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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Today's guest: White House Photo Director, Eric Draper

Eric Draper
June 25, 2003

Eric Draper
Hello everyone. It's my pleasure to return to Ask the White for a second time to answer your questions. It has been a very exciting month since my last appearance. I have recent photos to show from trips to Europe, The Middle East and Crawford, Texas including a State Visit here at the White House. Let's get things started with this photo from the President's arrival in Aqaba Jordan for the Red Sea Summit. Jordanian military honor guard make for a colorful backdrop as the President walks the red carpet from Air Force One.

Shawn, from Warwick, RI writes:
Mr. Draper Thanks so much for doing this chat again. When President Bush meets with foreign leaders, is it tense? Do they ever have fun?

Eric Draper
It’s a combination of both. It can be very tense depending on the circumstances surrounding the meeting. I find it amazing in some situations how familiar the President is with each leader he meets. In this case the President shares a light moment with Arab Leaders during their meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. My goal is to document the entire range of emotions during visit.

George, from Raleigh, North Carolina writes:
Mr. Draper, Last year, I noticed one of the WH photographers using a Leica M6. I was wondering if you use a Leica and if so, which lens do you prefer.

Eric Draper
The Leica camera has been an invaluable tool for me and the staff of White House photographers. I use an M7 and my favorite lens is a 28mm 2.0. It is extremely quiet and unobtrusive because of its size. I used the camera and lens in this photo showing a private moment between the President and the President Poland during our trip to Poland last month. This is a situation where a loud shutter or motor drive would have been a disruption

Tom, from Tulsa, Oklahoma writes:
Eric, I've always enjoyed seeing the photos of the President at work in the White House, on Air Force One and the like. It appears that if sometimes he never knew he was being photographed. Are some of the pictures taken without the President posing for the picture as say he would for the press pool? Also, as the President's official photographer do you travel everywhere he goes...Crawford, TX, overseas, the Bush compound in Maine, etc.?

Eric Draper
Most of the photos I make of the President are unposed. They are real moments but I can say that he is aware of me being in a room. I try to blend into the background as much as I can without distracting the situation. This picture shows a brief meeting on Air Force One with the President and the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice enroute to Egypt on June 2, 2003. The unposed moments will be the storytelling images for historians to study years from now.

Brad, from Spring Hill, TN writes:
Hello! Does the fact that you have exclusive access to the President, are capturing history on film and traveling around the world--on Air Force One, no less--ever catch up with you? What I mean is, do you ever sit back and say, Wow!?

Eric Draper
I pinch myself everyday . I feel very fortunate to have the job that I have. It is still very exciting everyday to walk into the Oval Office and photograph our President at work as in this photo showing the President during a phone call to the President of Russia. This photo was taken on June 9, 2003 in the afternoon.

Adam, from Watertown, MA writes:
Do you use primarily digital cameras or standard film based cameras and why? Also, are your photos available to the public in a broader range than are displayed on the web site and if so where? Regards, Adam

Eric Draper
We use primarily film-based cameras in the White House but we are slowly transitioning into digital photography. Digital photography will be the future of the White House because of the ease and the speed of turning around the images, reviewing and distribution. Most of the photos on the web site are digital images that we send from the road when we are traveling. For example, this photo from Crawford, Texas during the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister was emailed back to the White House.

Fred, from Burlington, N.C. writes:
Hi Eric, I wanted to comment and say that you take some really good pictures of our President. I was wondering, what type of background do you have in taking photographs? Did you work professionally? Do you have any tips for us amateurs for taking photographs? Thanks for your time!!

Eric Draper
I have a photojournalism background working for a few daily newspapers and the Associated Press. In total, I worked for 14 years as a news photographer. One tip I have for amateurs is to look for a background to help tell the story and try to capture a moment as in this photo here where President Bush and Mrs. Bush place a rose upon the railroad tracks at the Birkenau concentration camp in Poland, on May 31, 2003.

Ron, from Lake Placid writes:
I know it must be difficult to keep track of all the photos you take, so do you put your most special ones in a book? Do you have your favorite photos of the month, for example?

Eric Draper
As I mentioned in the last "Ask the White House," we do put together a "Photos of the Week" book for the President and we also make photo albums for visiting leaders. This photo was chosen for a photo album presented to the President of the Phillipines following her State visit. I chose the two Presidents looking out over the Truman Balcony before the State Dinner.

Rex, from Butte writes:
Eric, being a Westerner, we are awfully proud of the Vice President. Do you travel with him? Does he have his own photography team?

Eric Draper
The Vice-President has his own photographer, David Bohrer, but I do have the opportunity to photograph the Vice-President whenever he visits the Oval Office, as in this photo during a meeting before the start of their morning national security briefing.

Brahm, from Montreal writes:
Can you explain a typical day?

Eric Draper
There really is no typical day. That's what makes my job so exciting. You never know what you will photograph in one single day, but I do know I have a great subject to photograph and it's fun to capture moments like this photo during the G-8 Summit in France. It shows the President with the President of Nigeria greeting each other before a meeting.

Rebecca, from Goshen, Ohio writes:
hi, Do you have any idea how do to 5,471 divided by 52. Thankyou so so much, Rebecca

Eric Draper
I'll stop the photos to help you briefly with your homework. The answer is 105.21154 or I suggest you round to 105.

Ryan, from San Jose writes:
Hi Eric, Can you show us your most artistic photo of the President? Or something shot at a really interesting angle? Ryan

Eric Draper
Here's a photo during the President's address in Krakow, Poland on May 31, 2003. Photograph from above looking down onto Wawel Royal Castle Courtyard. I had to wait three or four minutes for a breeze to pick up one of the flags that lined the square, which made the picture more interesting.

Judi, from Santa Rosa, CA writes:
Just want you to know how much we appreciate you taking the time to answer questions, all very interesting. The President seems so at ease with people, we sure are proud of him. Thank you for the great photos,love all your photos!! Great job!

Eric Draper
It has been a pleasure to show you my work of the President in action. I will leave you with this moment of the President giving a thumbs-up to American troops after his visit to Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar. Thanks again for your interest in my photos. I hope to chat with you again soon.

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