ron and win
Ron Edmonds and Win McNamee at work in the East Room of the White House

Photographer Ron Edmonds of UPI was well-liked and respected by his peers and had bested the AP a number of times during the campaign, leading the AP to hire him at the Washington bureau.  On March 30, 1981, Edmonds was on his second day of covering the White House when Reagan made a speech at the Washington Hilton.  After the speech, Edmonds was first around the presidential limousine to make pictures of Reagan as he prepared to head back to the White House. Then Edmonds heard gunfire.  “When the first shot rang out, I saw the president’s eyes flinch,” he remembered. “I pushed the shutter down on my camera, which shoots six frames a second. Even at that speed, the Secret Service agents reacted so quickly that Reagan is only visible in three frames.”  The pictures he made were published on the front pages of newspapers around the world

Imagine being twenty feet from President Richard Nixon as he announced his decision to resign as president of the United States — and then spending the night in the Oval Office. CBS cameraman George Christian did just that, and it was his first day at the White House.

Henry Griffin accidentally dropped a clock on Dwight Eisenhower’s head on the eve of the presidential election. Ike came looking for the photographer — to buy him a drink.

Photographer Max Desfor had never made a parachute jump. The only instruction he received came from the soldier sitting next to him on the jump plane: “Try to bend your knees when you land.”  Under enemy fire, Desfor made a picture from the door of the plane, jumped, landed, and began making pictures.

Video journalist Shelly Fielman’s first day at NBC was November 22, 1963. He was handed a tape recorder and $7,000 in cash and told to get on an American Airlines flight to Dallas, Texas, to help cover the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. On his third day working for NBC, Fielman watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald.

And there is a tale to tell with each of these iconic photographs of the Kennedy years: ‘The Loneliest Job in the World,’ by George Tames. LBJ taking the oath of office, by Cecil Stoughton. John John’s salute, by Stan Stearns.

Presidential Pictures Stories: Behind the Cameras at the White House reveals the tricks, triumphs, and defeats of news photographers who have covered the executive mansion.

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