Look book, with presidents

The President’s
Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office
by John
Oh, this is so much my
kind of book. There’s presidents and there’s pictures and there’s
behind-the-scenes info. Oooo oooo ooooooooo!
Going in, I expected this thing to have an introductory essay,
followed by nothing but photos and captions. But it’s got a full-on text going
on. And it’s a great thing to read. (So often, these look books don’t have
interesting texts accompanying them. It’s tragic.)
The other thing that might make one suspicious that this book
would not be up to snuff is that it’s a companion book to a National
Geographic/PBS video. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been sadly disappointed
in the past by those companion books.
But this one… This one could stand alone just fine. The writing is zippy and what it conveys is fascinating. 
So the book’s good on its own, but the PBS program is pretty darn fabulous, too. And it’s available to watch online for free!
But the interesting thing is that the book itself describes why
still photography, rather than video, is vital to capturing the essence of a
presidency—because a photographer can be in a room to take a photo without also
capturing the conversation that is taking place. So the photographer is granted
greater access. Plus, there’s something about a photograph—the way it captures
a single moment in time—that somehow speaks to us differently than a video
This scene took place in Decorah, Iowa – I know that place!
(photo credit: White House; photo by Pete Souza)
The book’s primary focus is Pete Souza, the current White House
photographer, but it also includes plenty of photos of previous presidents, as
the role of the White House photographer has evolved.
(Pete Souza’s the photographer who took that famous photo of then-Senator Obama running up the steps of the Capitol)
One of my favorite lines in the book is this one, which follows a photo of the Fords at the breakfast table at their
home in Alexandria,
in the days before they moved into the White House. Betty Ford’s wearing a
shower cap and robe, and their dining room looks so much like the (hideous) 1970s decor I remember from my younger days. (They were real people, the Fords!) Anyway, here’s John Bredar’s brilliant
accompanying text: 
“This is about as pedestrian an image as you can imagine, an
utterly American morning, right down to the round wooden dining table, with a
condiment-jammed lazy Susan at its center. When will the teenager drag in and
begin grazing? The idea of substituting Richard and Pat Nixon into this tableau
isn’t just weird, it’s a little scary.” (pp. 135) 
I like it when photography
books  make me laugh.

(photo credit: White House; photo by Pete Souza)
If you, too, are a sucker
for the historic photos as they happen,
here’s a nifty little thing— if you “Like” The White House on The Face, you’ll get the Photo of the Day tossed your way daily. It’s actually kind of

OK, here’s one more for the road.
That’s the president blocking a shot by Reggie Love, his body man. And given Mr. Love’s background, that’s nothing short of impressive.
I love this stuff. 

4 thoughts on “Look book, with presidents

  1. This book sounds pretty cool – I like seeing photos and knowing the story behind them. Sadly, I can't see the Ford picture on your blog post for some reason, but eventually I'll get my hands on the book to see for myself.

  2. Christy — Oh, I think I made that confusing — I couldn't find an online version of the Ford photo, so it isn't there to be seen, unfortunately. But it's a rather wonderful thing — worth borrowing the book from the library to see the Fords as such real people.

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