In my post earlier today, I mentioned a Twitter discussion about photojournalism, as well as a Politico article about how the Obama administration is treating the press corps. From there, I read up more on Pete Souza, whom the Obama administration has hired as the chief White House photographer.
First, I read PDN’s Jan. 5 article introducing Souza as the chief photographer. After reading the first few sentences, I began to wonder about the nature of the job… especially since Souza was the only photographer present at Obama’s retaking his oath of office (an event at which no other cameras, including television cameras, were allowed).
So, I posted the following two-part update on my Twitter:
Reading about White House photog Pete Souza. Pondering: if I were offered the job of White House photog, would I accept?
Mainly, would any journalism outlet hire me as a photographer after having been basically the PR photog for the White House?
This began the following conversations:
- with @jakowsky:
Joel: yes, they probably would. look at Souza, he worked for as WH photog under Reagan then went to the Chicago Trib. the WH photog is more than a PR photographer, sure there’s lots of grip and grins, but you’re documenting history
Me: Truth, about Souza and the job’s being more than PR. But still, not much enterprise/reporting involved (obviously). Hired photogs/press secretaries can find jobs in journ afterward (example: Stephanopoulous), but still – something to think about.
Joel: if anything it would give you a more intimate understanding of the subject that you were covering. the enterprising aspect comes in finding new ways to photograph your subject
Me: Re: intimate understanding – True, but I wouldn’t hire Souza to cover the White House/D.C. after Obama’s administration.
Joel: true, maybe not the very next administration, but possibly subsequent ones
Me: I agree on that point. But re: enterprise – much of the value of that comes from finding the stories, not being taken to an event.
Joel: thats the reporter in you talking, i’m speaking from purely a photographic standpoint you have ultimate access to be creative
Me: Ultimate access is def a plus of the job, can’t argue with that. But yeah, I’m def speaking as a reporter/journalist.
- with @jefflphoto
Jeff (also directed at Joel): But after a high-paying PR job with benefits and name recognition why bother going back to journalism?
Joel: i would, unless offered another similar job someplace else. or i’d teach, like Souza did
Me: Because journalism is more satisfying/fulfilling on a personal level then [sic] PR? For some people, anyway. At least, for me.
Jeff: Oh I know. That was mostly sarcasm.
- with @kev097
Kevin: You’re crazy to waver. Essentially the best photo-j assignment ever, job that’ll be there in 4 yrs (unlike journalism outlet).
Me: But there’s no journalism involved. You’re an event photographer. The job’s only journalistic value lies in recording history. Whereas journalism implies some degree of original enterprise, WH photog just gets assigned events/handshaking PR jobs.
- with @ahemphill
Adam (also directed at Kevin): By no means do I think Sousa is going to shoot only grip-and-grins—he wouldn’t have taken the job if that was true.
Me: Truth. Still. While the job entails a lot of pressure dare I say it nevertheless seems too easy? Maybe I’m actually jealous
Adam: Yeah, maybe that’s it. (Me too.) q :
I later found another PDN article — published in late October — in which four former White House photographers reflected on their experiences and shared their perceptions and observations of the job. It’s worth mentioning that Pete Souza is the first photographer in the article.
The article is definitely worth reading, and clarified a few points of concern for me, especially with regard to the line the White House photographer treads between being a PR photographer and a photojournalist. I almost wish I’d read it before tweeting my concerns about the perhaps not-so-journalistic nature of the White House photographer’s job, but no regrets. It was a good Twitter conversation with good Tweeple.
P.S. — I posted three entries today. This kind of frequency will not be a regular thing on this blog.