Photographing History:
Fred J. Maroon and the Nixon Years, 1970-1974

This page provides text transcriptions of graphical and audio features contained in the exhibition. Click on the section titles to view elements contained within that section. All audio segments feature commentary by Fred Maroon.

Introduction  |  Photojournalism
White House  |  Reelection  |  Hearings  
Final Days/Epilogue  |  About the Exhibit

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Main text:

The images that you are about to see--one photographer's account of President Richard Nixon's years in office--offer a powerful record of an unsettling time in American history. Fred Maroon, a free-lance photographer known for images of Washington monuments and landscapes, won unusual access to President Nixon in 1970 with a proposal for a book on the Nixon White House.

After publication of the book the following year, he was invited to record Nixon's reelection campaign operations. As the Watergate controversy unfolded in 1972-1974, Maroon continued to document the Nixon years, photographing the Senate investigation, the House impeachment hearings, and the president's historic resignation on August 8, 1974.

Photojournalists like Maroon record history in the making. The images they create shape our memory and history. They inform our lives, leaving indelible impressions, and become artifacts to be reinterpreted again and again.

Maroon Quote 1:

"I didn't realize how extraordinary this was going to be, or that I was starting on a four-year project when I began." -Fred J. Maroon, in an oral history interview at the National Museum of American History in June 1998

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Maroon Quote 1:

"When covering the Watergate hearings, I didn't jockey for position with the press on a routine basis. I might try to get in a position where they were, but I would go off to the side somewhere. I would photograph the press photographing the event. They became part of the action, as far as I was concerned, part of the drama of the moment." -FJM, June 1998

Maroon Quote 2:

"Sometimes a contact sheet like this will contain many usable images, and sometimes none. The red marks on this contact sheet indicate the images selected to be made into 8 x 10 inch work prints; from these, three were chosen to be enlarged and are included in this exhibition." -FJM, March 1999

Maroon Quote 3:

"In the print above, the full-frame shows the President walking to the Old Executive Office Building in the rain. The environment is the major element of the picture, and the figures are secondary in scale. There is a lot of information in this photograph. The horizontal crop (top right), closes in on the center of interest, and the action of the walking figures begins to dominate the composition. In the vertical crop (bottom right), the President, his valet, and a passing mailman are the entire focus; the eye has nowhere else to go." -FJM, March 1999

Maroon Quote 4:

"In 1958, Leica came out with a very wide-angle lens, a 21mm. It allowed me to make powerful, and sometimes almost surrealistic, photographs. Suddenly the lens was covering a lot more, and that technical advantage allowed me a creative advantage." -FJM, June 1998

Maroon Quote 5:

"I was given 15-20 minutes . . . you've got to go in there and get a great shot. You have to shop your angle. You have to compose it. You wait for the peak moment, then you shoot. You develop these skills if you are going to survive." -FJM, June 1998

Audio - Samuel Dash briefs journalists:

"'Sources,' in this case Sam Dash, got the rapt attention of the Watergate scribes. Some of the important players in the daily drama were the people reporting it. To young journalists, covering the Watergate hearings was like being in combat is to the military. It could be their baptism by fire."

Audio - Nixon and valet:

"Every day I would arrive at the White House early on the off chance that there would be something unexpected to photograph. On this chilly December morning I grabbed my camera and rushed outside in time to photograph the President with omnipresent Secret Service men, one in front, one behind at a respectable distance. Holding a large umbrella was Manola Sanchez, the President's personal valet, who was from Spain and was very proud that he had, as an immigrant, such a significant position. He was completely devoted to the President and very friendly with everyone."

Audio - Maroon photographing in Oval Office:

These people were most important in the book on the Nixon White House in '70 and '71. Herb Klein is standing, and he was the President's director of communications; and sitting is Allen Drury, in the center, who wrote the text for the book, and the President is on the left. Ollie Atkins, who was the President's photographer, did this picture of me photographing them. It's always fun when photographers photograph photographers.

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White House

Maroon Quote 1:

"After Kennedy and Johnson, nobody seemed to be running stories on the Nixon White House. The big news magazines just didn't like him, so I proposed a book." -FJM, June 1998

Maroon Quote 2:

"I figured that I would get a good administration to work with, one that was secretive, and what I would produce would be sort of an exclusive look, because nobody else was being allowed in . . . it was interesting because of all the intrigue attached to the president and his administration." -FJM, June 1998

Maroon Quote 3:

"I went out to San Clemente [California] with the President on one trip, and flew in Air Force One and his helicopter, Army One. I photographed the President and Mrs. Nixon on the beach. The President was very generous to me, even suggesting some shots that he thought I should take of him and the first lady. When I went to leave he said, 'Well, is there anything else I can do for you?' I said, 'Yes, Mr. President, I'd like to do more pictures of you in the Oval Office.' He said, 'We'll set it up when we get back.'" -FJM, June 1998

Audio - Nixon writing a speech:

"The president had a hideaway office in the Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, and I was taken there to photograph him as he prepared for a television address. He scarcely moved the entire time I was there. I kept hoping he might answer the telephone or walk around the room, so I could get some variety, but it never happened. Later, in the Press Room, I overheard some White House correspondents commenting on how formal the President always was. One said: 'I bet he takes a shower in that suit!' Another added: 'If a photographer ever shot him with his feet up, it would be worth a million dollars.' I smiled and kept my little secret to myself, but doubted that I'd ever see the million dollars!"

Audio - Nixon and Haldeman in Oval Office:

"Haldeman said of his job: 'I was rarely more than a few feet away from him during the working day, and never out of immediate touch by telephone at any hour of the day or night…I was the President's sounding board.'"

Audio - Nixon on Army One helicopter:

"After I had completed a photo session with the President in San Clemente he asked me if I was satisfied with the way my book project was going. I of course stated the obvious: that I would like more opportunities to photograph him. To my surprise I was informed shortly afterwards that I could fly with him and his family and staff on the presidential helicopter from San Clemente to El Toro Marine Base in southern California."

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Maroon Quote 1:

"I arrived a few days after the Watergate break-in and joked to Magruder, 'You guys will do anything to get a little publicity.' It never occurred to me at the time that they had anything to do with it." -FJM, June 1998

Maroon Quote 2:

"I started taking notice of things differently . . . surveillance cameras and rooms with a lot of electronic devices took on a new meaning, I thought I should photograph them, and the shredding machine . . . you can read into the pictures anything you want to after they're done." -FJM, June 1998

Audio - Magruder and Colson:

"Jeb Magruder had a meeting scheduled with Chuck Colson the week of June 26, 1972, a week or so after the break-in, and agreed to let me come along and take some photographs. Colson had not been forewarned, and when he saw me he barked at Magruder: 'Why the ---- are you bringing Maroon here?' This took me by surprise; Colson had always been cooperative and friendly towards me when I was doing coverage in the White House the year before. However, I did know that the image he cultivated in-house was less than lovable. A memo to his own staff ended: 'I will be expecting maximum output from every member of the staff for whom I have any responsibility. I will be very intolerant of less than maximum output. I am totally unconcerned about anything other than getting the job done…Let me point out that the statement in last week's UPI story that I was once reported to have said that I would "walk over my grandmother, if necessary" is absolutely correct.' Since I was already there, Magruder persuaded Colson to let me stay, albeit briefly. I would love to have been a fly on the wall after I left."

Audio - CRP electronics equipment:

"Security at the Committee to Reelect the President headquarters was intense. There were recording stations, and closed-circuit television monitoring activity on all the floors of the building occupied by the Committee to Re-elect the President. Plainclothes guards were stationed unobtrusively near reception areas. One Committee worker was reported to have said: 'There's an awful lot of paranoia around here.'"

Audio - Nixon inauguration:

"The pomp and ceremony of Nixon's Inauguration day was only intermission time as the Watergate break in was a time bomb waiting to explode."

Audio - John Dean:

"This picture of John Dean was pivotal in my decision to continue my photographic document on Nixon. In the week of April 2, 1973, a researcher at Time magazine called to ask whether I had a picture of Dean in my files. By the time I located one, the researcher had called back several times, each time more urgent than the last. I realized something serious was happening, and sure enough, this lonely-looking, contemplative man became a key figure in what was to unfold. When the Watergate hearings were announced I realized that what I had was the beginning of a unique historic document-one that I had no choice but to complete."

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Maroon Quote 1:

"I got to know many of them well when working on the White House book. This was more than just photography. Some, like Mitchell, I thought of as friends." -FJM, June 1998

Audio - Ehrlichman testifying:

"John Ehrlichman could present a ferocious look at times. He had an extraordinarily mobile face, and I thought this photograph exactly captured his demeanor before the Committee. He was combative and evasive, and came prepared to take on the Committee. I had experienced his toughness in the White House, but there it was interspersed with humor and warmth. Before the Committee the unvarnished version of John Ehrlichman was on display."

Audio - Sen. Lowell Weicker, Jr.:

"Senator Weicker was cut from the old cloth of a fiery politician. When he spoke everyone paid attention, not only for what he said but how he said it. He provided high theater for the television audience that had front row seats during the entire course of the hearings. Two television cameras above his head took their aim at witnesses; Weicker himself took a deadlier aim, blasting away mercilessly at Haldeman and others, giving no quarter and making it impossible for them to explain away their behavior."

Audio - Mitchell and attorneys in limousine:

"At the conclusion of the day's testimony, I was allowed to accompany Mitchell and his lawyers in their limousine back to the Hotel Washington, where he was staying. It was a somber journey. I sat in the front seat with the driver and with a very side angle 15mm Hologon lens on my Leica M was able to squeeze off an exposure or two."

Audio - Rep. Barbara Jordan:

"One of the giants during the Impeachment hearings was Barbara Jordan, who stood out not only for the manner and tone of her delivery, but also for its unswerving focus. She gained national prominence with her simple but powerful assertion: 'My faith in the Constitution is whole. It is complete. It is total.'"

Audio - Trent Lott and press

"Due to limited space inside, most of the press had to set up outside the House Judiciary hearing room for live coverage. On July 27, 1974, after the final 27-11 vote of approval of the Articles for Impeachment, news and interviews were broadcast to the waiting world. It was the first recommendation of impeachment to be lodged against a president by a House investigating body since 1868."

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Final Days/Epilogue

Maroon Quote 1:

"Everyone knew . . . we were now in the final phase. The patient was in intensive care, and we were outside waiting for the doctors to tell us it was all over . . . so it was at the White House grounds." -FJM, June 1998

Maroon Quote 2:

"[The speech] went on for quite a long time, it became heart-wrenching. You were glad when he finished because you felt such grief for the country and for what was going on inside of him." -FJM, June 1998

Audio - White House Press Room:

"The week beginning August 5 was unlike any I had ever experienced. It defined what was one of the most politically momentous events of the century. To this day I cannot remember when I experienced the White House so full of dark foreboding. By the evening of August 8 we all knew we were in the final countdown, and that something climactic was imminent. Although the drama was taking place in the same building in which we were sequestered, we, like the rest of America, had to watch television to find out what was happening just a few steps away from us. No matter what your political persuasion, it was an emotionally sad moment."

Audio - President's farewell speech

"The weeks leading up to this traumatic moment in the life of the President had taken a visible toll. It took enormous courage and strength on the President's part to carry off the draining farewell we were witnessing. Two hours later, at 11:35 AM, when he was already enroute to California, his letter of resignation was delivered to the Secretary of State and Nixon's presidency came to an end."

Audio - Mrs. Nixon and Tricia Nixon Cox

"As the President spoke, everyone in the East Room felt for his family, and particularly Mrs. Nixon. I could not help but remember her remark that the hardest day of her political life with her husband had been when he lost his first bid for the presidency in November 1960. I could not help but feel that that day had now been eclipsed."

Audio - Nixon on White House grounds

"President Nixon's daily commute involved walking from the residence part of the White House to the Oval Office in the West Wing. On this brisk winter morning he waved hello to me, disappeared between the columns, and crossed the garden to a door that led directly into his office."

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About the Exhibit

Maroon Quote 1:

"Doing magazine work made me think in terms of stories. I became, then, not just a photographer. I became a storyteller with my camera." -FJM

Audio - Fred J. Maroon, 1970s

"Stanley Tretick got me in his viewer without my knowing it while I was doing photographs from a distance, where all the spectators were. He gave me this picture later on; it was a very nice gift from him because it was something that I couldn't have posed for if I wanted to."

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