Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shushannah Walshe Profiles Palin's Personal Photographer

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Shushannah Walshe, who co-wrote Sarah from Alaska, penned a profile of Sarah Palin's personal photographer Shealah Craighead for AOL News. An excerpt:
Readers of Newsweek, InTouch (for which she photographed the first birthday of Bristol Palin's son Tripp) and Palin's memoir (her shots ran inside, but she didn't get the cover) will be familiar with a few of Craighead's images. And everyone who had a copy of "Going Rogue" signed by Palin was able to buy a snapshot by Craighead memorializing the moment. But the vast majority of her photos have been kept from public consumption, retained for some as-yet-undetermined use -- perhaps a Palin 2012 website, or an exhibit in a future Palin Presidential Library?

Craighead, 33, says she looks at photographing Palin as "a long-term documentary project." It's one on which Palin occasionally offers feedback. "She's very encouraging of my work. For me, that's what it means at the end of the day."

One current Palin staffer calls Craighead "a member of the family." But the even-tempered photographer stresses that she and Palin are not confidantes, and that instead the level of trust she enjoys was earned through the work she did during the 2008 campaign.

"[Palin] can kick back and be comfortable and take off her shoes and not be worried about 'Oh, she took her shoes off, let's photograph that,'" Craighead says. "I look for the details, I look for the highlights. I look for the moments in between the podium shots."

She's certainly been privy to a lot of those. Along with their shared Connick Jr.-ogling in Florida, there was the time, while on a book tour swing through Florida, that Palin -- as so many politicians before her have done -- had dinner with Billy Graham. Craighead, there to photograph the meal, was part of the small entourage that stayed the night at the Graham estate. As the two women were driven to their cabins, they chatted about the food (both loved the biscuits). While Craighead was hopping out, Palin offered to order her a wake-up call.

Political principals very rarely do that kind of thing for staffers, and it's not a gesture some might expect from Palin, who has a reputation of chewing through even loyal aides and advisers. But the less-than-a-handful of people in her current inner circle seem to genuinely like Palin as a person and enjoy being around her. This goes for Craighead, too, who talks about Palin much the same way that others who remain in her good graces do. "She's just the same in person as you see on TV. What you see is what you get," she says. "Off and on air, that person is still the same person."
The full article is here, and as a bonus, there's also a 25-shot photo gallery of some of Craifhead's work, titled "Sarah Palin's Private Album."

h/t roy y

- JP

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