Caught in candid confrontations, only vaguely aware of the camera: the Commander in Chief with jellybeans, grinning. The First Lady and Ron Jr. on a tandem bicycle. The Carters, Reagans, Nixon and Ford in a stiff group worth several thousand words. Jim Brady, thumbs up. The Mandels on the edge, Billy Graham on stage, Haig everywhere. Margaret Thatcher in a modified curtsey to Prince Charles. Tearful Star employees with the Final Edition.

The White House News Photographers Association's 39th annual awards exhibition is less grisly than Jonestown and Vietnam award-winners of past years but there were terrifying moments: Ron Edmonds' excruciating, Pulitzer-winning series on the assassination attempt, Sheldon Fielman's haunting videotape of the same scene (shown at normal speed, in slow motion and with stills), and a few chilling scenes of protest, poverty and death.

But the 156 photos on view beginning Saturday at the Library of Congress are mostly of personalities, parties and sports.

Most of the mugs are famous. Baryshnikov in sweatshirt, about to take off. The visual pun of "High Level Discussion" -- Weinberger, Reagan and Haig, all eyes closed, about to nod off. Some of the compositions are perfect ("Overfly At Dawn," jets in formation by freelancer Fred J. Maroon; "Pas de Two," basketball ballet arrested by Richard Darcey of the Washington Post).

There are startling political stories such as National Geographic's "Cambodia Today," another of bloodshed in Northern Ireland and a deeply unsettling series of a coal miner's son standing with his mother before a casket. But these are balanced by humorous glimpses of animals, a Chesapeake Bay feature on videotape, and even untrite shots of rainbows.

WHITE HOUSE NEWS PHOTOGRAPHERS WINNERS -- At the Library of Congress main building, Saturday through August 8.