President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden recently traveled to Georgia and paid a visit to former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, during the trip. The resulting photo has created a substantial stir on social media for two reasons.
First, the Bidens appeared to tower over the Carters with a size disparity that many commenters found unsettling. Additionally, none of the four individuals pictured were wearing a face mask.
Explanation for the distorted image
The Carter Center shared the image online, revealing the Carters seated in chairs inside their home while the Bidens knelt down next to them.
Thank you President and Mrs. Biden! pic.twitter.com/QcA33iUev4
— The Carter Center (@CarterCenter) May 4, 2021
Countless social media users noted that Joe and Jill Biden appeared to be much larger than Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, prompting immediate speculation regarding the cause of the size disparity.
Some suggested that the image had been manipulated while others opined that the setting reminded them of a dollhouse. Jokes abounded regarding the Bidens’ apparent size, including suggestions that the first couple should have pursued a career in basketball.
In reality, the distortion appears to have been caused by the use of a wide-angle lens in a confined space, as explained in an article published by Popular Science.
Questions about missing masks
Given the small size of the room, the photographer would have been positioned close to all four subjects, which would have likely necessitated the use of such a lens to capture the entire image at once.
Experts note that wide-angle photography can cause visual distortions, which are amplified when a camera is very close to the subjects of an image. In other words, the Bidens are not giants and no one has shrunk the Carters.
The other notable issue has not been so easily dismissed, however. Despite the president’s frequent calls for widespread mask use, especially indoors, all four of the individuals pictured in the photo were represented without their faces covered.
Just last week, Joe Biden once again described it as the “patriotic responsibility” of all Americans to wear a mask as a precaution against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, infection and hospitalization rates are down and vaccinations are readily available for most adults, meaning there is arguably little need for fully vaccinated people to wear masks in most situations. Nevertheless, this photo is the latest example of mixed messaging from the Biden administration regarding an already complex and politicized issue.