White House Photographers Provide Eyes of History


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Presidential photographers gain a revealing, candid view of history.

From the White House to war zones, from the campaign trail to Capitol Hill, the photographers of the White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) capture news-making moments across the nation and around the world.

The Newseum in Washington D.C., showcases the best of these images in “The Eyes of History 2012,” a new exhibit featuring award-winning photojournalism from the WHNPA’s annual competition. The exhibit opened  at the Newseum on Sept. 28.and runs through March 2013.

“The Eyes of History 2012” highlights more than 70 prize-winning photographs, along with video and new media, from WHNPA photographers and videographers, including the winners of the competition’s top awards — Photographer of the Year, Political Photo of the Year, Video Photographer of the Year and Video Editor of the Year. The exhibit features news photography of the people and events that shaped the world in 2011.

Charles Dharapak of the Associated Press was named Photographer of the Year for his portfolio that includes photos of President Barack Obama shaking the prosthetic hand of an Army Ranger wounded in Afghanistan (pictured above) and first lady Michelle Obama’s surprise visit to a suburban Target store.

Andrew Harnik of The Washington Times won the Political Photo of the Year award for his image of presidential hopeful Ron Paul delivering a speech as a military veteran raises his fist in support. The photo is part of Harnik’s award-winning portfolio tracking Republican candidates on the campaign trail.

Also featured in the exhibit is Washington Post photographer Nikki Kahn’s portrait series of civil rights leaders who have carried on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. She made the photos to mark the 2011 opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.

Two original Newseum-produced videos feature interviews with the still photographers as well as Video Photographer of the Year Louie Eroglu of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Video Editor of the Year, Garrett Hubbard, formerly with USA Today.

“Photojournalists capture the moments that define our time,” said Jim Duff, CEO of the Newseum. “The prize-winning photos in this exhibit remind us of the critical role journalists play in recording the people and events that make history.”

The exhibit also traces the history of the WHNPA. Founded in 1921 — when the two things barred from the U.S. Capitol were dogs and photographers — the association has served as “the eyes of history” for 91 years. Members of the WHNPA cover the president, Congress and major news events in Washington and around the world. The awards were established in 1941. This year, more than 250 photographers competed for awards in 50 categories.

Nikon is the exclusive sponsor of “The Eyes of History 2012” exhibit.

This exhibit was created in cooperation with the White House News Photographers Association. The photographic prints in the exhibit have been generously provided by National Geographic.

“The Eyes of History 2012” will be on display through March 29, 2013.

Pete Souza (b. 1954) is the current Chief Official White House photographer for President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Photography Office. He was the Official White House Photographer during President Reagan's second term, 1983–1989, and photographer with Chicago Tribune (Washington Bureau), 1998–2007, during this period he also followed the rise of Senator Obama to the presidency.

 President Reagan and Nancy Reagan with Michael Jackson, White House, 1984, by Souza.

He continued to be based in Washington D.C., and worked for ten years as a photographer for the Chicago Tribune, Washington Bureau (1998–2007). It is during this period that in 2004, Jeff Zeleny, now a political writer for The New York Times, asked him to take photographs for a project documenting Barack Obama's first year as U.S. senator.

Souza covered Obama’s arrival to the Senate in 2005 and met him for the first time on Obama's first day in the Senate. He documented Obama's time in the Senate, following him in many foreign trips including Kenya, South Africa, and Russia. In the process he not only became close to Senator Obama, he ended up following his rise to presidency. In July 2008, Souza published a best-selling photography book The Rise of Barack Obama, in which photographs between 2005 and 2008 were compiled.

In May 2009 Souza began using Flickr for releasing White House photos.

Souza has also worked as a freelancer for National Geographic and Life magazines. After 9/11, he was among the first journalists to cover the war in Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul.

The Situation Room (2011) by Souza, became one of most-viewed on Flickr.


Barack Obama walks into the Oval Office for his first full day in office, Jan. 21, 2009, by Souza.

In 2010, National Geographic produced a program about Souza titled, "The President's Photographer" which featured Souza as the main subject while also covering the previous White House photographers.

Souza's 2011 photograph of Obama in the Situation Room during the raid on Osama bin Laden has become one of the most viewed images on Flickr. Today as White House photographer, Souza travels with the president to document each meeting, trip and encounter for historical record. Along with his staff, Souza produces up to 20,000 pictures a week.

In November 2011, Souza was included on The New Republic's list of Washington's most powerful, least famous people.

Perhaps the best known presidential photogapher is David Hume Kennerly (b. 1947) who won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for his portfolio of photographs taken of the Vietnam War, Cambodia, East Pakistani refugees near Calcutta, and the Ali-Frazier fight in Madison Square Garden, in 1971. He has also photographed every American president since Richard Nixon.

Kennerly photographed the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, and the selection of Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford as Agnew's replacement. Kennerly's first Time cover was of Congressman Ford after Nixon's announcement choosing him, and it was also Ford's first appearance on the front of the magazine. That session with. Ford led to a close personal relationship with him and his family, and led to Kennerly's appointment as Personal Photographer to the President, the day that Ford took office after Nixon's resignation as the chief executive on August 9, 1974. Kennerly was only the third civilian to ever have that position.

Kennerly photographed practically every major meeting, event, and trip during Ford's tenure in the Oval Office. He also arranged unique access for photographic colleagues from the magazines, newspapers, and colleagues to have during that period, and more than 50 had exclusives with President Ford. There had never been that kind of access to a president before, and not since.

In late March 1975, Kennerly accompanied Army Chief of Staff General Frederick Weyand who had been dispatched on a presidential mission to South Vietnam to assess what was becoming a rapidly deteriorating military situation. The president privately told Kennerly he wanted his particular view of what was happening. Kennerly flew around the country, escaped from Nga Trang before it fell to the advancing communists, was shot at by retreating South Vietnamese soldiers at Cam Ranh Bay, and landed under fire in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for a quick visit there. When he returned from the trip, both Weyand's and Kennerly's assessments were bleak. The President ordered that Kennerly's stark black-and-white photos of the tragedy be put up in the halls of the West Wing of the White House to remind the staff just how bad things were. Saigon fell a month later. Just days before that happened President Ford had ordered the evacuation of the last Americans and thousands of Vietnamese who had been working for the United States.

Kennerly has photographed more than 35 covers for Time and Newsweek, and covered assignments in over 130 countries.

His most recent book is Extraordinary Circumstances: The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford.

Visit your local library for these resources:

Photography of David Hume Kennerly

Extraordinary Circumstances: The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford
David Hume Kennerly, (2007).

Photo du Jour: A Picture-A-Day Journey through the First Year of the New Millennium
David Hume Kennerly, (2002).
Photo du Jour
was named one of American Photo Magazine’s Best Photo books of 2002.

Sein Off: The Final Days of Seinfeld
David Hume Kennely, (1998).

Photo Op: A Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer Covers Events That Shaped Our Times
David Hume Kennerly, (1995).

David Hume Kennerly, (1979).


Photography of Pete Souza

Unguarded Moments: Behind-the-scenes Photographs of President Reagan
Pete Souza, (1997). 

Plebe summer at the U.S. Naval Academy: photographs
Pete Souza, (2003).

Images of Greatness: An Intimate Look at the Presidency of Ronald Reagan
Pete Souza, (2004).

The Rise of Barack Obama
Pete Souza, (2009).

The President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office
Pete Souza, John Bredar, (2010).



1. Article illustration:
President Barack Obama reaches for the prosthetic hand of Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry.
Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press

2. PA row of military veterans shared the stage with presidential hopeful Ron Paul.
Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times

3.President Reagan and Nancy Reagan with Michael Jackson, White House, 1984,
by Pete Souza.

4. The Situation Room (2011) by Souza, became one of most-viewed on Flickr.

5. Barack Obama walks into the Oval Office for his first full day in office, Jan. 21, 2009, by Souza.


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