Time Magazine’s Photography Of Donald Trump Versus Former Presidents [Analysis]

President Elect Donald Trump, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2016

In addition to the Presidency, Donald Trump has won yet another great recognition: Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.  Left Wing Media and Pundits have been exclaiming that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin have also won that recognition, therefore Trump is categorized with them in some way.  What they don’t realize is that several other American presidents including Barack Obama have won this recognition as well.  Are past American presidents purposely categorized with Hitler and Stalin also?

There has been noise from left wing media connecting Donald Trump’s photograph itself to Adolf Hitler’s because they both sat on thrones and in similar positions.


There is remarkable similarity between the two photos.  The chairs look nearly the same.  It is difficult for us to claim that Time Magazine did this on purpose.  But the resemblance is uncanny.

However, there is more observation to be made about Time Magazine’s photograph of Donald Trump.  I would like to propose an additional observation.  Time Magazine’s anti Trump bias is so unique compared to other presidents it reflects in their photography.  Let’s examine some Time Magazine portraits of American Presidents for the past 2.5 decades.

Bill Clinton, 1996

This is from the 1992 Edition of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year Award.  Notice how the subject is given a heroic shade.  The light mostly reflects on his face with a touch of shade on the other side.  The light on the left gives the viewer the feeling of sunlight shining in.  It is almost as if Bill Clinton is showing a glimmer of hope with the darker side representing “a darker and difficult past to get over.”  Bill Clinton has a soft, welcoming smile which gives us the impression that he is genuine and innocent.  This is something to take note of while examining the next image.



Bill Clinton 1998

Bill Clinton in this 1998 image is very different from himself in 1992.  He no longer has the seemingly innocent smile as he did in the previous picture.  President Clinton has a grim expression here.  He looks firm and resilient.  The photograph comes in a context where President Clinton faces numerous political obstacles and would appear in the media as a result of it.

The lighting technique is used again where the light faces towards one angle of his face with shade in the other end.  His entire face has light on it, which tells us that Clinton has to be tough, but not without good reason.  Even the back of his head has light shone on it.  Bill Clinton is presented as a president of many obstacles.



George Bush 2004

This image is very similar to the 1992 photograph of Bill Clinton.  The message here is not very different from that image.  The lighting technique, facial expression; all of it is very similar.



George Bush 2004

This image is similarly positive as the previous one, but there are some individual elements here that stand out.  For starters, George Bush has clearly aged between 2000 and 2004.  Even through difficult times of going through two wars and 9/11, President Bush has a light shone on his face as he looks up with a smile.  This image is really powerful.  It shows us a president who was patiently optimistic through difficult times.  The upward direction of his gaze helps reinforce the “hopeful” rhetoric.



A handout photo shows the cover image of the December 29, 2008/January 5, 2009 double issue
Barack Obama, 2008

This one is very obvious.  There are shades of both red and blue here which can possibly mean political unity.  Barack Obama is looking up and away from the camera as George Bush did in the previous image which signifies hope and ambitious leadership.  There are many symbols in the background of this image.  There’s a noteworthy dollar sign next to President Obama’s neck, which can signify the promise of a better economy.  This image is similar to the other two President’s first covers (1992 and 2000).  It is full of optimism and hope.


cover.digital version.indd
Barack Obama, 2012

The lighting in this photograph is unlike any other we’ve discussed thus far.  It is much less colorful.  All of the lighting techniques showed light cast on majority of the subjects’ face.  However, in this photograph we are shown the side of the face with less light cast on it.  Why?  Let’s examine his facial expression.  He is not angry or menacing.  He has a worried and contemplative expression and he is looking down (unlike George Bush in 2004 who is looking upward.)

There is a soft glimmer of light on the back of his head, similar to Bill Clinton in 1998.  The photographer could have kept this entire side of his head we’re seeing without light but chose to provide subtle touches of light.

The subject in this photograph is caring and genuine.  “President Obama is trying to keep your country from crumbling.  He genuinely cares and has sleepless nights because of it.”  Whether that is true or not is irrelevant, but this image certainly sends that message.


Donald Trump, 2016

This photograph is very different from the others.  At this point, I’m sure you see the lighting on his face.  The light and shadow contrast is done here too.  What is different about the lighting here?  While the other presidents had shade on their face we are still able to see both of each of their eyes.  In this photograph, one of Donald Trump’s eyes are completely in the dark in the shade.  This casting off of one side completely without any hint of light is an attempt of the photographer to show President-Elect Trump in a gloomy demeanor.  Donald Trump is not smiling in this one unlike the other Presidents in their first cover images.  He has a stern expression.  And of course, he is sitting on a chair.  What does the chair represent?  Why does Donald Trump get a chair and the other presidents do not?  Time Magazine puts Donald Trump on a chair that reminds us of power, and command and resembles a throne.

People have made the connection between this image and Adolf Hitler’s.  This image is also completely different from the other presidents.  Trump’s stern expression and “hidden side” gives us a feeling of mystery and uncertainty around Donald Trump’s presidency.  The chair causes one to make associations with a throne.

Every other President’s image has them directly facing the light in some way.  Even Barack Obama’s 2012 photo has his darker side cast toward us.  But the front of his body and other side of his face still faces the bright light.  Donald Trump’s image has him completely sitting away from the light.  His back is turned away from it as well as body image.  His turning away from the light with his body and throne signifies a purposeful ignorance of rational advice and facing towards darkness/uncertainty.

George Bush, who started two wars, was named “American Revolutionary” in his 2004 image.  Donald Trump, who has not yet done anything as President, is called “President of the Divided States of America.”  I am not denying that the United States political polarization has reached unique heights.  I am simply pointing out the difference in treatment George Bush received in 2004 in the middle of much conflict versus Donald Trump in 2016 without any political record.

If we combine these observations with the similarities to Hitler’s cover image, we can reinforce the speculation that Time Magazine has a strong bias against Donald Trump.  This antagonistic bias is quite unique from the other Presidents.  Let’s observe how Time Magazine reports on Donald Trump moving forward.


What do you think? Feel free to comment below. Don’t forget to follow me at:


Twitter @secularbrownie





3 thoughts on “Time Magazine’s Photography Of Donald Trump Versus Former Presidents [Analysis]

  1. You didn’t comment on the placement of the “M” in the photograph of Trump, as others have pointed out on Twitter (looking like devil horns popping out of his head). Although, similarly, the first cover with Bill Clinton could be argued to have the same effect going!


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