With every term, the White House on Flickr gets archived

[UPDATE: The previous title for this post was “With every term, the White House on Flickr gets deleted”. But that is too negative, and misleading. I changed “deleted” to “archived”, because that’s what really happens]

The White House has been on Flickr for 11 years—before Instagram was even a thing.

This is a long post, so I’ll give you all the fun highlights at the start.

  1. After every U.S. President’s term, Flickr deletes all the photos from the official WhiteHouse Flickr account, and moves the images onto a newly named account like ObamaWhiteHouse and WhiteHouse45.
  2. At the start of Trump’s term, it took his staff three months before posting anything to Flickr.
  3. After one week in office, Biden has yet to post anything to Flickr. After 16 days in office, Biden’s administration made their first posts to the White House Flickr.
  4. Obama’s White House posted 6,668 photos. Trump’s White House posted 14,993 photos.
  5. Biden’s 2020 campaign got 17.7 million followers on Instagram, whereas his Flickr account got only 721 followers.
  6. Joe Biden’s official White House Flickr is NOT A PRO ACCOUNT.

Flickr continues to thrive today as an archive of images. Flickr is the internet’s shoebox full of unfiltered images. Museums continue to post public domain images to Flickr. Government agencies post tons of photos—much more than Instagram. Flickr is a great place to archive history.

You’ll continue to hear me sing the praises of why Flickr is better than Instagram. Flickr’s feature set totally overshadows Instagram. Frankly, they aren’t even comparable. However, Instagram does have millions more people using it.

These days it’s not even a question of “are you on Instagram or Flickr?” People don’t look to Flickr to follow new people. Instead everyone heads to Instagram to follow new people.

But if you want royalty-free images, Flickr is your place. Does Instagram have that? No way. Instagram still claims forever rights to your images even after you delete them.

Today I was looking for an image of the Moon rock in President Biden’s office. I wanted to grab the legit Creative Commons version, so the first place I headed? Flickr.

Joe Biden on Flickr

Joe Biden does indeed have a Flickr account. It’s for his 2020 campaign, bidenforpresident.

Screenshot of @bidenforpresident's Flickr account

It’s really cool that Joe Biden is on Flickr. But on the other hand, given Biden’s age, it also feels kinda lame that they would be on Flickr. Like, Biden’s team is “out of it” for posting to Flickr. Sorry to be ageist there. But seeing the photos of the 78-year-old Biden on Flickr just feels kinda weird. I’m torn about that, because I absolutely love Flickr.

Anyhow, Biden’s campaign was also on Instagram. Biden’s 2020 Campaign on Instagram has 17.7 million followers. His Flickr account has 721 followers. Ouch. They were probably just using the Flickr account to cover all their bases.

Screenshot of @joebiden's Instagram account

17,700,000 versus 723. That is 24,481 times more people. But these are the campaign accounts for Instagram and Flickr. What about the actual White House account?

Joe Biden’s official White House account on Flickr

Screenshot of the WhiteHouse account on Flickr

[UPDATE: After 16 days in office, Biden’s administration made their first posts to the White House Flickr.]

The White House does indeed have a Flickr account. But there are zero photos. And why does the date started say “Joined 2021”? What gives? Didn’t President Trump have photos on Flickr? Most certainly when Barack Obama took office, he started a Flickr account. Obama was all about using online media.

According to archive.org, the “White House” has been on Flickr since May 1, 2009. (that’s one year before Instagram launched in 2010)

Screenshot of archive.org's index of the WhiteHouse account on Flickr

If you go back to January 16, 2021 during the last week of Trump’s administration, there are indeed photos: 14,993 photos.

Screenshot of White House Flickr on January 16, 2021

It’s odd how there are no images right now on the White House Flickr. None. All gone. What happened? Let’s look back at the past Flickr accounts to see how it transitioned from Obama to Trump.

Barack Obama’s official White House Flickr account

Here’s the first recorded archive of the White House Flickr account, captured on May 1, 2009:

Screenshot of the WhiteHouse Flickr account on May 1, 2009

Ok, so clearly the Biden Flickr account wasn’t made in 2021. It was made in 2009. How about the photos? Didn’t Obama post photos to Flickr?

On Obama’s last day January 19, 2017 at 3:14am, there was 6,668 photos in the White House Flickr.

Screenshot of the WhiteHouse Flickr account on January 19, 2017

Yup, so there was photos posted to Obama’s Flickr. Over 6,000 photos! Then just eight hours later, at 11:37pm on January 19, 2017, there was zero images.

Screenshot of the WhiteHouse Flickr account on January 19, 2017

Right at the very start of Trump’s term, all the Flickr photos for the White House was deleted

Who deleted the photos? Was it someone on Trump’s team? Was it Flickr? Or maybe someone on Obama’s White House team?

Actually, Flickr moved all the Obama White House photos to its own dedicated account at to the Flickr username ObamaWhiteHouse.

In 2017 Flickr sent a message to users notifying them of the change:

You’re receiving this message because you currently follow the White House account on Flickr, which hosted photographs from the Obama Administration. These photos and this account will be updated and live on as the official National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) with the Flickr username ‘ObamaWhiteHouse’, managed by https://www.archives.gov.

Starting today the incoming Trump Administration will take ownership of the official ‘WhiteHouse’ Flickr account. If you wish to follow both accounts no further action is required. If you wish to unfollow one or both accounts simply go to the link(s) below and click Follow Button to select the ‘Unfollow’.

Trump’s White House didn’t post any photos on Flickr until April 22, 2017. Thus, three months of no images. The Verge covered what happened when they finally started posting photos again. Basically, at the beginning of Trump’s term, there wasn’t much in the sense of professional photography happening at the White House right away.

Then four years later at the end of Trump’s term:

Again, the WhiteHouse Flickr account was wiped clean. Last time the photos were moved to ObamaWhiteHouse. However, this time, there is no TrumpWhiteHouse account. Or WhiteHouseTrump. Instead, the account is named whitehouse45. Interesting that Flickr didn’t use the “Trump” in the username.

And side-fact, as of this writing, the last image uploaded is Trump visiting the border wall.

Screenshot of the WhiteHouse45 Flickr account on January 27, 2021

Wiping the WhiteHouse Flickr account clean for every administration is now a tradition

Obama’s White House Flickr account was wiped clean, and moved to ObamaWhiteHouse. Trump’s White House Flickr account was wiped clean, and moved to WhiteHouse45.

Now when will Biden start posting images to his White House Flickr account? The WhiteHouse Instagram account has 21 images, mostly graphics about various initiatives. I want more fun inside-the-White-House images!

Screenshot of @WhiteHouse Instagram on January 27, 2021

That makes me a little sad that none of those 21 images are on Flickr. Hopefully they’ll get that worked out. Perhaps the Flickr account will house more of the larger archive of candid photos of inside White House action.

The White House account on Flickr… it’s no longer a Pro account. There is a button to “Give Pro”.

Screenshot of the WhiteHouse Flickr account on January 27, 2021 saying it's not a Pro account

I’m tempted to “Give Pro” to The White House. But man, that’s $59.99.

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