Shealah Craighead, the official White House photographer during the Trump administration, was reportedly set to receive a six-figure advance for a book of her historic images of an uncommon presidency. Until Donald Trump saw an opportunity.
The New York Times reported that Craighead, 45, was asked by a Trump aide to give him a portion of the book advance — estimated to be “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars” — in exchange for writing a foreword. That was followed by a request that she hold off on publishing her book so the former real-estate developer could publish his own photo book, autographed copies of which he is hawking for $230 apiece — and without any photo credits.
Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich didn’t dispute that a foreword for a cut of the advance had been discussed, adding that Trump opted to publish his own book in a separate deal with a multimillion-dollar advance.
“It’s a slap in the face,” former White House photographer Eric Draper told the Times. “I would be disappointed if I were in her shoes.”
Draper, whose book, “Front Row Seat: A Photographic Portrait of the Presidency of George W. Bush,” was published in 2013, said he had spoken with Craighead about her plans for a book about the Trump era.
Vanity Fair notes that the story appears to fit Trump’s reputation. Previous reports have documented how the real estate developer stiffied hundreds of contractors, ran a scam university, and, according to New York Leticia James, misstated the value of his assets for more than a decade, a claim the Trump Organization has denied as “politically motivated.” In 2016, USA Today reported that hundreds of contractors alleged having been stiffed by Trump.
Craighead declined to comment on her previous client but confirmed that she has put her book project on hold for now.
“I stay apolitical as possible, as I am a neutral historical documentarian,” she reportedly told the Times. “By staying neutral I am able to remain a keen observer.”
Craighead was only the second woman to be White House chief photographer, after Sharon Farmer, who worked with Bill Clinton.
Previously, Craighead photographed Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as first lady Laura Bush, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in her 2016 campaign and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in 2016.
In a 2018 profile, Craighead told Marie Claire that she jumped at the chance to record history with an unconventional White House occupant.
“It was absolutely an opportunity I knew I wanted to take. He has a dynamic personality—and very polarizing. What I admire about him is he doesn’t waiver on speaking his mind. He’s going to speak the truth from his heart, and that’s going to be received how it’s going to be received. He’s true to himself and I admire that in a person—especially in somebody I’m photographing,” she said. “This is an opportunity to document the history of a president, first family, and second family. Those combinations were definitely something I would not pass up.”