Prince Andrew photo

Above: A contested image that seems to show Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts in 2001. Credit: Rex.

What's in a Smile?

Another example of the worst of photography. A picture of participants in a sex ring, taken by its chief organizer--as per the testimony of Virginia Roberts, who stands centre-frame. In snapshot photos, a smile to the camera can hide or reveal so much. What is really going on psychologically can easily be disguised for a moment--or can it? The face of Prince Andrew has a confident expression, to me his face says something like, "yes, I am glad to be here, proud to be here with this girl." So, it is a brazen smile. Virginia's facial expression is a broad smile, outwardly she is beaming. But her warm smile is also heart-breaking, since we know that this girl was aged seventeen and coerced into sex with the Prince--it is claimed. Of course, the Prince says the photo is fake and he has never met Roberts. The girl's expression can strike the viewer as innocent and sincere, but we can only imagine what doubt and regret lies beneath it.

As the viewer looks back at the expressions of the two adults in the photo, it is Ghislaine Maxwell's that sets up a counterpoint with the youthful grin. Maxwell's smile is not convincing, her expression is actually rather ambivalent. Of course, it is her presence which is normalizing the situation on the landing. Without Maxwell the child might be unsure, worried, or anxious. Ghislaine positions herself just behind the couple. If this photo has a punctum (that thing which stings me sharply) then it is surely this face--slightly questioning, a little embarrassed, knowing, conspiratorial ... and there is trepidation, as if to the photographer of this memento: "I am not sure it is a good idea to take a photograph of these two together--isn't that a risk?" She looks like she might be about to sigh. There is an incredulity in her look, as if she cannot quite believe that the photographer is actually taking the picture. A picture which--as she had probably guessed--would come back to haunt the adults.

(21 November 2019)