Sharon Farmer was the first woman and the first African American to be named Chief White House Photographer.
Farmer joined the team of four photographers at the Clinton White House in 1993, and worked as director from 1999 to 2001.The four photographers took nearly 12,000 rolls of film each year as they documented pubic and private moments. You might recognize Farmer’s shot of the famous handshake between the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, or the image of Presidents Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, their arms around each other during a visit to South Africa.
But for Farmer, one of her most memorable assignments took place thousands of miles from the White House:
“In 1998, I accompanied the President and Mrs. Clinton to Ghana. There was a huge rally in the stadium in Accra. There must have been over 250,000 people cheering the President and First Lady. They were given the kente cloth of the Africans and, wearing them, proudly stood next to President and Mrs. Rawlings of Ghana. What a moment in time!”
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that an American President would visit an African country and be received so wonderfully. That moment, to me, is only second to watching and photographing Nelson Mandela being sworn in as President of South Africa. I attended the event with Mrs. Clinton and the delegation that Vice President Gore led. Every day I pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming that I have this job here, in this time, in this world.” (Fall 1999: Meet White House Photographer Sharon Farmer)
Farmer continues her work as photographer. She was the campaign photographer for Sen. John Kerry’s Presidential run, and she teaches and lectures on photojournalism. Her work is part of the permanent collections of various museums.