On November 21st of last year, 30 major news and media organizations issued a formal letter of protest with the White House claiming they have been denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while performing his official duties.
The complaint cited the Administration’s over-dependence on handout imagery and distribution of images via social media, equating the material to “visual press releases.” A subset of these organizations also pledged not to publish this content any longer.
The aim of this discussion was to better understand this disagreement. Some of the issues are historical. Others are new, involving the ability (and skill) of the Obama White House to distribute imagery to the public and the press via social media. Basing our conversation around a key set of photos, our primary question is — what is the goal of access today and how can we best understand the visual strategies when both institutions, the media and the White House, are operating with the dual agenda to sell and inform?
We were pleased to present a very esteemed panel, with three photo professionals with White House credentials, two renowned press photographers, and a visual academic with deep knowledge of White House imagery. Beside having two women White House photographers participate (for the first time in any discussion forum, as far as we know), we were thrilled that photographer Dennis Brack also participated from inside the White House itself.
If you’re new to our site, the BagNewsSalon brings together the eyes and voices of the world’s leading photojournalists, editors, visual academics and other informed observers to analyze select edits of news photographs in a 90 minute on-line discussion format. Below you’ll find video highlights from the “hangout” as well the full broadcast, the accompanying slideshow and the list of panelists.
Video segments include: Control & Access: The White House AirForce 1 Johannesburg photos. Anonymity vs. Intimacy: Does it Matter Who the Photographer Is? Irony & Lack of Access: The Creativity of NY Times Photographer, Stephen Crowley. Emotional Style: Why One Photographer is not Enough. The State Dinner Crashers: The Photo and the Backstory. Propaganda: How Much does the White House Release Photos for Political or “Propaganda” Reasons? Social Media, Production and the White House Press Office.
This White House photo was released to the public and distributed via social media two-and-a-half-weeks after the media protest letter. It captures George Bush showing his paintings to Hillary Clinton and the staff of the administration. The Bushes were accompanying the Obamas on a 16 hour flight to Johannesburg for a memorial event for Nelson Mandela. Why was this AirForce 1 photo released by the White House? Why was access to this moment restricted? Why can’t outside photographers have this kind of selective access? The clip features Barbara Kinney, Stephen Crowley, Dennis Brack and Mike Davis.Watch Now
Does it really matter who is photographing the President or the First Lady? How much is the President’s relationship with that photographer a factor? Also, does it matter if the photographer is a man or a woman? The clip features Barbara Kinney and Samantha Appleton. (Kinney also discusses this photo, having followed Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton into a washroom, at 53:40 in the full broadcast below.)Watch Now
This clip looks at the photo media’s visual response to less White House access. It features Stephen Crowley on creative ways of working "the other side of the table" and Dennis Brack on offering “the other side” of events with history in mind.Watch Now
One primary reason it's important to have different photographers covering the president. This clip features Mike Davis and Samantha Appleton.Watch Now
Samantha Appleton on the couple that crashed the White House State Dinner for the Indian Prime Minister and the White House handling of the photograph.Watch Now
What are the reasons for releasing a White House photograph? How scripted are White House photos? Mike Davis on releasing White House photos on 9/11. Samantha Appleton on creating impressions versus the authenticity of the Obamas.Watch Now
Take a closer look at some of the images from our larger photo edit.