April 9, 2017

Nadav Kander & Donald Trump (a photographic commentary)

photo by Nadav Kander

There has been a brilliant examination by Jake Romm of a photograph of Donald Trump that appeared on the cover of the December 19, 2016, issue of Time Magazine. The deconstruction, titled, "Why Time's Trump cover photo is a subversive work of political art", was posted on December 8, 2016, by The Forward Association, Inc.     

The photograph by Nadav Kander appeared on the cover of the magazine as their annual “Person of the Year”; the article, 2016 Person of the Year ~ Donald Trump, was written by Michael Scherer. The explanation for the choice of Trump was made by Nancy Gibbs, "The person selected is the one who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year." Previous winners have included Joseph Stalin (1939, 1942), Ayatollah Khomeini (1979) and Adolf Hitler (1938).    

The photograph was taken by Jewish photographer Nadav Kander on November 28 in his 66th floor penthouse in Trump Tower at Sixth Avenue and 18th Street, in New York City.   

behind the scene photo shoot 
photo by Paul Moakley for TIME 



Jake Romm had this to say about the photograph, "In order to deconstruct the image, let’s focus on three key elements (leaving aside the placement of the ‘M’ in ‘Time’ that makes it look like Trump has red horns): the color, the pose, and the chair".        


excerpt from the article:
The Chair       
The masterstroke, the single detail that completes the entire image, is the chair. Trump is seated in what looks to be a vintage “Louis XV” chair (so named because it was designed in France under the reign of King Louis XV in the mid 18th century). The chair not only suggests the blindly ostentatious reigns of the French kings just before the revolution, but also, more specifically, the reign of Louis XV who, according to historian Norman Davies, “paid more attention to hunting women and stags than to governing the country” and whose reign was marked by “debilitating stagnation,” “recurrent wars,” and “perpetual financial crisis” (sound familiar?).    




The brilliance of the chair however, is visual rather than historical. It’s a gaudy symbol of wealth and status, but if you look at the top right corner, you can see a rip in the upholstery, signifying Trump’s own cracked image. Behind the bluster, behind the glowing displays of wealth, behind the glittering promises, we have the debt, the tastelessness, the demagoguery, the racism, the lack of government experience or knowledge (all of which we unfortunately know too well already). Once we notice the rip, the splotches on the wood come into focus, the cracks in Trump’s makeup, the thinness of his hair, the stain on the bottom left corner of the seat — the entire illusion of grandeur begins to collapse. The cover is less an image of a man in power than the freeze frame of a leader, and his country, in a state of decay. The ghostly shadow works overtime here — suggesting a splendor that has already passed, if it ever existed at all.     



Time Magazine

Taken together, these elements add up to a profound portrayal of anxiety for the coming years. We have the implicit placement of Trump in the mid 1900’s (looking through the Time Magazine cover archives, no images really resemble this cover, save the one below [a purely visual comparison]). 

Time Magazine cover, April 14, 1941
photographer unknown

We have a suggestion of the scheming, sordid underside of power. We have the crumbling facade of wealth, which, like The Picture of Dorian Gray suggests more than just a physical deterioration.  

As a photograph, it’s a rare achievement. As a cover, it’s a statement (link to full article below). ~ Jake Romm        





Net links:  
          
Nadav Kander website              
Time Magazine ~ Person of the Year                 
PhotoShelter ~ Who Shot It Better?            
Fstoppers ~ Photography to Compare Donald Trump to Hitler?         
Resource ~ Time Image of ‘Person of the Year’ Donald Trump         
     
    
           
     
         
          
Styrous® ~ Sunday, April 9, 2017        




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