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Sharon Farmer grew up planning to hone her musical training into orchestral performance. But somewhere between high school bassoon practice and Ohio State University activism, she stumbled on photography.

“The camera is my path to everything I care about – protests, history, the arts, politics, people making change,” says Farmer, who’s been at the job in far-flung capacities since 1974.

Opening a wider lens for her magic eyes, the native Washingtonian landed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, becoming the first woman and Black person to direct the White House Department of Photography.