Trump's Photo Book a 'Slap in the Face' to WH Photographer

Trump was to write foreword for Shealah Craighead's book; then he put out his own
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2022 8:49 AM CDT
WH Photog's Book Dream Quashed After Trump Moves First
Then-President Donald Trump arrives at the White House in Washington on Dec. 31, 2020.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

(Newser) – Since the Reagan presidency, official White House photographers have capped off their stints at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with a photo book, sometimes complete with a foreword from their former bosses. But when it came time for Donald Trump to leave the Oval Office, "the plan by his chief photographer, Shealah Craighead, did not follow this bipartisan norm," reports the New York Times. Instead, Trump dealt Craighead—only the second woman to serve as the White House's head photographer, per the Guardian—a surprise blow, blocking her book plans and putting out his own book of photos instead.

An industry exec tells the Times Craighead had a tentative deal that would have involved a six-figure advance. Ex-Trump associates tell the paper that Trump aides first asked Craighead to give Trump a cut of that advance in exchange for him writing the foreword and helping promote the book. Then plans shifted, with Trump requesting Craighead postpone her book so he could put out his own, using her photos and those of other White House photographers—images that are all in the public domain. That book, the 317-page Our Journey Together, contained no photo credits, save a "grateful acknowledgment" at the end to all the White House photographers, whose names are listed.

A co-founder of Winning Team Publishing says it sold out of its first 300,000 copies, which suggests that—at $75 for each unsigned book and $230 for signed versions—there were gross sales of more than $20 million, with Trump likely to have received a share. Signed copies have also popped up on sites like eBay, with one on Amazon recently listed for $1,749, per CNN. In February, the news outlet confirmed Trump also got a multimillion-dollar advance from Winning Team Publishing, which Donald Trump Jr. helped co-found.

Meanwhile, Craighead—who in a 2018 interview with Marie Claire called her relationship with Trump "lovely," "professional," and "quite humorous at times"—is remaining diplomatic about it all. "I stay apolitical as possible, as I am a neutral historical documentarian," she tells the Times, which reports Trump used to insult Craighead's skills in front of others. She adds her book idea is dead in the water for now. "It's a slap in the face," says Eric Draper, who was chief photographer for George W. Bush during his time in the White House. "I would be disappointed if I were in her shoes." (Read more Donald Trump stories.)

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