Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 23, 2018

Our Take on that Viral “3 Presidents and Melania” Barbara Bush Funeral Pic

Photo: Paul Morse/AP This photo provided by the Office of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, shows Bush, front center, and past presidents and first ladies Laura Bush, from left, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and current first lady Melania Trump in a group photo at the funeral service for former first lady Barbara Bush, in Houston on April 21, 2018.

Why did this photo from the Bush funeral win the internet?

Not just because Barbara Bush didn’t care for vanity, self-aggrandizement, Trump himself, or his pummeling of Jeb, but because, as stunningly exemplified, Donald Trump, with all his baggage, is starting to lose his Svengali grip on the limelight.

Because Obama remains an anchor (and amusingly, here, occupies Trump’s requisite position in every picture).

Because Michelle, ever the maternal one, connects the two who need the most support.

Because, as amplified by social media, this functions as a Melania intervention. (By the way, the clenched hand—as we emphasized here, at the bottom— is also characteristic.)

Because of that woman in the background, far right, who the photographer could have easily cropped out. If he had, however, we would have lost another cue (for about 60% of the electorate in the Trump era, anyway) that leaders can still be admired.

Because Hillary, ever the lightening rod, is safer in an ensemble. (I was also wondering why she’s the only woman wearing her coat.)

Because Bill, in back, is still meh, especially in the #MeToo era–a vibe that also powers the Michelle/Melania picture-in-a-picture.

Because the photographer, Paul Morse, a top-flight wedding shooter who served as a White House photographer under Bush 43, knows how to play up Dubya’s warm-and-fuzzy refashioned legacy.

Because Barbara scripted the entire funeral (maybe all the way down to 41’s book socks).

I would add, the mostly brave faces the family showed in honor of Barbara Bush is belied by Bush 41 in this photo. Whereas everyone else looks directly in the camera, he glances off to one side. And so it should be.

Photo: Paul Morse / AP Caption: This photo provided by the Office of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, shows Bush, front center, and past presidents and first ladies Laura Bush, from left, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and current first lady Melania Trump in a group photo at the funeral service for former first lady Barbara Bush, in Houston on April 21, 2018.

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