The chief photographer for President George W. Bush recalled his time documenting Bush's eight years in the White House and shared some of the nearly 1 million images he captured during a lecture Friday at the Clinton School of Public Service.
Eric Draper's position took him to nearly 70 countries and 49 states, producing a body of work that amounts to 50 terabytes of data and includes behind-the-scenes glimpses at the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the economic crisis and Bush as a world leader, father, husband and son.
Draper spent 18 months covering Bush's successful race to the White House as an Associated Press photographer before meeting the president-elect at an Austin, Texas, Christmas party and asking for the job straight-up.
"I walked up to him at the end of the party," Draper recalled. "I said 'thank you for inviting us to the party. By the way, I want to be your personal photographer.'"
Bush promised to get back to him and a week later Draper heard from his chief of staff who "pretty much offered me the job."
"He said that working in the White House is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant at full throttle," Draper said. "He was right."
Draper's pictures are now stored in the National Archives, and a selection of more than 100 of his favorites were published earlier this year in the book Front Row Seat: A Photographic Portrait of the Presidency of George W. Bush.
Draper walked the crowd at the Clinton School through some of those shots, starting with Bush's first trip to the White House as president-elect, where he was greeted warmly by outgoing President Bill Clinton, and then his first time walking into the Oval Office.
"It really occurred to me then how special this job would be," Draper said.
The photos ranged from playful shots of Bush with first dog Barney (who Draper said Bush loved dearly and called "the son he never had.") to one of the president riding a bicycle through the halls of the West Wing to photos on the morning of the Sept. 11 attacks.
One of Draper's photos that day captures Bush watching live television of the first World Trade Center tower collapsing.
"The president just stood there for several minutes in silence just watching that play out," Draper said.
Draper said he most enjoyed traveling to the Western White House, Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, where the president could be documented "as a Texan." It was the only place he was allowed to drive his own truck. Draper shared one image taken in August 2001 of Bush behind the wheel with a cowboy hat on his head and a big smile on his face.
"Every time I look at this picture, I see a sense of innocence," Draper said.
Some of Draper's final photographs taken for Bush included one of him meeting with President-elect Barack Obama in the Oval Office and another of Bush leaving that room for the last time as president.
"Around 8 o'clock he called for his coat," Draper said. "He turned and walked out without looking back."