Larry Downing

Larry Downing

Washington D.C., United States
California, United States
“Pictures cannot be recreated. Great photographic moments never repeat themselves.”


I divide up daily coverage of the White House with two other Reuters staff photographers. This includes the demands of presidential travel, both domestic and international, aboard Air Force One.

One Shot

. Washington, United States of America. REUTERS/Larry Downing
The damaged area of the Pentagon building, which a commercial jetliner slammed into on September 11, 2001, is illuminated at sunrise with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background.
“Each image I capture remains important to me, but only a few stand tall enough to take me out of the equation and assume their own lives as historic images. My favourite photograph accomplishes that by using the rich, early-morning light to create a striking image that beautifies the horrific, damaged area of the Pentagon just five days after 9/11.”


I’ll always remember seeing the first photograph that triggered my desire to be a photojournalist: the amazing picture of East German soldier Conrad Schumann leaping over the razor wire of the early Berlin Wall. The picture was shot by photographer Peter Leibing and seen around the world. It needed no caption; it spoke loudly enough. I knew, after studying that dramatic moment, I would one day be a news photographer.

My specialty is U.S. political coverage, but I relax by devoting my free time to a variety of in-depth, self-assigned stories. One of my favourites was a five-month project documenting the pain felt by friends and family of deceased soldiers visiting Arlington National Cemetery’s Section 60, where hundreds of U.S. military war casualties are honoured.

I am a self-taught professional photographer. Secretly borrowing my older sister’s mechanical 35 mm camera as a child gave me plenty of alone time to study the confusing dials and buttons, which at first made no sense to me but soon became self explanatory after “reading the manual.”

When I rented my first apartment in college, I made a primitive darkroom with cheap, plastic parts taped together inside a cramped bathroom, using the toilet as a chair. I worked nights and weekends at a local camera store and spent all my extra money buying black-and-white film, chemicals and paper for my hobby.

I look at every assignment as though it’s my first one. Thousands of camera enthusiasts dream of going on just one “photographic assignment” and I’m fortunate to get to do it every single day.

Photography has provided me with a front-row seat on history and the opportunity to travel around the world. I’m one of the luckiest people alive and wouldn’t trade my job or career with anyone.

The most emotional assignment I have ever done was during the early days of U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration, when the president sneaked off to spend Thanksgiving dinner with combat troops deployed to Iraq. I was honoured to have been handpicked by the White House to be a member of that super secret Air Force One travel pool, which successfully flew to the other side of the world undetected to visit soldiers waiting long into the dark night for their holiday dinner.

A photojournalist's reputation for accuracy is more important than any image; once that trust is violated it evaporates and his or her career as a truth teller is over. Our readership deserves the truth.

I have learnt to never leave home without a camera and always to be ready to pounce on a picture immediately without hesitation. Pictures cannot be recreated. Great photographic moments never repeat themselves.

My respect goes to the photographers, or people, who can permanently uproot themselves from the comfortable surroundings of an easy life at home and start fresh in a strange land with no support system in place. Operating outside your normal comfort zone is admirable.

Behind the Scenes

Photographer Larry Downing stands by a wall of red flowers during U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to speak to U.S. Marines and Australian troops at the RAAF Base in Darwin, Australia.