Larry Downing is a Reuters senior staff photographer assigned to the White House. He shares that duty with three other staff photographers. He has lived in Washington since 1977 and has been assigned to cover the White House since 1978. He worked for United Press International and Newsweek Magazine before joining Reuters as a stringer in 1997 and then as staff in 1999.
As the final moments of President Bush’s administration wind down, I look forward to Barack Obama’s historic inauguration. Having grown up in America as a child of the 50’s, I found the odds impossible that he, or any other African American, would ever win the presidency in my lifetime.
Early on election day last November I drove with my wife from the suburbs in Northern Virginia to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in the Anacostia district of Washington D.C. to watch as thousands of African Americans stood in line to cast their vote on a cold, raw morning. It was heartwarming to watch.
Obama will be the fifth president I’ve been assigned to photograph at the White House in the last 32 years. Each presidency was unique and enjoyable to document. I remember flying back and forth aboard Air Force One with President Carter while he brokered peace between Egypt and Israel in the late 70’s. I then documented his success on the North Lawn of the White House with a three-way handshake between Egypt’s Sadat, Israel’s Begin and Carter.
Less than two years later, the American Embassy in Iran was overrun and embassy personnel were paraded in the street in blindfolds. Carter barricaded himself in the deep bunkers of the White House and lost his bid for re-election.