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;

  • 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.

  • Bruce Dale’s new video is seven minutes that will inspire photographers young and old.

    John's FolliesBruce Dale knows how to tell stories with pictures.  Everyone has seen his stories on the pages of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC .  Bruce has been interested in video story telling for some time and not surprisingly he has been exploring ways to use drones with this video.  Bruce’s talented friend Mark Godrey  helped in the editing.  The story is about an interesting man and his passion of working with stone in Rappahannock County.

    Take a look:

  • Article on Conflict Photography on the Photoshelter blog

    Since Robert Fenton photographed the Crimean War, photographers have gravitated to conflict zones.  Most have had no training and many have suffered from their lack of knowledge.  Dirck Halstead once told me as he has told others,  ”Show me a photograph that is worth your arm, your leg…”

    Take a look at this Photoshelter blog to read Jason P. Howe’s post of covering conflicts. Jason along with photography legends Martin MiddlebrookJavier Manzano, andEric Bouvet have started a Conflict Photography Workshop which should be a must for every young photographer who is considering documenting wars.


  • The White House Press Charters

    The White House Pan Am press charter arrives in Athens Greece in July 1991,photo by Dennis Brack

    The White House Pan Am press charter arrives in Athens Greece in July 1991,photo by Dennis Brack

    Reporters and photographers have traveled with president for years on ships, trains, and busses.  This travel is NOT at the expense of the United States Tax payer.  The press pays their own way.  Since the Truman administration the airline charter has been the usual transportation.  All of the expenses on a trip,  (the airline charter, the ground transportation, the telephone lines, everything) is added up and then divided by the number of press on the particular trip,  There is always a media pool on Air Force One and each member of the pool pays the same amount as the press on the charter.  The cost of the charter has increased and the number of media traveling with the president have decreased, so the cost of the seats for the traveling presidential press today has become frightfully expensive. One of the last trips to the Far East ran from sixty to seventy-five thousand dollars a seat.  The press charters are decreasing in number and coverage is often left to the Air Force One pool.  Of course, each organization in the Air Force One pool pays for this travel.

    National Airlines was the first airline to fly a press charter. It was from Washington National Airport to Boca Chita, Florida.  President Truman read his morning news thanks to a daily delivery of the New York and Washington newspapers courtesy of John Morris, the National Airlines vice president. The first overseas press charter flight, in October 1950, was a Pan American World Airways Stratocruiser that accompanied Truman from Washington to St. Louis, San Francisco, Hawaii and then Wake Island for a meeting between Truman and General Douglas MacArthur. Pan American was the logical choice for the

    The White House press coming down the steps of a Pan Am press charter at the summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland on October 11, 1986  Photo by Dennis Brack

    The White House press coming down the steps of a Pan Am press charter at the summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland on October 11, 1986 Photo by Dennis Brack

    charter because it had been serving Wake Island for years as a refueling stop for its sea planes. On the island, Truman rested for an hour or two at the quonset living quarters of the Pan American station manager.

    The press charters were part of the Carter travel to Japan in 1979 to attend an economic summit.  Economic summits were major stories in the seventies and eighties. It was planned as a long trip covering Japan and Korea, but the stop that was of particular interest to the members of the press was a three- day rest stop in Hawaii on the return. In Korea, Carter feared that pictures of the president and first lady relaxing on a beach would not be received favorably while Americans were waiting in long gas lines so he decided to return to Washington. No three-day rest stop. The press was not happy and decided to party. Drinks flowed, and soon a couple with their earphones on started dancing in the aisles. Others followed and the entire plane turned into a disco—not your average airline flight.

    Naomi Nover was not your average correspondent. Always in a blue dress, sometimes one with white polka dots, she made all of the foreign trips during the Carter years—and those during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Her husband, Barney Nover, had been a correspondent for the Washington Post and the Denver Post. When he retired in 1971 he founded the Nover News Service with his wife. After her husband’s death, Naomi Nover kept her press creden- tials. No one could ever find a client for the Nover News Service, but that did not stop her. She would sign up for every foreign presidential trip and was the first to send in a check for the White House travel

    Naomi takes a picture of the Press at the Ambassador's residence in London, UK

    Naomi takes a picture of the Press at the Ambassador’s residence in London, UK

    office invoice.  Naomi—everyone knew her by her first name—had a grand- motherly, Mrs. Doubtfire-like appearance that disguised an aggressive force not to be taken lightly. Once, at the Capitol, she rushed to the ladies room, only to find all of the stalls occupied. She managed to open one, ripped a woman off the toilet, and yelled, “Sorry, I’m on deadline.” The thing was, Naomi had no deadlines.

    Photographers tried to give Naomi a wide berth, but it was difficult. She carried a point-and-shoot camera and thought she was entitled to be in the photographers’ areas. During a trip to Britain, Carter was working a rope line in Newcastle when he lifted a plump, ugly baby. For photographer Dick Swanson, on assignment for People, it was a perfect picture. He did a “Hail Mary” over Naomi to take the photo. She turned so that she was facing Swanson, smiled, and with all her strength kneed him in the groin.

    More than once, members of the White House travel office staff had to run to escape Naomi’s umbrella as she swung it toward their heads. Hotel staff also could suffer her wrath. Naomi complained about her bill at one hotel, but the clerk told her that records showed that she had cleared out the mini bar. She opened her huge blue purse and dumped a refrigerator full of little bottles on the hotel’s counter.   Naomi was always trying to sneak into press pools. When President Ronald Reagan and the first lady were touring the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, China, she was determined to get in the floor pool position.   A Chinese guard blocked her. Gary Schuster, a reporter for the Detroit News, pointed to Naomi and showed the guard a one-dollar bill with its presidential portrait—Naomi did look a lot like George Washington—and told the guard, “Very famous.” The guard bowed and allowed her to join the photographers.

    Naiomi Nover in April 1978 Photo by Dennis Brack

    Naiomi Nover in April 1978
    Photo by Dennis Brack

  • Presidents and Photographers Talk

    DB LBJ Scar 1The Arlington Central Library taped a talk that I did recently.  Rob Farr and Peter Golkin did an excellent job. Take a look.

  • Snow Day at the White House

    Photographs by Dennis Brack

    White House in the snow

    President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico  is making an official visit to the White House and then staying for lunch.  Protocol calls for an honor guard for the arrival and the Old Guard would not be stopped by one to three inches of snow.  It was quickly cleared by the Department of Interior brand new John Deer minitractors–the White House is a national park afterall.

    Washington Snow.Pebble Beach was iced over.  The stakeout cameras pointed towards West Executive Avenue were frozen.

    Washington Snow.



    One of the stakeout tripods was frozen solid.  Never buy a used stake out tripod.Photo by Dennis Brack