Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 18, 2017

What’s in an Easter Egg Roll? The Trumps Unguarded

(L-R) US First Lady Melania Trump, Barron Trump and US President Donald Trump walk to the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

Did I hear someone say the White House Easter Egg Roll is too superficial an event to pay much attention to? Getty and AFP didn’t seem to think so. I counted at least four of their finest photographers covering it. The fact is, photographers haven’t had this kind of prolonged access to Trump since the inauguration. So, the event might seem trivial, but it provided the rarest opportunity to see Donald Trump, ostensibly the father-in-chief, with his family in an unusually public and personal situation.

 Wishing for a more humble, generous and self-effacing version of Trump, I was disappointed from the start watching his descent onto the South Lawn. Just like that famous inauguration photo of him getting ahead of Melania in the White House driveway, we see how Trump, as always, comes first.

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump welome guests to the White House during the 139th Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. The White House said 21,000 people were expected to attend the annual tradition of rolling colored eggs down the White House lawn that was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. (April 16, 2017 - Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images

After the belly laugh, I was feeling out how this would read if it was Obama or Bush instead. It’s a question that brings a gut level feel for a person to the foreground. For me, at least, the exercise makes the photo more tense than fun. Ultimately, Getty’s Win McNamee shot brings those ears into perfect alignment with Trump’s hyper-concern with his self-image, his tendency to bristle with even the hint of perceived slight, and perhaps the biggest emotional red flag when it comes to Trump, his lack of a sense of humor.

One other tell, by the way. Why not accede to the day and, at least, don a pastel tie? He could have coordinated with Melania (more on that below) and lend himself more sympathetically to the occasion?

 US President Donald Trump, Barron Trump(R) and US First Lady Melania Trump join others to write notes to service members during the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

I can’t remember seeing Trump, outside of a specific photo op, or a televised and a clearly performative moment, interact with children. At this table, the Donald joined a group of youngs coloring messages to the troops.

U.S. President Donald Trump (C) holds up the coloring sheet he wrote on while joining children at a craft table during the 139th Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. The White House said 21,000 people are expected to attend the annual tradition of rolling colored eggs down the White House lawn that was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. (April 16, 2017 - Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Most of us understand that kids, as part of the development process, are inherently self-centered. In a situation like this, the typical instinct is for adults to subsume their own egos.  Specifically, we encourage the children to express themselves, then proudly share their handiwork to the grownups.

US President Donald Trump, Barron Trump(R) and US First Lady Melania Trump join others to write notes to service members during the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

Instead, it’s: look what I made!

US President Donald Trump receives a hug during the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

I imagine Don Jr.’s kids, far right, are used to it. But the sight of  Trump showing no response to the hug or the request for the photo when it’s was time to move on is also disheartening. Variation on the theme, social media zeroed on Trump’s blindest act of the day, the president signing a MAGA hat for a kid who had asked for his autograph, then tossing it into the crowd as we hear the kid calling “No!”

U.S. President Donald Trump (C) and his family, including (L-R) Donald Trump Jr., Tiffany Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Barron Trump, Lara Yunaska and Eric Trump kickoff a egg roll race during the 139th Easter Egg Roll with Trump's daughter Tiffany Trump on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. The White House said 21,000 people are expected to attend the annual tradition of rolling colored eggs down the White House lawn that was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. (April 16, 2017 - Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On the subject of “all things Trump,” the Wall Street Journal ran a version of this photo on Instagram to represent the White House Easter Egg Roll. What it didn’t indicate was that it only showed the Trump clan. With the chance, and the rare opportunity to embrace the public, was it weird for the Trump family to get their own egg roll round? With the nepotism in the West Wing, the ongoing conflict of interest with Trump’s and Kushner’s businesses, and the family as brand, however, perhaps we’re just used to it.

Of course, with the White House scrambling to pull off the vent, the other thing the photographs demonstrate is: #EasterEggRollSoWhite.

Although Jared and Ivanka were absent (maybe for religious reasons, but perhaps to actually lower their exposure for a news cycle), the event was also spiced with some cameo appearances.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reads the childrens' book 'How To Catch The Easter Bunny' during the 139th Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. The White House said 21,000 people are expected to attend the annual tradition of rolling colored eggs down the White House lawn that was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. (April 16, 2017 - Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

I’m sure the photo editors jumped on this one. With the Press Secretary having become a parody of himself, Spicer’s posture is indistinguishable from a press conference. Is it ironic, also, that the book is a “how to”?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions reads a book during the 139th White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

And then, we see the draconian Jeff Sessions reading: It’s not easy being a bunny.” With anyone — besides American-born, white, upper-class humans — under duress from this Justice Department, photos of Sessions are always about smoothing the rough edges.

But the images that struck me most from the event were these of Melania.

U.S. first lady Melania Trump walks to the White House residence after a reading session for children where she read from the book ÒParty AnimalsÓ during the 139th Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. The White House said 21,000 people were expected to attend the annual tradition of rolling colored eggs down the White House lawn that was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. (April 16, 2017 - Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In this photo and the next, we see the First Lady, done with her assignment reading from a children’s book, walking back to the residence alone. (It’s also interesting how Don Jr.’s daughter, Kai, in white lower left, between her two parents, seems to note it.)

First Lady Melania Trump walks past the Rose Garden during the 139th White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

Recently, I made an argument in an article for CJR about the political relevance of the Trump marriage. Like the first photo in the post, it’s painful to see how these two people operate together, or don’t, especially away from the network video cameras.  Sure, I might be reading in, but this photo seems particularly lonely and wistful to me, especially in the lingering resonance of the Obamas always together. Especially at the Easter egg roll.

US First Lady Melania Trump's ring is viewed during the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

But this, so impressive for newswire photography, was the most personal and intimate image of the day. The picture, by AFP’s Brendan Smialowski, simply consists of that lovely pink material, a rock and clenched hand. Clearly, Melania is not having an easy time of it.

— Michael Shaw

(photos: Getty Images. caption: U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump welome guests to the White House during the 139th Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. The White House said 21,000 people were expected to attend the annual tradition of rolling colored eggs down the White House lawn that was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878.)

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