Yoichi R. Okamoto was the first official White House photographer, appointed during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. Okamoto was born in New York and became a photographer in the Army during World War II. LBJ, who wanted to emulate John F. Kennedy’s photogenic recording by media photographers, chose Okamoto to be his White House photographer and gave him access to his daily presidential activities.
Okamoto’s photography captured historical figures like Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King during meetings with LBJ. Okamoto also captured American milestones such as the the signings of the Voting Rights Act and the Immigration Act in 1965. He also photographed LBJ’s visit to the American troops during the Vietnam War.
- [New York Times] Photographing the White House From the Inside: “Oke became the godfather of White House photography. Nobody had done it that way before, and pretty much nobody’s done it since. Oke had the combination of a great subject, a really difficult time in American history with the Vietnam War going on, with civil rights problems. He was photographing the heart of all these things that were happening during that presidency.” Read more
- [New Yorker] Yoichi Okamoto, Lyndon Johnson’s Photographer: “A week after the assassination of President John Kennedy, the new President called me in and asked me to take some good portraits of him. I said, ‘Rather than just take portraits, I’d like to hang around and photograph history being made.’” Read more
- [Washinton Post] Photographer Yoichi Okamoto Dies at 69: “Oke had the combination of a great subject, a really difficult time in American history with the Vietnam War going on, with civil rights problems. He was photographing the heart of all these things that were happening during that presidency.” Read more
Photo: Yoichi Okamoto, photographing himself in the mirror; LBJ Presidential Library Collection