Yulia Tymoshenko - she is the woman
Former Ukranian prime prime minister in a revealing photograph.
The long-fingered left hand of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko lies above her navel. Her long fingernails are bare of polish. Her small earlobes bear glowing earrings. The red case of her Moschino sunglasses stands out against the background of her fair hair. The oligarch turned political revolutionary, who was sentenced last October to seven years in prison for profiteering and abusing her powers as prime minister in a gas deal, now faces a new indictment − for bribery. In this photograph from April 27, she displays a bruise from a beating she was given by guards, which sent her to the hospital with back pains. In the light of this, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to boycott the Euro 2012 games. German physicians examined her and diagnosed a herniated disc; she went on a hunger strike and then agreed to receive treatment.
This is a peculiar photograph. Maybe because the unknown photographer (Reuters, which distributed the image, did not provide a name) stood above Tymoshenko, who looks fixedly at her injury and not at him, creating a voyeuristic effect. Or maybe because of the contradictions between the red glasses case and the paleness of the greenish wall and her gray clothes, her shiny, unwrinkled skin, her smooth lips, thin eyebrows, the famous braid whose split tail lies calculatedly on her chest for a positive effect − and the exposed stomach, signifying a body part and an act that derive from images of criminal evidence. Or maybe it’s because of her navel, a very private place, certainly in the case of a leader’s image, and the yellow blood clots around the small scar, probably from a C-section, and the stretch marks on her abdomen.
This is an incredibly revealing photograph, no less than the stretcher-and-cage images of Mubarak − all the differences notwithstanding. It is also a deeply discomforting photograph. Not only because it depicts the injuries inflicted on a former prime minister by warders (an image that would pose a threat to democracy everywhere, certainly in Ukraine). The reason for the unease it creates is that it projects a feeling of cold, calculated, precise control. It looks like a photograph in a campaign for Tymoshenko’s release, speaking in the language of Benetton, the fashion brand that uses images of downtrodden people dressed in modish jerseys to promote products under the guise of fraternity. It looks like part of a campaign even if there is no reason to doubt the photo’s authenticity, her suffering, or her supporters’ allegations that her trial was an act of political silencing.
Though she exposes her stomach, Yulia Tymoshenko seeks to conceal her cooperation with the photograph as such. It is designed to incorporate her face and upper body in a way that evokes the representation of a saint lying in state. Her smooth face, crowned with golden hair, the braid that is no longer rolled around her head − seemingly symbolizing a fall from grace − and her self-conscious gaze are in conflict with the photograph. She is the woman: Arthur Conan Doyle’s Irene Adler in a surprising modern incarnation, wisely using a photograph as a defense against her enemies. Only the red glasses case, on which the name of the Italian brand Moschino appears, spoils her plan.