tv Documenting History Through Photography CSPAN February 10, 2021 7:49am-9:39am EST
you don't have to call on sarah. why do you keep calling on sarah? he said i just can't wait for her to hear what she's going to ask me. >> yeah. >> but in this photograph you see also historical elements, the clues, we talked about the clues of the photos. film cameras and then a video. so this is really a transitional moment in media. this is where the -- everything changed to more immediate coverage way before digital photography. 1976. >> yep, yep, yep. >> so we're watching the press corps at work here. we're not just looking back because the power of
photography, the power of history, the power of journalism is to push forward. first amendment and the ethos in which you have made your living and made your mark is under assault here in a way that it has not been really since 1798 when john adams tried to outlaw the press. >> i bet trump doesn't even know that. he should read up on john adams. >> he could. i think he thinks john adams is probably a laker. >> like a beer. >> yeah. >> or a beer, yeah. >> oh, that was his brother sam. >> that's right. they're both doing great work. but talk about this, though. we've been called the enemy of the people, a stalinist phrase.
information which some people don't agree with is dismissed as fake news. you've been doing this a long time. you've been on both sides in a sense. you have been inside recording history. you've been on the outside recording journalistically. how do you feel about the current experience? >> i would see president ford kind of not ricochet off the walls. there's not one president who hasn't been unhappy about what was being written about him, of course. the question is understanding why that happens and the right of the people to do it. i mean, it's really not that complicated, but i covered trump a lot during the campaign and would be there when he would be railing at the media out there, you know, in the press pen or whatever, and it strikes me in my gut. i hate what he says because i have been covering wars and -- all my colleagues not just me,
but we go out there and die doing what we do. and that's a first amendment right, and if it wasn't for the writers, the photographers, you would have no idea what's going on out there. most politicians -- [ applause ] and yeah, i mean, people get it wrong. "news week" never got it wrong. the "new york times" every day they'll put a correction. it's important when you make a mistake, you own up to it. but i think when i hear somebody attacking us as a group that it's so deeply disturbing to me. i can't begin to tell you. >> phillip graham, the publisher of "the washington post" and founder of the -- through the modern news week helped
popularize a phrase saying that journalism was the first rough draft of history. when dave and i first started working together, something in the magazine had not been quite right, and a united states senator had called katherine graham on that monday morning to register his displeasure. she then registered her displeasure with our friend and colleague evan thomas, who -- and i was in his office. i could hear mrs. graham's wonderful voice through the phone, and evan said, well, ma'am, we'll fix it. you know, it's just the first rough draft of history, and i heard that amazing voice say but does it have to be so god damn rough. so it's rough. that's our goal. that's our goal. and there she -:
>> well -- speaking of formidable women. >> this is one of the greatest human beings i've ever known, and she was someone who gave bravery a new name. she had breast cancer and a mastectomy and her staff advised her against talking about it. and she went out and said women need to know about this and what's going on. her husband stood by her there. she -- when she realized she had a problem with drinking and all that, went to a drug rehab center in long beach. came out and established the betty ford center, saved countless lives, friends of mine have gone through there. but on this day the last day that the fords were at the white house, she was walking around the west wing saying good-bye to people and all that. we walked by the empty cabinet room, which is the gallery of
dead white guys, and mrs. ford looked in there, and she said, you know, i've always wanted to dance on the cabinet room table. and the secret service agents, you know, i could see they didn't believe this, but she had that certain mischievous look that i'd really gotten to know in her eye. >> and she was a dancer, right? >> she was a martha graham dancer, very -- she was incredibly agile i guess would be the right word for it, and so she took off her shoes, and she climbed up on the cabinet room table. you never saw this picture before, and i'm guessing you'll never see it again, but what she was doing was she was planning this feminist flag right in the middle of the cabinet room. to that point, very few women had sat around that table as
cabinet officers. president ford had carla hill working for him, but it was fun, and it was sort of the best of betty ford. we skip along to one of your favorite guys, vice president -- why don't you set up what happens at the state of the union, like talk about his state of the union. why are they sitting up there? what's going on? >> well, of course, state of the union, one of the few constitutional requirements of the president is he shall from time to time provide information to the congress on the state of the union. it's not what we think of as the spectacle, washington and adams both went to congress and gave a speech. jefferson was not a good public speaker, and so he moved it to a written document. he went with his strengths, and no president until woodrow wilson actually began this process again. and now it's become the annual ritual we have, but by
constitutional fiat, the vice president of the united states, at that time george bush, is the president of the senate. it's really the only thing you do until you wait for the president to die, and the speaker of the house, democrat of massachusetts, ronald reagan is president here and they are waiting for president reagan to come down the aisle. >> and i was -- john, by the way, used these photographs in your book on president bush 41, and i have no idea what the joke was, but it was obviously -- it was tip o'neill telling it. this is a great heartwarming moment for me because the two guys are yucking it up. now, they're waiting for the president of the united states to come into the room. this is in the house of representatives, and they're just yucking it up in front of all of us, but everything changes when the sergeant of
arms, the senate comes in and says, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states. [ laughter ] i love this so much. >> so as david said, i wrote a biography of george h.w. bush, and i showed -- >> is that available on amazon? >> probably. and i showed those pictures to the president, and i said do you have any idea what you-all were talking about? he said, no, but tip was funny as hell. >> so here we are in geneva. >> 1985. >> so i got this major league scoop for "time" magazine that didn't go over well at "news week." this picture i called the bromance photo. but it's insight into the
characters of ronald reagan and gorbachev, the first time they met. it was the fireside summit. it just broke up, and this is really the reaction. there were two other photographs in the room. one was a soviet photographer, the other was the white house photographer and me, and reagan just charmed the hell out of mick hail gorbachev, and you told me you'd interviewed gorbachev, and what did he tell you? >> the two critical moments at the end of the cold war in terms of the american soviet union directly, gorbachev said, was this summit in geneva in 1985 and the way president bush handled the fall of the berlin wall in 1989, but this was incredibly important for both men. for one thing, reagan had come in to office, as you'll
remember, as this ferocious cold warrior. he said himself during the 1980 campaign that people think i'm a combination of the mad bomber and ebenezer scrooge, and he knew that he needed to overcome that, but he couldn't meet with the soviet leaders because, as he put it, they keep dying on me. they keep dying on me. and then they get this 54-year-old breath of fresh air, and reagan, margaret thatcher told reagan, i think this is a man we can do business with, and that led to this summit the year after reagan's immense re-election in 1984. >> and a lot of -- because i was in there with him, i could have stayed for the whole meeting because there was no one other than the interpreters and them. they were just going on their
way -- >> that might have made the cold war last longer. >> it could have. i finally walked back in when they broke up the meeting. the way reagan handled the meeting was impressive. i mean, he was prepared for it. it was pretty incredible. >> and remember, too, the reason reagan could make that stuff work is his central job before becoing president was not so much governor, not so much being an actor, but being the head of the screen actor's guild. for eight years he negotiated with the studio heads. people used to say what's it like negotiating with gorbachev, and he would say you never met jack warner. >> and he was a democrat at the time. >> i didn't mean president and mrs. obama, but i was one of the photographers for the inauguration putting out this book, and the photograph of them in the elevator, big freight elevator. they were on their way to one of ten inaugural balls, to me really went to the heart of who
these people are. i mean, if i make a picture like this, i love the idea of the picture certainly, but the main thing is that i think i've revealed something about people that i didn't know because i didn't know them, and i hadn't covered the campaign. pete souza who ended up being obama's photographer was in there and kelly shell who was working for "time," and but look at this. it's like a high school prom moment. i mean, you really learn something about who they are. >> fantastic, fantastic. >> and you learn something about who he is also. >> now, as i recall, this is the first time you shot him. >> it was. first time i'd photographed him. >> you got to be careful these days, it's like. >> mr. president, watch him with the students. >> right. so has he changed? >> does it look like it?
i'd say no. no. but i was covering the campaign for "politico" and then for cnn, and i covered it down the pike. i spent some time with hillary during her campaign, and been hired on to do that, so i was going to be covering -- watching trump lose the election, i thought, and i and a bunch of other people. in fact, the night he won, i was in the new york hilton ballroom and all these people, how did you know. you never hang out with losers. i said, no, i didn't know, trust me. but the main thing that happened after this was we convinced through our people, it was a guy that worked at time warner for cnn doing a book called unprecedented of the elections, all of my pictures had gone in there, and it came out right after the election, but it had
hillary and donald trump on the cover, and one of the guys knew jared kushner, called him, and said, look, we'd like to have a special inaugural edition of the book and just have trump on the cover. and obviously that's like -- >> that was not a tough sell. >> that's like catnip for trump, and so they agreed to it. so i got my sit-down session with him in his office at trump tower, and he sat down, and he's smiling, and my first photograph of him was this, and i thought, you know, this doesn't look natural to me. i covered his whole campaign. i rarely saw him smile. >> i think it looks like joaquin phoenix in "the joker." so i kind of got worried about this. i thought here's a guy that can take direction from photographers. he won't listen to anybody else but he'll listen to photographs. i thought how about give me the
"you're fired" look from apprentice. i thought, wow, they'll never put that on the cover, although it's got legs, as we say in the business, and we ended up with this photograph. if you watch cnn regularly, this is the picture you'll see all the time. it's the one they use, a branded photo. but during the session about -- by the way, this photo session lasted -- it's all in the digital -- the meter and the cameras, it was about 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the whole photo session, 17 pictures, but about four or five pictures in he wanted to see the photo, and he looked in the back of the camera. and he said, wow, i look better there than i do in real life. i thought, my god, that was almost like a funny thing, you know. i didn't know he could joke. and i said so you're not going to fire jared, right?
for once i didn't get in trouble. he said, no, no, jared's okay. flash forward, the book comes out. he writes -- he tweets that cnn has this election book out, and i wish him luck. worst picture of me ever on the cover. okay. moving along. >> let's get back to normal here, so here they are, tell the back story. >> well, this was a picture in the oval office. george w. bush, the president brought president-elect obama over to meet with the former presidents club, and from the front there was a -- it was controversial a little bit where jimmy carter was kind of standing away from the others. you can't see it in this angle, but the important thing about this picture for me was, a, getting it and having it to be a good snap. they weren't going to let me in
to take it, because i was working for the barack obama inaugural book, not a big item for them over at the bush white house. there was going to be a rose garden event where all these presidents posed for a picture, everybody could come in including me. there was a bad weather. they decided to do it in here with the pools. the "new york times," so i wasn't going to get in. i pulled the ultimate card. i called my friend cheney who i'd worked with in the ford white house. i had his private number. it was right on his desk in the office in the white house. he picks it up. hey, dave, how are you doing? i said, look, do you still have influence over there? he said not much. what do you need? and i said i need to get in and shoot this picture. i said i wouldn't bug you about it normally, but this is really important to me. i was there the first time five presidents were together was reagan library when bush senior was the president, and yeah, let
me see what i can do. two minutes later the phone rings. it's the press secretary for bush. oh, yeah, we'd love for you -- we want you to be in here, and so that's how i got in. >> right. and i think our last moment here will be certainly the favorite picture i've taken in my career. >> here's -- >> yeah. [ applause ] >> and just the background on this. i was -- one of my principal clients is bank of america, and they were one of the big sponsors of the african-american museum, and so they asked me to go and shoot this event, which was a great event. it was actually one of the most emotional things i think i've ever seen, but when michelle obama came walking out, there was just this brief hug, and normally if your subjects have
their eyes closed, it's like -- the picture's screwed up. in this case it just made the photo. >> i just want to say historically, i mean, this captures the best of who we are at a moment where in many ways we were commemorating how we had moved as much as we could from the worst of who we've been, in a museum that has so much to do with slavery. i think one of the things david's unfolding canon of work shows us is that we're just trying to get to a more perfect union, not a perfect one, and if you're looking for an image of what it's like for the struggle between our better angels and our worst instincts, when our better angels can win 51% of the time, which is a pretty good percentage, you get an image like that. >> and also, i became a hero with my three boys because the picture went viral.
>> which you thought was a medical term. >> i did, yes. [ laughter ] i thought it was something that they had no cure for. >> yes, yeah. >> as it turns out, a lot of people have seen this picture. this is a much memed photograph with some really funny stuff, and i don't mind that at all. >> that's great. >> a quick final thought from me. david is obviously my friend, but i am someone who like all of you live in the light of his achievement. i do. shut up for a minute. highly uncharacteristic, but see if you can do it for a second. david's an architect of the culture, and it's the part of the culture that matters most to all of us because it's the history of the republic, and the republic in the original latin means the public thing, and the stories he's told, the moments he's captured are the moments that have shaped the way we live
now. and i can't imagine a more fortunate place than the university of arizona to have this canon of work here. [ applause ] >> thank you. >> we're now going to someone who actually knows yíernñ this, ann breckenridge barrett, the director of the center for photography will join us. [ applause ] >> it's okay to have a little -- whoa, they even had a chair. >> get a little nick kennerly music in the background. >> is that a nick kennerly
original? >> it is. >> nick, are you going to sell cds of this? >> can we set up a little table? >> save for that education. >> thank you both. that was incredible, wasn't it? [ applause ] >> so we're going to do the q & a portion now, and my husband's probably out there cringing because i'm not great with technology, but you're going to text your questions, and they're going to pop up on my ipad, and we'll go from there. there's the number. here's one for david. why did you choose the university of arizona? >> well, this is the best place for photography on the planet. >> i agree. i agree. >> and your center, the center for creative photography, as i mentioned earlier just has an
all star lineup of great photographers and of course an sel adams being the foundation for it. dr. john shaeffer tried to get my archive in 1979. i said, hey, man, i've only been out of high school like ten years. [ laughter ] >> but john, thank you. you must have seen something back then. >> he had the vision. >> 38 years later here i am. >> he had the vision. this is a question for john, dear, sir, in the last print issue of -- >> just stop with dear, sir. i like that. no one's ever done that for me, i'm sorry. >> dear sir, in the last print issue of news week, you wrote that the fate of journalism is uncertain. that was december 2012. as the furies range against truth, how do you feel today?
>> i think the fate of journalism is uncertain. i think that journalism as an enterprise is facing unique pressures both culturally and politically, which we talked about, but also economically. i would draw a distinction, i try to make this point. i don't know how useful it is. i think the media is one thing, and the press is another. we are all part of the media. you have a phone. you have the power if something goes viral to reach more people than walter cronkite ever thought about reaching. >> that's true. >> so there's a media world, a media ecosystem that is driven by i think three characteristics, predictability, speed, and hyperbole. that's the way to build an audience. nobody -- you don't get many followers for a feed that's
called on the one hand, on the other hand, right? that doesn't work. and if everybody who says they love the news hour actually watched the news hour, the ratings would be higher. >> yeah. >> they wouldn't have enough tote bags to hand out. >> well said. >> and so i think that it's on all of us. if you're not subscribing to a journalistic institution that you believe helps shed light as pposed to generate heat, if you're not voting with your wallet, and if you can't quite help it but maybe just checking in with msnbc or fox depending on where you are ideologically, you're complicit in this. >> sure. >> and so my large view about this is that politicians are far more often mirrors of who we are rather than molders. and that's an uncomfortable
reality we have to confront. >> absolutely. >> you know, also, the economics of it, i was asked -- i was giving a class for wounded warriors at camp pendleton, and one of them asked me because i showed the slides, ranging to some of certainly what you've seen, and i was asked would i be able working for a magazine these days to do those kind of assignments? no way. i mean, "time" magazine i would jump on the concord and go to london and catch a plane to cairo maybe two or three times a month because we got an interview with saddat or something like that happened. the amount, the value in just what people spend on assignment for me to go cover these assignments are like millions and millions of dollars worth of pictures that you would never be able to do now.
>> right, right. okay. we have -- >> is that it? >> no, there's more. a lot more. and i should say we have a slew of questions, and we probably won't be able to get to them all this evening, but what we are going to do is take them. we will give them to you david, and we will push them out on social media or our website later so all your questions will be addressed. >> like a homework assignment? >> yeah. hey, i got you now, right? >> he'll have to work harder to dodge them. >> really. >> okay, david, which president's personality was the most different in private versus public? >> that's a good question. >> yeah. i think abraham lincoln. don't you think probably? >> when i interviewed him. >> i remember when matt brady and i would be talking about it afterwards. >> yeah, i know, i know.
>> i think richard nixon might be one who seemed to be certainly the kind of things he would say in private. >> oh, i see, yeah. >> like with president ford, certainly what you saw was who he was, and reagan pretty much. i mean, i don't think any of those people have been like jekyll and hyde necessarily. and certainly not donald trump because he's out in front with how he is. >> right. >> he's just hyde. >> i mean, i don't really know him that well, but -- >> did i get that right? is that the right one? >> we can cut this all out. >> that's all good. >> david, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring photographer? >> ooh, i'm proud of you for doing it, and the best way to learn how to take pictures is to take pictures. i pretty much taught myself, and
even though big magazines aren't what they used to be or don't exist, there are so many outlets now. i mean, you can have -- one reason i like facebook and instagram is because i'm the editor and i'm the creator. >> the curator. >> you can do what you want, and i am really -- i would never discourage anybody from getting into it. we need people to be writers, to be photographers. it's really important, and all i can say is my advice to them is to do it. you've got to figure out how to do it yourself your own way, but do it. >> sure, sure. sounds like a nike ad. it's not. >> just do it. >> this question is actually for me. why is the center collecting photo journalism? well, photo --
>> better be good now. >> i'm on it. photo photojournalism allows us to look at images that have chronicled history. so the center can take the work of a photographer, a photojournalist like you and put it into conversation with other photographers, so you take the work of ansel adams to david and all of those photographers use images to communicate. they communicate the beauty and the joy in what we want to see, and i think that they also show the hard times and the challenges that we must see. so if you think about photo journalism as just one dialect in the multitude of languages of photography, the center is the place that speaks to all of them. >> what a metaphor. >> i like that.
>> i am a student here at the university. >> is this just in, by the way? >> this is just in. >> love it. >> i am a student here at the university. what is the best way to get young people like me to understand the historical context of the period we are in today? i think this is for both of you. >> i would go back to what meacham said. it's important to subscribe now. the whole model of how people are going to keep newspapers going is not going to be getting them at your front door. i still get them. you get them. >> yeah. >> but that you've got to read the big ones. you've got to read daily diet of "new york times," "washington post," "l.a. times," "politico." there's no excuse for not knowing what's going on.
the thing about them like with meacham and i, it's a never ending quest for the truth. we're not shading things. i mean, you get news from reputable sources despite this onslaugt of the fake news and the failing "new york times," and all those bs. i think these people are professional people, and it's like professional for the wire services, if you take it and branch out or put one in with photo shop, you get fired. you have to believe in who's delivering you the news, and i've -- i have real faith in the big players. >> i do too. >> and everybody's like why would you read a blog from some insane person. everybody's got a -- everybody has a voice, but you don't have to listen to them all. >> no, one of the -- yeah,
absolutely. [ applause ] >> what i like to say is that just because we have the means of expressing an opinion quickly, does not mean we have an opinion worth expressing quickly, and i include myself number one in that. on the context question, what i'd advise and i do advise undergraduates is pick an era that seems resonant and find one really good narrative piece of nonfiction and read it, and i wouldn't be doing what i'm doing if i hadn't read books ojp■ i didn't think would bepm
trying to figure out american populism and the fa sis attitudes of the politics that we are now so hyperventilating about, read william manchester's "the glory and the dream" you know. if you see it you'll think i don't have four years. >> right. but there is -- there's a power, i believe this as firmly as i believe anything, there is a power and a utility to knowing that what we're experiencing may not have exactly happened, but we have come through difficult times before. fort sumter was pretty bad, you know. joe mccarthy fell from power. richard nixon fell from power, and to know that there have been
moments where various institutions and various people have finally said that's enough is, i think, the way to go. >> well, and also, yes, i agree. there are people like gerald ford there to pick up the phone and play and because of my -- and both of us are optimistic people, and i think they're definitely out there. i mean, there's no question about it. >> absolutely. so we'll read books and we'll look at photographs. >> you should try the andrew jackson biography by john meacham for which he won a pulitzer prize. >> absolutely. we've learned so much tonight, david, john, thank you. thank you for letting us -- [ applause ] >> thanks. that was good. >> oh, that was terrific. thank you.
>> nice job. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. >> thank you, everybody. good night. >> which way we walking out? >> are we going this way? >> we can go out that way. you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3 explore our nation's past. american history tv on c-span3 created by america's cable television companies, and today were brought to you by these television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. confirmation hearing for neera tanden, president biden's nominee for director of the office of management and budget is on wednesday at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span3 before the senate budget committee. watch live wednesday on c-span3.
watch live and on demand at c-span.org or listen on the c-span radio app. weeknights this months we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available. tonight from american history tv's bookshelf series, ray suarez talks about the 500 year legacy that shaped a nation. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. next on reel america, from 1968, an inside look at an anti-vietnam war organization, anti-draft in boston, boston draft resistance group was created by the newsreel, an activist film making collective. the 20-minute documentary takes an inside look at the work of a boston organization and its efforts to counsel drt