106,000 Americans dead from covid-19, #BlackLivesMatter protests across the nation, the 2020 election looming near, 38 million Americans unemployed, and 1600 troops sent by the Pentagon to Washington D.C. may be contributing to the tension in this church photograph.
Donald Trump and Melania stand before the altar of this Roman Catholic church looking painfully awkward and uncomfortable in one of the most iconic images of his presidency. His scrunched up grimace is disapproving and stern; he cannot seem to contain his displeasure. His two and a half-inch shoe-lifts force him to lean forward slightly at the waist. The tilt adds to his uneasiness and pain that he radiates. The stark quality of the architecture and Byzantine art, medieval clergy depicted in stone and gold mosaics, is the perfect setting. Melania wears a featureless, black dress sans hat or jewelry of any kind. She wears her signature eyeliner with heavyset eyebrows and stands at a slight angle to Trump, in response to his straight-ahead stance.
If this were a photograph of the Trumps laying a wreath before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or appearing at the state funeral of a United States Senator, they would not have been any different. He is free of emotion, and unempathetic. If the photographer were trying for the stark, controlled detail of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, he did an excellent job. The only thing missing is the pitchfork.