Donald Trump tried to profit off former White House photographer’s book, sold his own instead

President Donald Trump talks on the phone aboard Air Force One during a flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address a joint gathering of House and Senate Republicans, Thursday, January 26, 2017. This was the President’s first trip aboard Air Force One. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Update (Saturday April 2, 2022 at 8am ET): The article previously noted Mr. Trump’s photo book retailed for $230. While a signed copy was selling for $230, non-signed versions were available to purchase for $70. The article has been updated to reflect this.


Going back to Ronald Reagan’s tenure as president of the United States, every official White House photographer has published a photo book following the departure of the commander-in-chief they photographed. While not an official one, the publishing of a photo book has become a tradition of sorts, with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama going so far as to write a foreword for their photographers, Eric Draper and Pete Souza (who served as both Reagan’s and Obama’s photographer), respectively.

Typically, this process usually goes off without a hitch, but that hasn’t held true for Shealah Craighead, the official White House photographer for former President Donald Trump. As detailed in a report from The New York Times, Ms. Craighead had intended to publish a book sharing the photographs she captured of Trump and his cabinet as she travelled the world alongside him during his four years as president.

President Donald J. Trump disembarks Air Force One Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, at Steward International Airport in Orange County, N.Y., where President Trump will attend the Army-Navy football game nearby at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. (Official White House Photos by. Shealah Craighead)

After notifying Mr. Trump’s aides of her plan to publish her book, The New York Times reports that ‘Mr. Trump asked her for a cut of her book advance payment in exchange for his writing a foreword and helping promote the book, according to former associates of Mr. Trump.’ Mr. Trump has since contacted Ms. Craighead (for the first time since leaving office) and confirmed he’d write a foreword to her book, according to The New York Times.

Mr. Trump’s team also requested Ms. Craighead wait to publish her book so Mr Trump could first publish his own, consisting of her images, as well as those captured by other White House staff photographers. Mr. Trump’s book, titled ‘Our Journey Together’ and published by Winning Team Publishing, is currently sold out, but was selling for $230 for a signed copy, $70 for a non-signed copy.

As The New York Times notes, ‘Our Journey Together’ fails to include any photo credits under the individual images, only acknowledging ‘all the phenomenal White House photographers’ on the last page of the book, with a list of the photographers whose images were used. Since the images captured by White House staff members fall under public domain, they are therefore fair game for Mr. Trump to use in his book. However, as The New York Times notes, citing John Bredar, an expert on the history of White House Photographers, this marks the first time a former president has made attempted to make money from a book that had planned on being released by the official White House photographer.

Marine One, carrying President Donald J. Trump, lifts-off from the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday, May 14, 2019, for the flight to Joint Base Andrews, Md., where President Trump will board Air Force One for his trip to Louisiana. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

According to an industry executive The New York Times spoke with, the advance for Ms. Craighead’s advance was ‘in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,’ while Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Mr. Trump, confirmed his book deal ‘came with a much bigger, multimillion-dollar advance,’ according to The New York Times.

Following news of Mr. Trump’s demands in exchange for writing a foreword to Ms. Craighead’s photo book, Mr. Draper, the official White House photographer for George W. Bush, told The New York Times ‘It’s a slap in the face […] I would be disappointed if I were in her shoes.’ Stephanie Grisham, who was the third of four White House press secretaries who served under Trump, also expressed her disappointment with the move, telling The New York Times ‘Shea’s a very talented photographer and this was really all of her hard work,’ adding ‘I just keep thinking: What a shame that he is actually now profiting off of it. But then again, this is the guy who is hawking caps and all kinds of stuff right now to raise money for himself.’

President Donald J. Trump talks with members of the press on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday, July 17, 2019, prior to boarding Marine One to begin his trip to North Carolina. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Ms. Craighead said in an interview with The New York Times that she didn’t want to publicly comment on the situation and confirmed that she no longer intends to publish her own photo book of images captured during her tenure as Mr. Trump’s official White House photographer.

You can read the full report on The New York Times.

NYT: She Took the White House Photos. Trump Moved to Take the Profit.