Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Timeless images capture world leaders

Photojournalist Diana Walker to present life’s work

Express Staff Writer

President George H.W. Bush tosses souvenirs to U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia on the eve of Operation Desert Storm, Thanksgiving, 1990. Photo by Diana Walker

When Diana Walker was photographing for Time magazine, there were occasions when she had to travel on several transcontinental flights, including a Concorde jet, to submit a photo to the magazine in time for print. To her credit, she became an important person in the world of news and events, capturing moments in time and history that told stories to the world.

"My job was reporting with a camera," Walker said. "The money shot is a picture that tells what is happening at the moment—it's what is going to illustrate news that day."

Walker, a Wood River Valley resident since the early 1980s, will share her life experiences as a White House photographer through five administrations in a free presentation at The Community Library in Ketchum today, July 13, at 6 p.m.

The show will include much of her work, which was capturing important moments in history with world leaders and covering breaking news for Time magazine. In addition, Walker's work as a White House photographer offered her opportunities to photograph free-world leaders behind the scenes and as people.

Walker has been recognized by the World Press, the White House News Photographers Association and the National Press Photographers Association. She was the first photojournalist to spend an entire day inside the White House with President George H. W. Bush, creating a 1989 Time magazine photo essay, "A Day in the Life of George Bush." In addition to Time magazine, Walker's photographs have been published in Paris Match, Vanity Fair, People, Life and New York magazines.

From Walker's numerous decades of covering the White House, her work expanded to include covering U.S. Sen, John Kerry's presidential campaign, traveling with Teresa Heinz Kerry as a friend. She also followed Madeleine Albright, the first woman to become the U.S. secretary of state.

"It was very interesting to see," she said. "It was a different perspective on the inside."

When Walker approached past presidents about using images for her book, "Public and Private: Twenty Years Photographing the Presidency," she said it was an enjoyable experience.

"I didn't have a chance to sit down and talk with them when I was working, I was there to do a job," she said. "You are not there to get to know them, and you can not be a distraction in any way. Presidents are real people and as stressful as they may appear, they are human beings."

Walker would spend an entire day at the White House to be ready for a three-minute photo opportunity or waiting in freezing temperatures at the Kremlin in Moscow to capture world leaders at work. She could not get to know her subjects and hardly ever spoke to them.

"When I shared images with President Clinton," she said, "it reminded him of many things. He had so much fun. Clinton loved being president."

Walker photographed many behind-the-scenes activities with presidents and presidential candidates, capturing them mostly in black-and-white images.

"Hillary Clinton's campaign was black-and-white, behind-the-scenes work," she said. "Black-and-white images are reminiscent of the old Life magazine style—it looks better."

Walker's second book, "The Bigger Picture: Thirty Years of Portraits" emphasizes images with Hilary Clinton, Al Gore, Steve Jobs and Jamie Lee Curtis, to name a few of the notable people Walker has captured on film.

"I kept the rights to my photos and was on contract," she said. "It was the best way for me to work—when I wanted. I saw an enormous amount of the world. It was an exciting job."

Walker said she made mistakes, such as forgetting to put film in the camera, which is not an issue in the digital age of today's photojournalists.

"Politics in the digital world is more complicated," she said. "Instant news now makes for more information."

Walker's job also included covering issues such as the efforts to thwart Proposition 8's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples in California as unconstitutional and presidential candidate Al Gore's recount vote. And, of course, there were the historic moments, including President Ronald Reagan at "Checkpoint Charlie" when the Berlin wall was razed.

Walker will discuss what life was like for a photojournalist when she was working and also will give insight into how the process of photojournalism works.

"Every photographer looks at things differently," she said. "You still need a long lens and a monopod. And now you add a laptop—no, thank you."

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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