In some ways, the glamour-shot side of the trip felt perfectly Newsom-esque. Though he’s known in Sacramento as a policy wonk, his flashy side isn’t something he’s really able to hide, and at times it’s been his downfall. In 2020 it was attending a dinner party at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant during a Covid surge as the governor was discouraging holiday gatherings. Other times he’s tried to make a splash, only to have it backfire, like on this same trip, when he stepped out in dress shoes for a photo op to play basketball with school children, slipped, fell — and took down a small child.
When asked about his decision to hire a photographer with presidential cred, Newsom cast himself in a humble light. “I may be the only governor that literally was doing selfies, at best, in the last five years. We had no one, literally no one in the office that took pictures,” he said. He mentioned someone had given him Arnold Schwarzenegger’s high-gloss coffee table book, Seven Years, documenting his predecessor’s time as a governor. “It’s beautiful,” said Newsom, and it inspired him as he thought about how his own time in office is captured: “It would be nice to memorialize,” he said. “It’s storytelling, it’s not just the written word.” As such, some of Ommanney’s photos from the trip cast Newsom as a leader in the California style — Hollywood, like another of California’s notable presidential exports.
“It’s nice to finally have someone that knows how to take pictures,” Newsom said.
Not, he added hastily, “that Tonya [my social media director] and my interns didn’t know how.”