The American President

The American President:
Photographs from the Archives of the Associated Press:

Presidential hopefuls burn bright, then fade.
Political parties and poll numbers rise and fall.
Presidents pass the torch, administrations change.

Through it all, one constant remains: The Associated Press’ coverage of the American president.

Ever since Zachary Taylor and the Whig Party won the White House more than 150 years ago, AP reporters and photographers have been the dominant source of presidential news for media across the U.S. and around the world.

Much of what we know about President Abraham Lincoln’s masterpiece, the Gettysburg Address, comes from the hand of AP statehouse stenographer Joseph I. Gilbert, who alone transcribed Lincoln’s original text. As President James Garfield lay dying in the White House from an assassin’s bullet, AP reporter Franklin Hathaway Trusdell listened in at the bedroom door for the sound of breathing from the mortally wounded president.

Since AP launched its WirePhoto service in 1935, the news cooperative has been no less committed to photographic coverage of the White House. AP photographers accompany the president everywhere.  Wearying routine and photo ops can yield in an instant to breaking news that moves the world and dominates front pages, broadcasts and Web sites.

AP photographer Ron Edmonds was focused on President Ronald Reagan as the president walked to his limousine after a 1981 speech in Washington. As Reagan waved to onlookers, Edmonds heard strange pops and held his motor drive shutter down. Edmonds’ exclusive photos of the assassination attempt earned him the Pulitzer Prize, one of four Pulitzers won by AP photographers for their coverage of the presidency.

For the journalists of the world’s oldest and largest news agency, the mandate of covering the White House remains the same as it was in Lincoln’s day: be accurate, be fair and be fast. For photographers, who can never catch up to a missed opportunity, it means always keeping your eye on the president.  

Content: Seventy photographs and text from the Associated Press
Available: 2013


Eisenhower and JFK at Camp David