Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 7, 2016

Trump’s Last Supper

Mr. Trump on Friday at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia with Shalga Hightower, 55, whose daughter Iofemi Hightower was killed in 2007. Mark Makela for The New York Times

I was interested in this photo of Trump in Philadelphia last week during a visit to a black church. Although he’s hardly registering any support at all from African-Americans, he’s been catering intently on the community for several weeks now, especially to the churches. Along the way, much of traditional media has been crediting the effort as reflected in this Reuters article, and especially the slideshow.

It’s a painful picture for several reasons. The obvious one has to do with the photo of Iofemi Hightower. A college student at Delaware State who was visiting home in Newark in 2007, she and three friends were killed execution-style while hanging out in a schoolyard. Sitting in front of her mother, Shalga, who is listening to Trump, the presence of the photo creates the unavoidable expectation for a serious exchange. Or at least the appearance of one. Combine the presence of the photo with the overhanging skepticism and resentment toward Trump in the black community and you’d expect some sense of connection. As the four other participants look on in obvious discomfort, however, we see Trump in a characteristic pose, holding court.

What also struck me about the photo is how it looks like a section of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. The way Trump is used to laying blame on racial groups, you could imagine how his presence in this photo op, as he performs this incongruous campaign pivot, is a twist on the expectation of new followers and their allegiance. (I couldn’t help noticing how Trump’s body language is also similar to that of Simon the Zealot, the last man at the table in the original painting.)

Last Supper painting detail

In a year where skepticism and political gestures ring more hollow than ever, the lack of connection or deeper intent is classically evident here.

We knew Michelangelo was good, but not that good. Post corrected.

Photo via The New York Times On the Trail slideshow: Week of Aug. 28. 

(photo: Mark Makela for The New York Times. caption: Mr. Trump on Friday at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia with Shalga Hightower, 55, whose daughter Iofemi Hightower was killed in 2007.)

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