“I’m envious of [chief White House photographer Pete] Souza,” says former White House photographer David Hume Kennerly. “You couldn’t cast a situation better: an attractive couple, the first black president, two kids, the dog.”
Slate’s John Dickerson has an annotated slideshow of pictures from Obama’s Presidency which are hanging in the White House. While the pictures aren’t new (ED: see note at bottom), and are all publicly available via the White House website, there are some interesting quotes from official presidential photographer Pete Souza and David Hume Kennerly, who used to have the same job.
This is the first time that I’ve heard about the practice of putting up pictures of the President all around the working quarters of the White House. In fact the first picture in the slideshow shows Obama entering the WH “on his first day of work” and seeing pictures of his Inauguration from the day before, after the photo staff worked overnight “so that Obama wouldn’t face empty walls and lonely hooks in his new office.” Interesting, also said: “But the photographs aren’t just for the president. They’re for the staffers who don’t get to see him much. Those who are captured in a photograph with Obama—from White House stewards to speechwriters to journalists—get the thrill of being on public display.” A bit strange and even vane, and definitely in line with the ‘cult of personality’ critiques and warnings, but I’m also laughing a bit at the idea that they are surrounding the staff with pictures of their boss who they never get to see, in an effort for the team to feel closer to him? Note too that this has been a “long-standing presidential tradition” since Nixon.
UPDATE: I just got an email from the estimable John Dickerson himself correcting me when I said that these pictures had already been released and were publicly available. In fact they’re an exclusive to Slate. Cool for them, glad they’re dealing with photography a bit outside of their daily Magnum pictures feature.