If you’ve been anywhere near the planet Earth in the past half a century, you’ll no doubt be aware that amidst the yearly mountain of images that gets produced and published worldwide, those of the sitting American President tend to be some of the most enduring, the most scrutinized, and discussed. If ever you want your image to be seen by an audience as wide as the heavens, you’ll want to photograph POTUS. But of course anyone can show up to a public ceremony, or a press conference and snap something with the President in the frame, but access to the most private, intimate, and sensitive moments is typically reserved for one, the official White House Photographer. But how do you get that job?
Perhaps more than any other White House photographer yet, Pete Souza covered Obama’s tenure in the most intimate of ways, and both his and Obama’s presence on social media have painted the the position as one to gun for. The thing is though, joining the rather select group of men (and they’ve all been men – time for a change maybe?) is probably harder than you’d expect, or at least as hard. All of the Official White House Photographers have the basics of a tight skill set, proven ability to execute, and more than a solid foundational portfolio, but so do a lot of people, so what set’s them apart?
Well for one, they tend to have some discernible engagement with the press and a party, and that alignment seems to push them right to the front of the pack. Pete Souza, for example, had joined Obama’s campaign some two years before he would become president. He had also photographed him three years prior to that, showing that you’ve got to move in the right circles. But in a nice new video from DigitalRev, they reveal that perhaps the thing most critical to raise your chances of becoming an Official White House Photographer (WHP) is to know and or work under a previous one. In an interesting chart they show a rather direct link between many generations of White House Photographers that’s hard to deny.
At this time there has been no official word on who will be the new official WHP, and given that it’s an optional position and Trump’s hostile relationship with the media there’s no guarantee there will be, though one assumes there will. And if there is, is it a job you want?