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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs