Eric Draper: President Bush’s Personal Photographer

By Beacon Staff

A few years ago I picked up Robert McNeely’s book “The Clinton Years,” a collection of photographs from President Clinton’s administration from 1992 to 1998. I was entranced by the fantastic photographs and by the trust that hangs heavy over such access. I could not imagine spending years documenting one person, let alone the president.

Years later, I had a chance to listen to McNeely talk and, as he told the story behind one of his images, a quiet and private moment between Bill and Hillary, he said, “I was doing my best impersonation of a chair.”

This ability to blend into the background, be always there but never invasive, to be a witness to but never a part of some of the most significant moments in history, changed the way I approached making pictures every day.

For Eric Draper, the last eight years had to be a mind-boggling experience as President George W. Bush’s personal photographer.

The list of Bush “moments” is hard to summarize. September 11, Katrina, the Texas Ranch, Air Force One, trips around the world – to be the one photographer allowed in the Oval Office during times of private reflection or a world crisis.

How are you chosen for this job? I guess you simply have to ask for it. As an Associated Press photographer, Draper was documenting the 2000 presidential campaign. In his own words he “walked up and looked him in the eye and asked for the job.” He got it.

See a Fox News interview with Eric Draper here.
See a 2000 interview with Robert McNeely on Charlie Rose here.