The Digital Journalist
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
There was never a camera angle that Ronald Reagan wasn't aware of, and that really paid off for me at the opening of his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., Nov. 4, 1991. It was the first time five presidents had ever stood together in the same place at the same time. Rather than take the head-on shot, which I thought would make them look like cardboard caricatures of themselves, I decided to take a risk and go for a Mount Rushmoresque view of the gathered greats from off to the side. The risk was that, if they were all looking the other way, my photo wouldn't work. It was quite a moment when they walked out from the library building, shoulder-to-shoulder, and lined up in order of their time in office: the incumbent President George H. W. Bush to the left, and former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon all in a row. It was a most remarkable sight. As they faced the cameras in front of them, turned slightly away from me, I thought I was a dead duck - my unique angle a disaster. But, Hallelujah! Ronald Reagan turned toward me and smiled, and in a single frame my day - and a terrific photo - was made. There have since been three other occasions on which five presidents have gathered, though none produced a photo as dramatic: Nixon's funeral at his presidential library in Yorba Linda, Calif.; the memorial service for Sept. 11th victims at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.; and at Ronald Reagan's funeral, also at the National Cathedral. I photographed each occasion.