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A White House Correspondent's Journal
Chris Usher

Exhibition Curated by Adrienne DeArmas

September 20 - November 2, 2008
Artist's Talk and Opening Reception: September 20, 5:00-8:00pm
Lunchtime Curator's Talk and Gallery Walkthrough: October 9, 1:00pm

Image Copyright Chris Usher
The Photo Dogs, 1999

Image Copyright Chris Usher
POTUS, JOTUS & Ralph, 1999

"As a journalist, I am compelled to document these relatively unknown and unseen groups and individuals who are essential to a President and his message. We have seen ample documentation of the President himself, both in public and behind-the-scenes, but little or nothing of the people that help the President be the President... I am a disciple of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and my images gravitate towards the decisive, yet quiet moments that have a universal meaning."

—Chris Usher

In 1998, while on assignment at the White House, photojournalist Chris Usher began pointing the Leica he always wears around his neck away from the President of the United States. Thus began Behind the Velvet Rope, an ongoing documentary project shot entirely with two Leica Rangefinder cameras on Kodak Tri-X black and white film.

His primary subjects are not, as one might expect, the President, presidential candidates and other Washington notables. Instead, Usher focuses on the men and women who work tirelessly to create, manipulate, and disseminate the essence of the Presidential persona to the public. These often unknown but vital players include the Clinton and Bush administration staffs, the Gore and Bush campaign staffs, the local media and event staff, the Secret Service, the ever-present White House Press Corps, and lastly, the constituents the presidency serves.

The 50 images in this exhibition were selected from more than 20,000 as representative of the kinds of pictures Usher likes to make. “In my personal work, a photo has to mean something. Otherwise, it’s just a pretty picture. I try to make pictures that are well composed, make good use of available light, and capture a moment.” Usher combines his experience as a veteran photographer and approach to shooting “as if I were seeing everything through the eyes of a ten year old child.”

Behind the Velvet Rope takes you on a once in a lifetime journey—into the Oval Office, the Rose Garden, and throughout the White House. It puts you “in the bubble” with Secret Service agents as the Press Corps travels from Sloan City to Sarajevo, Tucson to Tanzania, and Maine to Morocco. You’ll meet press handlers and press secretaries, honor guards and guests of honor, Democrats and Republicans…All of who do what they do, to bring to you—the President of the United States of America.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Chris Usher graduated from Indiana University at Bloomington with a degree in Journalism. Usher spent several years as a newspaper photographer before going freelance and moving to Washington, DC in 1990. Since then Usher's images have appeared in numerous domestic and international publications including TIME, LIFE, Newsweek, US News & World Report, Sports Illustrated, People, Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek, L'Express, Der Spiegel, Stern, VSD, and Globus.

In between assignments, Usher has been completing One of Us, a compelling series of imagery and interviews begun the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast. A 2006 grant gave him the opportunity to expand the project to include evacuees who, more than a year later, had not yet returned to the Gulf Coast. The book from this project, made possible by the generous support of the Eastman Kodak Company and ColorCentric of Rochester, NY, will be available on August 29, 2008 - the three year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.


All exhibition images were shot using a Leica Rangefinder on Kodak Tri-X film. The photographs were printed on KODAK Premium Rapid-Dry Photographic Lustre Paper at the Ainslie Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Framing by Biscarr Framing of Georgetown, Washington, DC.


Image Copyright Chris Usher Image Copyright Chris Usher
Good Morning Baghdad, 2003 All the President's Men, 2004
Installation Images:
Chris Usher Installation Image Chris Usher Installation Image Chris Usher Installation Image



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