Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
August 5, 2018

The Visual Bubble: White House Media Affairs Undoes a Breakfast

WH touts public "meet & greet" outside US Embassy in UK (really, the Ambassador's residence) vs record protests. Reality bubble: looking at shots from the @WhiteHouse Media Affairs Office during July NATO summit vs. pix that dominated media

Donald Trump is famous for making up reality—then surrounding himself with people who mirror it back to him. It’s easiest to see when he’s talking or tweeting, but it also shows up in the White House photography. The recent NATO summit was a classic example. Not since the administration’s panic over the crowd size at the inauguration have we seen such visual damage control.

The latest, best example involves the pictures sent out by the Media Affairs Office during the summit in its “White House Photos of the Week.” You could almost hear the comm team plotting how to counter the embarrassing scenes of that disastrous breakfast at the opening morning in Brussels.

I’m talking about the pictures where Trump was prattling on to the Europeans, and John Kelly could barely stand it. (Sarah Sanders said he was distracted because he was expecting an American breakfast, not just a plate of cheese). Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson was also trying her best not to roll her eyes or shoot a glance at Trump like he was an alien. The first media photo we tweeted (just below), typical of the whole cringeworthy lot, was taken by Doug Mills for the New York Times. The next two are shots the White House dropped in the press release. Both were taken by White House photographer Shealah Craighead. In #2, you see Trump not looking kooky, Kelly paying attention, Ambassador Hutchison not staring too hard, and Pompeo and Mattis looking it down. In #3, you get the full erasure. Here, John Kelly and Hutchison, in “dear leader” fashion, are totally in line. 

Here’s the larger set of White House revisions:

(photo 2 & 3: Shealah Craighead/WhiteHouse)

Photo, left: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead Caption: President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump participate in a United States Embassy in London meet and greet on Thursday, July 12, 2018, at Winfield House in London, England; Photo, right: Getty Caption: Demonstrators hold placards in Trafalgar Square, London, as they take part in protests against the visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK. 

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