In the age of the selfie, when everyone is armed with a camera and is shutter-happy with it, there is nothing special about Henri Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment. With every moment being captured and shared by someone, somewhere, the art of photography is no longer meaningful. It is merely depictive. To borrow an analogy from the older arts, it is as if Vitruvian Man has been reduced to a plate from Gray’s Anatomy.
And yet, sometimes, the decisive moment reappears, a brief epiphany in which the smoke and mirrors are stripped away and the world is revealed as it really is. Such an image emerged from the G7 (now G6+1) meet, showing Donald Trump isolated like a badly-behaved baby, his arms crossed defensively, while Angela Merkel looms over him like an exasperated parent, and some of the world’s most powerful leaders stand around, wearing expressions that betray anxiety, alarm and fatigue. It tells the viewer that with childlike amorality, the president of the United States is taking apart the global web of trust spun after World War II, on which strategic affairs and diplomacy rest.
The internet has weaponised this decisive moment. The picture by German photographer Jesco Denzel has set off a memestorm. The theme of the maladjusted infant is predominant, with images showing Trump upending a bowl of baby food on his head. Meanwhile, the infant has set off a tweetstorm of his own, attacking US allies, and even taking a swipe at India en passant. It is a dramatic curtain-raiser to the crucial talks with Kim Jong-Un today, where he will stand tall and alone, having alienated the allies who could have leaned on Pyongyang. And to think that just the other day, Kim was the world’s favourite tinpot leader, and the butt of the world’s diplomacy humour.