What the public knows of every world leader is typically the stately, dignified persona that they deliberately project. Thrust into the global stage, they depict themselves as these figures of strength, courage and moral fortitude. It is an image we look up to, and have come to expect from our heads of state. On the other hand, there are times when we need to see our leaders humanized. Seeing them in unguarded moments allows us to empathize with them as we realize they are no different from you or I. Pictures that surface showing these powerful men in such candid moments have always caught the public’s attention. Eric Draper, Official White House photographer during the George W. Bush presidency chronicled the daily routine of the president, showing him in some of the most private moments reserved only for the eyes of White House insiders.
He was given considerable leeway and access to document President Bush both at work, and during leisurely activities. The collection of photos tells the turbulent story, beginning with images of the aftermath following 9/11, leading all the way up to the global economic meltdown in 2008. Over the two terms of Bush, Draper amasses nearly a million photographs.
As a way to share the treasure trove of images, he recently launched a book entitled Front Row Seat: A Photographic Portrait of the Presidency of George W. Bush. It includes over a hundred photographs of some of the best images Draper was able to shoot during the eight years at the White House.
Draper tells an ABC news interviewer:
“My job was not to be a distraction. My job was to purely document. That was a very unique role in the White House, to have that much access to the president not to be a participant in the meetings, but to be an observer.”
Many will see the President caught immersed in poignant moments. In stark contrast to the Bush often lampooned by the media, Draper reveals a compassionate, introspective and gentle side to the man, facets of the president that were largely kept hidden, intentionally or unintentionally, from the public’s eye.