Ask anyone over thirty where they were on this day and they will tell you exactly where they were and how they received the news about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. They might have started their day with routine activities, but everyone ended their day watching the intense account of Air Force One arriving at Andrews Air Force Base. I was immediately assigned by LIFE Magazine. First to LaFayette Park, then churches along 7th and 14th Streets. The LIFE reporter called in, from a pay phone, no cell phones back then, and was told that we should head for Andrews Air Force Base. The arrival of Air Force One followed. We ended our day at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
There are so many stories about that day. PRESIDENTIAL PICTURE STORIES: BEHIND THE CAMERAS AT THE WHITE HOUSE has some of the best about photographers on that day: Cancy jumping from the pool car, Cecil’s photograph of LBJ being sworn in and what he did with the film after he made his historic photograph. Joe Laird at Parkland Hospital. Too many stories to put on this website–read the book
The official White House photographers come and go. All have been excellent photographers and they do a good job of documenting administrations in a manner that no news photographer can. Sharon Farmer is a fun person who everyone wanted around. She is still working and doing a bit of speaking on her photographs. The following is what I wrote about Sharon for the Facebook B/W challenge series:
B/W Challenge Day 5 Theme: Photographers I respect. What better way to end this challenge than a picture that I made of Rob Gibson’s wet plate photograph drying. It’s of Sharon Farmer, one fine shooter. Besides being a great photographer, Sharon is a terrific motivational speaker. I think Sharon would make a fantastic mayor of Washington, DC
At the White House, Roddey Mims, a photographer for UPI, was sitting on one of the leather couches in the press lobby when someone from the press office yelled, “Roddey, the president wants you right now!” He grabbed his Rolliflex and Heiland Strobe and hurried to the elevator to the private residence, located on the second floor of the White House. When he went through the bedroom Mims saw the president of the United States standing and shaving stark naked. Johnson turned and growled, “Roddey, what are you doing here?” Mims answered, “You called for a photographer.” Johnson replied, “Damn it, I called for a stenographer, not a photographer!”
B/W Challenge Day 4: My Theme respected photographers; Roddey Mims, UPI then TIME. Roddey would give you the shirt off his back,but he would have to remove his coat and tie to do it. A great newsman and gentleman. In this photo Jeanne Winnick is next to Roddey at a Reagan press party in Santa Barbara.
The South Lawn arrival ceremony was moving along. The troops passed in review and the music from the President’s Own was covering the protest shouts from the Ellipse, but things changed when the Presidential remarks began. The cloud of tear gas floated over the South Lawn’s fence to the arrival ceremony. The Shah and President Carter knew what was happening, spoke as fast as they could, and used their control to fight the urge to go for their handerchiefs. Farah Diba,wife of the Shah, didn’t get the message.
By the evening and the State Dinner in the White House Dining Room things were back to normal.
The room is not for old families dining at the White House, but it’s one that I have never seen used before today. Actually, the only use that I seen it used for is to store the second and third courses at a state dinners. Today, however, the Old Family Dining Room received it day in the spotlight. It was the venue for a luncheon with the President and the House and Senate leadership. The pool was only allowed in for a spray at the top of the lunch.
President Obama said nice things about getting along and the Republican leadership glared. The poor Old Family Dining Room probably wished for the days as the staging area for a state dinner.
Getting a group of presidents together is always a big deal for photographers. On this day in the Simi Valley of California at the opening of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library there were five presidents gathered: A historic photograph that should be made correctly. The Reagan advance team was making the arrangements for the event. This was always the best advance team for any presidential administration and they did what they always did–they asked the photographers just what would make the best photograph. They had a good group to ask: Dirck Halstead, TIME, Wally McNamee, NEWSWEEK, David Hume Kennerly,Ford’s White House Photographer. They selected the court yard that leads from the replica of the Reagan Oval Office to the crowd of about three thousand guests. It made a photograph that was worth the event.
One of the official photographers tells a wonderful about the minutes right before we made this photograph. The five presidents were in the Oval Office replica and they started telling stories about when they were in their Oval Offices during their time as president. Each had a great story and the story telling session was going beyond the time assigned to this part of the day. They were clearly enjoying their time together. Finally an aide came in and said that there was a large crowd waiting. The presidents’ told the aide to let them wait and continued with their stories.
This is the part of the glamorous life of a news photographer that everyone forgets. When a president returns to the White House, after seven in the evening to after nine the next morning, there are no crowds waiting behind rope lines to greet him. There is one network and one military video crew and a couple of reporters.
There are always two still photographers, one from the Associated Press, (Reuters and AFP went home hours ago), and one Independent Still Pool photographer. Usually nobody even bothers to ask a a question. A salute to the Marine at the steps of Marine One and a walk in the dark to the Diplomatic Entrance and that’s it. Then a quick filing of an image with the uniformed Secret Service guard at your desk telling you that he wants to lock the pressroom area for the night.
The fortunate members of the Cactus Club can enjoy a superbly cooked lunch everyday in a tiny row house near the recently restored Union Station. The only restriction–they can’t talk about business. About once a month they have a dinner program. My friend Jack Fox, a former Reagan advanceman, invited me to give a talk about PRESIDENTIAL PICTURE STORIES. The room was full of interesting people who I hope enjoyed listening to a unique part of American history.
Thank you Jack, for inviting me to share this evening with the members of the Cactus Club
Spend a few minutes to pull up this story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/legendary-war-photographer-dickey-chapelle-back-in-focus-b99371912z1-279644882.html?ipad=y
You will read about Dickey Chapelle , a brave war correspondent who photographed the battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. There were many trips to photograph during the Vietnam War. Dickey Chapelle died when a land mine exploded in Vietnam in 1965. Please read the story and if you are in the Milwaukee area the Milwaukee Press Club Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Dickey Chapelle will be held on October 24th at the Potawatomi Hotel. Tickets:milwaukeepressclub.org