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.
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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