Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
December 11, 2017

Watch Nancy Burson’s Latest GIF Morphing Trump with “Rocket Man”

About two weeks after last year’s Republican convention, we featured another Trump GIF by artist Nancy Burson. It was titled, “What If Trump Were: Black-Asian-Hispanic-Middle Eastern-Indian.” As you can imagine, the animation took the portrait of the white, western Trump and cycled him through different racial and ethnic incarnations.

Burson’s intent at the time is important to recall. She wasn’t looking to mock or shame. Instead, her goal was empathy. She imagined Trump somehow coming upon her handiwork and having an “aha” moment. Perhaps this hard-hearted person, obsessed with his own image and having every material thing that anyone could ever want, might be ready for a breakthrough. Burson primed Donald as everyman.

Well, fifteen months, an eye-popping victory, and a rampaging first year in office later, Burson’s focus has changed. No longer is the digital alchemy about catharsis. If you read Burson’s description about “Putrump” or “Trumpin” below, it’s formally about nuclear stockpiles. From my standpoint, however, these images are politically and psychologically about identification — about Trump’s identification with nemeses, and with scaling the Mt. Olympus for autocrats.

His epically-warped ego aside, however, morphing Trump with Putin and Kim Jong Un is ultimately about moral ambiguity. In the animation, you have the ultimate Rocket Man. And in both, you have the ultimate collusion.

— Michael Shaw

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Photos: Nancy Burson. Editing by John Depew, @johndepew. Warhead 2017 (Trump-Jong un), Warhead 2017 (Trump/Putin) Statement: Russia and the US have almost the same number of warheads that comprise 84% of the world’s atomic weapons. The seven other nuclear powers combined have only 16% of the world’s nuclear arms. So I went with a 50/50 composite and posted it on my Instagram account @nancyburson on May 8th. 

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