Documenting the President

Documenting the President

How has photography helped define the U.S. presidency?


5 - 12+


Arts and Music, Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, U.S. History, Photography

Although James K. Polk was the first president to be photographed, it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln ran for office that a president (or presidential candidate) took advantage of photography to promote their ideas and campaign. Since then, presidents have relied on presidential photographers to document their activities in office. Watch this short video to better understand how presidential photography can help define a presidency and even an entire era in American politics. 

Instructional Ideas 
Consult Common Core ELA Literacy Standard 8.2: Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.

  • Consult the “Questions” tab for discussion questions about how historic and modern presidents have used photography to present their ideas and platforms to the public.
Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

National Geographic Society
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

December 8, 2022

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