Friday, November 12, 2010

Meet President Obama's Official Videographer

Arun Chaudhary, a former NYU film instructor, is the first person to hold the job of White House videographer. According to today's New York Times profile, he is "part documentarian, part White House-message-machine post. He travels with the president on roughly two-thirds of his trips, documenting the behind-the-scenes occasions and public theatrics."

Using only his handheld videocamera and laptop, Chaudhary compiles his video highlights into a weekly roundup, "West Wing Week," which appears on every Friday. (See this week's episode below.)

The profile depicts Chaudhary as a perpetually disheveled man on the go, scrambling to both keep up with President Obama and keep out of his way -- though the boss offers his personal documentarian the ultimate accolade: "a very cool guy."

Like official White House photographers, Chaudhary is part historian, part propagandist, searching for and releasing only the President's most flattering moments. But that is not without precedent.

Since at least the time of President Ronald Reagan, successive White Houses have understood the power of video, investing time and effort into creating images for television to record.

But Obama aides have gone a step further, creating imagery and then filming it themselves, knowing they can inject it into the media bloodstream because of video-sharing sites like YouTube and the increased appetite for new media and technology.
But Chaudhary claims he is taking the long view, and capturing history in the making for future generations to savor -- especially the largely unseen candid side of President Obama, even the awkward or unflattering moments. All those deleted scenes and outtakes are preserved on huge storage servers and will become part of the official record in the presidential library.

As with videojournalists, Chaudhary finds the best moments are the unanticipated ones -- the private interactions that occur between the official staged events. “Whether you are in the United Nations or a castle in Prague," he notes, "anything can happen, and probably will, in the hallway.”

Here's this week's episode of West Wing Week:

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