First Cameraman: The Improbable Story of How a Disheveled Film Professor Became the First Official White House Videographer

Arun Chaudhary. Times, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9572-2
With engaging, self-effacing cool, Chaudhary, the first official White House videographer, provides an entertaining, though not particularly detailed, account of his four years filming President Barack Obama. In 2008, Chaudhary, then an NYU film professor, was hired by the Obama campaign to film the candidate and post the results on the Internet. As an intriguing look at the evolution of “new media” in politics, the book effectively examines the history of political filmmaking all the way back to Eisenhower, and includes a lively chapter on the author’s struggle to synthesize his own filmmaking ethos with the rigid strictures of political messaging. However, just as the exhilaration of Obama’s campaign gave way to the reality of governance, so Chaudhary’s narrative stumbles postelection into a vague glimpse of the presidency that ends at the ante-room of the Oval Office. As a member of the White House staff, and with access only to the president’s public moments, Chaudhary’s documentation has been called propaganda, a charge he unconvincingly tackles head-on. He instead argues that his work “humanizes” the presidency in a way that makes it more palatable to the masses. Though the book provides a close look at Chaudhary’s job, it doesn’t make the case that we’re better served by reality television–style access than by reportage. Photos. Agent: Bridget Wagner, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/04/2012
Release date: 08/21/2012
Paperback - 312 pages - 978-1-250-03733-6
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-8050-9573-9
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