Trump’s White House Photographer Is Trolling Him

Trump’s White House Photographer Is Trolling Him

By now, President Donald Trump’s infamous photo of himself awkwardly holding a bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington D.C., is well known. That peaceful protestors were gassed to get that photo opportunity has also been established.

But this isn’t about any of that. This is about the photograph that resulted from the walk across the street, the one by official White House photographer Shealah Craighead. It’s about the fact that it is tremendously terrible. It’s a huge failure.

That’s not a knock on Craighead. She’s an excellent photographer who has a long career, even serving as first lady Laura Bush’s official photographer during the George W. Bush’s administration. She’s a consummate professional who has dutifully photographed the Trump White House since 2017 with nary a protest. Or so we think.

Take a look at this photo from Oct. 16, 2019, perhaps the first crack in the armor that signals that maybe, just maybe she disagrees with her boss here:

Craighead's October 2019 photo of Nancy Pelosi engaged in a heated exchange with President Trump.

In the photo, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is delivering a stern, standing rebuke to a seated Donald Trump about the ramifications of removing troops from northern Syria. At the time, it sparked a lot of debate about power and sexism, with each actor looking at it in different ways. Trump viewed it as Pelosi having a meltdown, tweeting out as much, while Nancy Pelosi viewed it as standing up for herself, and changed it to her Twitter banner to troll the president. With one photo, Craighead had managed to both please her employer and trolled him at the same time.

Maybe that was the first crack in the dam, with it finally breaking that fateful Monday, June 1. Perhaps it was the usual lack of preparation when it comes to the Trump team’s photography. He did, after all, just use a lazy, in-the-office, on-the-spot photo for an official portrait and didn’t even let his defense secretary know what was about to come. What are the chances a lowly photographer would be briefed so that they could prepare?

But no, Craighead is a seasoned pro. Even without warning, she could make something. From a technical standpoint, focus, exposure, and white balance are perfect. I argue that this photo, framed this way, and photographed so lackadaisically was a silent cry for help from a photographer who’s just had enough but is too professional to openly protest. Or it’s an intentionally bad photo created in a show of protest over what had just transpired.

Take a look at some of Craighead’s other photos from that failed photo opportunity here and here. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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It's a photograph of their conflicting viewpoints.

The dictionary needs to add any picture of him under the definition of Troll.


Where is the moderator here? Aren't blatant personal attacks addressed on this site?

It's "Bernie Bros" again, still using the deceptive name "Bernie Bros". This person is definitely not a Bernie Bro.

That comment went well for him. lol

I'm no Trump fan, but this just seems mean. A tremendously terrible photo? Does it show place? Context? Intent? Was it seen around the world? Perhaps you need to explain your viewpoint while you've got a worldwide platform to vilify others without explanation or rebuttal. What if you've just misrepresented her because of your own leanings? Who knows - you don't explain yourself at all, and the worst thing we can do, especially when photography as a community and a profession is in the doldrums, is to be tearing each other down needlessly.

Yeah, don't be mean to the morbidly obese moronic bully.

Oh totally, the poor dumb piece of garbage, who was given an immense fortune by daddy, and who occupies the most powerful office in the world is clearly defenseless.

At least he has you to defend him.

How does it feel being so easily triggered?

I love it so much when morons try to sound articulate.

Pro tip: if you are going to attempt to get under a person's skin, you really need to get your profile correct.

As it stands, I am simply laughing at you.

So if your daddy had money and gave it to you, you would turn it down and work at McDonald's to prove your point??? That's laughable.

That was your take away?

Edit: just out of curiosity, I looked at your linked socials...

Here’s my questions from before Mr. Bros:

Why did you put quotes on white supremacists Mr Bros? Who is Ms. 13? Why hasn’t she been arrested?
Also, why are you talking about Ms. 13 instead of kkk? You should focus sir!
So many questions from what you say! Hope you answer my question!

Agreed, calling it a tremendously terrible photo seems really unnecessary. Also all of these folks now fighting over this is tremendously entertaining, just saying.

Interesting. I had actually thought given the circumstances they were taken by a staff member rather than an official photographer as it’s more a snap rather than a portrait.

Exactly. Doesn't look like taken at the right moment or posr, poor composition, and like it was taken by a Huawei P10 phone.

I was super surprised to find out it was the official photographer as well!

“I hire the best people” 🤣

This article reads like a long-winded essay question.
Really, the only thing missing is the word "Discuss." at the end.

That’s a serious case of TDS to make that leap. She may be the WH photog, but nothing she shoots gets released that isn’t approved by the WH itself. To posit that these pics are trolling POTUS just belies your own interest in doing so.

The judgement, wild conjecture, and headline of this article are far below even the journalistic standards of FStoppers. While I also do not support our President, this article should not even exist. Please screen your articles better FStoppers.

Fstoppers creators and staff, don't ruin a wonderful and informative photography site with politics.

This writer and Andy Day or whatever his name is have been trying for years.

I for one come to this site to enjoy myself reading about photography. I get enough biased, rude, and offensive politics from both sides in other places. In this article, and in others by this author use thin relationship to photograph subjects as cover to write political garbage.

Honestly F-Stoppers I expect more from you. I expect that you would curate your content to eliminate such blatant political articles. Please do not host articles designed to divide us. Let's keep politics off this otherwise wonderful site.

It's labeled as an "opinion" in the tags at the end of the article, so it's not objective reporting, it's commentary on a photograph. And it's "Ahmad."

That it's labeled as an opinion is fine, I have no problem with that. In fact, I welcome any discussion about a photograph. As long as is about photography. Any discussion about a photograph is bound to be an opinion.
Your article however, no matter how you twist or bend it, is not about photography at all. It creates a totally artificial narrative based on a single photo with the sole purpose to start a political discussion.

It's hilarious to see people keyboard bashing "journalistic integrity" about an editorial website. It may have posts referencing the news, but it's never been journalistic. Know the difference.

Besides, for those screaming "journalistic integrity" at their screens, I fail to see where the writer made any negative comments about either side. Could someone please point it out for me? Just copy and paste the offending lines, please. I've read it twice and still haven't found any.

I'll even pay the first person $10 for each personal attack made by the writer, quoted from this editorial, made against either Trump, Pelosi or Craighead.

He teaches journalism. You read the article twice but didn't read about the author?

This: "She’s a consummate professional who has dutifully photographed the Trump White House since 2017 with nary a protest. Or so we think."

The author very clearly suggests that Craighead is purposely creating and publishing photo's that are "tainted" by her personal political or personal opinions that are (so the author suggests) at odds with the views of the White House. That is quite something to say and potentially very damaging for Craighead. Imagine what would happen if someone from the White House reads this article?

You may donate the $10 dollars to whatever charity you choose.

He's not a journalist , but an activist. Miss the days when this site was about photography and not politics.


Why can't a photography website just stay away from politics. And what did they gas those peaceful protesters with that not a single policeman had gas mask on?

Here my questions from before Mr. Bros-

Mr. Bro’s why do you always rage against people who are left but never against people on right? You sound very one sided. So angry, which is so sad. Please try to be nicer and more even! Thanks

Notice you're the first to introduce the term "left" in a discussion on a photography platform? Why?

Mr. Bros takes a long time to answer questions. I don’t think he is very good at the internet and computering. Just fare warning that he may take a while to respond!

That’s why I’m resending questions I had from before to him about the kkk people and how he doesnt think white supremacy is that bad and how much hate he has in his soul and how we all can help him not be so aweful.

Hope he figures out how to use the internet and answers your questions Mr. Broerse!

Mr Abraham Terason why are you following me and negative voting what I say? My mother always said if you cant say something nice you should not say something. I would love to chat with you about your sadness and feelings about me but it is hard when all you do is be nasty and run away to hide.

I hope you get courage to speak rather than what you are doing. If you do I will accept you with open arms and we can share in a conversation with love and respect!

I don't follow anyone; I just happen to disagree, to one extent or another, with a lot of the things you write. Ironically, I'm not a fan of down-voting without comment but am trying to avoid dominating conversations, which I am wont to do. My sadness, to the extent that I am, is based on the inability of people to disagree, agreeably, with honesty and respect for their person. I have no feelings about you but I do think you're a bit disingenuous in some of your comments. I'm not sure which of my many faults, rises to the level of "nasty" but that is not my intent.
As for love, open arms and respect: I love everyone, my respect is contextural and am not much of a hugger. ;-)

Thank you so much for your response, Mr. Fargoson. I do not mind disagreeing at all, but was confused why you negative voted without saying why. Now I understand a bit more about you and what you did, and while I disagree with some that you said I am happy we are talking and I respect youre opinion.

No need to hug! I respect that! What is the semicolon mean?


;-) is a winking smiley face.
So, do you you prefer the weather in New Hampshire to Nevada, I think it was!?

That is very adorable! Thanks for sharing!

I’ve always considered myself a snow bunny so I’m happy in New Hampshire! Nevada would be way to warm.

Why did you bring up Nevada? Do you live there? My nephew loves traveling to the Southwest

The doctors think I have tourettes which leads me to shout, and type, random words. Sorry.

That’s ok! God bless you and I hope you find relief from tourette

Politics aside, the reason why Craigshead photos are lacking compared to Pete Souza who we admire is due to lack of access and poor communication within their own staff. Craigshead is a seasoned photographer who has worked with prior administrations but she isn’t on the same trust level with this current administration. On top of that the communications office is pretty nit picky what goes online to convey a certain message and sadly they miss the mark on that. The videography team however has upped their game though compared to Obama’s. I’m saying this as a government photographer and been in this field for sometime. I’ve seen better usage of photography in previous administrations. I probably lost my chance to ever work with a Republican administration by just saying this but that’s my own opinion on how the Trump administration uses photography and seriously undervalues it.

Linked source in opening paragraph is Aljazeera? Stopped reading after that.

I laughed when that was the source, and I went no further

I really loath Trump, but you're really reaching with this article. Really, really reaching. And while Trumps photo with bible is used to lure readers in, you're not discussing this photo at all. To me this is a very politically motivated article that has no place here.

After reading all those comments here I really wonder what happened to the USA, the so called land of the free? One cannot speak or write freely any more? Has Trump divided you, destroyed your society? You have my sympathy!
Regarding any photo of that person the photographer sure has my sympathy as well.

This is a photography site, not a soap box. Free speech is not an excuse to insert politics in any discussion. But, to be fair: FStoppers has a likening for controversial subjects and with this article promotes divisiveness, not surprisingly the one thing this Trump administration is very good at implementing.
Craigshead is probably neutral and there is no proof whatsoever that she leans one way or the other. This article does a very bad attempt to drag her into this and artificially creates a controversie around her.

Fstoppers is a business. These "political" articles get more comments and more clicks by far than anything else they post. It's money in the bank and a tactic as old as religion.
Controversy sells.
And the haters and trolls are the ones juicing the bottom line here.
Really very funny to see it unfold.

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