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The President’s Photographer: Fueling my fascination with the Clintons

04/17/2013
Alexis Leon

Alexis Leon

We are honored to have Alexis Leon as our guest author.  Alexis has been interning with our Advancement division since January 2013.  She’s a student at Virginia Commonwealth University.

I’m not entirely sure where or when my fascination with the Clintons began. Maybe it could have something to with the fact that President Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president I have an actual memory and awareness of. Or maybe it’s a result of hearing both Bill and Hillary speak in person on two different occasions, both times moving me nearly to tears.

I won’t bore you with the endless “or maybe” list, but whether you support my passion for the power couple that is Bill and Hillary Clinton, or whether you think I’m wrong on every level for drinking the Clinton Kool-aid, the point I’m trying to make is that I think every contemporary president has resonated somewhere deep and personally within the nation they have lead.

Every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama has become a modern icon, if not forever, for at least the time they sat in the oval office. Lacking in royal traditions and a historic monarchy, the president of the United States is as close to the personification of freedom and liberty and all that the country represents as the American people can possibly get. But rarely do we ever get to see through the gates of the White House past the stoic and dignified façade of POTUS and the first family.

A number of Bob McNeely’s images show President Clinton and the First Lady fully engaged on issues together, as in this moment when they are listening to a briefing on board Air Force One. (Robert McNeely/William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

A number of Bob McNeely’s images show President Clinton and the First Lady fully engaged on issues together, as in this moment when they are listening to a briefing on board Air Force One. (Robert McNeely/William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

That is until now. National Geographic’s The President’s Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office exhibition began its three-month stay at the Virginia Historical Society on March 4th. Museum visitors get an unprecedented look into the personal lives of our modern presidents. Documented by official presidential photographers, almost fifty iconic historical moments and figures are displayed in the show.

Each presidential photographer since 1963 has had a unique relationship with the respective presidents whose private and public lives they documented. It is not too shocking that Nixon’s photographer had limited access to his personal life, but visitors will be surprised by the range of behind-the-scenes images they can see on display.

My favorite photograph in the collection is a black and white shot of Bill and Hillary (surprise) taken while they were listening to a briefing while on board Air Force One. The emotional depth and concern shown on both their faces as Hilary stands behind a seated Bill reflects their simultaneously strong and expressive demeanor. One can only imagine the news being delivered as they wince and cover their mouths with their hands.

All through the collection, visitors are treated to the chance to connect emotionally with their favorite presidents and obtain a human association to the president and the first family so often seen only from an objective point of view.

The Virginia Historical Society offers free admission to this exhibition and the once in a lifetime chance to take a walk through contemporary presidential history filled with vivid and endearing imagery. But don’t wait too long to come and see it. The exhibition closes on July 8. 2013.

Periodically the Virginia Historical Society will post content created by guest writers. The opinions expressed are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Virginia Historical Society, its members, or its staff. The Virginia Historical Society encourages discussion; however, we reserve the right to remove comments that are offensive, threatening, or insulting.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 05/06/2013 12:05 pm

    Love it!

    Like

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