Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1996/11/23

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Subject: Re: A room for everybody
From: Fred Ward <>
Date: Sat, 23 Nov 1996 15:43:56 -0400

re: Brian Levy s question about the White House.....

To be accredited to the White House several things have to be in place.
You have to be recognized as an authentic member of the press, usually
done by employment by a news organization, but also possible in
photography by being associated full time with one of the nationally or
internationally known agencies, and be a local resident in the
Washington area. All others get temporary passes according to need.
Everyone must also agree to and pass a Secret Service and FBI security
clearance examination.

In the case of photographers, the Secret Service and the White House
Press Office some years ago decided to let another organization handle
the question of who was a real news photographer. So you have to be a
member of the Senate Press Photographers Gallery before you apply to the
White House. 

I received my White House pass in October 1962 during the Cuban Missile
Crisis (the week I moved to Washington from Florida) and have maintained
it every two years since then. It is the only valid way to walk in and
out of the White House at will. 

I have done little work there since I spent two night-and-day months
doing the last <insider> book done on a president. I had fabulous access
in the Oval Office and in the living quarters and shot hundreds of b/w
rolls for a book published by Harper and Row called PORTRAIT OF A
PRESIDENT. I shot the book with three Leica M cameras and one Nikon F2
for telephoto work. (That was before I switched SLRs for good to Canons,
where I remain.)

You also asked if many people used Leicas at the White House, and the
answer is NO. Almost no one in the press uses Leicas. Newspapers and
magazines will not buy them usually, and most of the work is done with
motors, zooms, and at a distance. When I did the presidency book two of
the White House photographers used Leica Ms (for close work, available
light, and quiet) but the current staff uses Nikons. 

The public pictures are almost done under TV lights. The private
pictures in the Oval Office and in the living quarters are almost always
done with available light. I shot for the book often with Tri-X rated at
800, and was at 1/15 sec. much of the time in the dark corners at night,
where the light was dim. 


Fred Ward