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Exhibit Offers Candid Look At Presidents


December 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A photo exhibit put together from candid shots of presidents shows that, when you come right down to it, even the most powerful men on Earth don't behave all that differently from everybody else.

They race their kids, throw paper airplanes, bowl, fish, play cards and smoke cigars, all the while dealing with the responsibilities of the Oval Office.

The show opening Tuesday at the National Archives illustrates both the personalities of presidents and the progress of photography. Innovations like smaller cameras and faster film and shutter speeds made possible progressively more snatched glimpses at presidents' unguarded moments.

``You get a much more intimate view of the presidents than you do from the regular media,'' said Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper.

The exhibit, ``The American Presidency,'' starts with a full-length photo of James Buchanan, who preceded Abraham Lincoln in the White House 1 1/2 centuries ago. It's a formal portrait by Matthew Brady, blown up to nearly life size. Visitors can appraise his fancy vest and white socks.

Later presidents are more relaxed before the camera -- they didn't have to sit for long exposures.

There's Richard Nixon in bowling shoes, preparing to roll a bowling ball; Dwight D. Eisenhower and wife Mamie leaning against a car; Harry Truman playing cards; Ronald Reagan launching a paper airplane from the balcony of a Los Angeles hotel.

Children brighten the scene. Caroline Kennedy stands on her hands in the Oval Office to her father's applause. Lyndon Johnson howls along with a dog he's cradling, as his grandson looks up quizzically from his walker. In a series of photos, Jimmy Carter races his daughter Amy to a helicopter.

Bill Clinton is seen aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, in discussion with National Security Chief Anthony Lake and Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, soon after the heads of Balkan states had agreed to end the war in Bosnia.

The exhibition includes no pictures of the current George W. Bush.

Lincoln is pictured in his 2-foot-tall stovepipe hat, accompanied by Gen. John A. McClernand and Secret Service chief Allan Pinkerton, posing outside a tent at Antietam, Md., after the bloodiest day of the Civil War in which more than 23,000 soldiers were killed or wounded.

There also are photos that would bother the president's security forces now: William McKinley leans out to children from an observation car platform as admirers crowd around him; Herbert Hoover stands in an open car, his head highlighted in the bright sun of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Possibly the saddest of all 40 shots: Franklin Roosevelt at a worktable before the fieldstone fireplace at his retreat in Warm Springs, Ga., braces clearly visible on his paralyzed legs. It was taken by a cousin in 1945, days before FDR's sudden death there.

The exhibit inaugurates the Archives' Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery, named for the postmaster general under President Lyndon Johnson. It will be open through Feb. 21. Admission is free.


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