P.F. Bentley, Special Correspondent, Time Magazine. He talked his way into getting access to candidate Clinton on the campaign trail. He has since repeated this process with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole.
FL: What makes it so difficult to get that authentic moment--the world of a
photo op, the spinning, ....It's harder than ever to get a good
The whole idea behind how I do the pictures I do is to get beyond the "op".
The op is handed to you, handed to all of us, as the image of who it is that
they would care to have out. And I try and break through. I try and get who
it is. Dole, Clinton, Newt, and get beyond that to have who these people are
behind their public kind of aura.
That is how come I don't use color. That is how come I try and go beyond what
the idea of a colored campaign ought to be and how it ought to look.
FL: Why is it so difficult now?
The people in charge of the campaign have a daily idea to project.
How Dole, Clinton, how they'll appear. And they are trying to project warmth,
kindness. He's a good guy. The op is controlled by the handlers, how it will
appear, we'll put the press pool at thisangle--what is behind him. You know,
he'll turn towards here. It's all controlled.
And I got tired of being in that pool and just being controlled, becuase there
is a truth out there beyond the op. The op is only the little tip of the whole
iceberg of who it is. There's an entire campaign going on untold. And I try
and tell that tale.
Fl: What is it that you can see in a face? What's available in a
It's all in the eyes. Every time we look and hold up that optic, we
aim into their eyes. Every time. The eyes have to be clear. And you tend to
look every day in that guy's eyes. You really can look as to who it is. All
that we look at is who it is. And whether they're happy, or it's a good day or
a bad day.
I think that the stills pool could tell you how the campaign will end up, just
by looking into their eyes every day. And you know, I claim that you can tell
who these people truly are every day. You notice how I kind of look back, and
there's all the reporters, and their heads are down. And they're just taking
it all in. But they hardly ever really look.
Q: Just imagine the camera is circling in on that very tight shot of Dole
there...I'd like you to tell me, that picture, at that moment, what it is
that that face is telling us. Is it a game face? Is it a faux face? And if
it is exposed, what, if you knew nothing about this person, what is your
picture guessing? What glimmers?
Those eyes on that day, on that instant, have hope. Hope that he will do OK.
Hope that this year will turn out OK. And these are items that you can tell
every day, hope, anger, happiness, frustration. And the reporters don't ever
look. You know, they just keep up, and you know, kind of like glance up and
When I looked at him right there, here's a guy who has been through it all.
He has come from a little town. He has done a great deal. He's been through
it all. This is Bob Dole's last mission. And either he'll do this, or he
FL: Talk about Dole's face in terms of the game face-- as opposed to other
politicians' faces. Is he guarded? Is there a mask? Is it hard to get
through that game face or not?
I haven't had a hard time, because there is that trust. It took him a
bit of time to trust me. He's really a private type. There is the Bob Dole
that has to have the picture op. There is the Bob Dole at the airport to have
his picture taken with, you know, whoever it is out there. And then he comes
on the airplane, and he's kind of happy to be on there because he can just take
it easy and be him. And I get to take pictures of him on board. But it's him.
He trusts that I won't do any, I'll tell his tale, but I won't hurt him. And
so he has let his guard down. It took, I don't know, about ten days of me
being there for him to ease up a bit.
Q: What are some of the other qualities revealed in your pictures, these
tight shots of his face, or body moving.
I think that my pictures have a man who is extremely honest, who's
really down to earth, who still enjoys heading home to that little town. That
is his biggest thrill is to head back there. A man that is trying to do all he
can to change the country, where he would be in charge. You know, in my job
as a journalist, I am just there to record. I am not there to tell people
Clinton is OK, and Dole isn't. Dole's OK, Clinton, isn't. It's to just be
there and record the honestly. And I think that Dole really understands that.
And if there's anything that Dole is, it's honest and down to earth.
FL: There's one other picture...the last day that he was in the Senate,
and you're in the car with him...
As that, as that day ended, and the car pulled out of the Capitol, he
was happy, but he looked a little bit lost. And I think he was really kind of
taking it all in. All of his years there ended. And that car trip out of
there, they were really happy about all the people that came out to tell him
good-bye, that they really appreciated him all those years. And as the car
pulled out, and that last good-bye happened, he just kind of slumped back, and
he looked just all alone, kind of lost, kind of like it's the end of an era and
the start of a whole new era. And he headed over to the campaign headquarters.
And he got right on it, right to the campaign. There had been no time off.
FL: People that are close to him, talk about his central aloneness as a
defining quality. Is there a picture that you have taken that you feel
captured that, even when he's in a crowd, that sort of central, solitary
quality of the man.
Bob Dole is really on his own often. He tends to take it all in, and then
come up with his own answers on his own opinions. And I recall a day. We were
doing the budget deal. And it was the day that the calls had gone back and
forth from the Hill to Clinton. And it was just hours and hours and hours.
And Dole was in his office in a chair. And he was just taking it all in.
People talking. And because of his injuries to his hand, he has to recall all
of this, because it's too quick for him to put it all down on paper. And as he
tells it, it's all up here. So he tends to just be quiet in a chair and
take it all in. And it's as if he isn't there, alone, or on his own. But
his, his brain is like a steel trap, that if he hears it, it is in there. And
he's kind of learned to do this over the years.
FL: You said you found, now that he's President, Clinton's face, the
persona, is harder to get through than Dole's, to find those glimmers. Talk
I think after they get into power, in order to cut through the op,
it's still the op. It's on the campaign you got three people that cut through.
After they get in, there's like ten to cut through. It's really guarded. It's
really controlled. And that's how come after they get in, I don't have any
interest in it, because it's too hard to get the approval to just float free in
Whereas on the trail, they're clawing to get in. And they're more open.
They're freer. They're hoping to be there. But then after they're there, it
isn't that they change. It's just that the powers under them grow.
FL: You don't think there's a different game face in the beginning, just to
protect yourself more? You said you felt Clinton's face had changed a
Clinton on the campaign had been happier. And I do believe, not that
it's him. I believe it's the job. The quest to have this job all year, or for
years. Now, to me, I don't understand why you would choose to have this job.
The stress, every day. The eternal problems every hour. People tend to grow
older, how they look. They don't look as happy as often. And this has
happened with every guy who has been in. You look at the before, you look at
the pre and the post pictures of them. And boy, their hair turns color. They
age out. And it is just the stress. And to cut through that, also, Clinton
and others, have to deal with the press pool every day. And now they can't
just head out of there on their own. They have to have agents and aides. It's
a whole big to do. You know, people lose that freedom to just go out and have
a ice cream cone quietly. Heading out to eat is a big deal.