About a week after Inauguration Day this year, the White House announced that seasoned photojournalist Shealah Craighead would be the Trump administration’s official photographer.
This isn’t Craighead’s first turn in the White House. She previously worked as a photographer for Laura Bush during the former first lady’s time in the White House, and later, she worked with Sarah Palin when she was the vice presidential candidate. During the 2016 election season, Craighead documented the travels of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Her photos of the Trump administration have not been published as quickly as those taken by her predecessor, Pete Souza, who worked with former President Obama. In her first major interview since taking the job, she explained to PBS News Hour why it took some time to establish herself within the administration.
“For the first month or so he’d say, ‘Why are you here?’ Or: ‘What are you doing?’ Or, ‘You have more golf photos of me than [anything else],'” Craighead told PBS.
In order to gain his trust, Craighead said she had to show President Trump why her role was important.
“I didn’t come in cameras and gun blazing, saying, ‘This is my job and I’m entitled to do this or that.’ I came in with the expectation that I’m going to need to gain the trust of a client and person who I have not worked with before … Once we got through that part, he was able to see my style and gain the trust that I’m very protective over the images that go out for both of our sakes,” she said.
“His failure is my failure, if he gets flak for that that’s on me. I err on the side of caution.”
She added: “But the president’s personality is gregarious. What you see on TV is exactly what you get off camera. I appreciate that. He likes photos, that’s no secret. I’m happy to engage in that. Both for him and the administration and the country, and his private archives later on down the road. You learn what they like or don’t like, preferences in terms of space or lighting.”
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