Who'd ever think that a black kid from South-Central Los Angeles could grow up to become the personal photographer of a Republican President of the United States? But that's precisely the unlikely career path enjoyed by Eric Draper, who served as head White House shutterbug from 2001-09.
How did he get the job? Well, after covering the 2000 campaign for the Associated Press, he was invited by George Bush to a Christmas party at the Texas governor's mansion. Taking a page out of the President-elect's own playbook, Eric summoned up the gumption while shaking his hand and looking him straight in the eye to paraphrase one of his popular stump-speech refrains: "I want to be your personal photographer."
Bush took the inquiry seriously, and hired Eric a week later, after closely examining his portfolio. And over the next eight years, Draper would be a constant companion and an eyewitness to history, accompanying the Chief Executive on trips to 70 countries and 49 states.
During that period, he snapped close to one million official photos, covering everything from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, he was also afforded access to the Bush family in private moments, whether at the White House, Camp David, or at their summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
"Front Row Seat" is an 11 by 12-inch coffee table book featuring hundreds of samples of Draper's best work, including iconic images of Dubya campaigning in a cowboy hat, listening to secretary of State Condi Rice play piano, visiting wounded warriors in the hospital, and praying with Coretta Scott King and two of her children. Together, these intimate pictures combine to paint a poignant, behind-the-scenes portrait of our 43rd President, and to confirm that he was right in giving that ambitious kid from the 'hood a spot on his staff.
"I was privileged to work with Eric Draper during my entire Presidency. I got to know him during the 2000 Presidential campaign.
"I saw right away that Eric is not only an excellent photographer; he is a fine person. I came to trust his judgment and made him chief White House photographer...
"He earned my confidence and that of the White House staff. As a result, he had a front row seat for all eight years of my Administration...
"This behind-the-scenes account is a unique look at my personal life as well as some of the events that defined my Presidency. Many of the images in these pages are being released for the first time.
"I hope you enjoy Eric's work as much as I do. His photographs chronicle an exciting, dramatic, fulfilling eight years of my life."
– From the foreword by President George W. Bush (pg. xiv)
"Front Row Seat
"A Photographic Portrait of the Presidency of George W. Bush"
by Eric Draper
Foreword by President George W. Bush
University of Texas Press
240 pages, Illustrated
(To order a copy of Front Row Seat, visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0292745478/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20)