She took the photos of the White House. Trump decided to take the profits.
WASHINGTON — As President Donald J. Trump’s term drew to a close, the chief White House photographer, who had traveled the world with him and spent countless hours inside the White House taking photos, informed Trump’s aides that she intended to publish a book. collecting some of his most memorable images.
It wasn’t a radical idea: official photographers at every White House since President Ronald Reagan have published their own books. Barack Obama and George W. Bush were so supportive that they wrote forewords for them.
But like so much else involving Mr Trump, the plan of his chief photographer, Shealah Craighead, did not follow this bipartisan standard.
First, Mr. Trump’s aides demanded a reduction in his down payment on the book, in exchange for writing a foreword and helping to promote the book, according to former associates of Mr Trump.
Then Mr. Trump’s team asked Ms. Craighead to put her book project on hold to allow the former president to take the photos of Ms. Craighead and those of other White House staff photographers and publish his own book, which now sells for up to $230. a copy.
That the profits from Ms. Craighead’s work are now going into Mr. Trump’s pocket has upset many of Mr. Trump’s former aides, but not really surprised.
“Shea is a very talented photographer and that was really all her hard work,” said Stephanie Grisham, who served as White House press secretary for Mr Trump and wrote her own book, referring to Ms Craighead as His nickname. “I keep thinking: what a shame he’s profiting from it now. But again, he’s the guy who’s selling caps and all sorts of things right now to raise money for himself.
Eric Draper, who was the White House’s chief photographer during Mr Bush’s tenure, said the move was disrespectful to Ms Craighead.
“It’s a slap in the face,” Mr Draper said, adding that he spoke with Ms Craighead last year about her plans to do her own book. “I would be disappointed if I were in his place.”
Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Mr Trump, did not dispute that an aide discussed the possibility of Mr Trump writing a foreword for Ms Craighead’s book and perhaps taking some of his advance. His tentative deal with a publisher involved an advance of hundreds of thousands of dollars, an industry executive said.
Instead, Mr. Budowich said, Mr. Trump decided to do his own book first, a separate deal that came with a much larger multi-million advance.
“President Trump has always had an eye for beautiful and engaging curation, which has come to life through the pages of his book,” he said in a statement.
Ms Craighead, in an interview, said she did not want to comment publicly on matters involving a former client. But she confirmed that she had decided, at least for now, to kill her own book project.
“I stay apolitical as much as possible because I’m a neutral historical documentarian,” she said. “By remaining neutral, I am able to remain an attentive observer.”
The 317-page book Mr. Trump published in December, titled “Our Journey Together,” does not include any photo credits. He does not mention any of the photographers who took the images until the last page, where he briefly offered “grateful recognition” to “all of the phenomenal White House photographers”, listing them by name, including Ms. Craighead, whose photos make up much of the book.
There is no legal prohibition on Mr. Trump assembling and publishing photographs that a White House staffer took while in office; under federal law, these photographs are considered to be in the public domain and are not subject to copyright. There is a public Flickr account, now managed by the National Archives, which contains 14,995 photos of Trump’s White House, including a third citing Ms Craighead as the photographer.
But in dealing with Ms Craighead, Mr Trump appears to have become the first former president to try to make money off a book planned by a former White House photographer, said John Bredar, a documentary filmmaker and author who has studied the history of the White House photographers. (Proceeds from the book published by George HW Bush’s chief photographer, David Valdez, went to his presidential library, Mr. Valdez said in an interview.)
The first volume of memoirs written by Mr. Obama after leaving office included a selection of nearly 50 photos taken by the White House photographer who served during his tenure, Pete Souza. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also published autobiographies that included photos of the White House.
But there is a long tradition of former White House photographers separately assembling their work into books.
“It’s helpful for each chief photographer to write a book just for the historical record and put it together in a way that kind of tells their story and contextualizes the images,” said Souza, who worked as a photographer. at the White House under Mr. Reagan as well as under Mr. Obama, and who has published several White House photo books.
Ms. Craighead had been a White House photographer during George W. Bush’s tenure and was known for her work with mostly Republican politicians, including Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Joni Ernst of Iowa.
But unlike most of her predecessors, who had built relationships with presidents before they arrived at the White House, Ms Craighead had not worked closely with Mr Trump when she was hired just before his inauguration after the failure of his first choice for the job.
Mr. Trump sometimes said insulting things about Ms. Craighead, telling other White House guests that he questioned her skills as a photographer, surprising other White House officials and photographers present.
Mr. Trump, former White House aides said, was intensely involved in selecting photos of himself that would be made public, with Ms. Grisham recalling how on long flights on Air Force One he would often book time to review photo files. , after demanding that they be printed first so he could hold them, and choose the winners one at a time.
The publication plan for “Our Journey Together” came to fruition quickly, after Ms. Craighead had already selected a book agent and negotiated a contract to publish her own book and secured a commitment from Mr. Trump to write the foreword, former White House officials said. .
Ms Craighead herself wondered if she wanted to go ahead with her own book, telling others she was not comfortable publishing a book that would be seen as either an endorsement or a disparagement of Mr. Trump.
It was while Ms. Craighead was debating this issue that she heard from a representative of Mr. Trump that he would no longer be able to provide her with a foreword to the book right away because Mr. Trump had a “non-competition” clause with its own publisher.
Donald Trump Jr. and Mr. Trump’s campaign apparatus quickly began sending emails to his political fundraising list, urging his supporters to purchase ‘Our Journey Together’ perhaps as a Christmas present – an example of how Mr. Trump has mixed his political endeavors with his pursuit of personal gain since leaving the White House.
Mr. Trump’s book was published by Winning Team Publishing, a company incorporated only in October, and which was co-founded by Donald Trump Jr. and Sergio Gor, a former Capitol Hill aide and Republican campaign operative.
Mr Gor said the company had sold the first 300,000 copies – which, at $75 each for the unsigned version, suggests gross sales of at least $20 million, assuming many did not. been distributed. In addition to his advance payment, Mr. Trump is likely to earn a share of all book sales.
The book isn’t the only way for the Trump family to enjoy photos from White House photographers. On Presidents Day, Mrs. Trump opened the sale of a series of digital images from Mr. Trump’s tenure in the White House – photos of Mr. Trump at Mount Rushmore, stepping out of Air Force One and in a tuxedo for a dinner at the White House – for $50 a piece.
This week, after The Times asked his office about the book, Mr. Trump called Ms. Craighead. It was the first time they had spoken directly since he had left the White House. Mr. Trump told her he was still open to writing a foreword for a photo book they might do together in the future, Mr. Budowich said.
“It would be fun to do that,” Mr. Trump told him.