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Museum Preview: “The Eyes of History 2012” at the Newseum

Prize-winning photographs captured by members of the White House News Photographers Association go on display this week.

President Barack Obama reaches for the prosthetic hand of Army Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry. Photograph by Charles Dharapak/the Associated Press.

When the White House News Photographers Association was founded in 1921, photographers were banned from the Capitol, and the White House had no official press room. (President Herbert Hoover built the first one.) Ninety-one years later, award-winning images from the WHNPA’s annual competition go on display this week at the Newseum.

“The Eyes of History 2012”—which runs September 28 through March 29—showcases some 70 photographs selected from submissions by the association’s 800 members. Contrary to what the group’s name implies, members don’t just photograph the President—they also shoot Congress, news around the world, human-interest stories, even sports. This year’s selection captures major events from 2011, such as the Occupy movement, the death of Osama bin Laden, and the Arab Spring. “It’s an eclectic array of brilliant photography,” says the Newseum’s Cathy Trost.

The exhibition also includes a section about the history of the WHNPA, which accepted its first female member in 1942 and its first African-American member in 1961 after pressure from President Kennedy, who threatened to boycott the society’s annual awards dinner. “It’s really a tour of our history,” says Trost. “In a time when moving images and the speed of news are trumping almost everything else, an iconic still image lives on timelessly as a powerful moment captured with skill and sometimes luck.”

For more information about “The Eyes of History 2012,” visit the Newseum’s website.

This article appears in the September 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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