This morning, the White House lifted its ban on cameras and photography during public tours, which signals the first time in over 40 years that images by photographers without official credentials will emerge from the famous rooms of the US president’s residence. Michelle Obama delivered the news by way of a playful Instagram video in which she rips up a sign that reads, “No photos or social media allowed. Your cooperation is appreciated.” “If you’ve been on a White House tour,” the First Lady says, “you may have seen this sign. Well, not anymore!”
No reason was given for the change in policy, which now actually encourages picture-taking: during today’s first photography-friendly tour, visitors were invited to post their images on social media and use the hashtag #whitehousetour. Unsurprisingly, many of the first photographs to emerge are of the First Dogs, Bo and Sunny, but selfies, of course, are also a popular choice. The first duck face and rap squat have also already been documented, although someone has yet to pull an indoor Ai Weiwei.
More importantly, the looser law also brings wider exposure to some of the works of art decorating the walls of the White House. Many of these depict members of past presidential families, such as Henry Inman’s 1842 painting of Martin Van Buren’s daughter-in-law, which hangs in the Red Room, or portraits of William McKinley by Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy and Martha Washington by Eliphalet Frazer Andrews in the East Room. But there are also pleasant surprises that touch on the more public and significant history of America, such as Jacob Lawrence’s “The Builders” (1947), which hangs in the Green Room.
There are, however, still restrictions on the new policy: according to the White House’s website, only still, non-flash photography is permitted, and only with camera lenses no longer than three inches. Tablets and tripods are banned as well — and sorry, but you’ll have to leave the selfie stick at home.
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