Whether or not you agree, Time named President-elect Donald Trump as the 2016 Person of the Year on Wednesday. The distinction isn’t without shade, as the magazine explained its decision by highlighting Trump’s penchant “for reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it” — among many other choice, thinly-veiled insults. Yet as Eater executive editor Helen Rosner noticed on Twitter, exposing Trump to an aggressive bald eagle wasn’t the only subtle dig Time may have committed against its subject.
Soon after Time‘s announcement went viral, Rosner cut through the many reactions to Trump’s pick with a rather astute observation. “Zero chance the slew of 1940s aesthetic references in this shot are unintentional,” she tweeted, noting the use of a “Kodachrome palette,” “backdrop/shadow,” and “Louis XVI chair” as her “examples.”
“But why,” you’re probably thinking, “would several references to the popular portraiture style of the 1940s matter in this context?” Rosner never explicitly says as much, but judging by the number of people on Twitter and elsewhere who’ve referenced past Person of the Year recipients Adolf Hitler (1938) and Joseph Stalin (1939, 1942), such a comparison is implied. So after she discovered additional potential references to the popular ’40s photography trend, Rosner asked her followers whether or not they knew who was responsible for shooting Trump for Time.
As Time‘s official cover story notes, the photos were designed and shot by Nadav Kander — a prolific photographer whose many profiles includes President Barack Obama and film director Martin Scorsese. And as the rest of Michael Scherer’s Time profile of Trump indicates, Kander shot additional photos of Trump and his associates — notably Vice President-elect Michael Pence, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus — in a similar fashion.
Unless Kander (and whoever else may have contributed to the art direction) admits as much, we cannot be sure Time intentionally meant to evoke the popular portrait styles of 1940s photographers with its Trump Person of the Year cover. Yet the magazine’s history with the New York real estate mogul turned elected official suggests as much.
(Via Helen Rosner on Twitter)