Challenger Louise Epstein and incumbent Jane Strauss are locked in a tight battle for the Dranesville seat on the Fairfax County School Board. They disagree about plenty.
But they have found common ground on at least one issue: campaign art.
In their election-season literature, the opponents feature strikingly similar images of smiling, multicultural teens wearing graduation caps and gowns.
The students aren’t Fairfax grads mugging for the camera. They’re models whose pictures are available for cheap through an online warehouse of stock photos. (See here and here.) But they get the job done.
“I’ve got polling research that describes the effectiveness with voters of using graduates,” said Catherine Lorenze, Epstein’s campaign manager. “It signifies success.”
Lorenze said Epstein was first to use the three-teen image, unveiling it on signs and fliers at McLean Day in May. Lorenze said they chose the picture to convey Epstein’s history as an activist with Fairgrade, a parent group that successfully pushed to ease the county’s strict grading policy.
“That is a branding photo,”said Lorenze, who accused Strauss of purposely copying it to confuse voters.
Strauss said there was no such scheme afoot. “I didn’t even notice it was the same,”she said, adding that she and her daughter chose the image in July, before Epstein’s yard signs proliferated around the county.
She said she couldn’t help but chuckle when someone pointed out the overlap recently.
“You do your very best to have cute, engaging, diverse groups of kids,” said Strauss. “We must have looked at hundreds of photos, and this particular one was an unusually nice one.”
Strauss said when campaigns began to rev up during the summer, it was difficult to find local students to photograph. Now that school is back in session, she has revamped her campaign Web site, adding photographs of real live Fairfax students. Epstein, too, featured Fairfax kids in a recent campaign video.
The two Dranesville candidates are not the only school board candidates who have taken advantage of the Web’s trove of stock photography.
Elizabeth Schultz, for example, who is running for the board’s Springfield seat, features an image on her Web site of three elementary-school students (also smiling, also multicultural) with their hands in the air. A portion of that photo is here.