History, Interviews, Life in the Capital, Media, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features, They Shoot DC, We Love Arts

Photographing the President

Lyndon B. Johnsonโ€™s photographer Yoichi Okamoto disappeared behind the President to make this image. Okamoto would have been below the eye line of almost all of the reporters in the room. (LBJ Library/Yoichi Okamoto, p. 118); courtesy National Geographic

Photographs. They’re a common form of expression in media today; they’re everywhere. To many, none are more relevant or as communicative as those taken of the President of the United States. We see them every day in the paper, on websites, on television. “Pictures are worth a thousand words,” says the old adage; none more so true than those of the most powerful and important position in these United States.

But what about the men and women behind those shots? Ever wonder about them – who they are, how they do what they do, what it takes to get “that shot”? John Bredar recently published The President’s Photographer: 50 Years Inside the Oval Office. Bredar primarily chronicles Pete Souza, President Obama’s chief photographer (and former photographer for President Ronald Reagan), through the book while discussing the unique ins and outs of the position with past photographers. We managed – with National Geographic’s help (and a review copy of Brader’s book)- to catch former Presidential photographers Eric Draper and David Hume Kennerly and find out a little bit more about who some of these special and unique individuals are behind the lens.

Access to the President “behind the scenes” by photographers is, in the sense of Presidential history, only a recent development. “Do we really need someone following the President of the United States around every day with a camera?” Bredar asks in his book. When photographer Edward Steichen approached President Lyndon Johnson about it, he posed a simple question: “Just think what it would mean if we had such a photographic record of Lincoln’s presidency?” Continue reading