Photographing U.S. Supreme Court justices in their offices is not that difficult -- once you get through the door. But getting permission to invade their inner sanctum with a camera is darn near impossible.
Photographer David Hume Kennerly, who has made a career of getting into forbidden places, has done it twice. In 1973, seven of nine justices agreed to sit in front of his camera to illustrate a Time magazine story on affirmative action. In June 2002, again by a 7-2 vote, all but Justices David Souter and Antonin Scalia agreed to be photographed in their offices. Chief Justice William Rehnquist is the lone survivor of the 1973 court.
"I sent a letter to Rehnquist asking permission to photograph the justices for a book we're doing," Kennerly said. "And knowing their attention to precedent, I sent along a copy of the 1973 Time magazine."
With the blessings of the chief justice, it was up to the individual justices whether they would be photographed.
Kennerly spent about a half-hour with each of the seven justices.
"When I explained what I was doing, they thought it was a good project, and I don't think they had been photographed (for publication) in their offices before," Kennerly said.
Kennerly, President Ford's personal photographer, was quick to point out his official presidential portrait of his old boss hanging behind Ford-appointee Justice John Paul Stevens.
"I didn't really know what to expect from (Clarence) Thomas, remembering all of the controversy in his approval process, but he was remarkably easy to deal with ... very funny ... and asked that I come back to include his fourth law clerk who was absent that day," Kennerly said.
Kennerly's project is for a forthcoming book, "Balance of Power," with words by presidential biographer Lewis Gould. It will examine the past 100 years of the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the U.S. government. Kennerly has been photographing Washington's key players for the book since the beginning of the current Bush administration.
Last month the Journal-World ran a selection of Kennerly's photos giving a rare glimpse inside the Pentagon at the beginning of the war with Iraq.