A camera clicks. In a fraction of a second, the shutter opens and then closes, freezing forever the image in front of it.
When the camera shutter blinked inside an Atlanta jail on Thursday, it both created and documented a tiny inflection point in American life. Captured for posterity, there was a former president of the United States, for the first time in history, under arrest and captured in the sort of frame more commonly associated with drug dealers or drunken drivers. The trappings of power gone, for that split second.
Left behind: an enduring image that will appear in history books long after Donald Trump is gone.
“It will be forever part of the iconography of being alive in this time,” said Marty Kaplan, a professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communications.
In the photo, Trump confronts the camera in front of a bland gray backdrop, his eyes meeting the lens in an intense glare. He’s wearing a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, his shoulders squared, his head tilted slightly toward the camera. The sheriff’s logo has been digitally added above his right shoulder.
Some of the 18 others charged with him in Georgia smiled in their booking photos like they were posing for a yearbook. Not Trump. His defiance is palpable, as if he’s staring down a nemesis through the lens.
“It is not a comfortable feeling — especially when you’ve done nothing wrong,” he later told Fox News Digital about the moment.
NOT LIKE ANY OTHER PHOTOGRAPH
Trump facing charges is by now a familiar sight of 2023 to Americans who watched him stand before a judge in a New York courtroom or saw watercolor sketches from the inside of federal courthouses in Miami and Washington, where cameras aren’t allowed.