The News Photographers and Pictures of FDR in his Wheelchair

FDR in his wheelchair at the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC

FDR in his wheelchair at the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC

The rules for photographers at the White House were clear: No pictures of the president in leg braces, on crutches, or in a wheelchair, and no pictures of the president getting into or out of a vehicle, which highlighted his paralysis and need for assistance. “You follow the rules,” Early assured them, “you’ll get your pictures.” Not only was Early’s pitch on behalf of Roosevelt not new, it followed four years of limited access to Hoover. “So the photographers agreed to his request,” Photographer George Tames said, “but something happened. Within two or three years, what had been a request had the effect of law.” The photographers at the White House honored the rules— they even kept each other in line. “If, as it happened once or twice,  one of its members sought to violate it and try to sneak a picture of the president in his chair,” historian Hugh Gregory Gallagher wrote, “one or another of the older photographers would ‘accidentally’ knock the camera to the ground or otherwise block the picture.” None of the photographers who covered the Roosevelt White House interviewed for this book recalled a photographer even attempting to make a photograph of Roosevelt in his wheelchair. It just was not done. “I asked once to see a copy of the rules,” George Tames wrote in a memoir, “and was informed by one of the older hands that if I wanted to be a wiseass who didn’t follow the rules, then they would see that I never made a picture around the White House again.”

One exception of a press photographer trying to make a picture of Roosevelt in his wheelchair was Life magazine’s George Skadding. He had been the Associated Press photographer covering the White House for years before joining the Life staff. His editors wanted to run a photograph of Roosevelt being carried by an aide and gave the awkward assignment to Skadding. He tried many ways, using short and long lenses, and did get a picture. Early’s office threatened to pull his press credentials.

The Roosevelts and the reporters and photographers at Campobello

The Roosevelts and the reporters and photographers at Campobello


  • President Theodore Roosevelt and photographer George Harris

    A portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt made by George Harris, Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress

    A portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt made by George Harris, Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress

    Theodore Roosevelt was not shy about offering advice to  anyone.  When photographer George Harris said that he was not sure that he could take a photograph of the  president’s cabinet in a tiny, dark room of the White House, Roosevelt roared: “Mr. Harris, I’m amazed. That’s no kind of answer. When anybody asks if you can do anything in photography, tell them, ‘Certainly I can.’ Then find a way to do it.” Harris found a way to make  the photograph and he did an excellent job.  You have often seen the credit Harris & Ewing in the tiny photo credits in history and text books.  George Harris’s company was a major contributor to the photographic history of the first half of the last century.

    The picture of the Roosevelt cabin made by George Harris, Harris & Ewing, Library of congress

    The picture of the Roosevelt cabin made by George Harris, Harris & Ewing, Library of congress


  • Charles Dharapak named Asia Pacific Photo Editor for the Associated Press

    AP photographer Charles Dharapak walks and talks to Secretary of State John Kerry about his past assignments in Gaza in a hotel in Cairo, Egypt, July 24, 2014. Dharapak was on a one week assignment in the Middle East with Kerry as he traveled to Cairo, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Paris as a cease fire to fighting in Gaza between between Hamas and Israel was being negotiated. Photo: Glen Johnson.

    AP photographer Charles Dharapak walks and talks to Secretary of State John Kerry about his past assignments in Gaza in a hotel in Cairo, Egypt, July 24, 2014. Dharapak was on a one week assignment in the Middle East with Kerry as he traveled to Cairo, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Paris as a cease fire to fighting in Gaza between between Hamas and Israel was being negotiated. Photo: Glen Johnson.

    One of the neat things about the White House Press Photographers is the fact that you are working with men and women who are the very top of the profession of photojournalism. Charles Dharapak is a great example of the very best.  Charles Dharapak began his career with the Associated Press in 1993 in Southeast Asia and earned his stripes covering the Cambodian Civil War, the fall of Suharto and a myriad  of nasty conflicts and protests. In 2002 Dharapak and his cameras  were in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In 2003 he was transferred to the AP Washington bureau.  Political campaigns, Presidential trips, and major news stories were part of his Washington work.  In 2012 he was named Photographer of the Year by the White House News Photographers Association.

    Some White House news photographers come to Washington, DC and stay to the end of their careers.  Others move on to higher positions in their career.  Although this is a change into management for Dharapak, you know you will continue to find his photographs on the front pages of newspapers around the world in the future.

    As one White House news photographer i will say that I am truly sorry to see him leave Washington DC. His hard work for the White House News Photographers Association will be missed, but you can’t keep a good man down.  Good luck Charlie.


  • Pebble Beach get a New Sleek Green Look

    Photo by Dennis Brack It started with television reporters doing stand ups  in the grass on the North Lawn.  At the last on the Clinton years, the position was  temporarily  moved across the driveway while Department of Interior contractors filled the area with large Pebbles and the area got it’s name.  First Lady Laura Bush wanted to make that area more attractive and once again temporary move and concrete was poured.  The simple lights, cameras, and tripods have evolved to sophisticated  sound stages.  Last week matching green canvas covers on the top of well made iron structures have given the area a uniform professional look. The look has changed, but Pebble Beach is still a nice place to hangout on a nice September day.  Photo by Dennis Brack


  • Dorothea Lange Special

    Dorothea LangeThe program made by Dorothea Lange’s daughter shows the life of a determined photographer.  As a photographer it was interesting seeing the selection of the great photographs out of series of near misses.  It is a long program but worth your time.

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/dorothea-lange/watch-full-film-dorothea-lange-grab-a-hunk-of-lightning/3260/


  • Chicago Democratic Convention 1968: A week of Hate.

    Grant ParkChicago 1968:  Forty-six years ago many White House photographers thought that they were just about finished with a week of hate.  The hate level for everyone, especially  the police and the demonstrators, was turned to high for five days.  The press photographers were in the middle.  It was a great place to make pictures, but not so safe.  Hate came to a climax in Grant Park.  There was a lull and the convention was nominating Hubert Humphrey.  I was working for NEWSWEEK and we were invited to a party at the PLAYBOY mansion.  Quite a party, Warren Beatty was swimming in a laguna like pool with two beautiful ladies.  The story was over.  Not quite. Word spread through the  mansion that the Chicago police had attacked a place where the protestors were staying.  There were groan as we found  our riot gear and went back to work.


  • Rules for Cameramen covering the Prince of Wales in 1930

    1. His Royal Highness should not be photographed “close-up”
    2. His Royal Highness should not be photographed playing golf or indulging in other like informal sports.
    3. His Royal Highness should not be photographed with ladies
    4. His Royal Highness should not be photographed whenever he royally does not want to be

    Source: Tracy Mathewson, quoted in Betty Shannon, “The Prince and the Pictures”  PHOTOPLAY, March, 1920. p 56


  • Book signing at Bethany Beach Books, Bethany Delaware, Monday August 25th at 7 PM

    Bethany books 1lr

     

     

    If you are at Rehoboth, Bethany, or Ocean City, Maryland, come by and say hello


  • CBS Cameraman George Christian, on Face The Nation, tells his story about Nixon’s Resignation Address

    Christian Face Nation 1lrIt was George Christian’s first time in the Oval Office.  It was the night that  President Nixon announced to the nation that he would resign the presidency the next day at noon.  George remembers Nixon coming in and saying, Now is a good time for everyone in the room to leave. Nixon speech

    Take a look at George Christian telling his amazing story on the CBS Face The Nation

    August 10th,2014

    http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/an-inside-look-at-richard-nixons-resignation-speech/


  • August 7, 1990: A quiet August Rapidly Changes

    Troops arriveMost years, August is a quiet month in Washington.  The congress is out, the president is on vacation and away from town.  There are exceptions like August 1974 and the Nixon resignation.  August 1990 was one of those exceptions.

    Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2nd and President George Herbert Walker Bush ordered the Desert Shield Operation.  Immediately, the 82nd Airbourne Division and others began heading for Saudi Arabia.

    Another group was quietly waiting for the word to go: the Department of Defense press pool.   The seventeen member pool contained a network video crew and three still photographers: AP , UPI, and TIME magazine.  I was the TIME photographer.  For TIME, the DOD pool duty rotated monthly and August was my month.  The DOD beeper went off and we gathered at the AP.  On our way out the bureau chief told Scotty Applewhite to take a large and extreme heavy equipment case and said, “It makes something they call a jpeg image, read the manual”  On the long flight in the dark C 141 transport with out new friends from the 82nd Airbourne we read and learned about using a new tool that every photographer uses everyday.

     

    In 1990, digital cameras were on their way, but far from ready for prime time.  At that time the wires were scanning color negative film and sending analog files over telephone lines.  The magazines were shooting color transparency and attempting to ship the film to New York.

    It was a pool situation and everyone was working together.  Our public information officers did a great job in getting us around to show what was happening at that “Undisclosed base in Saudi Arabia”.  There has been lots of  stories on “managed news” and the DOD pool, but I must say that we did a little better than what the world saw before the pool landed in Saudi Arabia.  Before we sent out images, the only coverage was from a freelance flight attendant who took a few  “happy snaps” from the top of the stairs of one of the many chartered planes bringing troops in to Dhahran.

    TIME Gulf War OneI had been shooting for two days and was worried about getting my pool film back to the states.  There were no regular flights so I found a United Airlines mechanic who had come in on one of the many United military charters bringing troops.   He said that he would carry my red TIME envelop back, but they were only going to San Francisco .  I got his contact information and called TIME in New York.  They arranged to meet  the mechanic  and hand carry the film to New York using a chartered jet. The photograph above was the cover of NEWSWEEK and PARIS MATCH.  TIME and U.S. NEWS used other pictures from that film shipment.  Thank you once more United Airlines!!!