for National Geographic News
George W. Bush is accustomed to undivided attention, but no one is more focused on his every move than Eric Draper, the U.S. President's personal photographer.
When the doors close to the press, Draper is on the inside. Only Bush's personal aide spends more time in the President's company.
Draper sees firsthand how Bush relates to visiting heads of state such as Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. "They really enjoy being around each other. They're friends, and it shows," he said.
The photographer also sees how the average person reacts to seeing the Presidency close-up. He's seen numerous guests, upon being invited into the Oval Office for a tour or photo opportunity, become overwhelmed to the point of tears.
Draper's familiarity with the Presidency hasn't lessened his admiration. "No one compares to the President of the United States. There's only one Air Force One, and whenever you see the President's motorcades stacked up against any of the other motorcades, there's really no comparison with the size," he said.
After growing up in south-central Los Angeles, Draper worked for several newspapers out West before joining the Associated Press. He got his job as "First Photographer" by asking the then-President-elect for it at a party at the Governor's Mansion in Texas.
Bush had seen how Draper covered the politician's 2000 presidential campaign for the AP and thought he could trust Draper, according to Mike Davis, who was the deputy director of the White House Photo Office in Bush's first term.
Witness to History
As White House photo director, Draper is chief among five White House photographers. As Bush's personal photographer, he is often the only photographer present to record historic moments. (See White House photographs by Draper.)
Draper was on the scene minutes after Bush formally made the decision to launch the war in Iraq in 2003.
The photographer was waiting outside the situation room (he's often asked to leave during sensitive discussions). Before the military commitment was publicly announced, Bush took a walk on the South Lawn with his dogs. Draper followed and photographed.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES