About her White House
"It's as close as we can get..."
Introduction by Bill
There have been a half dozen
White House photographers I really admire: Dirck Halstead, Diana Walker,
Dave Kennerly, Daryl Heikes and George Thames. Obviously, it's a huge advantage
at the White House if your first name begins with the letter "D."
In February, 1998, not long
after the Monica Lewinsky story broke, the Clintons hosted a state dinner
for visiting Prime Minister Tony Blair. Here, the Clintons seemed to really
enjoy some fun with Gores on the dance floor late in the evening.
Access to the
by Diana Walker
Behind the scenes
with the Clintons and the Gores, with RealAudio comments by Diana Walker.
A Multimedia Presentation
In Diana's case it took
more than that. Diana's first White House beat was Nancy Reagan, the First
Lady, that is until a sexist pig pointed out to Arnold Drapkin, then photo
editor of Time, that Diana would stand out in a crowd of male photographers
and---as unique and memorable---would probably be selected for more "tight
pools." Thus, for the wrong reasons, Diana got the right assignment.
when Diana first showed up on the White House photographic scene, it was
a bastion of mighty males protecting their domain. I can not tell you how
rough it was for women, not only emotionally, but physically. Ever seen
anyone high-lowed in order to take them out of shooting position?
I've seen a woman taken out by two men. I don't know whether that's equality
or sexism. It certainly is bad odds.
At that time I knew more
good women war photographers than women photographing politics. You had
to be extremely good if you were a woman. Whenever there was a woman photographer
on the scene, if you had any intelligence, you knew who to watch and whose
ideas to steal.
Sadly, these days, there
are as many average woman photographers as there are average men photographers.
Soon there will be as many below average women photographers as men. That's
equality. But I loved the old days when men were men, and women were better.
Diana started in those days, and she's just kept on getting better and
Working at the White House
alternates between boring periods of sitting around, and long periods of
little sleep and grueling work. Nonetheless, it's heady working that close
to some rather well-known people. Many photographers are so affected by
it that they forget their job. "I was talking to Bill, the other day. That's
Bill Clinton, the President. He's not like most of your presidents."
You know at that point that these photographers see themselves as part
of the White House team, not the press. I don't know whether they think
they are friends, advisors, media consultants or campaign workers. For
sure, they are bad reporters (and a little bit delusional in terms of self-image).
Diana, on the other hand,
is one of those real pros who has never forgotten her job---documenting
the White House.
Diana took the photographs
for "Found Dogs" (ISBN: 0-87605-597-8), her book about stray dogs
and the people who took them in. The writer, Elise Lufkin, gives the following
advice for getting along with dogs: "1. Be firm and consistent. 2. Always
remember that if you lose your temper, you are the one with a problem.
3. Take your time, whatever time it takes." This is also a perfect description
of Diana at the White House.
may be because the world of Washington politics does not overwhelm her.
She "has a life." It's difficult to accept that this fellow photographer,
who is so much fun to work with, and as crazy as all the other good photographers
(ask her about the picture of her and Elvis Presley), is a respected Washington
citizen, wife of Mallory Walker, and mother of two sons, Taylor and Willy.
You begin to realize that
it is not what kind of camera you use, but what kind of person you are,
that shapes your photography. Diana has that remarkable ability to concentrate
all her energy on you, and make you feel that either you are her best friend
or the most important person in the world.
You don't fake Diana's level
of interest in other people and the response it creates. Diana photographs
at the Arena Stage in D.C. Ever photograph actors? In an earlier column
I mentioned that if a stranger walks into the back of an auditorium during
rehearsal, actors shut down. But if a friend walks in, they can take pictures
of the love scene while sharing the couch with the actors.
While Nancy Reagan was First
Lady, Diana often photographed her. Diana and Nancy still see each other
when the chance arrives. Upon learning of Diana's rather strong connection
to the Democratic Party Mrs. Reagan said, "Diana, I thought you were one
of us." Well, in the "big sense" of those words, Diana is.
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