Inside the Presidential Bubble, a conversation with friends

Presidential photographers Eric Draper, Barbara Kinney and David Hume Kennerly answer questions from the audience toward the end of a two-hour conversation at the Portland Art Museum, Sunday, November 7. That's Curator of Photography Julia Dolan on the left and me at the podium. © Deborah Pang Davis

What a superb Sunday.

Five of us sat in front of 400 people at the Portland Art Museum and talked about making pictures of the President of the United States.

Three of the five - David Hume Kennerly, Barbara Kinney and Eric Draper - were presidential photographers, for the Ford, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. In all, they’ve spent 17 years making pictures at the White House.

Julia Dolan, curator of photography for the Portland Art Museum, crafted and delivered a concise history of presidential imagery dating back to George Washington and introduced each of the panel members with such aplomb and then launched questions for the group. She showed a photograph of President Andrew Jackson that was just haunting.

My role was that of moderator, having been the lead picture editor for the White House Photo Office during the first four years of the George W. Bush administration - I worked for Eric. 

The three photographers told stories about the men who hold the office and took us inside the presidential bubble, a space unlike any other on the planet. I wish you all could have been there.

We started planning this event more than a year ago and chose the weekend after the election because of a heightened awareness of politics. Little did we know that this past weekend would also coincide with “The President's Photographer”, the book and documentary, that launched at the National Geographic Society Saturday night. Both Eric and David flew to Portland from that event. Nor did we know that President Bush’s book was set to go on sale today.

The musuem’s photography council and Patron Society sponsored the event. I’m on the council’s board. Volunteering for such organizations and making things happen that wouldn’t otherwise is an effort I’d encourage all to undertake. If you do, you might just get to sit around with some friends and talk about things that are important to you, in front of a few hundred people.

Sol Neelman's photographs of Weird Sports

When nothing is happening, part two