An Honest Look at Donald Trump by Joe Pugliese
This past fall Joe Pugliese caught up with the real estate magnate for People Magazine before his foothold was as solid as it is now, when there was still a question of whether he would have any significant impact on this race. We know now that he has, but back then it was still a huge question. “It was in the early days of the campaign so it was a different climate. He was on the rise. He had major popularity, which he still does, but it didn’t feel as concrete as a run as it does now,” says Joe. At one point he and Trump, along with Trump’s entourage stepped into the street and it was a very energetic crowd. “It was pandemonium but it wasn’t universally pro-Trump. So you know even then you got a sense of his controversial nature,” explains Joe. Even when Trump was still shaping his message, people were hearing it and reacting.
Now, this far into the campaign (which still hasn’t gone beyond the Iowa caucuses), everyone has a point of view on Trump. But back then opinions were still forming. As a photographer shooting a profile, Joe could have used a heavy hand to present his own idea of the candidate. But Joe says that’s not what he’s there to do. “It’s not my job to show my opinion of him, I want to record him as he is,” says Joe. “Of course I’m going to pick out moments that I think are more true to my experience with him, so the pictures that I respond to in the session are the moments in between the pictures.” Everyone he photographs poses for the camera, but they can’t pose in every moment and the times they relax, or forget that he’s there are the times that Joe tries to really pay attention to and share with any audience. Joe is our proxy, he’s our eyes on the ground, and he recognizes his responsibility to report back without bias.
“I’m a political junky so I’m totally interested in what’s happening in this race,” Joe explains. “When I follow politics I follow it through photojournalism and some portraiture. So when I’m doing a portrait I look at the subject through the eyes of journalism instead of through the eyes of portrait sitting.” It’s his photojournalistic background that taught him this crucial value and something that he won’t give up just because his subject is controversial.
Of course the crowd that day in New York was wild, but wilder still was one surreal moment when Joe was in Trump Tower in Donald’s private residence surrounded by marble and gold: “It was actually the day that the Pope visited. And we literally watched from Trump’s balcony as the Pope drove by. It was probably one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had.” The Iowa Caucuses represent only the first time American voters are having their voices heard, but one thing is for sure: this election, and Trump’s position in it, will have an effect for years to come.