February 18, 2017

Obama's photographer was "trying to make a point."


From a New York Magazine piece titled "Former Obama White House Photographer’s Instagram Is a Master Class in Shade" by Madison Malone Kircher, who obviously thinks Pete Souza is featuring these photographs now to put Trump in a negative light. But is it that easy? For example, in that photograph with the women, Kircher thinks it's a great comment on the lack of women in the Trump administration, but it had me thinking about the criticism Trump received over the message that women should "dress like women." The 3 women in that photo with Obama look like they got a memo requiring long skirts, no visible leg skin, and black high-heeled boots. It looks cool in the photograph, but not because it's a clear message that Obama is easy-going and egalitarian. It's ambiguous! (Which makes it better art.)

Then look at this photograph showing with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, who also visited Trump last week. The caption is "Allies":

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

Does that photograph clearly show the 2 men as equals? I see Trudeau dominating... maybe. It's ambiguous anyway. And congratulations to Souza for reusing his photographs with some style and subtlety.

IN THE COMMENTS: David said:
The two photos Souza put up were posed. So in that sense he is correct that they are accurate manifestations of the Obama White House.

It's quite arrogant of a man who was given a career making eight years of access to the office of the President and his private home to use those photos to disparage the next president. Souza was paid by the people of the United States while he had this matchless opportunity. He was part of the White House staff, who have a deservedly sterling reputation for serving every President with discretion and loyalty. Except Souza.
Another way to look at it is that Souza is acknowledging that his role was propagandist.

88 comments:

Hagar said...

Blue suit and brown shoes?

Amadeus 48 said...

Ann-It should be Souza not Soave in the last paragraph. Libertarian mind-creep. It's insidious!

Curious George said...

I think the point is that the desk is not a fucking chair, asshole. Especially that desk. The "Resolute" desk.

"This desk was created from wood salvaged from the HMS Resolute and given to Rutherford B. Hayes by Queen Victoria in 1879.[8] The desk resided in the White House in various rooms, and had a hinged front panel added to it by Franklin D. Roosevelt, until Jacqueline Kennedy found it languishing in the "White House broadcast room."[8] She had it restored and moved into the Oval Office.[8] After Kennedy's death, the desk was removed for a traveling exhibition, returning to the Oval Office under Jimmy Carter in 1977. It has been the Oval Office desk ever since with the exception of the George H.W. Bush presidential years."

Paco Wové said...

"Don't take my nuts, bro."

BarrySanders20 said...

Dems go back to their safe spaces with recycled pictures of when things were right or create alternative reality like West Wing to help them cope when a D is not in the White House.

Quayle said...

Was his point that Obama's shoes cost about 45% more than the women's boots?

Amadeus 48 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Begley said...

Hagar

A complete dork. That's the first thing I saw.

rehajm said...

What Curious said. That desk is not yours to sit on President Fuckwad.

Amadeus 48 said...

The ladies got the memo on the uniform of the day. Where are Obama's black boots and long skirt?

Tank said...

I thought the point of the first picture was to show the great crease in Zero's pants. I got a little chill there.

There is a lot of ball holding in both pics indicating fear.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann-It should be Souza not Soave in the last paragraph. Libertarian mind-creep. It's insidious!"

Ha. Thanks. Fixed.

I'm having flashbacks from yesterday.

Bob Ellison said...

Hagar's got a point. What the hell are those shoes Trudeau is wearing? They look like snake heads.

I know nothing about fashion, but my father taught me not dress like that.

clint said...

Lots of interesting body language in that shot.

Is he "manspreading"?

Do the stiletto-heeled leather boots really look business-professional? And what's her stance saying? (Harder to read without seeing her upper body and gaze direction.) Is it confrontational towards patterned-skirt woman? The position of the two feet is reminiscent of a fencer's stance.

What's with the crossed-legged stance of the middle woman? Is she trying to distance herself from the patterned-skirt woman or is she flirting with the President?

The patterned-skirt woman is the only one with a neutral foot position -- but look at her legs. She's bent slightly at the knees and waist, like she's bowing slightly. It's like a genuflection microexpression.

Should we read anything into the fact that all of them appear from the waist down, but only the man's hands are visible -- I'm sure that any number of sexist messages could be read into that.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm interested in the way the 3 women are so much alike and yet have their feet in such distinctly different positions. You can put the women in order of their dominance very easily. Reading left to right:

1. Second

2. Third

3. First

Michael K said...

Fidel would be proud of his son in the Oval Office.

The sons of two communists. Peak leftism.

Ann Althouse said...

@clint

I was wrote my comment before reading yours. We're noticing the same thing.

David said...

The two photos Souza put up were posed. So in that sense he is correct that they are accurate manifestations of the Obama White House.

It's quite arrogant of a man who was given a career making eight years of access to the office of the President and his private home to use those photos to disparage the next president. Souza was paid by the people of the United States while he had this matchless opportunity. He was part of the White House staff, who have a deservedly sterling reputation for serving every President with discretion and loyalty. Except Souza.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's quite arrogant of a man who was given a career making eight years of access to the office of the President and his private home to use those photos to disparage the next president. Souza was paid by the people of the United States while he had this matchless opportunity. He was part of the White House staff, who have a deservedly sterling reputation for serving every President with discretion and loyalty. Except Souza.."

Another way to look at it is that Souza is acknowledging that his role was propagandist.

BarrySanders20 said...

Obama drifting, floating, ungrounded

clint said...

Re: the second picture...

Trudeau is definitely dominating in that shot. It's not even close.

Feet: Trudeau's are pointed towards Obama, while Obama's turned his hip towards Trudeau.

Hands: Trudeau's are confidently clasped behind his back, while Obama's are protecting his vulnerable parts. Combined with the hip turn, it suggests he's expecting to get kneed.

Lean: Trudeau's leaning forward on the balls of his feet like he's ready to spring into action, while Obama's slouching sideways and off balance.

Even the framing of the shot shows Trudeau "controlling" more than half the frame on President Obama's own home turf -- and not just any home turf. It's the Oval Office -- the single greatest home field advantage in the world. And President Obama isn't holding his own turf -- in the vanity shot captured and shared by President Obama's own official White House Photographer.

rehajm said...

Do we know who these women are?

...and who are they trying to kid? Even amongst the leftie media the Obama administration was well known to be devoid of female representation and influence. Women forced to resort to 'amplification' strategies, and all.

The Drill SGT said...

Althouse said...The 3 women in that photo with Obama look like they got a memo requiring long skirts, no visible leg skin, and black high-heeled boots.

There you go again with that gender confirmation bias thing. What gives you the right to assume there are any women in that photo?

/sarc off

David said...

Propagandist, yes. Still an ingrate. Sad.

The Drill SGT said...

remember the other half of the photo story in the Obama years. The WH refused to allow the standard pool arrangement for photo journalists. Thus making their WH propaganda photos the only visual record source. Controlling the means of production as it were. Souza was part of that emasculation of his fellow journalists.

Bruce Hayden said...

"Blue suit and brown shoes?"

Agreed that this is a fashion no-no here. And esp if you are trying to impress women. My partner's cousin was the one who told me that women check to make sure that guys' shoes and belts should match. And, yes, black with blue. Still, got into it with my partner a year or two ago, wearing a camelhair sports coat with gray slacks and maroon sweater. Went with black shoes and belt, of course. Being an interior designer, she has great color sense, but not used to that look. She wanted a darker brown slack (and brown shoes and belt). I then pointed out the Camelhair/gray combo in the Brooks Bros window.

But Trudeau is Canadian, which means that he is probably more influenced by British fashion and fashion rules than we are. So, his dress maybe completely legitimate up there. British male dress has always seemed a bit different to me. Chalk stripes instead of subtle pin stripes. Coordinated shirts and ties long before it became fashionable here. Etc.

Sebastian said...

"Souza is acknowledging that his role was propagandist." At our expense. Good riddance.

Laslo Spatula said...

Ann Althouse said...
"I'm interested in the way the 3 women are so much alike and yet have their feet in such distinctly different positions. You can put the women in order of their dominance very easily. Reading left to right:

1. Second

2. Third

3. First"

Number Two is doing the cross-feet stance that models in magazines use to indicate young coquettish sexiness. It is an intentional pose in front of an attractive man of power, indicating the willingness of submission if the circumstances are right.

When the Man has Power the circumstances are ALWAYS right.

Obama has her framed between his open legs, feet splayed outward. She is in his Zone. Corralled.

The cross-feet stance also subliminally signals Thigh Gap: without Thigh Gap those legs can't cross so close together.

Thigh Gap promises easier access when between said thighs.

Obama is sitting on the desk, implying that the desk can be used for other purposes than sitting behind. It can be used for physical purposes: her bent over it with her dress pushed up to her hips, say.

Finally: Obama's arms over his lap could be concealing an erection.

I am surprised Althouse didn't see this.

I am Laslo.

William said...

Commenters here are looking at the photos with a jaundiced eye and looking for any detail of Obama's stance, clothing, or demeanor that is worthy of criticism. That's the way bias works........I wonder if Souza thinks it remotely possible that he might be afflicted with a similar bias when he looks at Trump.

Bruce Hayden said...

I want a President who dominates those around them. They should be the supplicants, not us, and esp not out President. We live in the greatest country on the Earth, not they. This is why Obama, early on, lost the support of a lot of guys - he so routinely played the beta male to the alpha males running other country, which left the impression that he wouldn't stand up to them. Just surprised that so many women in this country were happy trusting their safety to a beta. They just don't know instinctively what guys do - that betas naturally back down from alphas, and sometimes you have to stand up to bullies. Which, in the long run, was probably part of why no one took any of Obama's international ultimatums seriously - they knew that in any confrontation, his first reflex would be to back down. And, of course, he did.

Hagar said...

Both of them wearing pants that are too long and with zoot-suit cut?

rehajm said...

"Blue suit and brown shoes?"

Agreed that this is a fashion no-no here.


Where 'here' for you? Downton Abbey?

Bruce Hayden said...

"Finally: Obama's arms over his lap could be concealing an erection."

Do you truly think that Obama was allowed erections, outside the sanctity of the marriage chamber, on special occasions, by Michelle?

dda6ga dda6ga said...

I see two androgynous persons standing in the second picture...

Big Mike said...

No question that the second picture shows Trudeau in the dominant position. As to the brown shoes with a blue suit, he's a Canuck, eh? What do you expect?

St. George said...

What a low power, low status position for Obama to be sitting in.....his legs dangling off of "his" desk. And as was stated above, it is not his desk to sit on.

Just chatting with the other girls in the office.

Birches said...

Didn't Trudeau and Trump get along just fine?

When you've only got a hammer...

mezzrow said...

Agreed that this is a fashion no-no here.

If anyone here understands what the below is about, I'll be gobsmacked. Posting the link anyway.

Sometimes you just have to entertain yourself...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-7UEoNNXWY

mockturtle said...

Great grumbling toads!!! Will the Obama worship never end?

Johnny Sokko said...

In the first one, it looks like something out of Bill Clinton's intern blow job fantasy with the three of them lined up in the Oval Office.

Birches said...

Top advisors, huh? Who were they?

If one was Valerie Jarrett then why can't Ivanka or KellyAnn Conway count for Trump? I doubt anyone would respond positively to a Trump/Ivanka/KellyAnn picture. Kind of reminds me of the disgusting treatment of Condoleezza Rice by the mean girls. I believe they implied affairs multiple times with no proof whatsoever. These people have all lost their minds.

GWash said...

why are bannon, spicer and priebus all wearing the same boots?...
also, not a good idea to start interpreting pictures like that... i see trudeau as being mentored by obama... you can read anything into a photo.. by the way always enjoy althouse photos of althouseland...

watch you wallets... it's started... life is going to get much more expensive..

Breezy said...

Curious that a portrait of Lincoln is in the background quite neatly between the two men. What is that message?

Rob said...

People who are outraged at President Obama sitting on the Resolute desk should try to look at it from his point of view. I'm sure he believed that planting his ass on the desk enhanced its value.

lemondog said...

Perhaps the women are all wearing hijabs?

Angel-Dyne said...

First photo: women in high-heeled leather boots. Dominatrices with weak, effeminate man sitting on his desk, heels hanging, like a little boy.

Fernandinande said...

Some hybrid purple elephants would liven-up those boring pictures.

Bruce Hayden said...

"Where 'here' for you? Downton Abbey?"

Good point - it is somewhat regional, with NYC and CA being essentially in their own separate worlds. In my case, it is throughout most of the inter mountain west as an attorney, raised by an attorney. So, yes, very conservative dress. But I have spent enough time in DC, including the halls of Congress to see that the dress code isn't that different there (except that French cuffs and cuff links appear to be mandatory there - on lobbyists, apparently, along with ties, to make obvious party affiliation - this was explained to me by a lobbyist friend, and, that yes, well shined black shoes were the only acceptable foot ware with blue suits).

I was going through my suits the other day, having them all together for the first time in years, and noted that, except for a black and a white linen one, they are all attorney suits, mostly pinstripes, but some not, navy and gray. Navy pinstripes are the power suits, and the gray are a more refined look. Court or Congress meant navy, but meeting with other attys as peers often meant gray. Clients - it really depended - I often wore sport coats with them. None of my suits are as light blue as Trudeau's. Trump seems to often wear a slightly lighter blue, but my memory is that Obama almost always wore navy.

Dress cloths for men are a uniform, and you can bet that a lot of the men you meet, also wearing dress cloths, are looking at your suit, shirt, tie, and shoes, in order to determine social class, power, profession, and prestige, based on the small things. The subtle cues. I told my partner never to buy me ties. She wasn't raised to understand the subtleties, and any tie she would buy me would look like it was bought by a woman - great for Sat night, but not good for business. Which was fine for her ex, because he only wore suits out with her, and never at work. (Of course, ties are very quickly fading from dress ware). Shoes are also a big giveaway. Not just color, but also style and condition.

CWJ said...

Regarding the pose in the first photograph, I thought of the opening lines of Send in the Clowns.

"Me here, at last, on the ground
You in mid-air"

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

Nothing illustrates how to properly conduct PRIVATE SECURE meetings like posting a photograph of the event. Exactly how high of a security clearance does the White House photographer have? Good to know that Blackberrys can be hacked but cameras are apparently super duper secure.

MayBee said...

The women in Obama's picture from left to right:

1. Won't have her nomination for Cabinet opposed so strenuously the Vice President has to step in, all in the name of womanhood
2. Won't have her clothing line boycotted because her father is president
3.Won't be called a prostitute at a party by a NYT reporter/son of a reporting legend

Kate said...

1st thought: Trump having a coke *on a coaster* on the Resolute desk = outrageous. God, I hate the media.

2nd thought: Who the hell is Obama meeting with? His sisters? (If he had any.) He clearly doesn't take these women seriously. Sitting on teacher's desk like a high school flirt, kicking his heels against the front panel...

Mark said...

None of my suits are as light blue as Trudeau's.

Being a bit "off" isn't a bad thing. Matlock's folksy look probably helped with everyday people on the jury.

Darrell said...

Witches of Dipwick.

damikesc said...

This is continuing the make one question the need for civil service instead of pure patronage.

There is little difference in the outcome and SOMEBODY would be responsible with patronage.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The way that Obama is holding his hands in "body language speak" is a protective gesture indicating insecurity and inferiority in the social dynamic setting.

In other words. Obama is a squish and feels inadequate to the person standing next to him. Even in a posed situation his insecurity.

However, Trudeau, standing with his hands clasped behind his back is a symbol of supreme confidence and superiority. We hope his hands are clasped otherwise, Trudeau might be thinking of popping Obama in the snoot. :-)

No wonder Obama has been such a failure. You can see it in his body language.

Mark said...

And squinty-eyed Clint wins the discussion about the first pic. Obama is definitely manspreading, with his hands emphasizing his crotch, while also sexualizing the women in their boots and heals.

The second pic -- again Obama hands are directed toward "there," while in his typical aloof, dismissive and contemptuous attitude, he is more turned away from Trudeau, rather than turned toward him, as Trudeau is to Obama.

wendybar said...

So freaking happy that I don't have to see his feet or his ass on the Resolute Desk anymore....

exhelodrvr1 said...

As Rasro would say, erections have consequences!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I didn't see Clint's post at 8:12. He is right on. Trudeau dominates. Obama is inferior....in a whole lot of ways.

Body language training is an essential part of salesmanship. Learning how to read people by what they are not saying is more important than what they ARE saying. I am guessing that Trump is an experienced hand at this technique. That is a very good thing!

LYNNDH said...

Obama Mansplainging while Manspreading to the females of his staff why they are paid less than less men.

Big Mike said...

Good thing for Trudeau that he already has a job and isn't trying to get one through the Rutgers job fair. No blue shirt, no blue, and no brown shoes? Trudeau scores a negative trifecta!

chuck said...

No sensible shoes there. I wanted more butts and fewer shoes, but maybe that is just me...

Hagar said...

Rutgers Apologizes After Booting Students from Job Fair for Blue Suit, Brown Shoes.

Chris Breisch said...

And the point I got out of the first picture was the President was casual and relaxed and sitting on a desk, while the women were completely the opposite, standing before him in high heels.

I'm guessing that's not the point the photographer was trying to make?

JAORE said...

In the first picture is Obama trying to avoid all the BS about to be dropped?

cubanbob said...

First picture looks like a naughty boy being chastised by three woman.

Bay Area Guy said...

I liked the last photo of President Obama with tall, handsome Prime Minister Castro from Canada.

Yancey Ward said...

"......wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the awkwardly feminine from the possibly Canadian."

GWash said...

you folks (although i love and reeespect you) are ridiculous... i suppose a picture of his orangeness in a brown suit would be interpreted here as an honest, smart business man, working for the common goood, confident in his manhood and read to grab some p***y... nice job folks...

mgarbowski said...

What many tend to forget about Souza, given the man strong images we associate with him and President Obama, is that he was the White House photographer for President Reagan as well. The photos from then are also great. The guy is just good at his job.

Michael K said...

GWash is dropping more specks of opinion about the others who comment here.

Thanks very much, sir.

Your opinion is valuable. Just like it deserves to be.

Yancey Ward said...

"you folks (although i love and reeespect you) are ridiculous... i suppose a picture of his orangeness in a brown suit would be interpreted here as an honest, smart business man, working for the common goood, confident in his manhood and read to grab some p***y... nice job folks..."

Not surprising to me that you don't understand what is going on in the comments here, GWash, or even why it was posted by Althouse in the first place. It seems like it just zoomed right over your shallow forehead.

rcocean said...

"I see Trudeau dominating... maybe"

Anybody who wears those kind of shoes with a dark suit, isn't dominating anyone. He's one step away from a red nose and clown makeup.

Dude1394 said...

Or as we see so much of it #fakenews propoganda.

FullMoon said...

In the second pic, you got two guys who never been punched. However, Obama worked South Side of Chicago (the baddest part of town). He used to dealing with bad mofos, and understands "protect yourself at all times". Also, Obama in position to pivot right, knee Trudeau in the nutz, gouge his eyes out as he falls, then stomp his head until it pops like a rotten Canadian pomegranate.
Surprised I am the only one to see it so clearly.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Anybody who wears those kind of shoes with a dark suit, isn't dominating anyone

I don't know much about Trudeau. Where he is from in Canada etc., but that is a sort of common Western look in the US. Business suit with cowboy boots.

Sean E said...

Only black shoes with blue suits? What sad, boring decade are y'all living in? Too much exposure to DC "style", maybe? Agree that both their pants cuffs are definitely too long - Obama's in particular.

Trudeau's a close talker. He always looks like he's about to go in for a kiss. Kind of creeps me out. You see dominance, I see a hugger.

n.n said...

gender confirmation bias

Presuming a normative relationship between sex, gender, and fashion.

In the first, the photographer captures the lower halves of the feminine figures, the lower half and hands of the masculine figure, while the second captures the full persons. I wonder why the identities of the figures in the second photograph were not similarly obscured. There must be some implication with these choices. Perhaps evidence of [class] diversity including misogyny or racism.

Jim at said...

The first picture shows the sheer lack of seriousness by Obama. In every way. For eight years.

The second picture shows him to be out of his league. Even next to a sniveling beta male from Canada.

Trump may be a lot of things, but at least he's not some giggling third-grade school girl. I'm thankful for at least that.

n.n said...

Jim at:

You're right. Each photograph demonstrates Obama's attitude, respect, or lack thereof, to the people in the room. The first photograph show a disregard for the three women (or feminine figures), while the second photograph shows him standing. Ambiguous propaganda at best.

eric said...

I'm old enough to remember when reporters were appalled at Trump because he put his soda can on the resolute desk.

Isn't that Obama's butt on the resolute desk?

Amadeus 48 said...

So, the three people who identify as women with Obama are, from left to right, Kim K., Lena Dunham, and Joe Biden. And it's Michelle Obama, not Barack, who is sitting on the desk. Barack is out in the Rose Garden practicing that lousy golf swing of his.

Pete Souza now drinks heavily.

Scott X said...

Trudeau seems to be a bit of a "close talker."

Liesl said...

The whiskey-colored shoes are correct.

Liesl said...

n.n-- "In the first, the photographer captures the lower halves of the feminine figures, the lower half and hands of the masculine figure, while the second captures the full persons. I wonder why the identities of the figures in the second photograph were not similarly obscured. There must be some implication with these choices. Perhaps evidence of [class] diversity including misogyny or racism."

I, too, thought that. Might the "point" have been completely obfuscated by a full body shot?

Fyooz said...

is it just me or was The Won man-spreading?

a display of male sexual market value that, for feminists, would constitute an assertion of dominance.

Fyooz said...

Clint: ". It's like a genuflection microexpression"

are you trying to coin an antonym for 'microaggression'?