International high-level meetings tend to be strictly scheduled and not intended for frank moments. But G7 conferences have occasionally offered eloquent snapshots of the relationship between world leaders.
Last year at a summit in Cornwall, UK, the awkward convulsions of pandemic life led to a photo in which the G7 leaders were blown apart on a platform like a set of action figures.
For those nostalgic for the heyday of transatlantic ties, there are famous frame of 2015 German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands face to face with President Barack Obama, both chatting, arms outstretched against the Alpine landscape. Image inspired memes this shifted Ms. Merkel in her pink suit to Julia Andrews singing from the heart in the opening scene of The Sound of Music. Others have been digitally altered to show them in a jacuzzi.
Ulrich Speck, a Berlin-based foreign policy analyst, said his favorite photo showed President George W. Bush massaging Merkel’s neck. She didn’t look flustered.
“It reflects how these leaders sometimes develop personal relationships,” Mr. Speck said.
An image that particularly resonated was Merkel’s confrontation with President Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Canada in 2018, a shot that captures the “Trump vs. the World” sentiment that has permeated international relations.
Will the G7 be a commemorative photo this year? Sudha David-Wilp, deputy director of the German Marshall Foundation in Berlin, suspects that Ms. Merkel’s successor Olaf Scholz will be looking for a chance to take a memorable photo with President Biden.
She said Mr. Scholz is seeking to promote his image as America’s closest ally in Europe, while he is under pressure to cut off Germany’s arms supplies to Ukraine.
“Scholz will definitely look for a photo with Biden because Biden has supported Scholz from the very beginning,” she said. “They agree that NATO should not be drawn into the ground war that is taking place in Europe right now. So he will look for that balance.”
According to Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute, a history textbook photo should include at least one of the G7 guest countries. The German G7 Presidency has invited not only Ukraine, but also Argentina, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa to this year’s meetings.
It is part of an effort by Western leaders to improve relations with the global South and develop wider ties in a network that was once seen as a club of wealthy countries.
“We must avoid dividing the West against the rest,” Mr. Benner said. “We need this to become an iconic photo.”