Top AP Photographer Slams White House for ‘Propaganda’ Photography Practices


Top editors at the Associated Press slammed the White House — or, more specifically, the Obama Administration — last week for restricting photographers’ access to the president in favor of staged “propaganda.”

Speaking at the AP Media Editors conference in Indianapolis, director of photography Santiago Lyon said AP photographers have only been allowed to photograph President Obama twice in the Oval Office, and never with staff present.

Instead, the administration expects news outlets to rely on “handout” photos taken by official White House photographers — photos they claim are carefully cast to project a certain image of the president and his staff.

“This works because newspapers use these handout photos,” said executive editor Kathleen Carroll, according to The Daily Caller. Carroll called on news outlets to stop publishing the staged photos and join the AP in insisting on real access to the president.





The AP stepped up its criticism of the White House in April, distributing an editorial entitled “controlling the narrative while limiting media access.”

Former President Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry joined the news agency in criticizing the Obama administration’s tactics, saying, “what gets lost are those revealing moments when the president is held accountable by the representatives of the public, who are there in the form of the media.”

In the meantime, Obama lensman Pete Souza has been one of most active and visible official White House photographers ever, distributing everything from official portraits to backstage Instagram moments.

(via The Daily Caller via Natural News)

Image credits: Photographs by Pete Souza/White House

  • Jim Johnson

    Historically, how often was the press involved in Oval Office photos? Also, are photos from the Oval Office really necessary? Should all elected officials be held to that standard and have their meetings photographed by the press?

    I understand being upset that news organizations are using “official” photos, but they could just… I don’t know… not use them. I think a little more in depth reporting and less visual aids would actually be a better move than complaining about photographers’ access.

  • superduckz

    No offense but duh. If “the Medium is the message” as they say then control the medium and control the message. It’s a political wet dream.. and he’s had a pass for 2 elections and almost 6 years now. So they’re a little late with this. But whatever.

  • David Liang

    Boo Hoo. Seriously…

  • Jon Woodbury

    My question as well, How often has the AP had access to the Oval Office in the past? There’s no question that this president is a master of manipulating the media to suit his agenda, it’s been going on for years. (I’m not saying others haven’t tried, he’s just better at it.) The amazing thing is that the press is just figuring it out.

  • harumph

    Seriously? And you’re using The Daily Caller as your source for this story? Using The Daily Caller as a source is like using the Weekly World News as a source. Except the WWN doesn’t have a rabid Right Wing political agenda.

    Every time Petapixel strays into the political arena, it seems to hurt its credibility.

  • Rabi Abonour

    Previous presidents definitely have been more willing to let photographers into the Oval Office. That said, who really cares? No earth-shattering photos are going to come from inside the White House. You might get an interesting moment, but it’s not something that’s going to change the world. I don’t see this as being a big deal, especially when the Obama administration has plenty of other transparency issues that are legitimately disturbing.

  • Scott M.

    What are your sources? Are they any less political?

  • harumph

    My sources for what? The Daily Caller is know to manufacture stories. They aren’t a legitimate news source, regardless of their (obvious) politics.

  • David Vaughn

    The first things people look at in newspapers to decide if they are interested in reading the story are photos and headlines.

    Stop watching TV news if you want in-depth reporting.

  • junyo

    Except for the fact that there’s a direct link to an AP editorial in the post. Plus the fact that the story is hash tagged all over Santiago Lyon’s Twitter feed and he’s retweeting the statement. So unless he’s decided to retweet a fake story, in line with editorials previously made by his organization, the story reported by Petapixel substantially is accurate.

    It’s an all too common logical fallacy that by “discrediting” a source stating an objective fact, you somehow invalidate the objective fact. But unless you can show that Santiago Lyon did not in fact say what’s being reported, the fact that Daily Caller is the source, and whether they ‘make up stories’ is irrelevant.

  • harumph

    Hold on. I never said anything about this article being inaccurate. Talk about logical fallacies. Ever hear of a straw man? What I said was that using The Daily Caller as a source hurts Petapixel’s credibility. They could have written this same article minus the Daily Caller link .

  • junyo

    If they posted an article that wasn’t inaccurate, in what way does it risk/hurt their credibility? It doesn’t make sense that posting an accurate article would effect negatively impact their trustworthiness. Again, the source of objectively correct information is logically irrelevant. Therefore you made an implicit accusation.

  • Glenn Rubicon

    I was promised the most transparent administration in history..?..Now it seems more like Stalin and we all know that makes for great pictures..glad my Nikon DF is on the way so I can document all this BS..

  • Jim Johnson

    That was kind of my point in my post. Oval Office photos are just meant to illustrate (ie. The president met with these people– there is a photo of the president and those people). It really isn’t news.

    Besides, what photos to use are an editorial decision. I am sure there are plenty of photos of the President to use.

  • Rabi Abonour

    Yeah, I totally agree with your post. For the record, I do think that letting multiple photographers into the Oval Office has the potential to create a richer visual record of a presidency. It’s just that, while that is a good thing, I don’t think it’s exactly vital to our democracy.

  • harumph

    I have to assume that you’re deliberately misunderstanding me. Again, linking to a discredited source makes Petapixel look bad. Is it that so difficult to understand? Using The Daily Caller as a source makes anyone look foolish. The linked article is a silly partisan attack. PP could have just used the AP article and left it at that.

    Except that editorial is from April, and the only reason we’re even talking about this right now is because someone at Petapixel reads The Daily Caller.

  • harumph

    You’re going to document the rise of Obamastalinism with your DF?

  • Will

    This whole administration is just an act. What a joke.

  • Guest

    Are you saying the AP guy DIDN’T say that and the Daily Caller made it up? I’m not sure I’m following.. Or, do you just not like the source so they are off limits? Miss out on that logical fallacy class in freshman year?

  • Jim Johnson

    What are these “newspapers” you speak of?

  • DLCade

    A couple of quick things since this back and forth seems to be getting nowhere.

    Firstly, we appreciate everybody’s feedback, so thank you for discussing this in a civil manner since that’s not always the case. We appreciate opinions that differ from our own and constructive criticism of our practices is always welcomed, otherwise we’d never get any better.

    As to the main argument at hand: nobody at PetaPixel reads The Daily Caller regularly or is extremely slanted in some political orientation or another, which is probably why we’ve been accused in the comments of being both liberal scum and conservative extremists… it runs the gamut.

    There are certain search terms and feeds we follow that will bring up articles written by any number of sources, which we then check for accuracy. We were well aware of the Daily Caller’s political slant when the post went up, however we found no reason to believe the objective, factual content was inaccurate and we feel we have a duty to our source to accurately report where we found the story.

    If it somehow affects our credibility to be honest about where we first found a story, it’s a hit we are reluctant but willing to take because the other option is to pretend we had somehow stumbled across the April editorial and Mr. Lyon’s recent comments on our own.

    Again, thank you all for your feedback and never hesitate to question what we do, it keeps us on our toes!

    -DL Cade
    News Editor

  • DesertandSeas

    Mr. Johnson,
    Mr. Vaughn made two important points. Watching news, no matter the source, is just a tickler. Hahaha-nice try at humour with your gibe about “newspapers.’
    it’s up to you to find print media that fills out the story. That takes time and effort, interest and curiosity, patience and tenacity.
    Good luck.

  • Jim Johnson

    Actually, it was an attempt at sarcasm and the poor state of newspapers. However, even newspapers that are still functioning have recently begun to “dumb down” their approach to news. Short attention spans, readership with internet habits, and dwindling budgets have caused the majority of newspapers to abandon in depth reporting.

    Yes, well reported news can be found, but solid journalism is getting rarer and rarer.

  • Uncle Wig

    I don’t accuse Petapixel of promoting one political ideology or another. My accusation is general sloppiness: if you had reason to believe the Dally Caller’s article was accurate, it’s because you failed to research it on your own. Your toes – get up on ‘em!

  • cwhutchins

    What? Obama is fake? Hold the blogs.

  • Steven Wade

    And you get almost the same thing from rabid left wingers supporting ridiculous and failing legislature, and licking the ground Obama walks on. Find a news outlet without a political agenda for us.

  • MarkKalan

    “In the meantime, Obama lensman Pete Souza has been one of most active and visible official White House photographers ever, distributing everything from official portraits to backstage Instagram moments.”

    So? That’s not good enough? Smacks of jealousy.

  • Steven Wade

    Even if an article is accurate, that doesn’t make a source that is known to be not credible good to use.

  • Steven Wade

    Downvotes for truth. Who would have thought?

  • DesertandSeas

    I don’t know what your credentials are-so can’t agree with your statement about solid journalism.
    I find most of the national and international English speaking major papers of major cities to be reputable and reliable. USA Today is a good example of your observations. Bird cage liner, or a tickler about a subject, but certainly not anything else to this reader.

  • derekdj

    Sounds like the AP is just upset that they don’t have access to the inner sanctum, after all that is their bread and butter. I can’t believe Mr Lyon is that naive in thinking having a pool of photographers in the Oval Office is going to buy them “more” candid moments of the President. Additionally, Mike McCurry of all people should know better, perhaps if the Oval Office was full of photographers 24/7 President Clinton would have to get his blowies in the Lincoln bedroom.

    Does the AP really think you’re going to get more transparency with more photographers in the room? Politicians become more guarded with the increase presence of the media not less. Just look at the ridiculous Kabuki that happens when foreign dignitaries meet with the President. If anything the moments that are captured by Pete Souza are much more telling that anything that comes out of the photo mob.

    Besides, I highly doubt important moments like the Cuban missile crisis, the decisions to not send troops into Rwanda, the planning sessions to invade Iraq, or the authorization to kill Bin Laden would’ve taken place with a pool of photographers in the Oval Office.

  • nullhogarth

    Why is PP interested in making the President look bad? Doesn’t Obama have enough problems without this piling on?

  • nullhogarth

    Well, I DO accuse PP of bias. The story’s entire purpose was to make this President look bad, and if PP wasn’t aware of it, they certainly should have been.

  • Sir_Elton_Juan

    The main purpose of the White House Photographer is to document presidential history as it evolves, the photographer is not responsible for making them look or bad, their job is to document history. It is sad that this president does not understand the historic importance of that breadth of work and how important it is for future generations to see and appreciate.

  • Robert Padgett

    Just sour grapes. The Washington Media is the most controlled in the nation. They are spoon-fed what the administrations want them to report. The photographs that accompany the stories are eye candy. There is no room for enterprise. And no one is willing to really “rock the boat’, especially with the Christmas dinner at the White House upcoming. The desire to be included over-rules to desire to give the nation an objective visual reportage. For photographers, being on the White House pool is the pinnacle of their career. They may whine about access, but nobody wants to lose their seat on Air Force One.

  • Srkeegan

    I agree. You should shed a tear for journalism in this country. It’s dying right along with our freedom, and that’s no coincidence.

  • Srkeegan

    They were quoting AP—a straight news organization you goof!

  • Mike

    Print media should just ignore all handout photos of president, and leave him without any coverage at all.

  • John Adkins

    Lol, uh-oh PP, you stepped on the Messiah’s toes, look out! ;)

  • MikeD

    Anything from any modern WH is vetted and approved by all types of staffers. Just like any kind of corporate PR department the images are going to promote their product/point of view, Pete Souza is no different, just another cog in the machine… Any kind of historical record is incidental to the message…

  • harumph

    No, they were quoting an article posted at the Daily Caller. The Daily Caller got that quote from blogger Jack Lail (“Director of Digital”), not the Associated Press. The AP article/editorial is something completely separate. If you re-read my comments you’ll see that I was objecting to the link from the Daily Caller. The AP article/editorial is from 7 months ago and the Daily Caller is simply recycling it as if it were current news. This is a non-story all around. The article is just meant to be red meat for the Obama haters. Just look at the comment section at the Daily Caller.

  • marquisdesloth

    Obama=cia child

  • marquisdesloth

    Looks like Pete Souza’s become this administration’s Leni Riefenstahl (see note below).

    Leni Riefenstahl found fame in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Leni Riefenstahl became Nazi Germany’s most famous film maker. In a state where women played a secondary role to men, Riefenstahl was given a free hand by Hitler to produce propaganda films for the Nazi regime.

  • Captain Eddie

    AP should refuse to publish ANY images of Obama$$ as retaliation for his B.H.O.BS.
    Boycot the clown and see how he likes that. There is no law that requires AP to photograph him and his tribe anyway.

  • Fullstop

    Brand loyalty at it’s saddest.

  • derekdj

    Of course, but how is that different than having a mob of AP photographers in the room? The President and staff would be even more guarded. Pete Souza’s photos are of course selected by staffers but what he is capturing is still more of the moment than any photo mob.

    Again, this just sounds more like AP being pissed at not having access, that’s how they make their money.

  • James

    I mean compare the images where there is just one photographer to the ones where he’s running away from an army of them. They’re just better. Sure that might mean that they only get and publish flattering pictures of him, but honestly I’d prefer a world where we never see pictures of him picking his nose, and I don’t blame him for preferring it either.