Slate Reader Wins the Photo Detective Award

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 12 2012 5:58 PM

Slate Reader, Photo Detective

I have come to realize that Slate readers are a remarkably detail-oriented bunch. But I was still impressed when, earlier this week, Alan Cobo-Lewis pointed out that a photo in this slide show was backwards. He noticed that Dwight Eisenhower and General Raoul Vernouxmen’s coats buttons appeared on the “feminine,” righthand side, while the First Lady’s coat buttons appeared on the masculine, lefthand side—an unlikely occurrence when this photo was taken, in 1951.

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“The photo of Mamie Eisenhower and friends is backwards. Note how Ike’s and Vernoux’s coat buttons [follow] the women’s convention and the first lady’s coat buttons [fit] with the men’s convention,” he wrote us. (Why do men’s and women’s clothes differ in this way? The most common theory is that while even well-off men traditionally dressed themselves, wealthy women had the help of maids, who, if righthanded, would find it easier to work with buttons on the righthand side; this, however, is disputed.)

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Once we’d confirmed that indeed everyone’s jackets seemed to button the wrong way, we noticed another problem: Looking closely, you’ll see that Vernoux is shaking hands with someone out of the frame—using his left hand. We hadn’t done any Photoshopping ourselves, so we checked with Getty Photos, who in turn got in touch with AFP’s documentalists, who confirmed that the image needed to be rotated. They corrected the error by rescanning the image and resubmitting it to the various appropriate archives.

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Thank you Alan! If you aren’t a detective on the side, you should be. The image has now been corrected in the slideshow.

Heather Murphy is a former Slate photo editor and the creator of Behold, the Photo Blog. Follow her on Twitter.

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