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 of
RealAudio: About her White House
coverage "It's as close as we can get..."
Introduction by Bill Pierce
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 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.
Indeed, 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 better.
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.

This 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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