by Dirck Halstead
come in all sizes and colors.
newspaper photographers, magazine photographers, military photographers,
documentary photographers, sports photographers, lifestyle photographers,
underwater photographers, and on and on.
One of the
rarest of the breed is the presidential photographer. Today,
many world leaders have their personal photographers, but until
1960, the concept of a documentary photographer who would slip
into the halls of power, and be allowed to capture moments of
decision and crisis on film, was unheard of. We are talking
about TOTAL ACCESS. The right of a photographer to enter the
Oval Office with no appointment, and quietly go about his work.
was the first U.S. president to allow this kind of continuing
coverage. Kennedy liked photographers, and had developed close
relationships with the ones covering his campaign. Kennedy's
military aide, General Clifton (formerly the Army's chief of
information), decided to build on this affinity. Clifton brought
in an Army Lieutenant, Cecil Stoughton, who believed a cumbersome
4 x 5 Speed Graphic was not the only camera to use in this situation.
shed his uniform for civilian clothes, came into the White House
with his Hasselblad cameras, and started to shoot in natural
light. A young photographer, serving out his military time in
Clifton's office, named Dirck Halstead, was also brought over
on occassion to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
fateful day in Dallas, Stoughton was there to witness Lyndon
Johnson being sworn in as president, aboard Air Force One, after
the death of Kennedy. From then on, with the exception of the
Carter administration, all presidents of the United States have
had their own personal photographer.
the appointment to this post results from a relationship developed
between the president and the photographer, often forged during
the election campaign.
a Washington freelancer, started down this path by working as
a volunteer during the McGovern campaign in 1972. He was a Vietnam
vet, and wanted to help the Democratic cause. He was there with
Eagelton, McGovern's running mate, when he admitted having had
electric shock therapy. "I didn't think it was big deal," McNeely
recalls. But reporters told him Eagelton would be off the ticket
in a week, "And they were right!"
McNeely spent some time on the Carter campaign, but his heart
wasn't in that race. For 14 years McNeely avoided the world
of politics and pursued his own projects, working for magazines
and commercial clients. In January of 1992, some of the former
Carter White House staff asked him if he would volunteer to
cover the campaign of an upstart Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton.
Still, McNeely thought the whole thing was a long shot, and
decided to wait it out, that is, until he watched Clinton stride
across 6th Avenue to accept the Democratic nomination. "I said,
'Gee, that guy might actually make it!'" It wasn't long before
he was on-staff chronicling Clinton's march to the White House.
next six years, each morning McNeely would be waiting in the
oval office when the president came down from the residence.
He decided to shoot in black and white (other members of the
White House photo staff shot in color), in order to make a historic
record of virtually every meeting -- every detail of the president's
daily life. The key to his success, according to McNeely, was
that he could do "a pretty good imitation of a chair."
show the chaotic early months, as the new team from Arkansas
tried to wrestle control of Congress and the political agenda.
They chronical the crushing defeat in 1994, when the Democrats
lost Congress; the many trips and meetings with world leaders;
and the tender (sometimes tense) relationship with the first
lady. These are truly pictures from "inside" that only someone
who had gained the trust of the president could be allowed to
McNeely left his job at the White House to set up a project
to document the 2000 political race, from the candidates running
for local and state office, right up to the the men who were
battling it out for the presidency. From Republicans to Democrats
to Reform Party candidates, Bob has spent most of the past year
on the road covering them all.
always worked for one candidate, and I never felt I was really
doing something for me, something that I could leave for history
that showed how this process works. It's like a big circus,
watching the lion tamer trying to keep from getting eaten. But
it's also all about America, the wonderful places you visit,
and the people of all kinds coming out to watch the process,
it's been just wonderful."
"The Clinton Years," a gallery of McNeely's photographs
of President Clinton. The book on this project has just been
released by Callaway. His work will be on display this month
in the Govinda Gallery
in Washington, D.C.
of the presentation is his new work, the pictures he took for
himself on the campaign trail, along with his comments. Enjoy
this look at "Politics 2000."
would like to thank Kodak for their continuous support for the
Photo 2000 project.