The 45th occupant of the White House is a pure media creation. He emerged from the toxic interaction of social decay, feverish self-promotion, societal susceptibility, tribal politics, and the amplifying din of the media echo chamber. Consequently, he held virulent pop culture power. In his moment, he was mythic—a fiction, a concoction, a sham, pure id naked on the internet.
A hissing mist of vibrant orange spray tan sweeps across the bulbous body of U.S. President Trump skulking naked in a pop-up spray booth. The image was leaked by the international hacktivist collective known as Anonymous.
The photograph is the creation of artist Alison Jackson. Her photographs seduce by mirroring the famous. On occasion, the artist’s exquisitely staged photographs of celebrity lookalikes fall through the mirror into the accepting arms of the internet. They set “one foot in truth, one foot in fantasy.” Picturing celebrities lends power, and Jackson is happy to borrow. For the 2016 spray tan shoot, Jackson says she auditioned more than 300 potential Trumps.
We want to believe the Trump photo despite (or possibly because of) its extreme improbability. We want to believe because of Trump’s infamy, his strutting and fronting, his demonstrable deceits, his constant evasions, and his undeniable orangeness. In Alison Jackson’s words, the photograph is irresistible “visual gossip… Our voyeurism is propelled into action because of the very nature of photography. Photography seduces [us] into believing it is sure, when we know it isn’t.”