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Photojournalism and the American Presidency - Reading America's Photos
Photojournalism and the American Presidency - Reading America's Photos
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"Rediscovering The Photo" Transcript
Dirck Halstead:

Now you jump ahead to the picture of Monica Lewinski appearing on the cover of Time magazine. And this is now, he's into his second administration--and suddenly Monica is the story. And my agency called me and said did I have a picture like that? And so I am looking at the cover of Time magazine. And I knew exactly when the picture had been taken. It was taken on the day that Clinton came back from Little Rock after winning the election. And I knew where I was and I could see where Lewinski was. And I knew that I had not been in a position to take that picture.

And so I told my agent, I said, "You know, I know I don't have that. But the interesting thing is I have seen that face. I don't know where. I don't know when. But I have a hunch I have a picture. So why don't you start looking through the out-takes?"

And I have this philosophy that whenever a photographer takes a picture, that moment that the shutter trips is deposited like some piece of photographic lint on your brain. Ah (pause)--because I can look at magazines years later and whether I have seen the original photograph or not because very often my pictures go right to my agency or my editors. Whether I've seen that photograph before or not, I'll know that's my picture. And I'll go turn to the credits and, sure enough, that's my picture. So, I just thought I had seen that face and they looked through the files at my agency and couldn't find anything.

Then I called the picture department at Time magazine and sometimes they keep some images that they may use later on. Asked them to look through those--nope, they didn't have anything there.

And so then I called down to The University of Texas and asked if some interns could look through my material and see if they could find it--nope, nothing. And so this is like now ten days later and so I called the picture editor at Time magazine I said. "Look, you know I may be totally wrong but I have a hunch that I photographed Monica Lewinski and the President together. Would you pay for an intern because the only place left that it could be is in the light room at Time?" where I had roughly two years of returns in boxes from floor to ceiling that I hadn't sent down to The University yet. And he said, "No, no I won't do that." And so about that time, another intern who was working with me on a project came in and I said, "Look, I'll make a deal with you. I have a hunch I may have a picture of Monica Lewinski. If I have it, it's probably with those thousands of pictures sitting over there. If you want to go through those pictures looking for that picture, if you find it I'll give you 10 percent of whatever the picture sells for." And she says, "Done."

And so three days later she comes in and she says. "You're going to buy me dinner." I said, "Why?" She says, "Look at this." And here's this picture. I said, "Where did you find that?" And she says, "I've got it in this envelope." And I said, "Is there anything else like that?" And she said, "No that's all. It's just the one frame. Nothing to the left of it. Nothing to the right of it." But the frame was perfect. If I were a movie director staging this with the lighting, it could not have been more perfect. Every face is turned toward her. The light is exactly in the right place. And so I went into the picture editor and I said, "Look at this. Just tell me, is this who I think it is?" "That's it."

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audio clipRediscovering The Photo
The Briscoe Center for American History