UC Berkeley News


To preserve, protect, defend, and hang out
Presidents keeping busy are the focus of this photo exhibit

| 27 August 2008

Like the art of photography itself, presidential image-making has come a long way since the days of the first formal, daguerreotype portraits of William Henry Harrison. Nowhere is the form on better display than in “The American President,” a collection of black-and-white and color images of U.S. presidents, future presidents, and former presidents — along with the odd would-be president — taken by Associated Press photographers over the past century and a half. Selections from the traveling exhibit are on display at the Graduate School of Journalism throughout this election season.

The exhibit includes photos of presidents from the Civil War to the New Deal and on to the present day. It shows presidents during political campaigns and during wartime, enmeshed in governmental crises and personal scandals. Some are on their way to the White House; others are back in private life, such as it was.

The gallery will be on view at North Gate Hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through Inauguration Day (Jan. 20, 2009). In conjunction with the exhibit, a panel discussion will feature former AP White House correspondents Rita Beamish and Scott Lindaw, a former Washington, D.C., news editor for AP, and senior AP White House photographer Ron Edmonds. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10, in Sibley Auditorium.

Below, we explore resonances among and between pairs of presidential photos, selected from the array of images now on exhibit at North Gate Hall.


Top: NEW YORK CITY/August 1980 (Dave Pickoff/AP)
Citing the blighted area as an example of the failures of the Carter administration, Republican Ronald Reagan stumps in the South Bronx during the 1980 campaign, on the heels of an address to the National Urban League. Known as the Great Communicator, Reagan is widely credited as a pioneer of presidential stagecraft.

Above: RICHMOND, Va./October 1992 (Marcy Nighswander/AP)
One of a group of photographs that won a Pulitzer Prize for AP’s photographers, this image captures a couple of upstarts — former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and Texas business tycoon Ross Perot — doing battle with incumbent President George H.W. Bush during their second 1992 TV debate. Clinton, for those with short memories, went on to the White House, while Bush would find himself, eight years later, father of the nation’s 43rd president.


Top: ANTIETAM, Md./1862 (Alexander Gardner/AP Photo Archive)
President Abraham Lincoln, wearing his iconic top hat, stands with Union Army Gen. George McClellan (facing Lincoln) and the general’s staff for a portrait during the Civil War.

Above: WASHINGTON, D.C./October 1962 (AP)
A century later, President John F. Kennedy — like Lincoln, soon to be cut down by an assassin — confers with his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, at the White House during the buildup of military tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that would culminate in the Cuban missile crisis. The younger Kennedy, a reluctant Democratic candidate for president in 1968, would be assassinated in Los Angeles on the night of his victory in the California primary.

Time Off

Top: WASHINGTON, D.C./February 1945 (AP)
Harry Truman, shown here while serving as vice president in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, tickles the ivories as Lauren Bacall shows off her sultry stuff atop his piano during an appearance at the National Press Club canteen. Such lighthearted moments would soon become a rarity for Truman, who was to become president — and commander-in-chief during wartime — upon Roosevelt’s death just two months later.

Above: NEW ENGLAND/May 1939 (AP)
With a guide at the oars, former President Herbert Hoover — whose term of office coincided with the start of the Great Depression — displays a trout he caught. The Republican, who was ousted from the White House by FDR, caught 10 fish — the legal limit — on what he described as “a perfect afternoon.”


NEW YORK CITY/June 1942 (AP)
Six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a float carrying a massive bust of President Franklin Roosevelt rolls up Fifth Avenue in New York City during a Flag Day-themed war parade. FDR would die in office almost three years later, less than a month before the fall of Nazi Germany and four months before the Japanese surrendered, bringing World War II to an end.


KEYSTONE, S.D./August 2OO2 (Ken Lambert/AP)
In a bit of image-management either inspirational or ironic, self-described “war president” George W. Bush is seen here at the base of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in between the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan (October 2001) and Iraq (March 2003). The monument was the site for a Bush speech on homeland security and the budget.

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