Obama Refuses To Give Journalists First White House Image

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As a new President enters the White House, a new photo policy seem to emerge. Obama, or his administration, has broken tradition by making the first images of him in the Oval Office a handout.
Over on Bohemian (here). I think it’s a very important point he’s making.

There Are 13 Comments On This Article.

  1. I love this post! On the one hand it’s true that all media photogs should be given some sort of access to produce unique shots of this subject.

    On the other hand, media photogs are always herded and crowded into the same spot so there’s really very little uniqueness to the shot being taken. Further, there are (in my view) too many photographers shooting the same thing for the same markets and getting nothing unique and not making a decent living either.

    I admire the new administration to cutting to the chase; focusing on the job at hand; and not having to worry or provide for time and security for additional press when clearly the Official White House Photographer can more than handle the job. This not only makes his images more valuable (God forbid any of us actually have unique stuff that we created and own the copyright AND is valuable) but it hopefully will start a movement for better photography, meaning varied access and/or more creative ways for media outlets to illustrate their stories. There’s a SportsShooter saying “Make the Big Time Where You’re At” … so folks, if you don’t have access you need to think of new ways to reach your goals.

    And I don’t believe for a moment that this is some evil plan to ‘control’ the look of this President. He’s very picture oriented, not for the media but for the population at large. This is truly a time of Change.

    • @Sharon,
      Reflects a changing attitude where images that are not unique are worthless but what about the fact that no news organizations have the rights to the image of the president’s first moments in the whitehouse.

      • Captain Obvious

        @A Photo Editor,

        The news-agencies REJECTED the use of the image.

        They want the right to control others’ lives, even if there isn’t any *objective* gain/reason-to ( like paparazzi ).

        Let news-photogs photo news,
        *and let people work & get things done*.

        Interfering with work so that they can get some image they leverage their “authority” with, is asinine:
        someone sitting at a desk is someone sitting at a desk.

        I’m fed-up with the 2-tiered presumption of journalist-culture: journalists have unlimited rights, and subjects, the lower-tier, haven’t any
        .. a LOT of humanity is fed-up with journalism’s arrogant “attitude”:
        why should journalists respect the lives they invade with their photography/writing, when they’re after producing *sensation* for their paper’s quarterly monetary-gain?

        How many of us have seen the stunning gulf between “what was reported” and what actually happened, FIRST-HAND?

        I respect those who treat worth with respect, but don’t respect those who don’t, and have had too many run-ins with the presumption/”superiority”/arrogance of “journalism”/broadcast.

        THIS is journalism worth respecting:
        ( written by a man who expected to be murdered by “authority”s thugs, and was )

        but the “journalism” that rapes people’s human validity for transient profit,
        that doesn’t give a goddamn about real worth,
        that deliberately helps GWB sucker a whole nation of people with propaganda *pretending to be “journalism”*…

        Respect THAT??

        What’s happening is more fundamental than mere tech-change, it’s people getting to discover what *Journalism* means, getting to experience doing it & having it done to ’em, realtime, by/with their friends, and discovering that shystering & lies, “death-by-journalism” etc. are violently, personally offensive to many, and that is profoundly off-putting.

        That too is part of the death of Big Media.
        ( remember The Clue Train Manifesto? about markets being *conversations*, not passive eaters of brochures & marketing? )

        Whatever, we’re never going to agree on some things, but I still value your perspective lots.


        Captain Obvious

    • @Sharon, “but what about the fact that no news organizations have the rights to the image of the president’s first moments in the whitehouse”

      Well, that’s why there’s an official photographer; there to handle that. :) No, I know where you’re coming from but I feel that unless we as photojournalists can make our own way and get a different perspective for a subject, that there’s no reason why the news agencies should be there. There was a time when there wasn’t such a tight lease on photogs but now we’re all just herded into small spaces and told to make do. That’s not creating — anyone there could get the shot because it’s the same shot for all of them. We have no value in the public’s eyes because we have allowed this to happen. It needs to change.

  2. Years from Now

    Nah ! a guy on the phone, walking across a room or shaking hands ? You gotta be kidding me as to who pushes the button.

    “Journalism is taken very seriously in the United States of America, and like the separation of Church and state, there is a clear separation of State and Media”. Can I smoke some of that ?

  3. pretty lame, what passes as journalism these days.. maybe the new administration just wants to help the generic image-takers and make them realize that they are all but one.. and chances that something similar to yesterdays cover of the new york times is run are very very low.
    so, journalists, get out and look for the real stories!

  4. The author at Bohemia seems to be saying that since Pete Souza is the “White House Staff Photographer” that his images are sanitized… his… “mission is to ehnace the message, there was no objectivity in the images”

    Here’s the real question. Is the new administration giving Pete Souza unfettered access and allowing him to photograph everything objectively – perhaps like David Kennerly had during the Ford administration?

    Although I doubt this since Kennerly was Ford’s “Personal Photographer” rather than the White House Staff Photographer.

  5. Don’t know if anyone caught Pete Souza on NPR last week, but he had some interesting things to say about the HIS role as head of White House photography. Specifically, he said that he only accepted the position on the grounds that his primary role would be to document the administration for historical purposes:

    “Souza, 54, said he accepted the offer today after talking with Gibbs and reaching an agreement that the primary function of the White House photography office will be to document Obama’s presidency for the sake of history.” – News Photographer Magazine, Jan. 4, 2009.

    I don’t know the specifics of the agreement, but Souza has been in this game a long time, at the Chicago Tribune and most recently as a teacher at Ohio U’s SVC. These kind of creds AND his “sake of history” agreement should give us a sense of relief that someone who upholds journalistic ethics is steering that machine.

    Ultimately, he works at the pleasure of the President and the White House, but I wouldn’t presume that someone with Souza’s experience would simply be schilling for Obama or the White House machine. I don’t think it’s fair to the man.

    As for not letting the AP and other wire services in….that’s a different story.

  6. I hope this new policy is just the mistake of a young administration that may lack the experience to understand that the media’s access to the President is an important tradition that can be very beneficial to the administration.

  7. Totally understand their concept of distribution and I think the availability is a cool thing. So that’s their reasoning for the in-house approach, right? Okay – thanks Obama.

    But did I miss something? Have we been given a reason for denying the other outlets? Democracy – in my eyes – would be to have both. So why not?

    Whatever though – people might just be pissy they didn’t get to hang in the Oval Office! As far as subjectivity, who says any other photographer would be more objective than Souza? You want objectivity?? Call Mrs. Greenberg! (okay bad example…)