July 1, 2012

Contest Judge Talks About Experiences as White House Photographer for George W. Bush
(Longview News-Journal - Sunday, July 1, 2012)

Eric Draper
Ex-aide tells Bush story in pictures
Eric Draper, former chief photographer and special assistant to President George W. Bush talks about his time with the President during a presentation Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club.

An award-winning former chief presidential photographer highlighted the Texas Bank and Trust Photography Contest and Exhibition on Saturday as keynote speaker for the annual event.

Eric Draper, chief photographer and special assistant to President George W. Bush during his tenure in office, served as a princpal juror in the contest.

Draper presented historical and exceptionally rare photos of the 43rd U.S. president in a presentation titled “Front Row Seat to History” during a luncheon Friday and dinner Saturday.

Draper’s presentation included photos of the Bush family from 2001 until 2008 and often a back story that accompanied the image.

“I have basically taken any opportunity to give this type of talk,” Draper said. “The great thing is now that it’s all over, I can now show it with more freedom.”

The luncheon and dinner were part of Texas Bank and Trust’s 30th annual Photography Contest and Exhibition, which will conclude today with an awards ceremony honoring the best photographs submitted in the categories of landscape, fine art, human interest and nature. Draper helped choose the winners.

Before his time in the White House, Draper worked with the Associated Press as an award-winning photographer. During that time he covered natural disasters, five Olympic Games, international crises and two presidential elections.

It was his position as lead photographer for the Associated Press covering presidential hopeful Bush in the 2000 election that allowed him to form the rapport that led to his eventual selection as chief White House photographer.

“Nothing can prepare you for the White House. Basically you come prepared with the experience you have, but you can’t predict how you will use it,” Draper said.

Draper admitted that he approached Bush to establish himself as a candidate for chief photographer.

“I knew I had the experience. I could really serve the president,” he said.

His work began on Inauguration Day in January 2001 and lasted until Bush’s last day in office.

It took him through the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, two wars and hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Draper said he didn’t allow himself to fully appreciate the history of what was occurring around him.

“I don’t really think about it while I am doing it, because if I did, I would probably curl up in the fetal position ... I knew it was a big deal, but in order to do my job as a trained photojournalist, I had to worry about getting the shot, not the big picture,” Draper said.

Despite the tremendous pressure — Draper and his staff were responsible for recording nearly every detail of Bush’s eight years in office — he loved the position and would likely do it again, if asked.

“Being in that position to witness that much important history, combined with the access, it was an incredible job. ... It would be hard to turn down really. It’s such an honor and an amazing position to be in. I would probably do it again,” Draper said.

Draper is working on producing a coffee table book of photos from the Bush administration titled “Front Row Seat” and is building his photography business while also giving presentations.

The beauty of the finished product is that he can tell the full story of the full eight years, Draper said.

“I can show a lot more, and I can show it in the context of eight years, one story. That’s how I approached the job, a long-term photo story that lasted eight years,” Draper said.

Draper shot nearly 1 million photos during his time with Bush.

The awards ceremony and open reception will begin at 2 p.m. today at the main Texas Bank and Trust building in Longview.



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