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What’s Up With This Photo Of The Bidens and Carters?

Here's why the current and former presidents look so oddly sized.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visit former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter at their home in Plains, Georgia, on April 29, 2021. | The Carter Center
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visit former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter at their home in Plains, Georgia, on April 29, 2021. | The Carter Center

President and first lady Biden aren’t giants, and former President and first lady Carter aren’t exceptionally small. But a photo of the Bidens’ recent visit to the Carters’ home in Plains, Georgia, might make observers think otherwise. 

On Monday night, The Carter Center tweeted a photo of the two presidential couples hanging out that set the internet abuzz. Some wondered whether the Bidens stepped into a doll house, and some drew comparisons to the movie magic in “Lord of The Rings” that made Gandalf much larger than his hobbit counterparts.

President Joe Biden is just under 6 feet tall, and President Jimmy Carter is a couple inches shorter than him. So if a major height discrepancy doesn’t explain Biden’s apparent gargantuan size, then what can?

According to Marlena Sloss, a freelance photographer who contributes to The Washington Post, the answer lies in how the photo was taken. Sloss told The Post that the photo was probably taken with a wide-angle lens. While photographers use these lenses to capture subjects in a small space, where they are unable to back far enough away to use a standard lens, wide-angle lenses can make subjects closer to the camera appear bigger and those further away look smaller.

Another complicating factor could be that the photographer used flash. Sloss explained that using flash can minimize shadows, which give a photo depth. So even though President Biden is kneeling in front of former first lady Rosalynn Carter, the lack of shadows makes it look like they’re on a single plane, exacerbating the perception that Biden is unnaturally towering.

Though The Carter Center probably wasn’t trying to mislead, the way photos are taken can deceive viewers.

For example, amid the onset of the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing guidelines, various media outlets took photos of public places that appeared to show crowds congregating close together. But by assessing photo-taking techniques, scrutinizing landmarks present in photos, and comparing images of the same scene from different perspectives — observers can see that some photos compress perspective, making subjects appear closer together than they really are. That especially applies to photos taken with a telephoto or zoom lens.

Anyway, somebody call the TikTok guy with an eye for height?

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