Excerpted from the introduction to "The President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office" by John Bredar. Scroll down to see a slide show of iconic images of past Presidents, as well as of President Obama."
"There is something about a still image, especially of a President, that sort of sears in your mind over time," says Pete Souza, President Obama's photographer. "Whereas I don't think video does that. Maybe with video you can learn more about a particular situation because it has sound. But a still photograph can become more iconic and I think can settle in your mind.
It may also be that those indelible moments, like Stoughton's photo of LBJ, visual touchstones of history, are more likely to be captured by a talented still photographer than by a filmmaker.
"I think a still camera is less intrusive," explains Don Carleton, a historian at the University of Texas at Austin. "I think that a person taking still photographs has an opportunity to take more candid images because it's easier to forget that that person's taking pictures. With a camera crew, they bring in lights and they bring in all these people with sound; it's a whole different atmosphere. It's less intrusive. Nothing captures an event or a moment, in my mind, like a still image."
The point about sound is especially important in politics. A picture is worth a thousand words, but most Presidents are going to be a lot more candid if the broader public can't hear those words. "Still photos don't talk," says David Hume Kennerly, President Ford's photographer, highlighting their chief virtue. "These sanitized day-in- the-life TV things where the correspondent comes in and walks around next to the President, surgically attached to him for the day, you know, into a meeting, and all that -- it's all BS, it's all a show. The real work of the White House just can't happen with a video camera on. There's just no way. I mean you would have that stuff being subpoenaed every 20 minutes. Still photography I think very nicely conveys what's happening but in a more discreet fashion."
"The President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office" by John Bredar with a forward by Pete Souza will be available for purchase on Nov. 2 at National Geographic and all other major book dealers.