This picture of Donald Trump and Angela Merkel at the latest G7 made the waves.
I couldn’t help but smile when I saw it.
Who do you think has more power here?
Well, the German government released it believing they’d make Merkel look good. But it only shows how Trump runs the show.
Trump looks isolated, yes, but also the most powerful man in the room.
1. Center of Attention: Trump
To begin with, everyone’s huddling around Trump. We know why from all the other news: it’s because everyone wanted to convince him about something (“don’t put up barriers”, “don’t talk to Nuke Man”, “don’t pollute the world” etc. etc…).
Which means that everyone wants something from him. Even if in a non positive way, that gives him all the power.
The Only Kid With the Ball
This scene took me back a few decades. It felt to me as if Trump were the only kid in the playground who’s got the ball. And he wants to go home.
He’s by far the most unpopular, but everyone needs him somehow. And now everyone’s begging him to stay. Or at least to leave the ball.
That kid has all the power.
But what if we had no idea of what was going on?
Well, then Trump would look even more powerful. In that picture he’s like the sun around which all planets orbit around. It reminds me a bit of the last supper:
2. Investment Level: Trump
The more someone is investing to speak and engage with us, the more they are communicating that they want or need something from us. Which gives us power.
In the picture Trump is sitting while all the others are standing. It’s a rather obvious indicator that Trump is in the power seat -pun intended-.
3. Defensiveness / Aggression: Merkel
Merkel is in what is sometimes referred to as “towering position”, such standing very close, in slightly domineering and threatening fashion, to someone who is sitting.
Merkel’s hands are firmly planted on the table and she reaches out to Trump. It’s as if she were the interrogator, grilling the suspect.
Merkel: I know you ate the cookie. Just confess and mutti will not get too angry.
Trump: Well… What are you gonna do about it
Trump on the other hand has his arms crossed, a well known and defensive position. It’s also a position of someone who is resisting influence, which is indeed the case.
However his chin is slightly jutting forward, which can be a sign of aggression or, in this situation, of defiance.
Merkel takes the point for being on the offensive, but Trump is not backing down in the slightest.
4. Sheer Power: Trump
Now this is interesting. Merkel has on her side a whole army of people.
And Trump is alone.
Merkel looks definitely like the most liked and supported person in the group.
But the fact that Trump is standing there by himself makes him look much more powerful. Nobody would pile on the weakest for a simple reason: there’s no need to get everyone up in arms against the weakest. But it does take the whole gang to assault the toughest kid.
In that sense the fact that Trump, by himself, is holding up the whole onslaught makes him look powerful.
Isolated, but powerful.
It’s a Trump one man army.
He looks rather comfortable too. As if he were saying
Trump: Keep yapping… I’ve made up my mind.
To go back to that police interrogation parallel it feels as if the police are trying their hand. But have no real proof. Hence: lots of barking, but ultimately very little they can really do.
Which is exactly the reality of the situation.
This is really an amazing, amazing shot.
It might become a historically symbolic picture, too.
In one single image it tells the whole story not just of the G7 meeting, but of the whole US / West historical rift.
You might not like Trump, or you might disagree with most of what he does and say -you won’t be alone in that camp-.
But the picture here is clear: he’s isolated. But still the most powerful man in the room.