Yoichi Okamoto

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Yoichi Okamoto
Yoichi Okamoto.jpg
Okamoto photographing himself in the mirror at the L.B.J. Ranch in Stonewall, Tex. Jan. 2, 1964.
Chief Official White House Photographer
In office
PresidentLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byCecil W. Stoughton
Succeeded byOliver F. Atkins
Personal details
Born(1915-07-05)July 5, 1915
Yonkers, New York, U.S.
DiedApril 24, 1985(1985-04-24) (aged 69)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.

Yoichi R. Okamoto (July 5, 1915 – April 24, 1985)[1] was the second official U.S. presidential photographer, serving Lyndon B. Johnson.

Early life[edit]

Okamoto was a native of Yonkers, New York.[2] His father, Chobun Yonezo Okamoto, was a wealthy exporter, book publisher and real estate businessman who came from Japan to the United States in 1904.[3] His mother's name was Shina. Okamoto spent three years in Japan as a child.[3] He attended Roosevelt High School and Colgate University and served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. During part of the time during World War II he was the official photographer of General Mark Clark.[4] After the war, he joined the United States Information Agency.[5]


In 1955 curator Edward Steichen chose Okamoto's United States Information Service photograph of Harald Kreutzberg for the world-touring Museum of Modern Art exhibition The Family of Man that was seen by 9 million visitors.[6][7] His tightly cropped, three-quarter-face portrait,[8] previously published in Popular Photography shows Kreutzberg at the 1950 Salzburg Festival in rehearsals for the performance of the play Jedermann by Hugo von Hofmannsthal in which Kreutzberg played the devil.[9]

In 1961, Okamoto was invited to accompany then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson on a trip of Berlin as his official photographer. Admiring the photography from the trip, the Vice President requested that Okamoto be used for future events. When Johnson became President, he asked Okamoto to become the official photographer for the White House, which Okamoto accepted on condition that he would have unlimited access to the President.[3] He was fondly known as "Oke",[citation needed] and was given unprecedented access to the Oval Office.[10] He captured images of the President of the United States, more candid than had been previously acceptable.[11][12]

Because of his ability to be present at almost any event, more photos of the Johnson presidency are available than from any earlier term of office. He took an estimated 675,000 photographs during the Johnson presidency.[3] The 1990 coffee table book LBJ: The White House Years[4] by Harry Middleton consists primarily of images taken by Okamoto.

After finishing as the White House official photographer, Okamoto opened a private photofinishing business called Image Inc. in Washington D.C.[13] He worked alongside his wife, Paula Okamoto.[3]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to wife, Paula, and had a step-daughter, Karin, and a son, Philip.[4] Okamoto committed suicide on April 24, 1985, at the age of 69.[13]


  1. ^ National Archives, Picturing the Century,"[1]"
  2. ^ Estrin, James (2013-12-10). "Photographing the White House From the Inside". Lens Blog. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  3. ^ a b c d e Oct 2018, Greg Robinson / 11. "The Man Behind the Camera: The story of Yoichi Okamoto, LBJ's Shadow". Discover Nikkei. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  4. ^ a b c Washington Post, Personalities by Chuck Conconi, March 30, 1990,"
  5. ^ Pomerantz, James (2012-03-28). "Yoichi Okamoto, Lyndon Johnson's Photographer". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  6. ^ Hurm, Gerd, 1958-, (editor.); Reitz, Anke, (editor.); Zamir, Shamoon, (editor.) (2018), The family of man revisited : photography in a global age, London I.B.Tauris, ISBN 978-1-78672-297-3 {{citation}}: |author1= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Sandeen, Eric J (1995), Picturing an exhibition : the family of man and 1950s America (1st ed.), University of New Mexico Press, ISBN 978-0-8263-1558-8
  8. ^ "Österreichische Nationalbibliothek - Salzburger Festspiele 1950". www.bildarchivaustria.at. Retrieved 2019-10-30.
  9. ^ Steichen, Edward; Sandburg, Carl; Norman, Dorothy; Lionni, Leo; Mason, Jerry; Stoller, Ezra; Museum of Modern Art (New York) (1955). The family of man: The photographic exhibition. Published for the Museum of Modern Art by Simon and Schuster in collaboration with the Maco Magazine Corporation.
  10. ^ PBS, The President's Photographer 50 Years in the Oval Office,"[2]"
  11. ^ Laskow, Sarah (2016-05-04). "How One Photographer Finally Convinced a President to Give Him Full Access". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  12. ^ Weiss, Haley (2019-01-21). "How White House photographers have shaped the image of the President". CNN Style. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  13. ^ a b "Photographer Yoichi Okamoto Dies at 69". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2019-01-21.

External links[edit]