger Than Life and All Too Human

It’s remarkable how politics and political affiliation can be reflected in a portrait, or even a layout. The most imaginative portrait usage was in The Independent, with its extreme close-up revealing the grain of the face, an image that’s slightly graphic and comic book in the graphite grey shading of the image. Larger than life and marvellously human, this wonderful crop both captures the myth of Margaret Thatcher and reveals a humanity few dared to look at. It’s appropriate that The Independent has been the most photographically adventurous, as the newspaper came into being during her period in office and its Saturday magazine was a celebration of the power of great design allied to powerful photography.Typically for a paper with strong roots in photography, this cover has a proper photographer credit on the spine of the page.

2. Juxtaposition

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was about as popular in Scotland as the England victory the World Cup of 1966. The funereal font at the top of the page (an elegy to the country’s pain as much as it is to the Prime Minister) is accompanied by a suitably stern-looking image. The face in the top left of the page makes for a spooky juxtaposition.

Daily Record

Daily Record

3. Close-Up

The left-of-centre Daily Mirror uses the exact same image as the Daily Record but crops in close, with a clever expressive use of headline. A quietly scary, slightly Big Brother feel.

Daily Mirror

Daily Mirror

4. Womanly

The Daily Mail was a staunch supporter of Margaret Thatcher, but also has a sizeable female readership. This image by Norman Parkinson highlights her femininity, in an ever-so-subtle way as her bejewelled hands play with the pearl necklace. Strong use of a great portrait.

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Daily Mail Norman Parkinson/Corbis

5. Saintly

The Daily Telegraph uses the same Norman Parkinson image. But without any coverlines, the focus is all on the portrait of the woman and the halo that lights and glows out of the black background.

Norman Parkinson/Sygam/Corbis/1986

Norman Parkinson/Sygam/Corbis/1986

5. In Stone

To accompany the headline – a quote from Hugo Young, journalist and biographer of Margaret Thatcher – The Guardian runs white type on a portrait image whose grey granularity and steely stare expresses an unflinching (or inflexible depending on your politics) resolution.

The Guardian Cover

The Guardian Cover

6. Off-Stage

On the cover of their tribute pull-out, The Guardian features the image of the former Prime Minister being driven away by car, the moment after she resigns. No longer Prime Minister, she sheds a tear, but what completes the narrative of the image is her husband Denis looking blankly into the future. Photographer Ken Lennox tells the story of the photo in The Daily Telegraph:

“When her official biography came out, the publishers contacted me for the picture I took of her crying after leaving Downing Street for the last time. They wanted to use it on the back cover. I was invited to the book launch and was surprised to see my picture hadn’t been used. When I asked her why, she replied, very earnestly: ‘Mr Lennox, what photo?’ ‘The one with a little tear in your eye.’ ‘Over my dead body, Mr Lennox.’”

The Guardian Tribute Cover

The Guardian Tribute Cover

7. Regal

The Daily Express hints at Royal portraiture in its selection and the thick black framing of its front page.

Daily Express Cover

Daily Express Cover

8. Epic

The reign of Prime Minister and sheer force of personality encompassed wars abroad, battles at home and put Britain back on the international stage. The Times reflects the somewhat epic nature of her premiership with a wraparound cover of her visit to Moscow in 1987.  A Hollywood, film star moment with fur collar, handbag and a wave to the crowd, the composition of the image and the way your eye is drawn from right to left captures something of the historical sweep of her period in office. Great use of Daniel Janin’s image that works both simply as a front cover and a wraparound.

The Times Cover, Photograph, Daniel Janin/Getty Images

The Times Cover, Photograph, Daniel Janin/Getty Images

 

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