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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkey Islamists

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora