By Ann Wang
It was a black-and-white photo of Barack Obama. Him working in the Oval Office, with piles of newspapers, an empty bottle and both his feet on the table. Holding a report in his left hand, his tie causally flops to one side, but his right hand was held in a fist. His facial expression suggests that he is deep in thought. “He’s just working, like any other man.” said Yanshu Lee,a Boston University graduate student, after viewing the photo of Obama, released by the White House.
Traditionally, photographers were granted access to the White House, covering government officials while they were making critical decisions or just performing daily routines. However, since Obama took office in 2009, he has been imposing restrictions on photographers from various news outlets to work in the Oval Office.
The president has his own team of photographers, and they are the only ones allowed in. In fact, most of the photos of Obama in the Oval Office or official tours were taken by the White House photographer - Pete Souza. The photos were uploaded to the White House website, photo-sharing sites like Flickr and various social media. The images can all be downloaded free of charge and be published. AP and various news organization are calling for a boycott on the “official pictures” from the Obama administrators, in order to restore the rights of photographers to access the White House.
While viewing a photo of Obama sitting on a swing with his daughter, sharing an intimate moment, Yanshu Lee remarked, “he looks like a good father, family-type man, a good man.” But after learning of the restrictions Obama has been imposing, she changed her view. ”Maybe Obama really cares about how the public thinks about him. So he wants to control his image,” said Lee with a worried voice. Instead of opening the White House to the public or press, only exclusive photographers are allowed to document what is happening in the Oval Office. That made Lee wonder, “what are they hiding?”
“I don’t assume they are doing anything wrong. Because it’s still the White House; they have their regulations. It’s just unfair for the public.” Obama’s policy reminds her how closely it resembles r that of the Chinese government. “The party controls most of the major television stations.” She concluded, “there is no difference in politics, it’s all the same. They just try to manipulate people to get what they want .through any medium they can control.”
Herbert Bassett, 33, a computer programer living in Brighton, Mass, voted twice for Obama. When he heard about the press restrictions Obama has imposed, Bassett wasn’t shocked. “It sounds like politics as, usual. It’s part of the game of politics.” But he believes that a highly selective image of Obama could affect the public. “The pictures are going to show the mood of the country, the president and down to the mood of the people.”he said. At the same time, Bassett said he understands why Obama’s team holds tight control. “Being a president nowadays is almost like being an actor, they have so many people around them telling them what to do. If it’s not tightly controlled , thats why when slip-ups occur. It’s a big gaffe and everything blows up.”
In fact , “very few countries allow the kind of access that American journalists were allowed.” said award-winning South African photographer Greg Marinovich. “Even the much more controversial presidents are more open to the press than Obama.” He added that, “ the most intriguing images were from the Nixon administration.” He thinks that what Obama is doing is a step backwards. In terms of the public’s right to know, what the president is doing and it’s vital.
Marinovich also added that American presidents have often tried to control how they were portrayed. ,For example, find photos of Franklin Roosevelt using a wheelchair are rare. But with the advanced technology nowadays, it' impossible to hide something like that. However, he describes people’s view on politics as just like the popular TV show House of Cards. “People are much more cynical about what happens in places of power.” said Marinovich. When asked, why Obama is imposing strict control over photographers’ press freedom, . Marinovich said, “it’s the fear of an image that kills you, in terms of political capital.”