The Digital Journalist
A Life Remembered In Pictures:
Ronald Wilson Reagan
July 2004

by Michael Evans

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. - ZUMA Press, Inc., the premier international editorial picture agency and wire service, is proud to announce representation of the visual history of Ronald Wilson Reagan, as captured by his personal photographer, Michael Evans.

The son of a Canadian diplomat, Michael Evans was born in St. Louis (Mo.) and was raised abroad. He spent over 20 years in photojournalism and picture editing. His career as a photographer began at the Port Hope Evening Guide (Ontario, Canada), followed by The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), The New York Times and Time magazine.

Evans says he has two distinct memories from his younger years of study at Queen's University in Canada that influenced his career choice. The first is Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which states that the very act of observing a phenomenon changes the nature of the phenomenon, and the second was a televised fund-raising speech Ronald Reagan gave for Barry Goldwater. The first recollection led Evans into the world of photojournalism, and the second ended up being the main subject of his photography, Ronald Reagan.

Of Evans' work, President Reagan once said, "Through Michael's lenses are captured the special moments of history which will exist long after I leave office. He records for future generations the good and the bad - the victory and the defeat ... Michael always does this with grace and skill. Being one of his subjects is always a pleasure."

ZUMA asked Evans to share some of his experiences with former President Ronald Reagan.


ZUMA: How would you describe your presence and interaction with the president day-to-day?

Michael Evans: I was there, but I didn't get in the way. In fact, he totally ignored me, which was perfect for me as a photographer.

ZUMA: How would you describe your access to the president?

Michael Evans: Basically, 24/7. Luckily, I was blessed with a good staff. I had four photographers working for me, and between us, we had the president covered 'round the clock. I didn't do much of the evening social-events coverage. I followed the president mostly during his working hours and on weekends at Camp David. They (Nancy and the president) preferred that I went with them during their personal time.

ZUMA: What were the most historical moments you captured of President Reagan?

Michael Evans: I documented dozens of historical moments, too many to list. The ones that stand out the most were his attempted assassination, his firing of the striking air-traffic controllers and his decision to go ahead with Star Wars, thereby taking on the Russians on an economic level. The weekend I got married was pretty memorable... I was on my honeymoon when I got a mysterious call ordering me back to the White House. Turns out that was the weekend the U.S. invaded Grenada and 300 Marines died in Beirut.

ZUMA: Where were you when the president was shot?

Michael Evans: I was standing right behind him like I usually did. Part of my job required me to never stand in between the president and the press pool. I just lowered my camera as the shots rang out. Instinctively, I fired a frame as I raised my camera, then took one more before I dropped to the ground myself. Those frames show where all the bodies fell. When I was interviewed the next day by the FBI, I was told that if the president wasn't standing where he was, the bullet that hit him would have hit me somewhere between my knee and my stomach. The next time I saw the president, I remember thanking him for saving my life!

ZUMA: What is your favorite story about working with Reagan?

Michael Evans: I think it was the day in 1981 when the gold-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team came to the White House. As part of a press event, a sheet of artificial ice was installed in the Rose Garden and the president was going to hit a few shots with the team. Right before the event, I was called to the Oval Office to give the president a few tips on stick handling. I was in there for maybe 15 minutes, and I still can't get over how quick he picked it up. Watching Reagan slapstick a puck out there in the Rose Garden... The man was a natural athlete! And he was a joker, too. He had a fake puck made out of Styrofoam that he fired off into the press corps! I think it hit Sam Donaldson. It was hilarious!

© Michael Evans

After resigning as Reagan's personal photographer, Evans returned to photojournalism with Time, before becoming the director of photography at the Atlanta Journal & Constitution.

Over the years, Evans' photography earned him numerous top honors, including a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography, awards from the National Press Photographers' Association, the New York Press Photographers' Association and the Ohio News Photographers' Association. He is also an Honorary Master of Photography recipient from the Brooks Institute of Photography, Santa Barbara, Calif.

In addition to his work in photography, Evans is an accomplished technology innovator. One of his first forays into data management involved creating a simple and easy way for photographers and newspapers to caption their pictures quickly and easily in batches. His application became known among newspaper newsrooms across the country as Iron Mike.

Michael Evans' photo archive is represented exclusively around the world by ZUMA Press. For editorial licensing or to purchase prints of his unique Reagan collection, contact ZUMA Press at 949.494.7704.