Did you see this?
Many people must have seen it. After all, it was on the front page of The New York Times.
But … you can’t find it any more. It’s gone. It’s not on the Times website. It’s not even archived anywhere on the web. The paper’s search engine makes no mention that the bylined authors wrote anything on that day, or that the photographer produced anything. We scanned this because we looked for a digital version of it for 2 weeks.
Here’s what we noticed.
The photo shows Obama walking down a hall. This is nothing out of the ordinary; many pictures show presidents walking down this same hall. The thing that stood out in this one is the careful positioning of him in front of the window. Notice how it surrounds his head. We see similar things in early Christian art work. Mostly it is seen over the head of Mary, Jesus' mother, as well as Jesus himself. Also, we see this over the heads of the apostles as well as some saints.
Then there’s the tilt of President Obama’s head: downward and to the side — in the attitude of crucifixion imagery. It’s a way to show humility.
That’s crazy, right?
What about the feet then? Not an exact match for crucifixion imagery, but again, there’s a certain similarity there in the unevenness of the feet, and the bend of one knee.
This photo appeared the morning of Obama’s State of the Union address. Is it symbolizing him preparing to go like “a lamb to the slaughter,” as described in Isaiah 53:6-7? Humble. Alone. Christ-like.
Another thing to notice is the pillars on the side: tall, with repetitive vertical lines that increase in size as they approach the image’s border. In art, vertical lines represent power and strength. And the forced perspective of their increasing length emphasizes forward, expansive movement.
Still not convinced? Look at the floor. Sloping up towards the viewer … almost like Christ carrying a burden up through hilly Jerusalem.
Art can tell us a lot about how the artist feels, or wants us to feel. It wouldn’t be the first time a celebrity has benefited from a Christ-like portrayal, but a president? This photo, is just too symbolic to not have been planned.
So, why make it disappear. Who did it offend?
* This piece was motivated by my student David Gardner who spotted the original photo, and who also did most of the leg work and writing.