First lady Lou Henry Hoover

Mrs. Hoover poses a group of Girl Scouts on the South Lawn. Photograph by National Photo Company, LOC

Mrs. Hoover poses a group of Girl Scouts on the South Lawn. Photograph by National Photo Company, LOC

The photographers needed all the help that they could find during the Hoover administration. President Herbert Hoover was a tough subject, harboring a nervous dislike of the cameras. “He had a rather square face with small features,” photographer George Harris remembered, “and he was not sufficiently interested in showing to good advantage to be helpful to the man behind the lens.” To some photographers, Hoover seemed as if he was afraid he was going to say something he was not supposed to say.

First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.  Photograph by George Harris.  Harris & Ewing LOC

First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. Photograph by George Harris. Harris & Ewing LOC

To photographer Johnny Di Joseph, the problem at the White House was not the president. “He was okay,” Di Joseph recalled. “It was his wife.” First lady Lou Henry Hoover was made an honorary member of the White House Press Photographers Association, too, but that did not make her the photographers’ friend. Di Joseph remembered that Mrs. Hoover had a rule that no photographer could come within fifteen feet of her husband to make a picture.

President Hoover wearing a "horse Collar" shirt  Photograph by George Harris.  Harris & Ewing LOC

President Hoover wearing a “horse Collar” shirt Photograph by George Harris. Harris & Ewing LOC

 

 

The president wore two-inch high collars with his shirts—Di Joseph called them “horse collars.” Mrs. Hoover did not like the way the president’s double chins fell over his collar, and she thought that keeping the photographers at a distance would prevent them from making closeup photographs emphasizing his weight.

P226 hoover wait


  • St. Patrick’s Day at the White House

    Photo by Dennis BrackLong  before the days of President Reagan having a Guinness Extra Sout with Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill St Patrick’s Day was a big deal at the White House.   The day has become a series of rituals.  Dying the fountains was a must, but this year only the fountain on the South Lawn was selected for the celebration.

    Rodney Batten records this historic event for NBC Nightly News.

    Rodney Batten records this historic event for NBC Nightly News.

     

     

    Of course with a pool spray to record the historical event.

    Watching the pool spray at the  Fountain on the South Lawn

    Watching the pool spray at the Fountain on the South Lawn

     

     

     

     

    President Barack Obama  meets with Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny of Ireland in the Oval Office

    President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny of Ireland in the Oval Office

    A visit by the Prime Minister, ( the Taoiseach in Ireland), in the Oval Office is always on the schedule.

     

     

    A lunch on Capitol Hill with the Speaker of the House are traditionally on the schedule.  Everyone was watching the President and the Speaker.

     Pierce Brosnan, Representative Nancy Pelosi,  and Vice President Joseph Biden jr enjoy the music at  a St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the United States Capitol. Photo by  Dennis Brack

    Pierce Brosnan, Representative Nancy Pelosi, and Vice President Joseph Biden jr enjoy the music at a St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the United States Capitol.
    Photo by Dennis Brack

     

    Polite, but certainly not the warm feelings of the Reagan and O’Neill. The pool was  only escorted into the lunch, (held in the Rayburn Room), for a few minutes to hear the entertainment and we saw no interaction between the two.  We did see  Agent 007 so it was worth the wait.

     President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House John  Boehner and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny after a St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the United States Capitol.

    President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny after a St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the United States Capitol.

    An afternoon reception that packed the East Room concluded the White House  St. Patrick’s Day.

    A presentation of  Shamrocks at the reception in the East Room.

    A presentation of Shamrocks at the reception in the East Room.


  • THE ROLLEI, SAD TIMES FOR AN ICONIC TOOL OF NEWS PHOTOGRAPHERS

    Maurice Johnson's Rollei.  Maurice Johnson was a UPI photographer.  A member of the  George Gaylin's UPI team of the sixties.

    Maurice Johnson’s Rollei. Maurice Johnson was a UPI photographer. A member of the George Gaylin’s UPI team of the sixties.

    About 1957, the news photographers tools began to change.  Their old standby the Speed Graphic was still the camera of choice, but some of the news photographers were changing to a smaller film size.  Some were using the smaller 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 Graphic, but that didn’t work for anyone.  Others used the Koni Omega which worked  for some.   The medium format camera that caught on and became the standard for about ten years was the Rolleiflex.  The camera was made by Rolleiflex  but the German engineers who designed the camera would cringe if they saw it as the news photographers used the camera.

    There were two models.  The  top of the line was the Rolleiflex.  The less expensive  model was the Rolleicord.  There wasn’t much difference in the two cameras.Rollie close up 2015

     

     

     

     

     

     

    When a Washington photographer purchased a Rolleiflex or a Rolleicord , the first stop was Abe Jenkin’s basement.  Abe was a printer at the Associated Press, but  repaired and modified camera equipment at his home.  If you wanted your camera done at a reasonable time you had to bring the camera to Abe and listen.  Yes listen while Abe talked at his work bench.  Abe was a talker, but a gifted camera technician.

    That well engineered viewing system on the Rollie was first to go.  It was closed forever to make space for a sports finder.  You didn’t need to view focus because Abe fit a large focusing ring on the side of the camera.  The photographer would  know the distance—6 foot. 8 foot, 10 foot,  no problem for the shooters of that time.  It was a news machine.  This camera with a Heiland Strobe became the first choice of the wire service photographer.

    The 35mm cameras were coming up fast and within ten years became the tools for news photographers.  The fashion and documentary photographers continued to use the Rollieflex but sales  fell off.

    The film Rollieflex factory will hold an insolvency auction on April 20th, 2015. Sad times for a former giant of our business.


  • The Domke Bag, an old friend gets some love

    Domke bag 3This morning Richard Drew and Jim Domke posted a photo of a well used Domke bag and the comments started coming.  Every photojournalist who has been around has owned, perhaps still owns, a Domke Bag.  Jim Domke was a photographer working for a Philadelphia newspaper.  The camera bags in that day were large leather things that were built for 4×5 holders, and large flash stuff.  They were heavy, stood out from your body, and made it impossible to move in a crowd.

    Domke listened, thought about what photographers needed to carry the equipment of the day.  Domke found a company that worked with canvas and the Domke bag came to life.  The bag became the “must have” bag for photojournalists around the world.  When foreign heads of state came to Washington, the  photographers in their entourage would come to us and ask, “Where is the closest place to purchase a Domke Bag?”

    Some recent comments:

    — I can’t tell you how many times I wish I still had one of those. It was truly the best bag I ever had.

    — Domke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wore out a few of these!!

    — Old School!

    —Loyal since the early 80′s! They’re like old friends….

    — Got 14 years out of my last bag. Recently bought a new one.

    The Domke bag was an old friend to all of us.  Many stories, but the one that I like the best happened at the Iran Contra Hearings,  Charlie Tasnadi carried more stuff than anyone.  He was a devoted photographer, competitor,  who loved his photographer friends—Compadre! Charlie would call and then a smile and embrace. You might be a friend,but you never wanted to be between Charlie and a photograph that he needed to make.   Charlie’s  Domke bag was next to a network light at the Iran Contra Hearing.    To give the bottom of the stand more stability the network electricians put small but heavy weights on the stand base.  While Charlie was working on the other side of the Senate Caucus room during the hearings, the photographers carefully removed the cameras and equipment in the bag and inserted one of the heavy weights.  They placed Charlie’s Cameras back on top, said nothing and waited.  The hearing broke.  Charlie picked up his bag, threw it over his shoulder, and was on his way.  Later that afternoon, the photographers finally told him about his extra equipment. He laughed—as his always did

    The Domke Bag has evolved, but not changed over the years.  Today it and many of Jim Domke’s other ideas are made and marketed by the Tiffen Company.

    Domke bag hR


  • LOCKDOWN!

    lockdownEvery time there is a fence jumper, actually anything that the Secret Service thinks could be a threat, everything stops.  This time we were walking out to the South Lawn to photograph the president boarding Marine One.  There was a bang somewhere in the distance.  Soon we were told to go back into the White House and ushered back into the Press Briefing room.  They left the door open and we went out to the front lawn–the  guards quickly herded us back in.  motorcadeAbout thirty minutes later and everyone was wondering how the President was going to get to Andrews Air Force Base and on to Selma.  We were told to get the equipment that we left on the South Lawn.  Minutes later a call for the pool to assemble and we  walked to the Rose garden to see the motorcade moving.  A quick entry to the press vans and off to an overly fast ride to Andrews. Obama's aFOne The first family walked up the steps of Air Force One. We were able to send pictures on a nice slow drive back to the White House.


  • President Reagan arrives in Beijing

    Reagan China crowdPresident Reagan’s visit to the People’s Republic of China was a major story.  TIME magazine was planning a color layout in the days when color space was precious in news magazines.  TIME sent the usual team that covered presidential trips, Dirck Halstead, Diana Walker and Dennis Brack.  The film had to be on a  plane that was returning to the U.S. in  three hours from the Air Force One arrival so we had very little time to make our pictures.  As I recall Dirck and Diana were to cover the pools inside and make photographs of President Reagan with the Chinese leaders.  My assignment was to photograph the reaction of the crowds in Tiananmen Square.  When we arrived in Tiananmen Square it was empty.  The Chinese had decided that they didn’t want the crowds praising our president.  I needed a picture and knew that I had  less than an hour to make something–anything. I walked around to the rear of the massive People’s Republic of China Assembly and found the Presidential motorcade.   A tiny crowd was waiting that must have been overlooked by the Chinese authorities.  I backed off and made the photograph above with a 300mm lens.  It looks like the crowd went on forever, but it didn’t.  This was it!.  We collected and shipped our film.  The photograph above ran at the top of the story over two pages in the next week’s TIME.


  • The White House News Photographers Association Report

    Report FebruaryUse the url below to access the White House News Photographers Association newsletter.  Stories about Larry Downing, photographers covering the president’s trip to India and a photo project by Laura Sikes.  Also the complete list of the winners of the White House News Photographers Association “Eyes of History contest;

    http://issuu.com/bluerover/docs/report_feb_2015_feb_25_final


  • The Ubiquitous J.C. Brown

    credit: National Photo Company

    credit: National Photo Company

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    J.C. Brown, a cameraman for MGM newsreels seemed to be everywhere in the first half of the last century.  He is the third from the left, getting 35mm film on Will Hays, the U.S. postmaster general before or after his White House meeting.  Hays is known because of the Hays Code that determined the limits  of acceptable behavior for the motion picture industry.  The area in this picture is in front of the official entry to the West Wing of the White House.  These cameramen are standing only a few feet from the stakeout position, the area where cameramen and women, (video journalists)  interview presidential visitors today.


  • Win McNamee wins Photographer of the year in the White House New Photographers “Eyes of History” Contest 2015

    Photo by Dennis BrackThe “Eyes of History” contest has the best of news and feature photographs of last year.  The White House News Photographers Association brings  the top photographers and editors to Washington, D.C to judge the contest.  There are three contests. the Video, the multi mediaPhoto by Dennis Brack and the still contests.  Three different judging panels.

    The contest is a major production with great  WHNPA photographers Jonathan  Ernest and Andrew Harnik using the program PhotoMechanic to make things work.

    Photo by Dennis Brack

     

     

     

    The contest chairman Nikki Kahn did a fantastic job.   Everyone watched.

     

     

    Photo by Dennis Brack

     

     

    In the still contest it all boiled down to the number of points needed to win the photographer of the year.  Brendan Smialowski won with a photograph  of Secretary of State Kerry looking at Baghdad, Iraq  from a helicopterPhoto by Dennis Brack. The Photographer of the Year went to the portfolio contest.  Win McNamee was there and watching intently.  Win’s father, Wally McNamee, had won the Photographer of the Year four times while working for THE WASHINGTON POST and NEWSWEEK.  I’ll bet Win was thinking about that as he watched, but it came out to a win.Photo by Dennis Brack


  • Larry Downing, Reuters, to receive the White House News Photographers Association Lifetime Achievement Award

    Brendan Smialowski tells Larry Downing that he is to received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

    Brendan Smialowski tells Larry Downing that he is to received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

    There are few professions like this.  Friday morning, Larry Downing’s competitors secretly gathered in the White House briefing room.  There was David Ake, head of the Washington AP photo bureau, Scottie Applewhite, AP,Pablo Martinez Monsivals,AP, Brendan Smialowski AFP, Mandel Ngan, AFP. Shawn Thew, EPA, Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA.  The Reuters team was there.  Jim Bourg, Gary Cameron, Mike Theiler, Jonathon Ernest, Stel Varias.

    Hannah Hawkins, our great White House photo wrangler, made an surprise announcement over the PA system. “There is a pool spray, immediately! Pool gather at the podium”  Of course, everyone knew–except Larry– but the pool gathered their equipment and rushed into the briefing room.  Rodney Batten, NBC, was behind his video camera, but Larry kept adjusting his cameras.  Brendan Smilaowski stopped  everyone and told Larry about his winning the award.  Larry kept adjusting his cameras, he actually thought there was going to be a spray.  Then he realized what was going on and started to grin.

    The award could not have gone to a better person!  Downing started with UPI in San Francisco, covered the Carter administration.  NEWSWEEK hired Downing. Currently Downing is working as a staff photographer for Reuters.

    Larry Downing has been nominated for Reuters global Journalist of the Year awards several times. He has won it twice, once as the part of the team covering the U.S. presidential election campaign in 2008 and once solo in 2009 as Multimedia Storyteller of the Year globally for his multimedia blog about the survivors of fallen U.S. warriors entitled “Those Left Behind: The Legacy of Arlington’s Section 60.” Along with colleague Jason Reed, he also won a prestigious 2012 Edward R. Murrow award in the News Documentary category for multimedia coverage of wounded combat veterans entitled, “Souvenirs of War: Purple Hearts, Prosthetics and Phantom Pains.” Larry has won numerous still and multimedia photo awards from the WHNPA, China International Press Photo Contest, Best of Photojournalism, Pictures of the Year International and multiple National Headliner Awards.

    The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Larry Downing at the White House News Photographers “Eyes of History” dinner on May 16th.