The First Official White House Photographer: Cecil W. Stoughton
Considering the first US president to have his photograph taken was John Quincy Adams in 1843 (although he was in the middle of his post-presidential career by then), it's curious that the position of presidential photographer didn't become a reality until John F. Kennedy took office in 1961. Previously, random military photogs would handle official photographic duties, and access to the president's everyday life was mostly off limits.
That changed with Cecil W. Stoughton, the first White House photographer. Apparently, his pictures of Kennedy's inauguration impressed the newly-appointed (and photogenic) president so much that he decided to bring Stoughton into the White House. Ever since then, presidential photographers have been a fixture with every administration and the images they've been able to capture have served a vital role in documenting history.[caption id="attachment_42061" align="aligncenter" width="980"] LBJ taking the oath of office, 1963[/caption]
Most famously, Stoughton was the only photographer onboard Air Force One to capture the moment of Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in as president following Kennedy's assassination in 1963, but he also set the tone for future presidential photographers, capturing quiet, personal moments that would help shape public opinion of the people in the office.[caption id="attachment_42058" align="aligncenter" width="980"] The Kennedy children visit the Oval Office, 1962[/caption]
On top of capturing many candid photos of John F. Kennedy alongside his wife and kids, Stoughton also managed to snap the only published photograph of Marilyn Monroe together with JFK and his brother Robert.[caption id="attachment_42060" align="aligncenter" width="980"] Marilyn Monroe stands between Robert Kennedy (left) and JFK (right), 1962[/caption]
Stoughton's career as a photographer started in the military during World War II, after which he worked in the public information office of the Army signal corps. Curiously, during that time, he documented the 1960 military discharge of private Elvis Presley. He also spent time in Hollywood as a set photographer on motion pictures, where he met and photographed many famous actors of the era—Ronald Reagan was one, and in fact, he later congratulated Stoughton on getting to the White House first.
Throughout his career, Stoughton shot many different cameras. His first was an inexpensive 35mm Argus rangefinder, and later he also worked with Alpa SLRs and large format Graflex aerial cameras. His famous Johnson swearing-in photo was taken with a waist-level medium format Hasselblad, for which he changed out his color roll of 120 film for black and white, as the wire services could not handle color at the time.[caption id="attachment_42059" align="aligncenter" width="980"] JFK with his daughter, Caroline, 1963[/caption]
Post-Kennedy, Stoughton served as White House photographer for two more years under Johnson and then took the position of head photographer for the National Park Service, a job he would hold until retirement in 1967. Stoughton died at his Florida home at age 88 in 2008. Some his most popular work is captured in the book, "Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House".