Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
January 22, 2020

The Trump – Greta Thunberg Photo Crossings

Photo: Denis Balibouse/REUTERS Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg leaves after U.S. President Donald Trump's speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. January 21, 2020

Call it a collision course.

Once again, young Greta Thunberg and the U.S. president find their way into the same international meeting photo. The last time was at the UN General Assembly in September. This pic is from yesterday in Davos. The cheery blue sky and puffy cloud backdrop is itself a commentary on the small, blurry, climate change-denying Trump. (In his speech, clearly mindful of Thunberg, he called climate activists “prophets of doom.”)

But photographer Denis Balibouse uses the benign moment and body language to further push the tension between these polar opposites. According to the caption, we see Greta and other young attendees checking their conference schedules after Trump’s speech. Given the political dynamics, though, the downcast eyes invite other interpretations. Besides depression, the gazes sync with the climate movement’s disapproval of Trump’s carbon love and an emissions battle going nowhere fast.

For a second, I thought it was a walk-out. Otherwise, we know how much young people have turned their backs on those without focus on the issue.

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg watches as U.S. President Donald Trump enters the United Nations to speak with reporters in a still image from video taken in New York City, U.S. September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Hofstetter

The shot from the UN is clearly more direct and confrontational. This was taken the day after Greta chastised the world leaders. She was in the background at the same time Trump showed up for a press availability. You’ll notice, by the way, that the hard stares are equally shared between Greta, the UN official, and the cop.

While we’re talking about tolerances, let’s also consider another set of reactions. Greta calmly stuck out Trump’s remarks in Davos while he missed hers. He did note at a presser, though, how Greta beat him out for (their person of the year, and) the cover of TIME Magazine. Call it another cross of sorts.

In New York, though, we did a series of “reaction tweets” of Trump during the General Assembly’s special climate session. If the crisis wasn’t as dire, I imagine he would have skipped it entirely. Otherwise, you can see how the subject, not just its “prophets,” rankle him.

As the climate continues to devolve and takes up more oxygen at world forums, I’m sure these aren’t the last frames we’ll see with these two figures in them.

-Michael Shaw

(Photo 1: Denis Balibouse/Reuters. Caption: Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg leaves after U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. January 21, 2020. Photo 2: Andrew Hofstetter/Reuters. Caption: Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg watches as U.S. President Donald Trump enters the United Nations to speak with reporters in a still image from video taken in New York City, U.S. September 23, 2019)

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