The official White House Flickr account is finally active again, after sitting empty for 90 days since Donald Trump became president. 23 photos were uploaded by the administration today, and so far each is captioned with “Photo of the Day” followed a specific date ranging back to March 15th.
The subjects vary from a photo of Trump at the White House Easter Egg Roll, to one of Neil Gorsuch being sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court, to an image of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick from just yesterday. The first image uploaded was of a meeting between Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Tom Price (the secretary of Health and Human Services), and Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
One of the White House’s web outposts is back from the dead
These are not the awful, blurry cell phone photos Trump and his staff have been posting to Twitter. Instead, most were taken by Trump’s official White House photographer, Shealah Craighead and what appears to be the rest of her staff. A handful were taken by Defense Department photographer D. Myles Cullen.
Started in 2009 by Barack Obama’s photographer Pete Souza, the White House Flickr account became a major repository for the pictures taken by the official White House photography staff. When Trump became president in January, though, all the photos from the Obama administration were moved to their own separate Flickr account, and the official account was wiped clean.
The move was part of a larger transitioning of the social media accounts and websites from one administration to the next, and the Flickr account was far from the only one to go dark. (A “photos” section of the official White House website has also gone missing.) Until today, though, it was unclear whether Trump’s team would keep the Flickr account alive.
Trump’s presidency is different from Obama’s in a number of ways. But it also looks a lot different. The administration favors sharing blurry, low-resolution cell phone photos over those taken by a professional photographer. So we talked to some experts about what that means for the visual history of Trump’s time in office.
Trump has had an official White House photographer — Shealah Craighead — since the week following his inauguration, but the availability of her photos has been more restrained than Souza’s. Most have gone straight to newswire services, while a few have showed up on Twitter, Instagram, and in a gallery on the official Facebook account for the president. A close reading of her photographs also seems to imply that she does not have the same kind of access Souza had with Obama, something I broke down in a piece earlier this month.
This could be strategic, or just a symptom of the administration’s disarray. Before becoming the official White House photographer, Craighead was reportedly shooting the inauguration with help from official military photographers, and even asked Al Anderson, the Obama administration’s picture editor, to stay on while she staffed up the department.
Anderson obliged, but told the National Press Photographer’s association that he only lasted two additional weeks working in the understaffed photo department. “It didn't take very long — matter of two days, maybe — for me to know that I was very thankful it wasn’t a permanent job,” Anderson said.
Update April 20th, 5:17PM ET: The links to the individual pages for the White House’s photos on Flickr were broken at first, but now work. The story has been updated to reflect this.