Two weeks ago, when I was invited to Mar-a-Lago, the former Trump home, now a super-expensive private club, I couldn’t resist photographing the portrait above of Donald Trump—a dramatically glamorized vision of The Donald that gives us a glimpse of how he sees himself.
The next day, April 4, I included the photo of the Trump oil painting in a blog post I wrote called “Lunch at Mar-a-Lago with The Donald.”
Then I forgot about the whole thing until this Saturday, as the April moon turned full, and I learned that my photo of the self-glorifying Trump portrait had become the kitsch seen ‘round the world.
On April 13, Andrew Sullivan, the king of political bloggers, posted my photo of the painting under the title “A Power-Mad Egomaniac Ctd.” On his “Daily Dish” on TheDailyBeast.com ‘s site.
But Sullivan, who reportedly gets 300,000 or more visitors to his blog in a month, wrote that he had received the photo from a nameless reader who commented:
Many years ago, I attended a social event at Donald Trump's Mad King Ludwig digs, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach. (Trump rents it out to anyone with enough cash.) Donald wasn't there (I think this was during the Ivana divorce, so he was a bit distracted). But he was there in ... oils. Right off the main bar, there's a huge portrait of Trump. Thought you'd get a kick out of seeing how he sees himself. I swear I am not making this up.
This anonymous reader was stealing my photograph—and even my reference to Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, and claiming it as his own photo taken “many years ago”!
While media throughout the universe picked up Sullivan’s post, I still was blissfully unaware until, on Saturday night, I received an e-mail from another well-known political blogger, Michael Shaw, who had somehow traced the photograph to my blog “A Rolling Crone.” As he pointed out, even the reflection of my flash in the photograph was identical to the “many years ago” photo from Andrew Sullivan’s reader.
And Michael Shaw wrote a post revealing my authorship titled “Donald Framed” on his blog BagNewsNotes. Here it is: http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2011/04/donald-framed/
In the post Shaw, who devotes “BagNews” to visual politics and the analysis of news images, wrote :
A few days ago, Andrew Sullivan posted this photo from an unidentified reader who claimed to have snapped this at Donald Trump’s old Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate. As far as I can tell, the photo was actually lifted and cropped from a blog called A Rolling Crone. The blog …is run by a retired journalist by the name of Joan Gage who offered a post on April 4, 2011, Lunch at Mar-a-Lago with The Donald, which happens to be full of wonderful pictures of the place, including said one above. (I have written to Joan, by the way, to see if she minds my using the photo since it’s now everywhere.) In the meantime, It’s quite a rendition of the man (quite in the sense of kitsch) as he hypes a potential GOP candidacy for the crass purpose of resuscitating his crass TV show.
By the way, I don’t think the corner is unfinished ala Washington’s portrait. I think it’s just the flash. The effect, though, doesn’t go badly with that sky and the sense of heavenly power, potential storm and rays from a deity.
I was surprised and impressed that Michael Shaw had tracked me down as the originator of the photograph and published the fact. My humble blog, which is “about travel, art, photography and life after sixty,” is tiny compared to the blogs of Andrew Sullivan and Michael Shaw. So far I’ve never gotten any closer to politics as a subject than writing about Michelle Obama’s arms and her one-time lapse in grammar. (I sent that blog to her office and now receive mailings from the White House about twice a month, asking my opinion on issues. I’m sure a gazillion other folks get the same mailings asking for their opinions, but I’m glad she didn’t take offense at my gentle criticism.)
As my friend and teacher Andy Fish wrote me about the Trump imbroglio, “The internet is kind of like the wild west as far as copyright ownership goes.”
I’m still feeling my way around this blog-writing thing and it doesn’t feel good to be ripped off and have one’s words or images stolen without credit, but on the other hand, it was gratifying that Michael Shaw discovered the theft and gave me credit for the photo. It was exciting, and for a weekend, it was fun to be rubbing elbows with those big-time political bloggers out there in the blogosphere.
(Here’s my favorite comment to the portrait-- posted by "Glen" on Shaw’s blogpost:
“Is this the portrait they display in the attic? They got the order wrong.”)