Chief Official White House Photographer

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Chief Official White House Photographer
Seal of the White House
Shealah Craighead

since January 20, 2017
Executive Office of the President
White House Office
Reports to The President
Appointer The President
Term length No fixed term
Formation 1961 (Official White House Photographer)
1969 (Official Photographer of the President)
1981 (Chief Official White House Photographer)
First holder Cecil W. Stoughton
Abolished 1977 (Reestablished in 1981)
1985 (Reestablished in 1989)
Unofficial names White House Photographer
Presidential Photographer
Website The White House
Official Online Photo Archive

The Chief Official White House Photographer is a senior position appointed by the President of the United States to cover the President's official day-to-day duties. There have been eleven official White House photographers. Since the beginning of the presidency of Donald Trump, the position has been occupied by Shealah Craighead, the second woman to hold the role, and former photographer for Dick Cheney and Laura Bush during the presidency of George W. Bush.


The first official White House photographer was Cecil W. Stoughton, appointed by John F. Kennedy. Previously, official photographs had been taken by random military photographers.[1] In the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination, it was Stoughton who was behind the lens for the iconic picture of Lyndon B. Johnson's inauguration on Air Force One, alongside Kennedy's widow Jacqueline. Although Stoughton stayed on as a White House photographer for the next two years, it was Johnson's personal photographer, Yoichi Okamoto, who succeeded him in the role. For the first time ever, Okamoto was allowed access to the Oval Office.[2]

Oliver F. Atkins was the official photographer for Richard Nixon, but was often restricted from taking photographs.[1] However, Atkins' photograph of President Nixon and Elvis Presley is the most requested from the Library of Congress.[1] The relationship between David Hume Kennerly and Gerald Ford was far more positive, as the official White House photographer returned to full-time activity. Kennerly's photograph of President Ford petting his Golden Retriever Liberty is arguably his most well known photograph from this era.[1]

Jimmy Carter offered the job to Stanley Tretick, but was turned down by the photojournalist, who stated: "I didn't feel he wanted an intimate, personal photographer around him".[3] As a result, Carter did not have a personal photographer,[1] and it was not until 1981, that the official White House photographer came back. During Ronald Reagan's first term as President, the official photographer was Michael Evans. However, during his second term, new Chief of Staff Don Regan decided that all the White House photographers should be on an even keel (including Pete Souza, who was a staffer at the time[1]), so no one was designated as Reagan's official photographer. Evans, who was leaving his post, was not happy that was being succeeded in the proper way and fired off a telegram to express his disapproval, to which Regan shot back as quick, adamant in his decision.[4] For George H. W. Bush's term as President, he appointed David Valdez. His most well known photograph was for Life, where Bush and his wife Barbara were in bed together, surrounded by their grandchildren.[5]

During the 1990s, Bill Clinton's official photographer was Vietnam war veteran Bob McNeely, who chose to shoot his photographs in black and white. McNeely was barred in the fallout of the Lewinsky scandal, and eventually quit the position in 1998, citing a desire to be with his family. His association with the Clintons did not end there, as he was the official photographer for Hillary Clinton's senate campaign in 2000.[6][7]

For George W. Bush's two terms as President, the official photographer was Eric Draper,[1] and for Barack Obama's two terms as President, Souza returned to the White House. He has been associated with Obama since 2005, when working as a political photographer for CNN, was tasked with documenting Obama's first year as Illinois Senator, and stayed on afterwards. Situation Room is Souza's best known work under the Obama administration.

Initially, it seemed that Donald Trump had not picked an official photographer for his presidential term, but Shealah Craighead was announced in the news media as such, a week after his inauguration. Craighead worked in the White House before, as the photographer for Dick Cheney and Laura Bush. She was campaign photographer for Sarah Palin and Marco Rubio, and was the official photographer at Jenna Bush's wedding.[8][9]

List of official photographers

Tenure Photographer President
1961–63 Cecil W. Stoughton John F. Kennedy
1963–69 Yoichi Okamoto Lyndon B. Johnson
1969–73 Oliver F. Atkins Richard Nixon
1974–77 David Hume Kennerly Gerald Ford
1981–85 Michael Evans Ronald Reagan
1989–93 David Valdez George H. W. Bush
1993–98 Bob McNeely Bill Clinton
1998–2001 Sharon Farmer Bill Clinton
2001–09 Eric Draper George W. Bush
2009–17 Pete Souza Barack Obama
2017–present Shealah Craighead Donald Trump



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Freed, Benjamin (February 17, 2012). "A Brief History of Presidents and Their Official Photographers". The Washingtonian. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  2. ^ Krule, Jackson (February 17, 2012). "ALL THE PRESIDENTS' PHOTOGRAPHERS". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  3. ^ Sulzberger Jr., A.O. (April 18, 1981). "Portrait of Personal Photographers to the President". New York Times. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  4. ^ Thomas, Helen (March 30, 1985). "Michael Evans, outgoing chief Official White House photographer was miffed...". UPI.
  5. ^ Castillo, Juan (December 25, 2014). "Eyes On History: David Valdez, Only Latino White House Photographer". NBC News. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  6. ^ Luce, Edward (August 5, 2016). "The making of Hillary Clinton: unpublished images of a would-be president". Financial Times. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  7. ^ Harnden, Toby (December 3, 2001). "Up close and personal". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  8. ^ Laurent, Olivia (January 27, 2017). "Meet President Trump's Official White House Photographer". Time. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  9. ^ Sekkai, Kahina (January 27, 2017). "Shealah Craighead, la photographe officielle de Donald Trump" (in French). Paris Match. Retrieved January 30, 2017.

External links

  • White House Photographers (CBS News)
  • Obama's White House, by official photographer Pete Souza - in pictures (The Guardian)
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