With what is perhaps America’s most controversial and divisive election in memory coming to a close in just over a week, it’s fair to say that the primary candidates for the presidency have had their lives thrust in front of the American public and people around the globe to the point of saturation. Yet we seem insatiable, perhaps because everyone knows how much is at stake. If the campaigns have highlighted anything it’s that history documents our missteps, achievements, and everything in between, and photography has always played a complimentary role in the archives of our past.
TIME.com recently exhibited a two-part series highlighting the photographers responsible for some of the most memorable portraits of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, and what ring special about these images is how they take the focus off of picking a side, or settling a debate, and place it on the artistry and power of the photographer as an artist – responsible for capturing something of their personality and illustrating their subject in brief moment in time.
Sure, incendiary imagery has the ability to sway voter opinions, but strong imagery like this can do something even more difficult: make you forget about the politics if even for a second. Take a moment to look through these blasts from the past as these 6 photographers recount their experiences with America’s front runners behind the lens, and with the gear of their times.
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, photographer, who shot Clinton in Washington for Elle Magazine on March 4, 1994:
This session with First Lady Hillary Clinton was at the White House in 1994. It was going okay, but I could feel handlers behind me nixing the poses that I was suggesting. I’m not big on profile shots but I adjusted my light, asked Mrs. Clinton to look away in profile and at the last minute, I said, ‘Think of our mutual friend, Brian d’Amato.’ She burst into a big smile, a real one… and I clicked the shutter on my 8×10 Deardorff. Mrs. Clinton had once been Brian’s babysitter.
William Coupon, portrait photographer, shot Trump in New York City for Manhattan, Inc. in 1983:
I shot Donald Trump twice. This is my favorite. Trump was offering his services as a ‘peace negotiator’ between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We thought: get the bird. Trump was amenable enough, but not at all happy. But ultimately, it was that something in his eyes. His eyes. Not the bird’s.The bird did give us some problems but Donald knew how to handle it, until it pooped all over him.
I am known for my backdrop portraits. So for the this image, which was used for the cover, I needed to design something simple. I used one light (these days it is a ProFoto unit) Rollei 6006’s and Hasselblads over the years. I would take some quick Polaroids, 669, or even 665, and then shoot away.
Deborah Feingold, photographer, shot Clinton in Little Rock, Ark. for Redbook in January 1993:
We were shooting her for a cover of Redbook. She was on her way (literally!) to the White House with Bill who was to begin serving as president. We were shooting in her home in Little Rock, Ark., where we had the pleasure of meeting Socks, their cat, who moved with them into the White House. What I love about these images is that she was one of the kindest, friendliest subjects I have ever photographed. Contrary to public opinion, I found her to be open, funny, kind and so easy to speak with. These pictures portray the woman that I met and a shoot I will always remember.
Tomo Muscionico, photographer, shot Trump in New York City for Spiegel in September 1999:
In the 90’s I was based in NYC, I photographed Trump and his many wives on various occasions over the years. These encounters were always somewhat fun, Trump being Trump, this boisterous politically incorrect loudmouth … he always made for a good image and story, but who would have thought that one day a person like this would be a heartbeat away from becoming the most powerful man in the world – good gracious! if you crossed ‘The Donald’ he would sue you – he would always get it his way … and looking at this image I took of him makes this very clear!
Shortly after this portrait was taken we stopped at Trump Tower on 5th Ave – Donald stepped out and told the driver that he liked me and that is why I can keep the Limousine for the rest of the day “Drive around, do some sightseeing, have some fun” he said & then exited the limo. Looking back, I think it’s a powerful portrait of a mogul whose body language shows his privilege, sexuality and arrogance. This subtle moment with him in a limousine says it all.”
This portrait was shot with a Mamyia RZ, a 220 Rollfilrm back, a Mamiya 50mm F/4.5 Lens and KODAK EKTACOLOR PRO 400 pushed to 800 ISO.
Harry Benson, photojournalist, shot Hillary in Washington for People in 1995:
I have photographed Hillary Clinton many times — before, during and after her days in the White House. I like this photograph taken in the Blue Room in 1995 because Hillary looks happy and relaxed — like that is where she belongs. She dressed the part — wearing navy blue to compliment the room she had just redecorated.
Harry Benson, photojournalist, shot Trump in Atlantic City, N.J. for People in 1990:
Shortly after the Taj Mahal opened in Atlantic City in 1990, I was there to photograph Donald Trump. He told me there was over a million dollars in the ‘cage’ in the casino where the money is kept. I told him I had never seen a million dollars. Donald proceeded to walk right in and pick up exactly a million dollars to hold for the photograph which caused quite a stir as it was totally against the rules of the casino. When some of the money started to fall off his lap, I found it was the most interesting photograph of the day.
Chris Buck, photographer, who shot Trump in New York City for Philadelphia Magazine on March 29, 2006:
“Once we finished with the required set-ups that my client needed I brought out an 11×14” print from a previous shoot that Donald Trump and I had done together. He asked, ‘What is this?’ I said, ‘I’m giving you this print as a gift—to buy an extra set-up from you.’ He shrugged and said, ‘Okay,’ and this is how I got him to pose for this picture. It’s shot in the conference room for Trump’s real estate business. With Trump now running for president I get a lot of comments on this photograph. Most people see ‘the many faces of Donald Trump,’ but I see it more as ‘the broken man,’ which may well be more a reflection of my state of mind, not his, as is the case for most of my portraits – they’re about my discomfort, not the sitter’s.”
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