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It goes to figure that our most photogenic president would appoint the first official White House photographer—John F. Kennedy named Cecil W. Stoughton to the post at the beginning of his term. Stoughton’s influence on how the public views the president continues to this day, as evidenced in The President’s Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office, the new book and TV special by National Geographic’s John Bredar. Witness a young Caroline Kennedy on a yacht, enveloped by a gray blanket and her father’s arm; later, we see Pete Souza’s image of President-elect Obama leaning his smiling face into Michelle’s en route to his inauguration. The best images cast the presidents in a light that’s not reverential but human—although since the photos are official, after all, not incriminatingly so.

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