Photographer Diana Walker: An Eye for History For two decades, Diana Walker was the White House photographer for Time magazine, clicking her camera through five administrations. Walker's new book is filled with portraits that go far beyond the usual "photo ops."

Photographer Diana Walker: An Eye for History

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NPR special correspondent Susan Stamberg says Diana Walker's new book, "The Bigger Picture," is filled with portraits that go far beyond the usual photo ops.

SUSAN STAMBERG: Covering John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, Diana Walker was invited to come to the front of the candidate's plane. She caught the Democratic senator and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, in a private moment. Mrs. Kerry was reading a newspaper and wanted to show something to her husband.

DIANA WALKER: And he went across and sat down next to her, and he looked at the pictures and whatever it was she wanted to show him. And then slowly, he kind of fell asleep right there leaning against her back.

STAMBERG: The black-and-white photo - you can see it at - shows just what a campaign takes out of a candidate. It's also a picture of a marriage. And it's Diana Walker's definition of shooting behind the scenes.

WALKER: A whole group of photographers couldn't possibly take a picture like this. It had to be one camera, not more than that.

STAMBERG: Away from the lights and the mikes and the hoopla, just two people and exhaustion and Diana Walker's camera. That same July week in 2004, I interviewed Teresa Heinz Kerry for NPR about what it was like on the road. Great, she said, also enabling and seductive. Your ego gets too big.

TERESA HEINZ KERRY: So you have to be very careful that, yes, it's wonderful, but you owe them one. And what you owe them is your honesty and your vulnerability and your thoughts. Otherwise, you're nothing.

STAMBERG: Do you, as a photographer, also have to keep in mind what you owe to the people whose pictures you're taking, to those who will see those pictures on the pages of the magazine?

WALKER: In doing behind-the-scenes pictures, I always would think, I get to be here and the public doesn't. I'm here and it is a privilege and I've got to do absolutely the best I possibly can to show you what was going on.


WALTER MONDALE: If you'll help me get into that White House, I'm going...


STAMBERG: Another presidential campaign, a different Democrat - no behind-the- scenes here. Diana Walker shows Walter Mondale facing a barrage of reporters at a nighttime airport in 1984. Her camera catches the candidate framed by a thicket of microphone poles aimed like rifles; and Mondale is a smart, thoughtful deer in headlights.

WALKER: This is a picture on the tarmac somewhere, you know, I don't even know where it was because it's always the same. I found myself down on my knees right in the middle of this melee.

STAMBERG: But how did you decide to - or was it your decision - because the composition is so interesting and how his face is framed.

WALKER: I have to say, you know, I don't remember, but I can imagine my coming a little late to this event. I stayed on the plane for something, went around the group, couldn't get in because they were all so close to the candidate that I went between their legs down on the ground and got below and shot up. That used to happen to me quite a lot.

STAMBERG: In 1990, Diana Walker photographed the ultimate celebrity patrician, Katharine Hepburn. Receiving a Kennedy Center honor, the great actress sits with the other honorees in a box at the opera house, wiping away a tear.

WALKER: This picture was taken with a very long lens from my perch in the opera house. The tribute was over and they were honoring her with applause and she just began to cry. So this picture - she was unprepared for this picture. This picture was taken from miles away.

STAMBERG: It raises a number of issues that I'd love you to talk about and one is privacy. And did you do justice to her by shooting this picture from so far away without her knowing it, in such an unguarded and very personal, emotional moment?

WALKER: Well, that's a very good question. But let me tell you something about the way it works at the Kennedy Center. The only way I'm able to take that picture is when the lights are on her. Otherwise, she'd be in the dark. So she, the actress, is prepared to acknowledge the crowd. And whether she knew I was taking the picture or didn't know I was taking the picture, I'm so glad I was taking the picture because to me, this is the Katharine Hepburn of my mind.

STAMBERG: Diana Walker gave her Time magazine long lens a real workout when she had to, taking hundreds and hundreds of pictures without having direct contact with her subject. But her book includes lots of close portraits, too. For those, and to get a more informal image, the photographer chats up her subject, pretends to be listening as she fusses with her equipment.

WALKER: I find what is the most effective thing to do is to start them talking and move around. And I also found often that when I said I was finished, I got the best picture.

STAMBERG: Because people relaxed.

WALKER: And he leaned back and he threw his leg up on the couch and there was the picture. All of a sudden, there it was. And luckily, I had film still in my camera. So I always kept film in my camera when I was ready to leave.

STAMBERG: I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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