News

    Photos Capture Candid Presidential Moments

    Shutters clicked and flash units sparkled recently as photojournalists snapped image after image of the inauguration of President Bush. But White House photographers also capture U.S. presidents in leisure moments when they are away from the public eye. Now the National Archives in Washington is displaying 40 photos from that unique archive of presidential candids.

    "We wanted to find images of the presidents that were unexpected…that gave us a sense of what they were like as people," says Kenneth Walsh, White House correspondent for U.S. News and World Report. The weekly news magazine organized the new exhibit, titled "The American Presidency: Photographic Treasures of the National Archives." A team of eight photo editors from U.S. News selected the images from among the tens of thousands of pictures on file in the nation's presidential libraries and in the National Archives in Washington.

    Most have never been seen before. And, while none of the photos are scandalous, "some may have been kept from the public to protect the image of the President," according to Mr. Walsh. "For instance, there is a picture of President Kennedy smoking a cigar," he says. "Even though there was not the sensitivity to smoking [in the early 1960s] that there is today, that may have seemed too informal to him, not presidential."

    Although President Truman enjoyed an occasional game of poker, he likely would not have been pleased that someone took a photo of him playing cards with friends on the presidential yacht. "When he took over after Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945," says Kenneth Walsh, "people wondered if he was going to be able to fill the shoes of this historic President Roosevelt. So President Truman was always sensitive to looking presidential, to trying to look dignified and a statesman. So he didn't want the country to know how much he enjoyed poker."

    Franklin Roosevelt had his secrets, as well. Although Americans were well aware during FDR's administration that he suffered from the crippling muscle disease, polio, few realized that he couldn't walk. His handicap is apparent, however, in a photograph in the exhibition that shows the President at his home in Warm Springs, Georgia.

    "He had to wear these very heavy steel braces, one on each leg that ran from his ankles up beyond his knees," says Kenneth Walsh. "He was very sensitive to this, because he didn't want to show weakness. He couldn't really walk, but he would make it appear he was walking by having two burly men on each side of him holding his elbows. He was very strong in the upper body, so he could move his body to make it look like he was walking when he was actually being carried. He never wanted that seen. But in this photograph, it shows Franklin Roosevelt working, and you can see very visibly the braces on his legs. At Warm Springs, he could be himself, and he often wore the braces on the outside of his trousers. When he was in public, he wore them on the inside so people couldn't see them."

    Not all of the photographs in the exhibit at the National Archives reveal an aspect of U.S. presidents that was intentionally hidden from the public. Some merely reveal a playful side. Lyndon Johnson howls a duet with his dog while his young grandson looks on in amazement. Jimmy Carter races his daughter Amy to the presidential helicopter.

    Ronald Reagan tosses a paper airplane from a hotel rooftop in Los Angeles. Kenneth Walsh notes that Mr. Reagan did that frequently. "One wonders what happens," he says, "when somebody down on the street finds one of these airplanes, probably just a blank piece of paper, not knowing that the President of the United States had thrown it from the top suite."

    Moments of leisure are generally brief for presidents, who are always on call. The exhibition includes a photograph of Gerald Ford holding a meeting with his staff while still in his pajamas. It's an image Kenneth Walsh believes Mr. Ford probably would not have minded the public seeing at the time. "Ford was a pretty candid, straightforward guy," he says, "especially in contrast to the Nixon era, when there was so much secretiveness in the White House. He wanted to project that image of him being an everyday guy. Part of that was to be more open than other presidents had been, letting people see him in private moments."

    U.S. News and World Report correspondent Kenneth Walsh was surprised by the number of pictures White House photographers have taken over the years of presidents in their private moments. He says he and the team of editors who worked on the current exhibit are already planning future projects to share more of these unusual photographs with the public.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora