Snapshot: Stanley Fischer takes a stroll with Ben Bernanke
Even the heads of central banks get a little time out.
This photograph of Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, is deep and full. From any point of view, relations between the photographer and his subjects are nonexistent here. The two are not looking at the camera, and the photographer, Ted S. Warren, is not especially close to them. Nor is he the only one who caught them on film on August 31, at an important annual economic conference held at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The heads of central banks from around the world were in attendance (with the exception of the president of the European Central Bank).
Fischer and Bernanke are just talking, not doing anything humorous, though they are definitely smiling. Fischer, who was appointed governor in May 2005, has apparently just said something to Bernanke. His familiar face, narrow but pleasant, is turned to his American colleague; his large name tag and entry pass is prominently visible on his chest.
Bernanke, who was appointed Fed chairman in October 2005, is smiling within the confines of his beard, which is trimmed slightly above his double chin and frames his face. His green tie suits the late-summer season.
On the day the photo was taken, The New York Times reported that in his speech to the symposium, Bernanke expressed concern about the level of unemployment in America and hinted that the Fed would intervene in the interest rate. It was only a hint, not a commitment. This is an interesting time, in the midst of a presidential election campaign, and on the day he spoke, Bernanke also had his picture taken with Fischer and went out to talk to him in front of the photographers, along the fence that separates the symposium from the yellow field stretching toward the mountains.
Global Finance magazine recently ranked Fischer, for the fourth time, as one of the six best governors of central banks in the world. He was described by a senior Israeli editor as Israel’s most successful immigration story in recent years. In an interview with Bloomberg, Fischer said, with the correctness so crucial for creating a sense of stability, that bank governors are not politicians. He added that he is worried by the situation in Europe.
Fischer is not a politician, but he is doing what he can for Israel, having his picture taken, as every year, with Bernanke (who, by the way, was ranked far below him in the article) and projecting his message of reassurance: Relations are good. We will not go down. We will not remain alone. We have a common language. And one more message: When it comes to Bank of Israel governor, the right man was appointed.
But this shot also has a background, which, it seems, the photographer himself is occupied. The gorgeous ever-white Teton Mountains tower above a vast park with bison and bald eagles, with bright green grazing grounds. This is the landscape that Annie Proulx, in her well-known stories set in Wyoming, portrays as a cruel, hard land, remote from considerations of comfort or sentimentality, divorced from kitsch.
The result is that this photograph, which is aimed at news outlets, momentarily appears to be split, as though someone has stretched a painted canvas behind the two bankers, behind the close relations of economic support (in return for regional influence and loyalty), behind the fact that these two officials, who are responsible for global balance and stability, are both American Jews, each representing an aspect of Jewish life in the world, a different national commitment.
As the landscape invades the viewer’s consciousness, it becomes clear that Bernanke − who did not comment on Mitt Romney’s admonition against intervention in the “free economy” − wants to be seen at the side of his Israeli counterpart. He wants to show that strategic ties exist. That he possesses a global perspective. Fischer, for his part, looks relaxed, like a diplomat who is not engaged in diplomacy.
In the meantime, the eye is drawn to the mountain range, whose slightly distant grandeur evokes the sacred Mount Fuji and Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mount Fuji.” It becomes clear that whoever chose this site as the setting for an economic conference was also thinking like an adman and had a sense of humor: The vista is meant to calm observers and offer a visual concretization of the concept of an “economic summit,” to project a notion of a clean, bright future. And it works, in a certain sense. In contrast to photos of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu sitting with clenched teeth in their White House meetings, Fischer and Bernanke walk together as though in accord. Smiling agreeably. At the sight of the governor, it is possible to hope, perhaps, that he will not allow the Nochi Dankner-style economy to bring Israelis down for good. He looks so rational, against the backdrop of the mysterious white mountain.