President Trump has long defined himself through photographs. But now that he's in the White House, he's learning that they can define him too

By Ryan Teague Beckwith
April 28, 2017 01:20 PM
President Trump Returns to the White House
Credit: Olivier Douliery/Getty

President Trump has long defined himself through photographs. But now that he’s in the White House, he’s learning that they can define him too.

As a business executive and later a reality TV star, Trump used carefully staged photographs to define his brand. The cover photo of “The Art of the Deal,” his best-selling book, showed him looking handsome, confident and rich while posing on top of the world in New York City.

In the White House, the trappings of the presidency have given Trump’s images even more power. At the same time, he’s photographed every time he heads out in public, and the results don’t always play to the message he wants to send.

One photograph of Trump meeting with an all-male group of Republican lawmakers to discuss the health care bill was slammed by critics who noted the changes the White House sought would affect women’s health. It quickly went viral on the Internet and became something of a meme.

Below, TIME looked at photos from the President’s first 100 days in office that showed the power of the image to strengthen — and undermine — Trump’s image.

National Parks Service

January 20, 2017

A photo released by the National Parks Service, right, of President Trump’s inauguration was compared to a photo from 2009 of President Obama’s first inauguration on the Mall in Washington caused controversy when the White House argued that the crowds were larger than they appeared.

J. Scott Applewhite—Getty Images

January 20, 2017

The Congressional leadership and his family join President Trump as he formally signs his Cabinet nominations into law, in the President’s Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, January 20, 2017.

Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

January 25, 2017

Greenpeace protesters unfold a banner reading “Resist” from atop a construction crane behind the White House on January 25, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Christopher Furlong—Getty Images

January 27, 2017

British Prime Minister Theresa May, the first world leader to meet with President Trump, walk along The Colonnade holding hands briefly at the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Drew Angerer—Getty Images

January 28, 2017

President Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office, surrounded by (from left) his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on January 28, 2017.

Alex Brandon—AP

January 28, 2017

President Trump holds up a signed Executive Order in the Oval Office. The document includes restrictions against lobbying for “Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2017. The photos of him signing things eventually inspired the viral meme @trumpdraws.

Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

January 31, 2017

Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (L) and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly (R) listen while President Trump puts his papers away at the beginning of a meeting on cyber security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House January 31, 2017, in Washington, D.C.


February 11, 2017

President Trump releases a photo high-fiving Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on social media and writes “Having a great time hosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the United States!”

Richard DeAgazio—Facebook

February 11, 2017

The dining room at Mar-a-Lago turns into the Situation Room when a businessman-turned-actor from Stoneham, Massachusetts, Richard DeAgazio wrote on his Facebook page: “HOLY MOLY!!! It was fascinating to watch the flurry of activity at dinner when the news came that North Korea had launched a missile in the direction of Japan.”

Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

February 13, 2017

President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before they shake hands during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 13, 2017.

Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

February 27, 2017

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (L) checks her phone after taking a photo as President Trump and leaders of historically black universities and colleges pose for a group photo in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on February 27, 2017.

AFP—AFP/Getty Images

February 28, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan applaud as President Trump arrives to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., on February 28, 2017.

Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

March 7, 2017

President Trump surprises visitors during the official reopening of public tours at the White House on March 7, 2017, by popping out beneath a framed portrait of former First Lady Hillary Clinton.

@Ted Cruz—Twitter

March 9, 2017

Senator Ted Cruz tweets a photo of his daughters with President Trump in the Oval Office on March 9, 2017. Cruz and Trump had a bitter rivalry during the 2016 Republican primary.


March 23, 2017

In the battle to replace the Affordable Care Act, Vice President Mike Pence joined the Freedom Caucus for a visit and posted this photo on which was attacked for the absence of women at the meeting.

Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

March 23, 2017

President Trump posed in the drivers seat of a semi-truck as he welcomed truckers and CEOs to the White House to discuss healthcare on, March 23, 2017.

Olivier Douliery—Bloomberg/Getty Images

April 4, 2017

President Trump speaks while holding up a chart during the 2017 North America’s Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on April 4, 2017.

The White House—AP

April 6, 2017

President Trump receives a briefing on the Syria military strike from his National Security team, including a video teleconference with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford in a secured location at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 6, 2017.

Carlos Barria—REUTERS

April 21, 2017

President Donald Trump looks out a window of the Oval Office following an interview with Reuters, April 27, 2017. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier,” said the President.

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