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Diana Walker
Diana Walker
Public & Private: Twenty Years of Photographing the Presidency
ISBN: 0792269071
Public & Private: Twenty Years of Photographing the Presidency
—from the publisher's website

From Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, Time magazine White House photographer Diana Walker has had unique access to the Presidency for more than 20 years. Public & Private demonstrates, in intriguing detail, that she has used her access brilliantly.

The 130 photographs in Public & Private cover the public aspects of the office—from inaugurations and state dinners to cabinet meetings and press conferences—bus also offer a rare, candid look at the private moments of the presidents, the first ladies, and the important figures in each administration. Missing no detail, Walker’s expert lens has captured world leaders, Congressional insiders, the White House press corps, and family moments away from the spotlight, including the Bushes at Kennebunkport and Bill and Hillary Clinton on safari in Botswana. Humorous and heartbreaking, joyful and deadly serious, Walker’s revealing images provide an unexpected understanding of the leaders we think we know so well.

With a foreword by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss, memories and perspectives contributed by the photographs’ subjects, and Walker’s own anecdotes, Public & Private is a unique and important contribution to the record of America’s highest office.

Public & Private: Twenty Years of Photographing the Presidency
Program Air Date: December 22, 2002

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Diana Walker, why did you call your book "Public and Private"?
DIANA WALKER, AUTHOR, "PUBLIC AND PRIVATE: TWENTY YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHING THE PRESIDENCY": Well, that's an easy question because the book consists of pictures I took with the regular White House press corps, which are in public, so to speak. And then the other part of the book are pictures I took where I had exclusive access, and they are the more private pictures.
LAMB: On the cover are two sets of pictures. We start up here at the top with George Bush and Mr. Gorbachev. Did you make the selection to put this on the front of your book?
WALKER:Yes, I did. We were looking at the pictures, trying to decide what to put on the cover to sort of show you the public side and the private side. And I had a series of pictures of Gorbachev and Bush from the Malta summit. And we liked the feeling of the movement of it. And I had this series also of President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton. And so it just seemed to be -- bring you in somehow, make it more interesting, I hope.
LAMB: These pictures of President and Mrs. Clinton were taken where?
WALKER:Those were taken on a boat on the Chobe River in Botswana.
LAMB: Did they know you were taking these pictures?
LAMB: How far away were you?
WALKER:I was about, oh, 20 feet. They knew I was with them, certainly. And I was the only journalist on the boat with them. But I was not in front of them, Brian. I was across the top of the boat. I had decided kind of to step back a little, give everybody a little space. There was no need to be that close. And I was talking to Mrs. Clinton's press secretary, Marsha Berry. And suddenly, this whole scene occurred, and I just lifted up my camera with a much longer lens than I usually use and shot that series of pictures.

So I don't think they were aware of me. But of course, I don't know.
LAMB: In the middle of your book is this picture, and only one of the six women is no longer with us.
WALKER:That's right. That's Mrs. Nixon, Pat Nixon. And in fact, she died just a few months, I believe, maybe six weeks to two months after this picture was taken at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Library.
LAMB: When you look at this picture and you remember knowing these women, start with Nancy Reagan, give us some background, what you know about her.
WALKER:What I know about her is I spent a great deal of time with her in the first four years of the Reagan administration, following her really around the world on her "Just Say No" campaign. And I became very fond of her, very fond indeed.
LAMB: What about Mrs. Johnson?
WALKER:Well, I don't know Mrs. Johnson, really, because I didn't cover the Johnson years. But I've photographed her subsequently and find her enormously charming.
LAMB: Did you know Mrs. Nixon?
WALKER:I did not. I never met Mrs. Nixon.
LAMB: What about Mrs. Bush?
WALKER:Well, Mrs. Bush -- of course, I knew Mrs. Bush when she was wife of the vice president for eight years, and then when she was wife of the president of the United States for four. And I got to know her quite well and enjoy her humor a great deal.
LAMB: Is she any different when the cameras and microphones aren't on?
WALKER:No. She's exactly the same. What you see is, you know, what you get.
LAMB: Then there's Rosalynn Carter and Mrs. Ford.
WALKER:Right. Well, Rosalynn Carter -- when I first started taking pictures for TIME, I was assigned a lot to cover Mrs. Carter because when I came to TIME, the president -- President Carter was wrestling with the Iran-Contra situation -- I mean, excuse me, the Iran hostage situation. And it consumed his time and his focus. And so Mrs. Carter traveled for him a great deal, and she went abroad for him and she went to every primary state where there was going to be a primary for the election of 1980. And so I followed her a lot. And I found her to represent the United States with enormous grit and dignity.
LAMB: Do you remember when this picture was taken?
WALKER:I remember that vividly, yes.
LAMB: What year was it?
WALKER:In 1985, I believe.
LAMB: What do you remember about the circumstances?
WALKER:The circumstances were that TIME had asked me to do a lead picture in the magazine on the cover story we were doing, and the cut line was going to be "Why is this man so popular?" So it was like -- it was a sitting, a portrait session that I had with President Reagan. And I had just come over to talk to him about sort of what I was going to do with him, and I was going to ask him a lot of stories that I knew that he could tell well because I wanted to show his humor and his charm. That was part of my mission in the sitting.
LAMB: What was he like when, again, you're just -- you know, there are not motion cameras, there are not microphones?
WALKER:You know, I found him to be very much like he was in public. I never saw President Reagan, you know, totally, I would say, laid back. He was always quite formal behind the scenes and out front, but formal in a very kind of graceful way, with -- his humor showed both behind the scenes and, I thought, in public, too.
LAMB: In 1992, this picture on Air Force One -- was that the new 747 at that time?
WALKER:Yes, it was. This picture -- I love this picture because it's so much like everybody's family. I had secured permission to be behind the scenes for quite a lot of the convention in Houston in 1992, following George Bush. And we had just arrived on Air Force One in Houston for that convention week. And when I walked in the living room or office of Air Force One, there was Marvin Bush trying to corral everybody, to get them ready to go out the door. Mrs. Bush was already dressed and going out the door, and President Bush just continued to sit at his desk, going over his notes for his first speech, completely oblivious to all of this activity in the room. I loved it.
LAMB: When did you start as a photographer?
WALKER:Well, when I was a child, I took pictures for fun, and I didn't -- and through high school -- you know, I did the high school yearbook, things like that. But I didn't start taking pictures professionally until my early 30s. And I first started doing pictures of anything -- children's Christmas -- of Christmas cards, of children's pictures or bar mitzvahs or book jackets or that kind of thing. And then it -- taking pictures in Washington led me into political coverage. You know, if I lived in Cleveland, I might have photographed, you know, something entirely different. But as you know, the business of Washington is politics, so that's where I went.
LAMB: What'd your parents do here?
WALKER:My father was a doctor, as his father was before him. And my mother, who is still living, had a dress shop in Georgetown for about 20 years, and I worked for her for a while.
LAMB: What was the name of it?
WALKER:Dorcas Hardin, which was her name.
LAMB: Now, somewhere in the back -- and I can't remember -- I'm not sure, is it Gail Tirana? Was that her name?
LAMB: You give her credit for introducing you to photography?
WALKER:Aren't you good to have read it so carefully! Gail -- I was working for my mother in the shop, and we were raising our two little boys, Mallory and I. And I just -- I don't think I was terribly happy doing what I was doing. And Gail said, you know, You really love taking pictures, and you do it in all -- in your spare time, all the time. Why don't you become a professional photographer? And I said, How? I mean, what do you do? It sounds stupid now, but I really, honestly hadn't given it a great deal of thought.

And she said, I'll go into business with you. She'd been a stylist for a wonderful photographer in New York called Bert Stern. So we started together. And she would sort of do the bookkeeping, and I'd go out and shoot the pictures. And that's how we started.
LAMB: Who's in this picture? It's fairly obvious.
WALKER:Oh, that picture was taken at the opening of the museum part of the Kennedy Library in Boston, when I was covering President Clinton and he went up for the opening ceremony.
LAMB: You got John F. Kennedy, Jr., Caroline Kennedy and their mother.
LAMB: The date on this was 1993?
WALKER:That's right.
LAMB: What do you remember about what you heard in and around this photo?
WALKER:You know, I heard very little. I saw nothing except what you see. We had raced out of the vans, you know, in the press corps that follows the president. We follow him in the motorcade, and our van is quite far back. And when we get to a place, we have to run very quickly with all of our equipment and try and get into position to take a picture. And I had just arrived, in fact, and I didn't have a very good position. And I remember -- I was quite -- we were quite far away, and I remember lifting up my camera and hoping I had something because it all happened just terribly quickly, so -- inside, of course, we had a lot more time, and we were more settled. But this was -- this shot I just sort of grabbed as we entered the library.
LAMB: On the previous page is a picture in black and white -- and this is in color -- of a large group of presidents. At the time, President Nixon was alive, and President Reagan was out and about. The date on this one is 1991. What are the circumstances?
WALKER:This was at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Library in California. And I at the time was covering President Bush's administration, and President Bush, of course, was a guest at the dedication of the library.
LAMB: Richard Nixon?
WALKER:Yes. I hardly saw Richard Nixon, and so I saw him on this day, and I saw him very occasionally in Washington. And then I covered his funeral.
LAMB: Jerry Ford?
WALKER:I started taking pictures at the White House when Jerry Ford was president, just popping in and out. And of course, I went back to see him about this book and found him perfectly wonderful.
LAMB: Jimmy Carter.
WALKER:He was really the first president that I had a chance to cover, and although I really started with Rosalynn Carter, I did see the president quite a lot and was very impressed with him.
LAMB: Now, in this book there are a number of liner notes that are written by the individuals...
LAMB: some of these pictures. How did you get that?
WALKER:Well, what I decided was, the "National Geographic" and I decided that since these pictures were really my personal choices -- the book is meant to be -- well, it is made up of pictures that I just simply liked the best of the ones I took over the years. They are not necessarily events -- we didn't make the book based on the most important historical event. We based the book on just pictures I particularly liked.
LAMB: When you go to the Nixon Library, you see this. All of these statues -- Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong and Khrushchev and Brezhnev.
LAMB: Winston Churchill and DeGaulle. Was this staged?
WALKER:Yes, it most certainly was. It is the honest room, Brian. It's a room with these statues in it that were put there by Richard Nixon. I mean, he commissioned them, and he had them made. And they are all the world leaders that he met with in his lifetime. And they brought the presidents into this room for a portrait. And it was the strangest-looking situation, as you can see, because it seemed to me when I looked at the picture when I got it back that each of the living presidents or former presidents kind of were totally in character as to who they were. And it was just a very kind of a strange, surreal situation.
LAMB: What do you make of the expression on Richard Nixon's face and the way he's standing there?
WALKER:Isn't it odd? I don't know what to make of it. I think it's -- I don't know what he's thinking about in that picture, but I think you are attracted right to the center and to him because he's looking down, and he's thinking. And everybody else is kind of self-consciously standing there, not knowing exactly what's going on in that room.
LAMB: What kind of a camera do you use now and then? Because I know this is over a lot of years.
WALKER:Well, I've always used single-lens reflex cameras, Canon cameras with autofocus, for my normal, everyday coverage at the White House. But behind the scenes, I use a much quieter camera. I use a rangefinder Leica, so that I can be more unobtrusive and quieter.
LAMB: What does it mean, "single-lens reflex camera"?
WALKER:Oh, I'm sorry. A single-lens reflex camera is a camera that you're actually seeing the scene, the image through the lens. And it has a mirror -- it's a 35-millimeter camera, and you can actually see exactly what you're going to get. And so when you put longer lenses on and I bring you much closer, I see exactly what I'm going to get when I put that lens on. Or if I use a wider lens, I can see exactly what I'm going to see.
LAMB: What is another way a camera is made? What would you call it?
WALKER:Well, I think the difference would be a rangefinder camera or a single-lens reflex camera. A rangefinder camera, you're not looking through the lens, you're looking through a box with images that come together to help you focus, instead of images that come together through a lens to focus. I'm not very good at describing this!
LAMB: This is a black-and-white photo, and it was taken in 1998. Where was it?
WALKER:That was in Ghana. I was behind the scenes with President and Mrs. Clinton on that entire trip to Africa. And so I had the luxury of being able to go to -- outside the press pen, to places where the press wasn't positioned to take the picture. Therefore, I was able to get behind him in this particular situation, rather than getting the front picture. It's a luxury to be able to shoot from behind because, obviously, you may miss all of the action. But to me, it was just beautiful in that scene.
LAMB: I don't know whether it's me or whether it's been around a lot, but I seem to have seen this picture many times.
WALKER:Yes, you have.
LAMB: Why?
WALKER:Because Walter Cronkite used it in his memoirs and David Gergen used it in his. And it's been published because it won some prizes. That's why you've seen it before.
LAMB: Back here you have James Brady, David Gergen, Attorney General Meese at the time, probably not attorney general as early, George Bush, vice president, James Baker III, Bud Benjamin...
LAMB: ...from CBS News, Walter Cronkite and Ronald Reagan.
LAMB: How much can you tell us about this picture? Do you know what they were laughing at?
WALKER:Laughing at. No. Unfortunately, one of my problems, although it's been a benefit to me, I think, over the years, is I can't hear much when I'm taking pictures because I'm concentrating so hard. So when I was allowed in that room after Walter Cronkite had done his last interview with a sitting president as the head of -- as the anchor of the "CBS Evening News," I was very determined when I walked in that room to make a picture because this was quite a collection of people. It was three months after the president became -- was inaugurated, and it was just before the assassination attempt. And of course, didn't know that then. But it was a wonderful scene, and they were telling jokes. And I have absolutely no idea what the joke is. I couldn't hear it. And I've asked every member of that group what the joke was, and everybody acts as if they don't remember. And I'm not sure they don't remember.
LAMB: In 1989 -- how often do you find yourself in this kind of a situation?
WALKER:All the time. When you cover the White House, you always are working in a group such as this group. I think we were watching the inauguration from the balustrade up on the Capitol steps, looking down. And that's the way I generally work, although in this book, I show you pictures I took that way, and then I show you pictures I took when I was the only photographer in the room.
LAMB: In the back, you thank a lot of people, but one I wanted to ask you about was Jamie Lee Curtis.
LAMB: How does she fit into your life?
WALKER:Well, she took the picture of -- the author's picture. But she has been a...
LAMB: Who is she?
WALKER:Who is she?
LAMB: Yes.
WALKER:Who's Jamie Lee Curtis?
LAMB: Yes.
WALKER:She's an actress.
LAMB: I know, but I just wanted to make sure that it wasn't somebody else. (LAUGHTER)
WALKER:No, she's a photographer, too. It's another talent that few people probably know about her. But we met over our mutual interest in photography.
LAMB: Where'd you meet? Do you remember?
WALKER:Yes. Ketchum, Idaho.
LAMB: And that is because?
WALKER:Because we were both vacationing in Ketchum, Idaho.
LAMB: Let me show this picture, if we could. This is the author's picture?
LAMB: And where was that taken?
WALKER:It was taken -- where?
LAMB: Yes.
WALKER:In her living room.
LAMB: And does she do professional photography?
WALKER:No, she doesn't. But she does photograph a great deal, particularly her own family and friends.
LAMB: Would you rather take photographs in black and white or in color?
WALKER:Black and white.
LAMB: Why?
WALKER:Because I have more freedom in black and white. And I also like what it looks like.
LAMB: This is the last picture in the book.
LAMB: When was it?
WALKER:On January 20th, 2001, President Clinton had seen George Bush sworn in president, and he'd gone out to Andrews Air Force Base. Right inside that hangar behind him, there'd been a big good-bye rally to President Clinton that was attended by many, many, many people, supporters and members of his cabinet. And he was walking from that rally to the airplane to be flown to New York and to go back home.
LAMB: And this picture, the right one before it.
WALKER:Yes. Well, that picture was taken -- I'd always wanted to be in the Oval Office with a president the last moments he was in the Oval Office. And that's what this is. And President Clinton had signed a letter to the incoming president, George Bush, which he'd left on the desk, which you can see there in the picture. And he turned and went to the window. And I've looked at this contact sheet, and there's exactly one frame of him looking out the window. And then he turned and walked towards John Podesta, who was his chief of staff. And they put their arms around each other's shoulder, and they walked out to the waiting press on the colonnade to go over to the White House to greet President-elect Bush.
LAMB: And here they are.
WALKER:Yes. This was the coffee the morning just before they left to go up for the inauguration at the Capitol.
LAMB: And you don't hear them talk when you're taking these pictures. You can't hear what they're saying.
WALKER:Brian, I get a sense of what's going on. Of course, I do. I get a sense of the drama of the moment or the humor of the moment or whatever. But I've always made a policy of -- not to talk about what I heard, frankly, because I might get it wrong.
LAMB: Do you write it down?
LAMB: This photograph was taken, I assume, around the same time.
WALKER:It was just a few moments before the Bushes arrived. And the president's photographer, Sharon Farmer, and I were standing together, and we followed the Clintons towards the East Room. And Sharon looked at me and said, "I think we've gone far enough." And she was so right. It was the cue to stop and let these people go on by themselves, as they walked around the floor of the first floor of the White House for the last time, basically.
LAMB: How many times have you had a cover on TIME magazine?
WALKER:Oh, not that often. I could probably count them on two hands, or maybe three.
LAMB: When are you the happiest with -- I mean, I know covers are important, but when else are you the happiest with the -- where you see your photos end up?
WALKER:Oh, well, of course, I like doing covers. But most of the kind of work that I do is -- is more sort of environmental work, such as I put in the book. I'm happiest when I see the magazine take a picture, such as the picture you're looking at now of Gore, and play it across the page. It's a huge thrill to me.
LAMB: Let me make sure we get it on the screen here so the audience can see it.
LAMB: Let's go -- now there we have it.
WALKER:This picture is to me an extraordinary picture, and I'm very proud of it. And it's, in fact, not been published. But it is a picture of just before -- going back to that January 20th, 2001, just before the Bush family arrived at the White House, before the inauguration ceremony. President Clinton and Vice President Gore went upstairs privately to the quarters. And I was waiting by the elevator when they came down. And I've looked through that window in that elevator in the White House before, and I looked through it, and there was the face of Al Gore just before he was to meet with the man who was to become president, who had beaten him.
LAMB: You take this with a flash?
WALKER:No, sir. All my black-and-white pictures are taken with available light. That's somewhat what I was talking about, the freedom of using black and white.
LAMB: How many people took this picture?
WALKER:So many people, you can't believe, except my position was very different from everybody else's.
LAMB: Just let me point out -- if we can pull back a little bit -- where all the other photographers are located, down in this area. And some of them aren't photographers, of course. They're members of the convention.
LAMB: Delegates.
WALKER:But also, Brian, there is a small pool of photographers on the left side of the stage. I was with the vice president's photographer on the right side of the stage, and so therefore, my picture is quite different from the published pictures.
LAMB: Did you carry at that time both black-and-white and color?
WALKER:I did that night. But generally, I don't. Generally, when I'm doing a black-and-white picture story, that's all I have. But I knew I'd have an interesting perspective for a picture that was quite public. We used the black-and-white for private pictures, for pictures that were exclusive to us. But that night, I knew that I was both going to see exclusive things and public things. And certainly, on that stage, that was a public thing.
LAMB: When I first saw this, I thought it was a painting.
WALKER:Oh, well, it is quite beautiful. It was a wonderfully exciting moment for me. It was the queen's yacht, the Britannia, left from Plymouth, England, to go over to Normandy, taking the leaders of what were the Allied countries during the Second World War over to the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. So I was there because President Clinton was a guest on the Britannia.
LAMB: This is in 1997. Where was it?
WALKER:This was in a church. It is -- I think it's the practice of most presidents to -- on inauguration day, to start their day off in church. And this was the Clintons and the Gores going to an early morning service. And the press had left, and I was crouched down by a pew and doing this behind-the-scenes work. And suddenly, this Reverend, who was a great friend of the Clinton family, said something apparently very, very funny. But don't ask me what it was!
LAMB: Where's this?
WALKER:That's a picture on that same boat, on the Chobe River in Botswana. And it had docked. It was in the evening, and the Clintons were just enjoying a conversation with Sandy Berger and our ambassador to South Africa and our ambassador to Botswana.
LAMB: Now, did you think about partisanship when you put this book together? Were you worried about people seeing too much from one president and not another? And how'd you do that?
WALKER:Well, of course, I did think about that, but I -- the reason the book is -- starts with just a few pictures of Ford and increases the number of pictures over all of the years, so that the Clinton administration in the end is the thickest chapter, the reason for that is that I think I became a better photographer over the years. At least, I hope I did. And the pictures of the Ford administration were really my first foray. And I took it as far as I could go at the White House, with the behind-the-scenes work. And so there are more behind-the-scenes pictures of the Clintons than any other administration.
LAMB: May 21st, 1992, Cleveland, Ohio.
WALKER:Well, I had to put that in the book because it's such an odd picture. I showed it to President Bush and he laughed and loved it just as I did. You know when a president goes anywhere, he stands in front of logos or flags or whatever and this was the ultimate big flag. I had never seen a flag that big at any photo op and any president I've ever covered.
LAMB: What did they do with this photo at the time?
WALKER:They didn't run it.
LAMB: Nowhere?
WALKER:No, it wasn't.
LAMB: What about this one?
WALKER:That was never ran either. A lot of these pictures are new to anybody who's been watching.
LAMB: Why do you like this one?
WALKER:Oh, I just think it's funny. I love all the children and these funny hands in the air.
LAMB: There's a close-up here of these kids, so you can see what they look like.
WALKER:I love them. It's just kind of here are these guys doing their thing, talking policy, and there are the little children as the backdrop and they're all sort of in their own world doing their own thing.
LAMB: Of all the people you've taken photographs of over the years, who are the most natural with other people?
WALKER:With other people?
LAMB: In other words, when they see them it's not awkward. They are easy in conversation. They have good small talk, put people at ease.
WALKER:That's hard for me to answer because I think all of the presidents I have covered have been pretty darned good at that. I would say going backwards, certainly President Clinton was very adept at it, very good, very - but so was President Bush. Perhaps, President Reagan was maybe slightly more removed and I saw more of Mrs. Carter than I did President Carter, and the Fords I never really traveled with, so I'm not very good on that observation.
LAMB: You made a comment earlier that you've gotten better over the years.
WALKER:I hope so.
LAMB: How can you tell?
WALKER:Well, I think maybe people tell me that but no, I look at the early pictures of Gerald Ford that I took and they're pretty pedestrian. They're pretty straightforward. I also cut off his feet when he was walking and I didn't have as much confidence in myself to try different angles or different positions to shoot from. I was just a beginner.
LAMB: 1984, this is a long time ago. It's not a bad picture. Who are these two characters?
WALKER:I got lucky. Those two characters are really awfully important characters. That's Congressman Bella Abzug on the left and Betty Friedan in red and, you know, when we go photograph any, or this was the candidate Walter Mondale running for president in 1984, you're always looking for the other characters who were in the situation, who are on the stage, who are in the Rose Garden. You're always looking for the other people because they're important. And, these two women who were incredibly important in the women's movement in the United States were listening to Vice President Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro.
LAMB: Why Sam Donaldson?
WALKER:Because I wanted a picture in the book to show you the press in action because I thought it was important and I'd shown you working journalist Rollie Evans and Novak and I had shown you my group of photographers working and I thought that a television personality was important and he certainly was a big player when I was there.
LAMB: Herb Block when he died last year, not exactly the date, $15 million he had earned over the years he gave away to a foundation. Did you know him?
WALKER:No, and I went to his funeral. I felt very strongly having met him, about him. I had known Herb Block's cartoons, you know, for years and I expected someone much sharper and tougher when I walked in to photograph him at "The Washington Post," and I found the nicest gentleman I'd almost met in the news business and he was absolutely charming and wonderful.
LAMB: Claude Pepper, 1982, former senator, former congressman.
WALKER:Former senator, former congressman. I went to photograph him and I was having, I was using lights in this portrait and I was having a terrible time with the reflection in his glasses, and he understood that right away and he said, "Oh little lady, just a minute" and he reached in his drawer, I'll never forget this, he reached in his drawer and he pulled out a pair of glasses that had no lenses in them and he took off his real glasses, put on the ones with no lenses, and said, "I bet you have no reflection now." And, it was just fantastic. He was a real pro.
LAMB: I don't know if we can see it that closely here.
WALKER:Oh, the reflection yes, or lack thereof.
LAMB: Now, you have a number of pictures in here like this of people other than...
LAMB: But not a lot and have you done a lot of that other kind of photography over the years?
WALKER:Yes, Brian I only covered the White House on an every other month basis with my colleagues and so I had a lot of free time every other month, and so I did all kinds of different photography for TIME and for other magazines along the line.
LAMB: 1985, Eduard Shevardnadze now the president of Georgia, George Schultz.
LAMB: President Reagan.
WALKER:This was a very tense moment really. We had - President Reagan was about to meet with Gorbachev and sort of as a precursor, I think, to that meeting he was at the United Nations and there was talk about him meeting with the foreign minister Shevardnadze and no one knew if it was going to happen or not and we had a rumor that they were both going to be at a reception together at the Waldorf, went running over, got the picture.
LAMB: Oval Office some familiar faces.
WALKER:Yes, this is a behind-the-scenes picture in color because we hadn't moved really into the idea of using black and white behind the scenes when this picture was taken, and it was just interesting to us to see that was his chief of staff at the time, Donald Regan, and his National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane and Secretary of State Schultz.
LAMB: You can't see it. We can't get a whole lot closer but there's a blue folder on his desk and it says "For the President" and right below it says "Information." Are they ever nervous about you taking too close photographs of what's on president's desks?
WALKER:They are. I have actually been asked on at least two occasions not to use the picture. After I've been in a room and photographed something, they've realized that the information on the desk was sensitive. It was top secret and that's something certainly TIME magazine cooperates with and we pulled the pictures and didn't consider them for use.
LAMB: The meeting with Mr. Gorbachev, is this a particularly important thing?
WALKER:It was particularly important, yes. It was Gorbachev's first visit to the White House to visit President Reagan, and I had asked to see them privately at some point during the summit, and that wasn't very easy to deliver but.
LAMB: Was this exclusive for you?
WALKER:Yes, this is exclusive. He was, Gorbachev was leaving one of the sessions, going back to wherever he was staying, Blair House I guess, and Reagan walked him down the driveway.
LAMB: This is North Carolina, November 4, 1983.
LAMB: What's the story?
WALKER:I remember this very, very well. It seemed to me during the eight years the Reagans were in the White House an awful lot of very sad events happened. The Challenger blew up and this was again another memorial service. It was for the marines who were lost in the terrible bombing in Lebanon.
LAMB: On the following page, the pope.
WALKER:Yes, this is just an open photo opportunity of the pope meeting with President Reagan but I just thought it was beautiful. You can just see the faces of some of the other participants and it was just a lovely press opportunity at the end of a meeting.
LAMB: Ronald Reagan with his first lady.
WALKER:Yes. That again is behind the scenes. I just remember that I think they were going out for a state arrival and Mrs. Reagan was having a little quiet time with the president before they went out.
LAMB: And on the following page, where's that?
WALKER:President Reagan had been ill in Bethesda Naval Hospital with colon cancer and he returned to the White House and he came back, you know, characteristically full of vigor and enthusiasm and that was when he walked into the White House.
LAMB: With the queen.
WALKER:This picture has been seen quite a lot. People seem to be amused by it. It's a picture that was taken at a state dinner in San Francisco after the queen had been the Reagans’ guest visiting California, and it had rained and rained and rained for her entire visit. It never stopped raining and she made a toast at this dinner where she said that she knew that the Puritans when they came to the New World had brought many customs from her land but she had no idea they'd also brought the rotten weather, and the president just loved that.
LAMB: One hundred thirty-five pictures.
LAMB: Did you ever count up how many pictures you've taken in your life?
WALKER:No, I haven't. I wouldn't want to. It would be frightening.
LAMB: And what does a book like this cost?
WALKER:To buy this book?
LAMB: Yes, right.
WALKER:It costs $40.
LAMB: A picture of George Herbert Walker Bush, serious expression, 1990, Prague, Czechoslovakia. How close are you to him at this point?
WALKER:I was about ten feet away from him. He and Vaclav Havel had come out of a meeting in Prague and were having a press conference and so, of course, the news picture that I was taking and we were all taking was the two of them together at the microphones talking to the press.

However, often in situations like that, if you look at your subject alone, you might see something and I saw a cold, strong-looking George Bush and was able to just simply make a portrait of him alone. And I told him when I went to show him the pictures about the book, you see in the book as you know I have comments by all the presidents and first ladies on these pictures, not all the pictures but a lot of them.

And, when I showed this to President Bush and Mrs. Bush looked at it and she said, "Oh, doesn't he look handsome," and I said "Well yes, Mrs. Bush, this is my George Bush/Clint Eastwood look alike" and they were both very amused at that.
LAMB: Back in 1979, you have this picture with lots of faces in it, Elie Wiesel is at the podium and it's in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, and right here is the president, and right over here is Senator Bob Byrd, Vice President Mondale there. Why did you choose this picture?
WALKER:You know I picked it because it was different. I picked it because there was something to me about President Carter sitting alone, surrounded by all these people, not looking to me exactly like one of them. He looked alone to me and I just liked the feeling of the picture of him in the center and all of the players around him.
LAMB: Did you ever have a president ask you for a photo after you'd taken it?
WALKER:After? Yes.
LAMB: In other words, they saw it published.
WALKER:Oh, certainly. Oh, yes.
LAMB: They're always followed by their own photographers.
WALKER:Oh yes, I have and, in fact, in the book is a picture that I took of President Clinton working with his speech writers on the upcoming, I guess it was the State of the Union speech. And to get him surrounded by all of his speech writers, I went around his desk in the Oval Office and I looked across his desk and, as I did, I noticed right in the center of his desk a picture that I had taken of the president and Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea that he'd asked me for.
LAMB: This one right here?
WALKER:Yes and there it was and you can imagine I was thrilled. I looked and I said, "Oh my heavens the president has my picture right in the center of his desk." And so, when that picture ran the following week in TIME, I called up my editor and I said, "I want you to know that picture has two of my pictures, that page has two of my pictures on it, the main one and the picture of the president and Chelsea and Mrs. Clinton."
LAMB: And we're back to some more of Bill Clinton. Here is a picture from 1996.
WALKER:Yes, this picture to me it's in the book because to me it reminded me of sort of a quintessential Clinton moment. This poor lady who was 90-some years old at the time, 98 or something, began to faint from the heat and everybody went around her and revived her and brought her up and the president was concerned and he stopped doing whatever he was doing and walked down to her. He put his arm around her and he spoke to her and he greeted her and he made her feel so much better and then he discovered it was her birthday, and he turned around, went back up on the stage, took her with him, and had the entire rally sing Happy Birthday. You know this is some politician.
LAMB: What are you, what's your beat now?
WALKER:My beat? I have no beat. I'm on contract to TIME. I'm doing special projects. I'm doing a few things here and there that they want me to do and I'm very happy to do. I wanted to leave the White House after 23 years, Brian. That was long enough.
LAMB: Do you have another goal of, you know I assume this book was one. Is this your first book?
WALKER:Yes. Yes, it's my first book of my own, yes.
LAMB: And what did you think of the experience?
WALKER:It was a fascinating experience to me. It made me, well begin to look at the body of my work and it made me realize what I'd seen, which you know when you're working every day you kind of forget how - you know, it's funny to think of spending so much time watching presidents when so many people never see one in their lifetime. And so, I've begun to sort of appreciate the experience and I'm going back and looking more closely at everything and I'm having a retrospective next winter of my work, not only the presidential but the other things I was doing in the months off. So, I'm reviewing everything right now and it's kind of fun.
LAMB: Where will the retrospective be?
WALKER:At the Smithsonian's Museum of American History.
LAMB: For how long?
WALKER:I don't know.
LAMB: How many photos?
WALKER:I don't know. It's all being formulated right now.
LAMB: Why did you put this in the book?
WALKER:I love that picture.
LAMB: Joe Califano and Dan Schorr, 1976.
WALKER:I know.
LAMB: What were you doing then?
WALKER:I was, it was on assignment in this picture actually for The Village Voice and I was doing a story on Dan Schorr because he had given The Village Voice in fact the Pike Report which had fallen into his hands, which was a report done by the congressmen, congressional committee on some of the - well, it was the criticisms at that time of the FBI and the CIA, and they hauled Dan Schorr up in front of the House to question him about what his sources were and true to his journalistic integrity, he refused to divulge his source and it was a very interesting time, interesting story.
LAMB: Capitol Hill, 1975, George Wallace.
WALKER:Yes. That just was a surprise picture. I was leaving a hearing and I walked out in the hall and there was Governor Wallace and I had actually seen him only once before in my life down in Talladega, Alabama, when he was campaigning with his wife, Lurleen who was running for governor, and I hadn't seen him since he had been shot. And, there he was with his then wife and in his wheelchair.
LAMB: President Ford, Henry Kissinger, 1975.
WALKER:Yes, well.
LAMB: White House?
WALKER:That was at the White House. He was saying goodbye to a foreign dignitary. I can't remember who right now but when I went to talk to him, he - well, President Ford was wonderful talking about all of these pictures to me. This one of Bob Dole, he had chosen Bob Dole to run with him in 1976 and he commented to me on what a really wonderful sense of humor Senator Dole had, what fun he was to have with him on the ticket.
LAMB: When you worked with different presidents, first ladies, for their little squibs in the book, how did you do that?
WALKER:What I did was I didn't know at the time that I went to see each of the presidents and first ladies exactly which book, which pictures were going to end up in the book because that, as you know, is an editing decision that's made really quite late in the game. And so, what I did was I just took, I called up each president and asked if I could come visit, bringing my tape recorder, to ask them about certain images and I just took a bunch of images.

Some, I thought, would probably be in the book. Some weren't in the book in the end, and I didn't want to show them all anyway. That's an imposition. The time would have been enormous, so I just went to see each and every one of them and talked to them and they would look at the picture and tell me what they thought was going on or how they felt about it, or the particular situation.

And then I brought these back to the National Geographic and the editor Leah Bendavid-Val and I and Becky Muscads (ph) who helped me with the words matched what they said to the pictures that we ended up using. And, that's how - we felt it would make the book more personal. The book is personal because it's my observations of the presidencies as I saw them, my favorite pictures, and then some of the situations are quite personal. The presidents are in this book and so to have them talk about the pictures, we thought just enhanced the book.
LAMB: Which president spent the most time with you?
WALKER:Golly. They all spent just as long as I wanted. I can't tell you that.
LAMB: Any you weren't able to see?
WALKER:Yes. I was not able to see the Carters and so I spoke, did it over the phone with them because our schedule just didn't work, and I must say it was better being with the presidents in person than it was to do it over the phone. That was more difficult.
LAMB: When did you talk to Ronald Reagan?
WALKER:Ronald Reagan, of course, is the exception. I spoke at length with Mrs. Reagan but there are two comments that President Reagan made to me back in 1990 in writing about the queen's picture and about the laughing picture that you showed, and I am so pleased I have these comments about the pictures to be able to put them in the book. So, his voice is in the book.
LAMB: This picture of Nelson Rockefeller in 1974, why is it included? There's his wife Happy.
WALKER:It's included because that was one of the first pictures that I think I ever took as a professional photographer. It was the confirmation hearing of Nelson Rockefeller who was vice president under Gerald Ford when he became president, when Nixon resigned.
LAMB: When I first came to town, you could go to the Sans Souci Restaurant which you can see right up here down there on 14th Street near the White House. That's, I think that's the Renwick Gallery?
WALKER:Renwick, yes.
LAMB: Here's Art Buchwald standing out there. The restaurant is not there any longer. It's McDonald's. Why this picture?
WALKER:Well, you know, in the book I have broken up each chapter of the president with other players who've been in Washington observing Washington, participating in other ways too. I'll give you just a feeling for the other players and also to break the book up a bit and you can't have a book about Washington and the presidency without Art Buchwald.
LAMB: Here's a big picture and you have a number of these, real close shots.
LAMB: Do these men know that they're always being photographed this closely?
WALKER:No, of course not. They know we're in the room and certainly I wasn't very, I wasn't standing that close to President Ford in that picture. I was back but that's when a single lens reflex comes in handy when you have a longer lens on it because you can frame the picture exactly the way you want, and if you have a zoom lens you can come in or go out.
LAMB: Now, this one's in color and it's back in 1993, I believe. Where did you take this?
WALKER:That picture was actually taken, that picture is in the National Portrait Gallery I want you to know and I'm very proud of that but that is not a sitting. I did not conceive of that background. I did not set this picture up at all. This picture was taken, in fact, at a rally or an event for, I believe, social security in Baltimore where the president was appearing.
LAMB: Big picture, in other words a big displayed picture in 1990 Saudi Arabia. You were there obviously.
WALKER:I was there. Yes, I was there and that picture, in fact, won first prize in World Press for a news picture, which makes me very proud. We'd gone with the Bushs to Saudi Arabia for Thanksgiving, just a short time before what was known as Desert Storm against Iraq.
LAMB: Tom Foley.
WALKER:Oh yes, Tom Foley went on that trip to the desert that day with the president, as did - there was a congressional delegation with him.
LAMB: How often are you surprised by who's in a picture? When you take a picture of the principal, then you look around and bingo they're in the background somebody you didn't expect.
WALKER:Well, you could say that about this picture, but one of the more amusing pictures in the book, I think, is an image that I had no idea of who the man was in the image when I took it and that is, it's a picture of - which appears in the Carter section in the front of the book. It's a picture of Mrs. Carter in Arkansas and in the picture with her is the governor of Arkansas and, I have to tell you that I had absolutely no idea that Mrs. Carter - that I had ever seen Governor Clinton until -
LAMB: I like these. Yes, this is a 1979 picture.
WALKER:And I never knew that I'd seen Governor Clinton before he came to Washington as president-elect.
LAMB: Well, the interesting thing about this picture is Rosa Parks in the middle.
WALKER:I know and it's Rosa Parks who I have never seen with dark hair because I've seen her more recently with gray hair and I was so surprised when my friend, Mary Dunne, who helped me edit the pictures for the book and went through the TIME Life picture collection. She said, "Wait until you see this picture. Did you know you'd photographed Governor Clinton?" I said, "What?" She said, "With Rosa Parks." I said, "What?" So, of course I had to put it in the book.
LAMB: And we don't have a lot of time left and I want to make sure because we haven't shown all the pictures, is there one or two in here that we haven't shown that you consider to be your favorite?
WALKER:Well, there's a picture in there that I love of President Clinton taking a deep breath before he went up to accept the nomination the second time for president, and it was so extraordinary because he was - I was behind the stage with him and suddenly they announced his name over the loud speaker and he took this enormous deep breath as if to say, "here I go" and I thought to myself someone as, such a pro as President Clinton has to take a deep breath just like I would to have to go out and stand there in front of those thousands and thousands of people and make a speech.
LAMB: In this same grouping here, there's a picture and I want to ask you about it if I can find it quickly enough. There are a number including, OK, oh this one.
WALKER:Yes. Well, you had to have chosen that because that picture is extraordinary.
LAMB: You got the secretary of defense, the president, the Secretary of State Sandy Berger.
WALKER:Yes. What happened there was I was in a holding room behind the scenes, just me there with them and I asked President Clinton what in the world happened at that moment and he said, "I think that we were all just sort of sitting in a row. We were a little bored. We were waiting for an event to begin and we were in the holding room and I kind of looked around and said gosh, we look like those monkeys, hear no evil, see no evil. So suddenly, they just simply did it and I thought am I seeing things? And, you know, sometimes when you know you have a picture you can just quietly get up and walk out of the room. Well, I quietly got up and walked out of the room.
LAMB: And close by is this photograph here that is of a different kind.
WALKER:Oh yes, that's an in public and that picture to me says, you know, this is what it's like. This is what it's like to meet a president of the United States. This happened all the time with every president. After he would speak, he'd go, walk the rope line at the front of the audience and I mean not only, of course, do I find the ladies amusing who seem to be nearly swooning, but in the background there are these men and women who brought their own instamatics to a very fancy party in New York to photograph the president of the United States.
LAMB: Where did you take this picture?
WALKER:That picture was just taken in one of those events in the Old Executive Office Building. President Reagan had met with state troopers and they gave him a hat and, you know, to me it shows the confidence of President Reagan because not many politicians will take a hat and put it on their head when they haven't tried it on first because often it will come down to their nose. It will sit on the top of his head, and President Reagan just didn't care. He put it right on and put it on at sort of a rakish angle.
LAMB: How many photographs did you want to put in this book that you didn't get in after you had 135 in your hand? Did you have a stack of them?
WALKER:Yes, I did.
LAMB: Put any of them on the Internet or anyplace we can see more Diana Walker photos?
WALKER:Well, yes at there are picture stories that go way, way back of mine, yes. But maybe I'll do another book. It's a thought.
LAMB: And on that note, we're out of time. This is what the book looks like. It's called "Public & Private: Twenty Years of Photographing the Presidency" Diana Walker with a forward by Michael Beschloss. We thank you very much.
WALKER:Thank you very much.
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