George W. Harris

George W. Harris


Inductee Sponsor: Prof. Photographers of Oklahoma-Past Presidents


George William Harris was a pioneering photojournalist. He began his photographic career on a dare. He was an aspiring young actor who had his portrait taken. When he did not like the results, he criticized the photographer who dared him to come back to pose and photograph subjects himself. Harris did, and the photographer was so impressed with the results he hired Harris on the spot.

In 1889 Harris covered the Johnstown flood for the Pittsburgh Dispatch and became a pioneer in photojournalism. That same year he went to work in a studio and three years later became a partner in that studio.

In 1895 he went to Arkansas and then on to San Francisco in 1898. While in San Francisco his newspaper experience attracted the attention of Andrew Lawrence, Managing Editor of the San Francisco Examiner and the Hearst News Service. He covered a volcanic eruption in Hawaii and demonstrations in Canada. It was in San Francisco that he met President Theodore Roosevelt. Both Roosevelt and Lawrence encouraged him to go to Washington to start a news photographic service. This came to be in 1905.

In 1906, Roosevelt asked him to photograph the Cabinet, which would be the first time this had ever been done. Through this association, he became the official White House photographer, serving administrations from Roosevelt through Eisenhower. In all, Harris had over five million negatives in his files, some of which are in the Smithsonian Institution.

He served as President of the Photographers’ Association of America, which later became the Professional Photographers of America. The George W. Harris Achievement Award and the George Harris Award Medal are named for him. He also helped found the White House Photographers Association and Winona School of Professional Photography.


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