Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
August 24, 2017

Phoenix Jesus: On Scott Mahaskey’s Trump Rally Protest Photo

Trump rally, Phoenix. August 23, 2017

We have been following protest photos very, very closely these days, especially on our Twitter and Instagram feeds. Since Charlottesville, it seems the photos have become a lot more literal (men marching with tiki torches at night angrily chanting racist slogans; workers unmooring Confederate statues from pedestals and loading them onto trucks; car plowing into protesters resulting in death).  The same was true for the majority of news photos taken outside Trump’s incendiary rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night.  The fact that M. Scott Mahaskey’s photo defies that pattern makes it that much more audacious.

Although Scott’s image can be seen as heavy-handed, as too “Jesus-like,” and too suggestive of an impending crucifixion, perhaps the allusion is actually immaculate. To the extent Trump traffics in authoritarianism, vengeance, hellfire and brimstone, one could argue that this pestilence is more than worthy of the big time allegory. In fact, with the man threatening nuclear holocaust one moment and defending Nazism the next, who would argue we’re NOT facing a moral crisis of biblical proportions? On those terms, the crosswalk as a protected space (“sign of the crosswalk?”) becomes pretty suggestive, too. Let’s just hope, when it comes to the ultimate faith in the American enterprise, there are some lines you just don’t cross.

M. Scott Mahaskey is a photojournalist and Director of Photography at Politico. 

Photo: M. Scott Mahaskey via Instagram Caption: Trump rally, Phoenix. August 23, 2017.

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