The White House Photo Office had its origins in the 1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson appointed Yoichi Okamoto as his personal photographer. Prior to that, photographers attached to the National Park Service or the Naval Photographic Center had photographed the activities of the President.
Gerald Ford had an open policy when it came to documenting his presidency photographically. One of the first positions filled in his White House was that of Personal Photographer to the President. The job went to David Hume Kennerly, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his photographs of the Vietnam War, who covered Vice President Ford for TIME Magazine. Ford granted Kennerly, with few exceptions, free and total access to the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, the White House residence and the Ford family.
Kennerly saw his job and that of the other photographers in the Photo Office to be the documentation of the entire presidency, not just the ceremony associated with the Oval Office. In his autobiography, SHOOTER, Kennerly wrote "to produce a true photographic document of [Ford's] presidency, I [needed] to have unlimited access to his meetings." Kennerly perceived this access as an opportunity to "accurately record the Presidency in all its moods and colorations." To best portray these moods, Kennerly chose to shoot primarily ASA 400 black and white film pushed to 800. Black and white, Kennerly wrote, "lends itself best of all to dramatic documentary presentation."
In addition to Kennerly, the Photo Office employed office manager Billie Shaddix, photo editor Sandra Eisert, and four photographers. Ricardo Thomas worked almost exclusively as Kennerly's back-up, often complementing his black and white photographs with color. Karl Schumacher photographed Mrs. Ford, Jack Kightlinger primarily photographed Vice President Rockefeller, and William Fitz-Patrick was a general assignment photographer, usually delegated to the President.