Mise-en-scene/Camera Work

Tom Brenner Reuters

This may be my favorite picture of him, taken months ago in Jacksonville, Florida yet in circulation today for some reason across various media outlets including Reuters. In terms of visual analysis let’s note composition, figure behavior, props/decor, costume (including make-up). The camera angle and framing, elements of cinematography, make all of this possible.

What we get is a crushingly obvious symbol for Trumpism firmly rooted in the image’s denotative dimension: the man himself with his signature mask of orange foundation, his spun-sugar hair styled into a shallow helmet, a writhing US flag in the background, seemingly spewing from his open mouth like a plume of saliva droplets. All of it emphasizing the demagogue’s clownish “flag talk.”

Now here’s another photo from the same event (Evan Vuccie AP):

Note the denotative differences in color palette, camera angle, figure behavior. Connotatively, this is a completely different image, one suggesting dynamism, even bold leadership rather than self-serving blather.