Who is Trump's White House photographer? Meet Shealah Craighead

Bruno Cooke November 14, 2020
Who is Trump's White House photographer? Meet Shealah Craighead
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

What now for the Trump administration’s official White House photographer Shealah Craighead? She has been behind the scenes with her lens turned on Trump throughout his presidency. Let’s learn more about the face behind the lens.

Who is photographer Shealah Craighead?

Born in 1976, Shealah Craighead has spent the past 15 years photographing US presidents and their first ladies or working alongside the photographers of US presidents.

Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

On top of her work for the Boston Globe, Associated Press and Getty Images, Craighead has worked as a wedding, sport, events, news and portrait photographer. However, the bulk of her work has been in the White House.

Craighead has photographed the likes of vice-president Dick Cheney, first lady Laura Bush, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and presidential hopeful Marco Rubio. 

However, Craighead’s work for the Trump administration has been the most talked about.

White House photographer accused of ‘trolling’ Trump

A piece in photography news site Fstoppers draws the reader’s attention to a particular photograph Craighead took of Trump on 1 June.

The photo in question shows Trump holding a bible in front of St John’s Episcopal Church in Washington DC and caused a great deal of controversy at the time. Police infamously used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters from the site before Trump could stride in for what NPR described as a photo-op.

But the Fstoppers piece claims there’s more to the photograph than immediately meets the eye. Indeed, they describe it as “tremendously terrible”.

But Shealah Craighead is an “excellent photographer [and] a consummate professional”. 

So why would the photo be so bad?

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.

Trump’s White House Photographer Is Trolling Him

Craighead’s White House photography

On her Twitter page Craighead states she documents the “history scene as it unfolds”. And this is precisely the curious thing about Trump’s White House photographer, according to The Verge.

Craighead’s photos are instead mostly taken from a distance. She appears to be situated with, or even behind the White House press pool. Even the few photos of Trump or his daughter Ivanka that you could consider behind the scenes are still taken from far away.

The Photography of Trump’s Presidency is a Huge Break from Obama’s

Sometimes, Craighead’s photographs aren’t even anywhere near the president.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.