American Presidency, Part I.
Iconic Photos look back at the most iconic presidential photos from 1939 – 1974.
You don’t need Iconic Photos to tell you that there is an election campaign going on in the United States, especially if you live in America. Despite all limitations and checks & balances on his power, the President of the United States is often considered to be the Most Powerful Man on the planet, and the Presidency itself a bully pulpit.
Modern American presidency as we know it today began under Franklin Delano Roosevelt; many remember FDR as an avuncular figure from news reels and radio broadcasts, the man who won the Second World War. Meanwhile his crippling polio was largely kept out of the public eye until Time magazine controversially published a photo featuring his wheelchair.
His successor, Harry Truman, was best remembered photographically for a premature headline, calling the 1948 Presidential Election for his opponent. While he was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Dwight D. Eisenhower had some memorable photos, but as president, he presided over a largely uneventful decade during which American military and economic might was nothing but rapidly ascendent. It was hardly surprising that he left the White House with high approval ratings (only tempered by Sputnik and U2 incident).
Jack Kennedy, too, enjoyed high approval rates; he also enjoyed Eisenhower’s counsel, after the Bay of Pigs fiasco; two presidents walking hunched-shoulder to hunched-shoulder was memorably captured in an award winning photo by Paul Vathis. The Loneliest Job — another image of Kennedy’s unique silhouette — makes, at least to this writer, the definitive portrait of an American presidency.
Lyndon Johnson entered the pantheon of iconic images on the very first day of his presidency as he was haphazardly sworn in on the Air Force One. When he finally left Washington five years later, he had already presided over a disastrous war. Jack E. Kightlinger’s photo of anguished Johnson listening to a tape from Vietnam makes a sombering picture.
While one of Nixon’s most memorable photos was made when he was Eisenhower’s Vice President. His ‘debate’ with the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev solidified his foreign policy credentials. A decade later, he would leave the White House equally memorably.
(To be continued….)
Links for bigger photos: Big Three; FDR in a wheelchair; Truman; Kennedy & Eisenhower; JFK and son; the Loneliest Job; Johnson sworn in; anguished Johnson; the Kitchen Debate; Nixon departs.
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