From Palace to Circus Tent: The Trumpian Odyssey and the Turkish Proverb

AI generated image of Mar-a-Lago.
AI generated illustration of Mar-a-Lago.

Text by ChatGBT


Illustration by Dall-E

In the annals of political history, the rise and fall of leaders often mirror the wisdom encapsulated in ancient proverbs. The Turkish proverb, “When a clown moves into a palace, the clown doesn’t become a king. The palace turns into a circus,” seems eerily prophetic in the context of the tumultuous tenure of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. This essay aims to dissect the applicability of this age-old adage to Trump’s presidency, marked by controversy, division, and a unique blend of political showmanship.

The Clown in the Palace:

Donald Trump’s entry into the political arena was unconventional, to say the least. A businessman and reality TV star, his campaign rhetoric and demeanor stood in stark contrast to the polished and measured approach traditionally associated with presidential candidates. As the proverb suggests, Trump did not transform into a conventional “king” upon assuming office. Instead, the White House witnessed an unprecedented transformation into a political circus, replete with sensationalism, bombastic tweets, and an unapologetic disregard for established norms.

The Circus Unleashed:

From the outset, Trump’s presidency bore the hallmarks of a spectacle. His unfiltered communication style on social media became a defining feature, often overshadowing policy discussions. Tweets served as his preferred mode of communication, bypassing traditional channels and capturing the attention of both supporters and detractors alike. The White House, once a symbol of gravitas and diplomacy, transformed into a stage for a reality TV show where the leader of the free world played the role of a provocateur-in-chief.

One of the key aspects of the proverb is the idea that the clown does not become a king. In Trump’s case, his presidency was characterized by an unconventional and often chaotic leadership style. Rather than conforming to the traditional image of a presidential figure, he reveled in disruption, upending established norms in favor of a more confrontational approach. The result was a divided nation, where supporters lauded his authenticity, while critics decried his lack of decorum and diplomatic finesse.

The Palace in Disarray:

The Turkish proverb also implies that the palace, once a symbol of order and authority, descends into chaos with the entry of the clown. In the case of Trump, the chaos manifested in numerous ways. His administration witnessed high-profile resignations, internal power struggles, and a revolving door of key personnel. Policy decisions often seemed impulsive, driven more by the president’s whims than a coherent long-term strategy.

The circus atmosphere extended beyond the confines of the White House, permeating international relations and diplomatic engagements. Traditional alliances were tested, and global institutions were treated with skepticism. The palace, which once stood as a beacon of stability, found itself navigating treacherous waters as the circus of Trumpian politics unfolded on the global stage.

Impeachment and Legal Challenges:

The proverb’s reference to a clown moving into a palace not becoming a king finds resonance in the context of Trump’s impeachment proceedings. Impeached twice by the House of Representatives, Trump faced accusations of abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, and incitement of insurrection. The impeachment trials, while not resulting in conviction, underscored the tumultuous nature of his presidency and the erosion of the traditional dignity associated with the presidential office.

The legal challenges did not end with impeachment. The proverb’s allusion to a clown in the palace turning it into a circus is further exemplified by the numerous legal battles Trump faced post-presidency. From tax evasion investigations to allegations of financial misconduct, the former president found himself entangled in legal troubles, reinforcing the perception of a leader who, far from becoming a king, left a trail of legal controversies in his wake.

The Legacy of the Circus:

As the Trump era came to a close, the aftermath revealed a nation deeply divided and a political landscape forever altered. The proverb’s warning against the transformation of a palace into a circus serves as a cautionary tale for future leaders and citizens alike. The circus atmosphere introduced during Trump’s presidency left an indelible mark on American politics, raising questions about the durability of democratic institutions and the role of personality in shaping political discourse.

The Turkish proverb encapsulates the idea that the entrance of a clown into a position of power does not elevate the clown but rather transforms the once-stately palace into a circus. In the case of Donald Trump, his presidency challenged established norms, reshaped political discourse, and left a lasting impact on the American political landscape. Whether viewed through the lens of impeachment, legal challenges, or the divisive rhetoric that characterized his time in office, the Turkish proverb offers a poignant reflection on the Trumpian odyssey and its implications for the future of American democracy.

Joel Levinson: Behind The Scenes

Text by Joel Levinson, Copyright 2023


Behind  The Scenes


I FELT LIKE I was Marcello Mastroianni walking onto the film set for La Dolce Vita; a colorful cast of characters assembled in slightly exotic circumstances later than scheduled. The Dolce Vita feeling stayed with me, even intensified, as the afternoon progressed.

Tony had invited me to be a BTS (behind the scenes) photographer and I did my best to remain behind the scenes. It was his project and he had a specific vision of what was going to happen, in what order. So…in that context I knew I was merely a passive participant. I had once before shot in another photographer’s studio. On that occasion, it was my show with the model. But on this day, I happily marched to Tony’s drumbeats.

I have almost always photographed with natural light, not studio lights. My eye has been trained over many decades to see the results in advance…that is to say when I deem the daylight just right. Fortunately, there were several occasions through the day to shoot in natural light…in the studio, in his house, and in the garden that separated house from garden. In those moments, between setups, when I knew I didn’t have to be behind the scenes , I was free to pick my subjects and my moments to click the shutter. Not unusual, I shot things that were totally unrelated to the goal of the day. During the shoot, I kept wishing the studio had skylights but that isn’t Tony’s artistic MO.

One of my goals was to capture Tony at work…Tony in his element. It didn’t sink in when Tony invited me to the Dolce Vita event that there would be an artistic director. But first to arrive was KVaughn, a force unto himself; high energy, purpose-driven, stylish in his attire, and from my perspective, the most photogenic character in the studio and on the property. He was OK with me taking a few snaps when he was sitting near me on two occasions, when the daylight struck me as just right. He insisted on always having his glasses on…and he won out…most of the time.

Tony, dressed like he was on vacation but worked with focus…he worked like he was on anything but vacation. He was a pro through and through. I stayed out of the way, mostly behind him as he moved about. Sometimes he was up on a low stool to explore an alternative perspective. He seemed to be in three places at once.

Frankly, I went hoping to see some skin, but I saw less skin on this shoot than in a shopping center. I like shooting nudes (a great challenge to do well), but today the goal was otherwise. Ellen Tiberino, Tony’s subject, has a face that for me, was not easy to capture in studio lighting. When she sat down for a few minutes in the soft up light of a make-up counter, I saw what I was after in reflections of her in the makeup counter’s mirror. She was not aware, at the counter, that I was shooting (happily so…because I do best with candid shots), but at one point, I let on what I was doing and she willingly responded. Those mirror shots were some of my best ones of Ellen.

I also took a few candid shots of Tracey Olkus as she applied makeup or tweaked a few hairs on Ellen’s brow or around her shoulders. Regrettably, I took no separate shots of  Sam Binder as he did Tony’s bidding with the lights, the hand-held diffusing scrim, and the backdrop behind Ellen.

After the session, it was great to sit at a table under roof with everyone for a late but tasty lunch. We all relaxed and became old friends. The only person missing was La Dolce Vita’s director Federico Fellini.


Portrait of architect and photographer Joel Levinson
Joel Levinson. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2023


About The Author: Joel Levinson is a veteran architect and photographer based in Philadelphia. Joel is currently working on a book of his photographs. This is his first contribution to TWS.


Bob Shell: Cancelling Culture

God Bless America. Sculpture by Seward Johnson
God Bless America. Sculpture by Seward Johnson.

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2022


Cancelling Culture


Amid the ‘Cancel Culture’ movement’s weird actions have been calls to pull down monuments and statues of important historical persons. Even Queen Victoria’s and Gandhi’s statues aren’t safe from these rabid radicals. Gandhi? Yes, some want statues of this great man of peace torn down! Let’s just tear down all statues and be done with it!
I was surprised recently to learn that even classical music is under attack. Cambridge university, that bastion of learning, now has a class called ‘Decolonizing the Ear.’ According to the University, this class teaches students to listen to music in a ‘post-colonial’ way, because classical music is ‘complicit in projects of empire and neoliberal systems of power.’ It teaches that ‘genres like opera seem particularly susceptible to racialized representations.’
The class uses Aida, Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece as a starting point. Aida, which is set in Egypt, premiered in Cairo in 1871.
According to Oxford University, ‘Professors said the classical repertoire taught at Oxford, which spans works by Mozart and Beethoven focuses too much on white European music from the slave period.’ One Oxford professor even wrote that the musical notation system we use represents ‘white hegemony.’ I wonder what system he would have us use instead?
The most celebrated classical composers had absolutely nothing to do with the transatlantic slave trade or colonialization of Africa, Asia or the ‘New World.’ Austria, home of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, and many others, was not a colonialist country. Nor was Russia, home of Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, Scriabin, and many others.
Many classical composers were Jews, persecuted since ancient times.
One less radical professor stated, ‘I teach my students we are not judging the music, it is judging us. It has been around much longer than we have, and it is reckless arrogance to think we can dismiss its impact on human civilization with our extremely short-lived blips on the human timeline.’
As I said, Aida did not premiere in Europe, but in Cairo. The story is about an Egyptian warrior fighting to free Ethiopian slaves. Aida is one of those Ethiopian slaves. The Egyptian warrior’s love for her is a beautiful example true love that transcended racial barriers.
Verdi was a political activist in his time. Verdi’s name became an acronym for the people’s struggles against oppression and desire for nationhood. And we want to ‘cancel’ this man? His music should be revered and preserved.
Unfortunately, the majority of people today don’t listen to classical music, except perhaps the short sound bites used in commercials. I was very lucky to have a father who appreciated classical music. He’d been a DJ on a classical music radio station for a while, and had an extensive collection of classical recordings. In those days it was all on 78 rpm records, which I listened to over and over. Very few children today grow up in homes where classical music is played, and that’s a real tragedy.
Yes, I do listen to modern music. but most of it is musically pretty primitive. Rap has much in common with the way the ancient Greeks chanted their poetry, rhythmically, to the beat of drums, clash of cymbals, and other accompaniment. And there are parallels in Gregorian chants, compositions like Carmena Burana and some others.
Basically, I believe music is music, it’s good or bad.
Recent music I’m listening to other than classical include:

Apples From Mars
Jenifer Lopez
Taylor Swift
Lady Gaga
House of ILL Repute
Fighting Friday
M. Ridho
Tasya Rosmala

All are capable of producing very good music, but don’t always do so.
Should we cancel great art just because we don’t like the artist? We will lose much of cultural importance if we do.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 15th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here:

Amsterdam: A Change in The City That Never Slept

Photography and Text by Bartje Parade, Copyright 2022


Amsterdam: A Change in The City That Never Slept


Almost two years ago on March 15, 2020 the world changed.  Not only in Amsterdam, The Netherlands but all over the world. Life changed completely for everyone. Schools closed, traffic jams erased like there have never been cars.  Zoom conferences became a new standard, working from home was the new norm.  Clubs, bars and non essential shops closed . Planes didn’t fly anymore. Runways became parking lots. People stayed home.

I’m a natural born Amsterdam guy. I used to work as a music promoter, DJ, film director and tour director. One day I woke up and there was no work. I became unemployed and was scared for the unknown. I isolated myself from almost everybody I knew. Something I thought could only exist in a nightmare and it was sometimes.

After a couple of days I decided to walk into town doing day trips from home to different neighborhoods and tried to visualize my hometown in this surreal situation.  The results you can see in this series of pictures. I hope as tourists you like this photo story about “Amsterdam instead of Covid: and would love to see you back in real life as soon as it is possible!


Portrait of dutch citizen Bartje Parade in his hometown of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Bartje Parade: Amsterdam, February 2022


About The Author: Bartje Parade is a lifelong resident of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  He is currently working for an American tourist company and also available for private tours by contacting him here:

This is Bartje Parade’s first contribution to Tony Ward Studio.

Laila Ali: The White House Gate

Photo: Rosalind Solomon. The White House Gate.

Report by Laila Ali, Copyright 2012


An Exploration: The White House Gate


In this photograph report, I plan to examine a piece called the White House Gate created by Rosalind Solomon. I will start with the biography of the photographer, Rosalind Solomon. After, I will explain how print quality, print materials, and print size impacts the image of The White House Gates image. Then I will claim that The White House Gate image is best categorized as its dominant formal characteristics as defined in John Szarkowski’s book: The Photographer’s Eye the detail. Lastly, I will conclude with how the other components Szarkowski mentioned will shape the photograph. 

Rosalind Solomon: Biographical and Historical Context

Rosalind Fox Solomon was born on April 2 in 1930, at Highland Park, Illinois. She is an American artist, established in New York City, known for her portraits and connections to human suffering, ritual, and survival. Solomon attended Highland Park High School and graduated in 1947. She then attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1951. Then, Solomon got married and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. She then later divorced 63 years later after having two children. In 1968, Solomon began her photography work. She occasionally studied with Lisette Model, whose an Austrian-born American photographer primarily known for her frank humanism on her street photography from 1971 to 1977.  

Before Solomon started to get into photography, she became the Southern Regional Director of the Experiment in International Living. She visited communities throughout the Southern United States, where she recruited families to host international guests to build on cross-culture in a personal way. Through her volunteer work with the Experiment in International Living, Solomon got the opportunity to travel to Japan, where Solomon stayed with a family near Tokyo. Later, when Solomon was 38 years old, she began to use an Instamatic camera to convey her feelings and ideas, which was a turning point in her career and life experience in photography. 

In 1977 and 1978, Solomon moved to Washington where she photographed artists and politicians for her project series “Outside the White House”. Within this series, she photographed “The White House Gate”, the one I will later be exploring. This project lasted for about two years. Later on, in 1978, John Szarkowski included her work in the exhibition Mirrors and Windows at the Museum of Modern Art and presented examples from her Dolls and Mannequins series in the show. The use of dolls, children, and mannequins was some of the items she used as her subject. Also, Szarkowski selected 50 of her pictures to be part of the MoMA’s permanent collection. Her pictures appeared over the years in many different group exhibitions at the MoMA such as American Children, American Politicians, Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, and The Original Copy: Sculpture in Photography 1839. Recently, the MoMA included her work in the anthology Photography at MoMA: 1960—Now, and curator, Peter Eleey, even dedicated a room to present her art pieces at MoMA PS1 in the Greater New York 2015 exhibition. Ultimately, this led to the rise of her as a photographer and the beginning of her work internationally like Peru, India, Germany, Zimbabwe, South Africa, etc.

Overall, Solomon’s work circulates between the personal and the universe as a whole. Her expertise is in her interpretation skill and the ability to take a snapshot of both social elements of the places she travels. In 2019, her artwork was recognized by receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center for Photography. Over the past 45 years, Solomon has created inspirational work, presented in almost 30 solo exhibitions, about 100 group exhibitions, and in the collection of over 50 museums worldwide. 

Medium and Presentation

As mentioned, Solomon worked on the “Outside the White House” series. In this series, Solomon created a piece called “The White House Gate” in 1977. The photograph is present in the Jane Lutnick Fine Arts Center at Haverford College. This image is a gelatin silver bromide print. A gelatin silver print can be sharply defined and detailed based on the light sensitivity to the silver halides. Also, this type of print can last several hundred years. The picture has a strong negative, specifically on the gate, which is probably due to the silver chloride to darken the gates and make the gate pop in the image.

The dimension of the picture is 15” x 15” (38 cm by 38 cm). The photograph is generally a regular size. But, it’s over matted with a beveled-shaped edge around the image. So it allows the viewer to focus more on the White House gate. Overall, the purchase of the photograph was through a Patrons of Art gift in May 1986.

“The Detail” in The White House Gate

In the book, the Photographer’s Eye, John Szarkowski describes an overview of the fundamental difficulties and opportunities of the photographs. In the introduction of the book, he offers a brief historical overview of photography, specifically how photography has evolved over the years and how he views it as a unique characteristic. Szarkowski begins the book by stating that “the invention of photography provided a radically new picture-making process- a process based not on synthesis but selection. The difference was a basic one. Paintings were made-constructed from a storehouse of traditional schemes and skills and attitudes-but photographs, as the man on the street put it, were taken” (1). This led to the posed question – how can the process of photography be used in creating meaningful/significant pictures and valid art? In the book, Szarkowski argues that photography has a unique place within the broader world of artistic practice. Throughout the book, Szarkowski discusses and provides exemplar photographs of characteristics of the medium that is represented as a form of art but does not define discrete categories of artwork. He states five main characteristics: the thing itself, the detail, the frame, time, and vantage point that are important for the creation of eloquent photography.

According to The Photographer’s Eye, Szarowski would say that the photograph of the White House Gate would be a picture representing “the detail”. The idea of “the detail” photography connects to depicting reality and depicting reality as it happens, in front of the photographer. The photography can not really “pose the truth”, but can capture snippets of the truth as it unfolds. So, the photographer needs to be content with representing the details of a narrative or an event, rather than trying to represent the whole thing. 

In The White House Gate image, Solomon shows us different parts of the image. In the photograph, Solomon focuses on multiple details. One detail is the picture being taken in 1977 in front of the White House Gate at Washington, District of Columbia, US. The photograph displays the northwest gate of the White House during a snowstorm. The photograph shows that it was currently snowing as it was taken. In the picture, we see snowflakes falling as well as sticking to the gate and the ground. This detail informs the viewer of the time/season it occurred, which captured a fragment in depicting reality. 

Another fragment is the tire marks on the ground. The tire marks are emphasizing that a car must have recently entire the White House before Solomon took this picture. Or Solomon could have intentionally had a car drive into the White House before she took the picture. This is another fragment that part takes in bringing the whole picture together.

Lastly, the darkness of the gate of the White House is a vital detail for the narrative. The strong negative of the photograph helps bring viewer attention to the gate and what surrounds the gate. Ultimately, through all these different elements and details, Solomon is portraying a form of a statement. 

The Thing Itself, The Frame, Time, Vantage Point

In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski states that the first characteristic is the thing itself. The “thing itself” means that photography provides a representation of the real world. Photographers focus on divulging what already exists. In the White House Gate image, Rosalind Solomon emphasizes a place that already exists. Specifically,  that is very known to the US population and others around the world. But in the picture, she decided to center the image on the gate instead of the actual White House buildings itself. 

Next, the “frame” refers to the edge and the border between the elements of the real scene that the photographer decided to include, and what they decided not to include. Solomon chooses to focus the photograph on the frame, specifically on the White House gate when viewers first see the image. 

The fourth characteristic is “time” which provides the photographed location over time. Furthermore, the photographs can not directly represent the past or the future but can imply it. In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski mentions two ways that time exposure produces images and insight. The first one is long time exposure and, the second one is a short time exposure. In the White House Gate image, we see time play a role with the snow falling and car tire marks in the snow. The snow informs us of what season it currently was when the picture was taken; which was winter and, the time the picture was taken it was snowing.

Finally, Szarkowski identifies the “vantage point.” The vantage point is when the photograph shows us the world from a variety of unusual angles and perspectives, which can alter our perspective of the world. Solomon portrays the image of the White House gate through a unique vantage point that can allow viewers to interpret the image in many different ways.


Biography. Rosalind Fox Solomon, Accessed March 22, 2021,

Rosalind Fox Solomon. (2021, January 30). Accessed March 22, 2021,

White House Gate, Washington, D.C. (Getty Museum). (1977, January 01). Accessed April 04, 2021,

Szarkowski, John. The Photographer’s Eye. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009. 


About The Author: Laila Ali is a junior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College. Class of 2022.