This is a very interesting discussion over on ToP, but not in the way you might think.
What we have here is a portrait of Vladimir Putin. What can we say about it, objectively? It's high contrast. The man is apparently making eye contact with the photographer. He appears conscious of being photographed although he appears to be photographed with at least a longish lens so it's not a sure thing. His face appears relaxed. He appears tired, as compared with other photographs, but that may simply be a combination of the light and the relatively high contrast treatment emphasizing "bags" under the eyes. Objectively, it is almost startling in its blankness. The background is vaguely military, but we can't really make out definitively. In the west we might reasonably interpret the head-tilt as a "seriously? You're photographing me?" gesture, but we must accept that a) our cultural referents may be off here, b) Putin may not even have been aware of the camera, and c) even in New York City, this expression is not definitive. It could be Putin's resting face.
Now read the comments. Holy crap.
Consider what we actually know about Putin, as opposed to the various constructs various aspects of various media, variously controlled by various governments. He's ex-KGB, which likely means he's not a particularly nice guy. He went to University. He's old enough to have a career that bridges the USSR's dissolution.
Media constructs paint him as the devil, as a powerful leader, as an assassin, a ruthless killed, a brilliant politician. The west, in particular, resolutely demonizes him, occasionally in ways that are transparent knee-bending to western political interests. (pro-tip: the Crimean adventure is much more complicated than the western press makes out, and it's not actually all that clear that Russia/Putin is in the wrong). The Russian press, which we can observe sort of second hand, seems to be painting him equally improbably, but in the positive. It's certainly possible that he is evil incarnate, or not a nice fellow at all, I don't know. The point is, this is not information that is available to any of us. It is deliberately concealed and obfuscated on all sides.
And yet, confronted with a remarkably bland portrait of the man, a bunch of various westerns are happy to read in, basically, the narrative the media has spoon fed them for the last decade or so. To be blunt, this is ridiculous and naive.
But it is exactly what we do with portraits in particular, and photographs in general. We bring our own massive freight of ideas, our own history, and we project madly onto the picture. A tabula rasa like Turnley's portrait is a wonderful canvas for the careless to project stuff on to, especially when we have such a rich conception of the subject, as we do in this case.
The gap between what's actually in the picture (virtually nothing) and what we think we know about the subject (sufficient material for several long novels) is practically unprecented here, and therefore provides us with a really great case study of how people react to photos.