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Photojournalism and the American Presidency - Reading America's Photos
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"Moving The Chairs" Transcript
David Hume Kennerly:

By far, one of the biggest scoops I ever had is Reagan and Gorbachev meeting in Geneva in front of the fireplace. I requested on behalf of Time magazine to go in and photograph the summit. And to my total shock and surprise, they let me do it. I went in the day before. I just moved to L.A. already, so I flew from L.A. to Geneva. This is the night [in] November of 1985. And one of the things I noticed when we were there the day before (I was going around with the advance men) was that the chairs were so far apart. I said, "You know Reagan's kind of hard of hearing. I don't think he's going to be able to understand what's going on" plus he doesn't speak Russian—the interpreter will be there. So I moved the chairs a little bit and, you know. I said this, of course, in the back of my mind—you know, not too far in the back of my mind—is the fact that it'd be a better picture. And—and of course, then I found out they had negotiated everything so specifically—the chairs will be here and then there's only going to be one photographer from each side (one from the Soviet Union, one from America). So when they came in, they said, "There's their guy, and there's the White House guy, and then there's this other person in there." And fortunately, nobody would make a scene because we're always right in front of the leaders. So I've managed to get quite a bit of mileage out of this one.

(Audio excerpt from The Littlefield Society Symposium, March 28, 2003, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas)

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audio clipMoving The Chairs
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