The Purpose of Photography in a Post-Truth Era

Theatrics are an integral part of the American presidential inauguration. A well-located stage, many actors, a few scripted roles, costumes, crowds and waving flags all culminating in the oath of office. After the deed was done this time, artillery pieces fired and the new President spoke; cameras whirred and the audience roared.

But it was the crowd that soon drew attention. How many people had been there to watch? An image, shot by a Reuters photographer from the top of the Washington Monument, of the crowd in attendance, showed significantly fewer people than at Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

A new White House Press Secretary emerged the next day to vehemently assault the facts about crowd size, his demonstrable falsehoods disproven by those images. Another senior official later said he was deploying “alternative facts” and that we should believe him, despite the photographic proof to the contrary. And yet another official added today that the media should “keep its mouth shut.”


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