Share on Facebook

A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

8 Presidents Caught in Rare Candid Pictures

In these excerpted quotes from his book, Presidential Picture Stories, veteran photojournalist Dennis Brack chronicles the lighter—and darker—moments of photographing America's presidents.

1 / 8
Dennis Brack

President George H.W. is surprised on his 65th birthday, 1989

“Ask any Washington photographer who has been around for a while this question: ‘Who is the president that you have liked the most?’ Chances are the answer will be George H. W. Bush, or Bush 41 … Bush knew the photographers’ names as anyone would know the names of their friends.” —Dennis Brack

2 / 8
David Hume Kennerly, Ford Presidential Library

President Ford with photographers by the White House pool, 1975

“All of the photographers wanted to photograph the president using the White House swimming pool. Ford’s solution: Invite them all. On a weekend morning, the president came down to the pool wearing a white terrycloth robe. There was no presidential seal on the robe, this president did not need presidential power symbols.” —Dennis Brack

3 / 8
Jack Kightlinger, the White House

President Johnson learns of a loss of lives in Vietnam, 1968

“Ironically, it was Jack Kightlinger, a Signal Corps photographer on [White House photographer] Okamoto’s staff, who made one of the most telling photographs of the Johnson White house years: the president tearful and alone in the Cabinet room as he listened to an audiotape account of losing men in battle in Vietnam.” —Dennis Brack

4 / 8
Dennis Brack

The Clintons and Gores on their way to the inaugural, 1993

“Pinochle was the card game of choice on the Clinton bus. At one time the governor amazed a photographer by reciting the cards the photographer had in his hand the last time they played—three weeks ago.” —Dennis Brack

5 / 8
White House News Photographers Association

President Truman snaps a winning shot, 1947

For Brack’s full story, as well as more photographs from presidential history, read Presidential Picture Stories: Behind the Cameras at the White House (Dennis Brack Inc., 2013).

6 / 8
White House News Photographers Association

President Eisenhower gives his Stereo Realist Camera a try, 1954

“A painter, Eisenhower liked photographs and used them in his work on canvas. Shortly after the war, he was given a Leica with filters and several lenses. He listened to a general showing him how to operate the Leica and then said, ‘Too much damn trouble.'” —Dennis Brack

7 / 8
Dennis Brack

The Reagans at Rancho del Cielo, 1976

“During his tenure in the White House, Reagan would go to [Rancho del Cielo] every year and the press would have to spend his vacation time in nearby Santa Barbara. That helped to make presidential vacation duty at its absolute best. Once the Reagans went up the mountain, everyone knew that they were in and not to be heard from until the vacation was over.” —Dennis Brack

8 / 8
White House News Photographers Asssociation

President Roosevelt helps judge a photography contest, 1939

“For the photographers, the ‘shtick’ was Roosevelt’s cigarette holder, a pen, perhaps the tilt of his head. If a particular pose did not work, the president would suggest, ‘Let’s try one this way,’ and they would make their shot. A good picture was what the photographers were after. And Roosevelt seemed happy to see them.” —Dennis Brack

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest