Men in Black: The Secret Service Photographed by Christopher Morris

2 minute read

Men in dark suits stand in strange places—still, emotionless and focused against a backdrop of an urban garage, an airfield, a tall splash of dead marsh grass. The U.S. Secret Service agents of Christopher Morris’ photographs seem like ethereal beings—possibly of the vengeful variety—fallen to earth.

“I call them ‘men in black,'” said Morris, a contract photographer for TIME since 1990 (focused on politics since 2000) whose career has included everything from capturing the war in Chechnya and the designs of Chanel.

“If you’re assigned to the President, to me it’s one man in a suit and if you do this very long, it gets a little old. So it’s nice to turn away your camera from the President and look at what’s around him. And the Secret Service detail, it’s quite intriguing actually,” Morris said.

The intrigue around these agents tasked with protecting the nation’s leaders has grown in recent weeks to include a major sex scandal. More than half a dozen officers have been pushed out of the agency since the news broke over 12 agents allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, during a mission to prepare the Caribbean city for a visit from President Barack Obama.

Morris said such behavior would be unimaginable for the elite cadre of agents he has encountered among the presidents’ immediate security detail, whose nearly every moment is consumed by the job.

For Morris and other White House photographers, there’s also a distinct advantage to this group of agents’ singular devotion to security. They make good subjects to photograph.

In slide nine, an agent traveling with President George W. Bush in 2004 mutely stares ahead sweating in a hot room, zeroed in on his task, unable to acknowledge Morris and the multiple clicks of his shutter.

“If I see a business man on the street, I can’t approach him with a camera and start photographing him without causing him to react a certain way, ” Morris said. “With the Secret Service they maintain their posture, they maintain their pose.”

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and represented by VII. See more of his work here.

Aug. 30, 2008. Secret Service Agent waits while Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizon is interviewed by Chris Wallace of FOX News in Washington.Christopher Morris—VII
A Secret Service agent stands guard during the landing of President Bush's helicopter, Marine One, in Nampa, Idaho, Aug. 24, 2005.Christopher Morris / VII
March 2, 2006. A U.S. Secret Service agent stands in a garden during a joint news conference by President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.Christopher Morris—VII
A Secret Service agent stands in the street as Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin tour a previously flooded neighborhood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Sept. 18, 2008.Christopher Morris / VII
Feb. 21, 2008. Secret Service agents await the arrival of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana.Christopher Morris—VII
Secret Service protection for President George W. Bush stand watch during a tour of Novozymes North America, Inc., a biotechnology company in Franklinton, North Carolina. Christopher Morris / VII
Nov. 5, 2009. A Secret Service agent stands by as President Barack Obama speaks at the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, D.C.Christopher Morris—VII
2004. A Secret Service agent stands guard at a garage in Washington, D.C.Christopher Morris—VII
June 16, 2004. A Secret Service agent watches the crowd during a speech by President George W. Bush at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.Christopher Morris—VII
Secret Service Agents protect President George W. Bush at McConnell Air Force Base, June 15, 2007 in Wichita, Kansas.Christopher Morris / VII
Feb. 26, 2004. A Secret Service agent stands by a car in Louisville, Ky.Christopher Morris—VII
Oct. 12, 2006. Secret Service agents perform security for President George W. Bush on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago.Christopher Morris—VII
April 22, 2004. A Secret Service agent stands guard during President George W. Bush's visit to the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine. Christopher Morris—VII
Feb. 16, 2008. A Secret Service agent prepares for President George W. Bush to exit his personal office aboard Air Force One after landing at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.Christopher Morris—VII
A Secret Service agent stands guard in Washington, Oct 26, 2005.Christopher Morris / VII

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