Al Drago’s Remote Shot: A Sign of Things to Come?

President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington on Monday. “My role is to make sure that when I hand off this White House, that it is in the best possible shape.” Al Drago /The New York Times

It’s tempting to focus on the gesture in this photograph. How has Trump changed how Western politics understands physicality? How has he pushed his supporters and his critics to brasher, more vulgar bodily expression, and how have photojournalists embraced it?

This past campaign season could be defined by saliva.

Damon Winter/The New York Times; Evan Vucci/Associated Press; Rick Wilking/Reuters

But the first thing we actually notice in the photo, perhaps unconsciously, is not the gesture but the (literal) angle. We’re not used to this view of a room which we’ve been exposed to at head height or lower so many times before. The podium, normally a respectable, solid, wooden object, is revealed in plastic interfaces. We see beyond the binder cover into its three-ring humility. And Obama is neither looking at us nor past us—we are looking down at him.

A view from above should, and is designed to, reveal truth. Surveillance drones and satellite mapping tell us what our world “actually” looks like; we put glass in the sky and reflect God’s view back down to our eyes.

The media got this election wrong—they admit to it. So is this photograph telling us to trust them again? Showing off their ability to peek behind the curtains of state propaganda, even before the administration changes? Is this what we can expect—what we want to see in a post-Trump image-world?