Photographic Presidents: Making History from Daguerreotype to Digital

Photographic Presidents: Making History from Daguerreotype to Digital

by Cara A. Finnegan

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Defining the Chief Executive via flash powder and selfie sticks

Lincoln’s somber portraits. Lyndon Johnson’s swearing in. George W. Bush’s reaction to learning about the 9/11 attacks. Photography plays an indelible role in how we remember and define American presidents. Throughout history, presidents have actively participated in all aspects of photography, not only by sitting for photos but by taking and consuming them. Cara A. Finnegan ventures from a newly-discovered daguerreotype of John Quincy Adams to Barack Obama’s selfies to tell the stories of how presidents have participated in the medium’s transformative moments. As she shows, technological developments not only changed photography, but introduced new visual values that influence how we judge an image. At the same time, presidential photographs—as representations of leaders who symbolized the nation—sparked public debate on these values and their implications.

An original journey through political history, Photographic Presidents reveals the intertwined evolution of an American institution and a medium that continues to define it.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780252085789
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication date: 05/18/2021
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 728,838
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Cara A. Finnegan is a professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Making Photography Matter: A Viewer’s History from the Civil War to the Great Depression and Picturing Poverty: Print Culture and FSA Photographs.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Part I The Daguerreotype Presidents

1 Photographing George Washington 9

2 Early Daguerreotypes in the U.S. and the Nations Capital 26

3 John Quincy Adams and National Portraiture 35

Part II The Snapshot President

4 Handheld Photography and the Halftone Revolution 65

5 William McKinley's Last Photographs 80

Part III The Candid Camera Presidents

6 Visual News in the Early Twentieth Century 111

7 Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, and the Candid Camera 123

Part IV The Social Media President

8 Changing Visual Media from the Mid-Twentieth Century to the Digital Age 155

9 Barack Obama and Flickr 169

Conclusion: The Portrait Makes Our President 203

Notes 207

Selected Bibliography 263

Index 267

Color images follow page 108

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