If you are at Rehoboth, Bethany, or Ocean City, Maryland, come by and say hello
It 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.
Take a look at George Christian telling his amazing story on the CBS Face The Nation
Most 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.
I 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!!!
After a statement, five questions answered, and many more reporters attempting to get his recognition for a question, President started to leave the White House Press Briefing Room. Then he turned and nicely rebuked the reporters for not asking questions about the economy and unemployment. Finally he said that no one wished him a Happy Birthday. The birthday date is today, Monday–not last Friday. Perhaps someone in the press corps would have noticed it by today and shouted a Happy Birthday. Maybe just to get his attention.
No Matter, the press corp promptly shouted birthday greetings and the President left the room with a big smile.
On December 7, 1941, Associated Press photographer Max Desfor had been covering the Redskins-Eagles football game in Griffiths Stadium in Washington. He was in a special press box on the fifty-yard line. The box was positioned below the loge seats and held four or five photographers. Desfor was sitting behind a camera called a “Big Bertha,” a Speed Graphic with a long telephoto that used 5×7 sheets of film. During the first half of the game he heard a series of messages over the stadium public address system telling colonels and admirals to call their offices. He knew something was up and at halftime called the AP bureau from a pay phone. “Max,” he was told, “get your ass back here. We’ve been attacked!” As soon as Max returned to the AP bureau he was told to go to the State Department. At that time the State Department was in the Old Executive Office Building, now called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. He rushed to the bottom of the steps just as Japanese diplomats Kichisaburo Nomura and Saburo Kurusu were leaving the building. Secretary of State Cordell Hull was following them, extremely angry and berating the diplomats in a loud voice. Desfor made pictures, rushed back to the AP bureau, and was told to get to the Japanese Embassy. When Desfor arrived at the Japanese Embassy, on Massachusetts Avenue, he found photographer Tom O’Halloran of Harris and Ewing and other photographers in the courtyard. They were making pictures of the embassy staff burning top-secret documents. The staff tried to prevent the photographers from making pictures by coming at them with brooms. Without any planning, the photographers broke up into two groups. While the Japanese staff chased one group with their brooms, the other group would make pictures. Desfor would see one of the Japanese diplomats again—nearly four years later, on the deck of the USS Missouri as Japanese officials signed the document of surrender that ended World War II.
Max covered the war in the Pacific. On October 6th, 1945 Max was told to get to the tiny island of Tinian as fast he could . Max made it and took the only photographs of the Enola Gay landing after it’s Hiroshima mission.
Max returned to the Pacific for AP.and covered the Indonesian Revolution. Max covered the Indian Pakistan Kashmir War. In Bombay, 1946, Max made the iconic photograph of Gandhi and Nehru.
Max won a Pulitzer prize for his coverage of the Korean War and his photograph “Flight of Refugees”.
While Max was head of AP photos in Japan, President Nixon announced that he was going to China. Max was part of AP’s on the ground team on that history trip.
Max came back to the states and became the Director of Photography for US NEWS & WORLD REPORT
Max retired years ago, and is in good health. Last November Max and his wife, Shirley, celebrated Max’s 100th birthday with a party at the National Press Club in Washington, DC
A few days ago Max called to tell me about a photograph that is on page 27 of PRESIDENTIAL PICTURE STORIES. The photograph is of Arthur Scott showing President Roosevelt the finalists in the White House News Photographers contest. The president was to select the Grand Prize Winner. Max said that I probably didn’t know that the little boy in one of the pictures was his son. Max said that his son wasn’t feeling well and had one of those prize-winning expressions so Max took the picture. The picture was prize winning but not Grand Prize winning. FDR selected the combat picture as the Grand Prize. FYI, Max’s son is feeling better. In his seventies and living in the Chicago area, he comes to visit Max often.
On the morning of February 27, 1860, a relatively unknown ex-congressman named Abraham Lincoln walked into photographer Mathew Brady’s studio at 634 Broadway in New York. In preparing the homely, clean-shaven politician for a portrait, Brady drew up Lincoln’s collar in an effort to improve his appearance. Then Brady made his picture. The result, historian Mary Panzer noted, was a portrait of a firm, determined Lincoln who had the look of a statesman.
FOR MORE OF THIS STORY, READ PRESIDENTIAL PICTURE STORIES:BEHIND THE CAMERAS AT THE WHITE HOUSE. OR view Dennis Brack telling the story at: https://vimeo.com/101659278
George Eastman purchased Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing, a bicycle company that also made cameras, in 1905. Such a combination of products was not uncommon at that time. The 4×5 Speed Graphic camera was introduced in 1912. The camera contained a cloth curtain focal plane shutter and rail-based bellows mounted on a carriage that could be folded into a tight box. Improvements, such as a front leaf shutter and a sports finder, were added over the years, but the basic camera design never changed. In 1947 the company came out with the Pacemaker Graphic, which was the same camera without the focal plane shutter.
The 4×5 Speed Graphic was the sweetheart of press photographers for sixty years. At one time sixteen of the twenty Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs were made with this bulky but durable picture-making machine. The Speed Graphic became the identifying symbol of the news photographer. 4×5 Crown Graphic.
The film was put into the back of the Speed Graphic with film holders and a slide would be pulled, much like the film holders in the Wet Plate Process. A photographer started the day with about ten film holders, each containing two sheets of film. Usually a photographer carried the holder in the camera and perhaps one holder in each coat pocket. Every exposure was important. The first thing that a press photographer would look for in a news situation was one good picture that would tell the story. It was called “making one for the bag.”
Once the photographer had that one picture, he could relax, look for something new, perhaps a feature picture, but he had to have that“one for the bag” before he did anything.
And then the battle began. Every news organization wanted to send a photo team on the biggest story of the year–the decade! The Chinese limited the number of Americans who could enter the country. When the smoke cleared only the wires and the magazines won and they sent their best photographers: Horst Faas and Bob Daugherty for the Associated Press, Frank Cancellare and Dirck Halstead for United Press International, Wally McNamee for Newsweek,and John Dominis for Time Inc. John Dominis worked for LIFE and LIFE sort of “bigfooted” the TIME photo department. These “stars,”accustomed to the support of others, had to remember old skills, which included developing their own film.
Dirck Halstead give an excellent account of his historic and exhausting journey in his book MOMENTS IN TIME (http://www.amazon.com/Moments-Time-Stories-Americas-Photojournalists/dp/B002NPCX3M)
It was a beautiful afternoon, bright sun, about 84 degrees, and LaFayette Park across the street from the White House is very pleasant at this time of the year. The president was doing an event at the Department of Veterans Affairs so a walk back to the White House was a natural. Great! First, let’s clear all of the people out of the park, better make that all the way to 17th Street. Next, stop the traffic on H Street, well, that had to be for the Presidential Limo and the tent erected over it. They would need all of H Street for the motorcade that was almost as long as the walk from the White House to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Bring on security and the White House in town traveling pool and the walk begins. The President, Vice President, and his pick to lead the Department of Veterans’ Affairs walking and talking–it almost looked like a “Photo opp”.
Most Americans remember Howard Baker as a U.S. senator, Senate majority leader and White House Chief of Staff, but the photographers remember Baker as a darned good photographer. Actually some of us thought that he would have much rather been on our side of the cameras instead of being our subject. He loved his Leicaflex which was much to heavy, (and too expensive), for news work. He processed color film in his well equipped darkroom and had mastered a technique of eliminating green, (our nemesis at that time), by adjusting development temperature.
Baker was a wonderful presidential candidate.
Ideal for his friends the photographers. I did have one problem. He had the habit of handing his Leicaflex to me to take a few pictures of him on the campaign trail. Of course, that meant that I wasn’t able to take pictures with my cameras for TIME. That was just fine for a good friend.