You Won’t Find the Trump White House on Flickr

You Won’t Find the Trump White House on Flickr

In April 2009, the Obama Administration made the historic move of uploading 293 photos to a newly minted White House Flickr feed. Although White House photographers had been capturing Presidents regularly since Kennedy, this was the first time that the public had access to a larger, regularly updated pool of images captured by Pete Souza and his staff. Prior to Flickr, the public was largely relegated to searching the terse interface of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The images also prompted Flickr to create a new designation of “United States Government Work” to augment the extant copyright and Creative Commons categorizations. By law, governmental works cannot be copyrighted since taxpayer money funds their creation (it’s the same reason NASA images aren’t copyrighted).

“The great thing about children is you just don’t know what they will do in the presence of the President. So when David Axelrod stopped by the Oval Office with one of his sons’ family, Axe’s granddaughter, Maelin, crawled onto the Vice President’s seat while the President continued his conversation with the adults. Then at one point, Maelin glanced over just as the President was looking back at her.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Obama images were more than “grip and grin” moments. They sought to humanize a President derided by the right and beloved by the left. Political affiliations aside, they were brilliant photos that illustrated a tremendous amount of trust between photographer and subject. And Souza and his staff made thousands of photos available via Flickr. For photo geeks, the EXIF data also provided some insight into the gear and settings used by the White House staff.

A week after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, the White House announced the appointment of Shealah Craighead as Souza’s successor. The Obama Flickr feed was promptly moved to a new location to make room for the Trump administration, but two months later, not a single image has been uploaded. Not even the cover image has been changed from the default.

There is, of course, no obligation for any President to use Flickr or any other social media for that matter. Trump famously uses Twitter, but his use of photography so far has been limited.

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold a joint press conference on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Benjamin D. Applebaum)

On the POTUS Facebook feed, a single album entitled “The First 50 Days” with most images credited to Craighead have been available for a few weeks, and on Instagram, the administration has made 25 posts. But the images are standard in their depiction of the presidency. With the exception of a moment with Ivanka Trump, the images are largely of the “grip and grin” variety.

Holding her youngest son Theodore, Ivanka Trump talks on the phone in the East Colonnade of the White House, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

There’s no conspiracy here, but it is curious that such a media-savvy person as Trump isn’t making more use of photography to enhance his image. It certainly isn’t for a lack of potential feel-good moments either. As for the Flickr feed, I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains empty for his tenure. It seems Making America Great Again doesn’t require photography.

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Allen Murabayashi is the co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. vio at 11:28 am

    Maybe the photos are still waiting to get approved by President Trump himself, it wouldn’t surprise me. We all know by now how careful he is with his image.

  2. Karl at 7:58 pm

    I am a true PhotoShelter fan. I hope politics does not become part of the conversation here. I, for one, am tapped-out on the crowing & whining about how the election turned out. It’s been more than 4 months.

    Let’s look to the positive.

  3. Dana at 10:25 am

    Karl I could not agree with you more! I am so over all the negativity and tired of people looking to make a story out of every little thing.

  4. Kyle at 10:56 am

    Are there photos from the current administration on the NARA website? A lot of the pictures shared on social media– which often seems to be the only source– are low resolution and suffer from compression. Many appear to be have been taken with mobile phones– recall Kellyanne Conway on the couch. I hope there is actually a professional photographer in the room documenting everything for posterity, as has been the case in past administrations, and not just on select occasions.

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