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Lautenberg Collection: “How They Changed Our Lives: Senators As Working People”

Prints and Photographs Division

"How They Changed Our Lives: Senators As Working People" is a contemporary collection  of 113 engaging portraits showing United States Senators from the 109th and 110th Congress (2006-2009). This special project was created by Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, a professional photographer and businesswoman. As the wife of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, the photographer knew the senators personally and had exceptional insight into the purpose of their work. She asked each Senator to identify an important law that he or she had sponsored.

Every Democratic and Republican senator agreed to sit for a quick portrait taken in their Washington, D.C., office environment. They also described a key legislative achievement, so that the American people could learn more about what legislators can accomplish. For example, Senator Ted Kennedy chose the Voting Rights Act (1965) as the law he was most proud of having contributed to, and Senator Olympia Snowe recalled the importance of providing internet access to schools and libraries through E-Rate (2005).

The portraits are available online and can be viewed either alone or paired with the text statements about legislation that has made a difference [view all the images].


Portrait of Barack Obama, Democratic senator from Illinois, who selected the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 as his key legislative achievement.


President Barack Obama when he was
a senator from Illinois.

Photo by Bonnie Lautenberg, 2006-2008.

The photographer’s website underscores her goal, which was educational as well as celebratory: “The candid portraits and informative text showcase the senators in their simplest function, as public servants working on behalf of their constituents.” The first public presentation of the collection was an art installation that filled the walls, floor to ceiling, with 6-foot-long prints at the Mana Contemporary Gallery in Jersey City, NJ, in Oct. 2012. To learn more about this special project, see External link

Mrs. Lautenberg generously donated this collection of born-digital photographs to the Library of Congress in 2012.


Image Sampler

The senators selected key legislative achievements that span the 1960s to the 2000s. This sampler illustrates one example from each decade:

Voting Rights Act of 1965

In the wake of voting demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, Senator Kennedy authored this law which provided direct federal action enabling African Americans to register and vote. His Anti-Poll Tax Amendment of the same year outlawed poll taxes in elections for state and local offices, which was a key negotiating point in getting this legislation to pass.

Portrait of Ted Kennedy, Democratic senator from Massachusetts, who selected the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as his key legislative achievement.

Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy (D-MA)


Portrait of Ted Stevens, Republican senator from Alaska, who selected the Magnuson-Stevens Act of 1976 as his key legislative achievement.

Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK)

Magnuson-Stevens Act of 1976

This legislation created state and federal Regional Management Councils to scientifically manage fisheries within 200 miles of United States shores. These councils follow science-based programs to protect marine resources and balance ecological concerns with commercial and recreational interests.


No Smoking on Airplanes Act of 1987

This law authored by Senator Lautenberg stopped smoking on airplanes and was responsible for the smoke free resolution that made people all over the world aware of the dangers of second hand smoke.


Portrait of Frank Lautenberg, Democratic senator from New Jersey, who selected the No Smoking on Airplanes Act of 1987 as his key legislative achievement.

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)


Portrait of Kaye Bailey Hutchison, Republican senator from Texas, who selected the Homemaker IRA of 1996 as her key legislative achievement.

Senator Kaye Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)

Homemaker IRA of 1996

This law allows women who choose to stay at home and raise a family to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).


"E-Rate" of 2005

In 1995, Senator Snowe coauthored the "E-Rate" which subsidized the equipping of schools and libraries with computers, Internet access, and other high-tech tools. Because of this legislation, today 95% of classrooms are connected to the Internet.


Portrait of Olympia Snowe, Republican senator from Maine, who selected E-Rate of 2005 as her key legislative achievement.

Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME),

Permissions and Credits

Bonnie Lautenberg’s photos are protected by copyright. Permission to publish Ms. Lautenberg’s photos must be requested from the artist. For more information, see 

Compiled by: Helena Zinkham, Chief, Prints & Photographs Division. Last revised: May 2014.

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  March 25, 2022
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