CAN 1 Exercise 5.1

Use digital software such as Photoshop to create a composite image which visually appears to be a documentary photograph but which could never actually be.

At first a documentary photograph of Trump making himself subservient to Martin Luther King seemed to be the epitome of unlikelihood, but as I worked on the image several things occurred to me that made me realise it wasn’t completely impossible. In the first place, Trump does in fact use grooming as a power game. During the official visit to the US of French President Macron last week, an image of Trump brushing “dandruff” from Macron’s shoulder was widely circulated on social media with an accompanying quote attributed to primatologist Jane Goodall.

Secondly, Trump is, as documented in Curtis (2016), well versed in the tactic of appearing to approve of and even actively support apparently unlikely figures and causes, with the intention of leaving people uncertain what to believe and diffusing attempts to hold him to account. And thirdly, at a time when dead artistes can perform in concert as holograms, even the fact that Martin Luther King is no longer with us cannot discount the possibility that a photograph could be taken today of his hologram preparing to address an audience.

Nevertheless, it’s pretty unlikely that all these outside chances would come together at once, so while I wouldn’t go as far as claiming that my composite categorically couldn’t exist as a documentary photograph, I would say it’s pretty unlikely.

I took elements from two photographs to create this composite: one of Donald Trump by Martin Schoeller for Time magazine and the other of Martin Luther King by Henry Burroughs during the taping of a 1957 episode of NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and included in a new NBC News/MSNBC documentary Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement and The Media.

References and resources

Curtis, A. (2016) HyperNormalisation. Available at [accessed 01.05.18]