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.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs