AP photographer becomes presidential historian for Bush administration




Posted on August 5, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 6 at 3:14 PM

AUSTIN -- It is often said, still photographs can be more powerful than any video. A moment captured, frozen in time.

Eric Draper has devoted his life to telling stories through a lens spending more than 20 years as a news still photographer. While reporting for the Associated Press he traveled the world. But Eric's world would change in Austin, Texas.

"As an AP photog I spent nearly a year covering the Bush campaign in 2000. I was invited to their Christmas party in Austin, TX at the Governor's mansion and that's where I decided to take a page out of his political playbook," Draper told KVUE.  "During his campaign, which is still in my head, he had a stump speech that said, 'I'm going to look you in the eye and ask you for the job. I want to be your president.' So that’s what I did at the party; I asked him, I said, 'I want to be your personal photographer.' A week later it all happened very fast."

Overnight practically, Eric went from outsider to insider as the official White House photographer. He was privy to every aspect of the president's schedule.

"I would literally just show up outside the Oval Office. Then I would follow him around for the entire day," said Draper

Days that would become some of America's most difficult, like 9/11. From the school in Sarasota, Florida to the ruble of Ground Zero, Draper was there.

"Someone handed the president the bullhorn. He stood there with the firefighter and delivered the famous line: 'I can hear you. and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us.' And I knew after he said those words that this overwhelming feeling, like 'Wow, this is a historic moment.' It still gives me chills," Draper said

But Eric Draper was also able to witness the fun, playful moments -- from time with Barney to pranks in the White House and lighter moments with world leaders.

But of the more than one million photos, Draper's favorite came from the western White House in Crawford.

Draper described it this way.  "It's more of a portrait. What I love about it its very iconic. You know, the cowboy hat, but then his expression that is President George W. Bush.  A little twinkle in his eye. And this moment where he’s on the ranch driving his own truck he kind of has a since of freedom. You know when you're president, you're watched so closely you don’t have that much freedom.  What you can't see in the picture is that Barney is sitting on his lap. The timing of it is interesting because it's a month before 9/11. So whenever I look at this picture, I kind of see a sense of innocence, before the world changed."

Draper hopes his book, printed by the University of Texas, will give people a different look at one Texan who became president.

After eight years Eric Draper became the longest-serving White House press photographer. He says for a photographer is was the ultimate job, giving the world a front row seat.

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