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Sharon Farmer

Sharon Farmer

First African-American woman to be hired as a White House photographer and the first African American and first female to be Director of the White House Photography office

Sharon Farmer isn't just a photographer; she's a visual chronicler who documented pivotal moments in American history, all while shattering glass ceilings within the White House. Born and raised in Washington D.C. in 1951, her artistic journey began not in photojournalism, but with a chance encounter in a darkroom, sparking a lifelong passion for capturing the world through the lens.


Farmer's career blossomed with freelance photography, documenting news stories, cultural events, and portraits. Her keen eye and ability to tell stories through images gained recognition, leading her to the White House in 1993. She became the first African-American woman hired as a White House photographer, capturing iconic moments like the handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, President Clinton witnessing the launch of the space shuttle Discovery and the Presidential visit to Accra, Ghana.


Beyond documenting history, Farmer made history herself. In 1999, she became the first African American and first woman to be Director of the White House Photography office. In this role, she not only led a team of talented photographers, but also curated groundbreaking exhibitions and championed diverse perspectives within the field. While capturing presidential moments on the world stage, she didn't forget her community, serving as a mentor and inspiring aspiring photographers, particularly young women and minorities.


Sharon Farmer's legacy shines brightly as we celebrate her remarkable achievements, which have left an indelible mark on the world of photography. As a pioneering photographer, Farmer made history by becoming the first African-American woman to be hired as a White House photographer and subsequently, the first African American and woman to lead the White House Photography office. Through her lens, Farmer meticulously captured iconic moments in American and global history including the moment when Nelson Mandela became, preserving invaluable visual narratives of various presidential eras for posterity. Beyond her role as a documentarian, Farmer dedicated herself to mentoring and inspiring others in the field of photography, championing diverse perspectives and empowering young generations of visual storytellers to pursue their passions and make their voices heard.


Sharon Farmer's story is a testament to the power of passion, dedication, and breaking barriers. Her captivating images not only chronicle history, but also serve as a reminder of the importance of representation and the impact individuals can have by pursuing their dreams with unwavering determination. Her legacy continues to inspire generations of photographers and advocates for diversity in the media landscape.

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