For the Trump inauguration, he was the only photo editor. Craighead photographed Trump and military photographers came in to cover Vice President Mike Pence and other coverage. It was a smaller staff that worked hard, but was stretched.
Anderson said it is expected that any administration change will have confusion, but that the Trump administration was pressed for time.
“It wasn’t that they are incompetent. They didn't take the time to build a team before Inauguration Day,” Anderson said.
Through the weekend following the inauguration, some things became apparent to Anderson.
“It didn't take very long — matter of two days, maybe — for me to know that I was very thankful it wasn’t a permanent job,” Anderson said.
Anderson has a journalism background, having been director of photography at The State in Columbia, South Carolina before joining the White House staff. Serving during the Obama administration and under Director of Photography Pete Souza, Anderson is proud to have worked with that photo team and to share the responsibility of documenting history.
“It was a incredible experience to work with the people I worked with,” Anderson said.
He also respected how the Obama administration reflected the dignity of the presidency, something he didn’t see as the Trump administration took over.
Anderson said many people felt that once Trump was in office, the candidate would become more presidential. That first weekend, Anderson began to believe that wouldn’t happen.
A key moment was President Trump’s Twitter posts that said the size of his inauguration crowds were underreported and Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s first press conference that repeated the complaint.
“You would think that the president of the United States would have much more important things to focus on,” Anderson said. “That strengthened my idea that this guy is not presidential.”
Trump’s unpredictable behavior would have been a challenge in the long run. While editing for the White House, Anderson said they often weren’t worried about what Obama, “the boss,” might think, but how something could be used by opposition groups to attack the administration.
For photos, that often meant considering how a good image could be taken out of context to undermine a serious message. The new White House is showing too many contradictory themes to be able to follow, much less to edit accordingly.
Anderson also had problems with Trump’s policies, making it harder to work in the White House. He was concerned that the new president’s values would be seen as his own and he didn’t want to be part of that.
“This man’s politics are not my politics,” Anderson said.
With his experience in journalism, Anderson is also concerned about the new administration’s efforts to delegitimize the press through “fake news” accusations.
“Anyone who is not appalled by that is ignorant about what holds our democracy together,” Anderson said. For now, Anderson is working on looking for his next job. In the down time, he has five-plus years of personal images and projects he wants to get caught up. He wants to jam a lot of work into his own transition.