Douglas Friedman Helps Melania Trump Keep the Conversation Going
Whether you like it or not, Donald Trump has captivated audiences all over the world. Thousands, if not millions, of people stand arrested awaiting the words that come out of his mouth whether they end up infuriated or inspired by them. But Donald Trump doesn’t live in a vacuum; he’s surrounded by his friends and family including his wife Melania Trump whose own merits make her a mogul in her own right. Donald’s shadow is large and deep, so when Douglas Friedman was asked by Harper’s Bazaar to photograph Melania he wanted to do something bold. “I really like working with Melania. Because Melania and I have worked together a few times before, she trusted me and she trusted the ideas that Harper’s Bazaar had,” says Douglas. “It’s a rather delicate discussion considering that her husband is Donald Trump and he’s running for president. Their image is highly monitored and curated so we were very delicate in negotiation, moving forward with some rather unconventional and elevated ideas about what we were going to do with her to break the mold of just a portrait of her and do something that might be a bit more memorable and charming.” They played with conventional political imagery while keeping the final compositions very truly Trump.
Douglas’ concept incorporated the Trump apartment into the frame so that the audience would be faced with gold gilding and marble elements around the border of the image. It put the story into a context that was not only truer but also more revealing (those two things are not always the same). For Douglas, this was a crucial element for understanding who Melania is and bring her into the wider story that has captivated the world since last spring. “It’s always more interesting for the viewer to feel like they’re getting a glimpse of what’s going on behind the scenes,” explains Douglas. “It adds so many more layers to the conversation. At the end of the day, for me, being that it was a challenging concept to push through with Melania and the big Trump press machine it was a means of creating the most interesting visual possible. Why would you focus in on just Melania and the American Flag when you can give a whole other layer of meaning and information?” By engaging these different layers of experience through the depth of the image, we see more of Melania because we see more of her life and we can understand her in a better way.
The energy of the shoot didn’t just come from what was in that gold and marble room, but there was also the knowledge that the whole world would not only see these images but would likely have a very strong reaction to them. “It was one of those shoots that was so exciting to be on because you’re in the epicenter of this cultural, global moment,” says Douglas. “It was all very exciting because we knew we were doing something that was going to hopefully create a little bit of buzz. It was wild. It’s so much bigger than any one of us.” Almost no one has a small reaction to who Donald Trump is and what he stands for, and that conversation is always important to the cultural discourse. It’s stories like these that Douglas and Harper’s Bazaar put together that help keep the conversation going (like on Page Six of the New York Post, the New York Daily News, the Washington Post, ELLE).