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Photojournalism and the American Presidency - Reading America's Photos
Photojournalism and the American Presidency - Reading America's Photos
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"Images: The First Rough Contact Prints of History" Transcript
Lewis L. Gould, Ph.D.:

Most of what we know in the popular sense, in the popular impressions of people comes from photographs and television. The images that the photojournalists presented gradually outweighed the words and made their role in dealing with the President much more important because these really are the, to paraphrase another cliche, really the first rough contact prints of history, instead of the first rough draft.

We don't read the rough drafts any more. We look at the pictures. But, that I think, is why photographs and images have such a, almost like a fist hitting you in a way that just reading something doesn't do. So, the photojournalists, in capturing these moments, also help us to decide what we think a President is like.

Photojournalists want to have that moment when the President is frustrated or where there's a confrontation. News is about drama. Calmness, tranquility is the death of news. So they want to try and break through the screen and get to what is real about the White House, the Presidency and governing in general.

But, the role of the White House is to make sure that there is few of those unscripted moments as possible. It is the living stuff of history in a way that no other generation had.

In the 19th century, sometimes people really didn't even know what the President looked like unless they saw drawings or posters of him. I used to say; I think it's true; there are no innocent acts in the White House any more. Everything is gris for the public's mill. And, so photographs and photojournalism is one indispensable piece of the process of us trying as best we can to understand who these people are who are leading us into the future.

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"Images: The First Rough Contact Prints of History"


The Briscoe Center for American History