Saw It On The Radio

Who Gets To See The President's Pajamas?

What's it like to see the president in his pajamas? There are a few people who might know: his children, the first lady, perhaps his highest aides — and his photographer.

  • President George H. W. Bush's photographer David Valdez developed a warm relationship with the Bushes beginning when Bush was Vice President. He made this picture in the Bushes' bedroom at Kennebunkport, Maine.
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    President George H. W. Bush's photographer David Valdez developed a warm relationship with the Bushes beginning when Bush was Vice President. He made this picture in the Bushes' bedroom at Kennebunkport, Maine.
    David Valdez/National Geographic
  • Considered by many to be one of his iconic images so far, Pete Souza captured an intimate moment between President Obama and the First Lady on a freight elevator in Washington's convention center, on Inaugural night, 2009.
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    Considered by many to be one of his iconic images so far, Pete Souza captured an intimate moment between President Obama and the First Lady on a freight elevator in Washington's convention center, on Inaugural night, 2009.
    Pete Souza/National Geographic
  • A few weeks after inauguration, President Obama, the First Lady, friends and members of Congress donned 3-D glasses while watching a commercial during Super Bowl XLIII in the family theater of the White House.
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    A few weeks after inauguration, President Obama, the First Lady, friends and members of Congress donned 3-D glasses while watching a commercial during Super Bowl XLIII in the family theater of the White House.
    Pete Souza/National Geographic
  • Cecil Stoughton's photographic coverage evolved from typical ceremonial images to fresher, documentary-style pictures like this one of John F. Kennedy and his daughter, Caroline, aboard a yacht in Hyannis Port, Mass., 1963.
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    Cecil Stoughton's photographic coverage evolved from typical ceremonial images to fresher, documentary-style pictures like this one of John F. Kennedy and his daughter, Caroline, aboard a yacht in Hyannis Port, Mass., 1963.
    Cecil Stoughton/National Geographic
  • Cecil Stoughton's images of John F. Kennedy's trip to Texas show key moments in the story of his assassination. Later, Stoughton made perhaps the most famous image ever taken by a presidential photographer:  Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One.
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    Cecil Stoughton's images of John F. Kennedy's trip to Texas show key moments in the story of his assassination. Later, Stoughton made perhaps the most famous image ever taken by a presidential photographer: Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One.
    Cecil Stoughton/National Geographic
  • Lyndon B. Johnson's photographer Yoichi Okamoto disappeared behind the President to make this image.
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    Lyndon B. Johnson's photographer Yoichi Okamoto disappeared behind the President to make this image.
    Yoichi Okamoto/National Geographic
  • David Hume Kennerly made this picture the day before the Carters moved into the White House. Taking a last tour of the West Wing, Betty Ford told him she'd always wanted to dance on the Cabinet Room table. A former Martha Graham dancer, she slipped off her shoes, hopped on the table and struck a pose.
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    David Hume Kennerly made this picture the day before the Carters moved into the White House. Taking a last tour of the West Wing, Betty Ford told him she'd always wanted to dance on the Cabinet Room table. A former Martha Graham dancer, she slipped off her shoes, hopped on the table and struck a pose.
    David Hume Kennerly/National Geographic
  • A number of Bob McNeely's images show President Clinton and the First Lady fully engaged on issues together, as in this moment when they are listening to a briefing on board Air Force One.
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    A number of Bob McNeely's images show President Clinton and the First Lady fully engaged on issues together, as in this moment when they are listening to a briefing on board Air Force One.
    Robert McNeely/National Geographic
  • George W. Bush's chief photographer, Eric Draper, caught Barbara Bush photographing George Bush Jr. and Sr. in Jan., 2001. "One thing I learned right off the bat," Draper said, "is that when you say, 'Mr. President,' they both turn around."
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    George W. Bush's chief photographer, Eric Draper, caught Barbara Bush photographing George Bush Jr. and Sr. in Jan., 2001. "One thing I learned right off the bat," Draper said, "is that when you say, 'Mr. President,' they both turn around."
    Eric Draper/National Geographic
  • George W. Bush chief photographer Eric Draper's images from 9/11 tell a riveting story. He described it as one of his hardest days as a photographer. Desperate for information that morning, President Bush takes notes while TV news coverage of the burning towers plays in the background.
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    George W. Bush chief photographer Eric Draper's images from 9/11 tell a riveting story. He described it as one of his hardest days as a photographer. Desperate for information that morning, President Bush takes notes while TV news coverage of the burning towers plays in the background.
    Eric Draper/National Geographic
  • Pete Souza made this photo, which President Obama has said is one of his favorites, when White House staffer Carlton Philadelphia brought his family to meet the President. His son declared that he'd been told that he and the President had the same haircut. Obama bent over so the child could get a better look.
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    Pete Souza made this photo, which President Obama has said is one of his favorites, when White House staffer Carlton Philadelphia brought his family to meet the President. His son declared that he'd been told that he and the President had the same haircut. Obama bent over so the child could get a better look.
    Pete Souza/National Geographic
  • President-elect Barack Obama just prior to taking the oath of office.
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    President-elect Barack Obama just prior to taking the oath of office.
    Pete Souza/National Geographic

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John F. Kennedy was the first president to have an official photographer — Cecil Stoughton — starting in 1963. Since then, nearly every president has had a photographer follow him from the most public appearance to the most stressful situation to the quietest moment. Today, Pete Souza follows Obama around the world, and you can follow him on Flickr.

The President's Photographer

hide captionThe President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office, National Geographic Books, November 2010

A new National Geographic book, The President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office anthologizes some of the presidency's most iconic and intimate moments. Lyndon B. Johnson takes the oath of office on Air Force One after Kennedy's assassination. Betty Ford dances on the Cabinet Room table on one of her last nights in the White House. President Obama lets a young boy feel his hair.

Two presidential photographers — David Hume Kennerly (Gerald Ford) and David Valdez (George H. W. Bush) — join NPR host Liane Hansen on Weekend Edition Sunday to discuss their experiences.

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