On a special edition of the Walker Webcast, we’re joined by award-winning photojournalist—and Willy’s mom—Diana Walker! Throughout her career, she’s captured photos of some of the world’s most prominent figures, including Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II, Steve Jobs, and several US presidents.
The conversation begins with how Diana got into the world of photojournalism. Even as a child, she was always taking pictures and processing them in the basement, she says. Her interest continued into adulthood and parenthood, and a friend suggested she go professional. Photography for the Washington Monthly newspaper led to more and more jobs, she says, then 20 years with Time magazine.
Diana talks about how she was among the first photographers allowed behind the scenes in politics. Many of her photographs became symbols of history, like her picture of George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev at the close of the Cold War. Yet she had to convince others in the industry that she knew what she was doing at first, she says.
Diana talks through the process behind some of her most iconic pictures, like photos of Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth. “Angle, exposure, light, film type—so many elements are important in photojournalism,” she says, adding that Time went through great lengths to get a photograph processed in time for it to appear on the newsstands the next morning.
Willy asks about the people Diana photographed. While one of the basic tenets of the job as a political photographer is to remain neutral, she says, she shares her impressions: the sophistication and kindness she saw in Nancy Reagan, the love she observed in the Clinton family, and the mutual respect between Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. “When you are watching people as closely as I had to, you can easily see the relationships.”
Diana reveals an interesting fact: In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, the only photographs in the entire book are hers. She says that Isaacson “soul sourced” through millions of photographs to focus in on her catalog. Diana knew the Apple founder for years. She first met Jobs in 1982 at a Time Man of the Year photoshoot and only stopped photographing him when he became sick with pancreatic cancer.
Willy shares what believes to be the most powerful thing about Diana’s work: Her images show a personal side to people known and loved only from afar. “At the end of the day, as we see from her images, they are all just human beings, too.”
01:06 Willy welcomes Diana Walker
05:58 The starting points of Diana's career
13:43 The challenges of photojournalism in the 1980s
19:00 How images are interpreted differently
29:10 After the Cold War, a new machine
36:42 Being a woman photographer
41:49 Showing relationships
53:35 An iconic image of Hillary Clinton goes viral
57:53 Capturing humanity
Willy Walker: Welcome to what is a discussion that I've looked forward to having for quite some time. This is, without a doubt, the easiest Walker Webcast I've ever prepared for. I did not have to do a whole lot of work other than trying to pick out which images of my mom's career I wanted to talk to her about. My mom asked me yesterday as we were coming in, “What's the one thing you want everyone to take away from this discussion?” I love my mom prompting me to get to the punch line if you will.
I think there are three things that I want people to get out of this discussion with my mom. The first is that she's an amazing woman and she's been an amazing mom to me and my brother throughout our lives and a great spouse to my dad for all the years that he ran Walker & Dunlop and the two of them raised my brother and me.
The second thing is that I hope this discussion shows that it was not only my mother's technical capability, but her personality that came together to create such a powerful career. I think it's very important as we look at successful people in business, that you can be technically as qualified as anybody, but if it doesn't marry up with a personality or vice versa, you can be the greatest person on earth but if you don't have the technical smarts, it's very difficult to be successful. One of the reasons I think my mother's career was so successful was that combination of technical capability, as well as an incredible personality that came together to produce the images that she did.
The final piece to it is that as a woman, she confronted challenges that men did not confront, and she was also presented with opportunities that men didn't get. So, I think being here at this conference, focusing on women in commercial real estate, I think it's very important to look at her career and say she faced huge amounts of challenges being one of the pioneering women in photojournalism. We'll talk a little bit about both the physical challenges of being in her line of work but then at the same time, there are also some opportunities that presented themselves because she was the only woman in the room to some degree.
So, I look forward to diving into that. As a quick run through mom, I'm going to put up a couple of your iconic images before we dive into your career. So, as you can see here, this is a photograph of President Reagan and the first lady on a battleship. This next one many of you may have seen, given the passing of the queen, one of my mom's iconic images as the queen was giving a speech in San Francisco during a very, very rainy day, commenting on that, she brought with her not only the hopes and wishes of the English people, but also their weather. President Reagan, we'll talk about that picture in a moment. But that picture was the lead of the nation. So, to any of you who can remember when Time magazine was “The Journal of America'', it's unbelievable how much things have changed. But back when that picture was taken, the leader of the nation was the most important article and most important image every week in Time magazine and that was inside of a cover that said, “Why Does America Love This Man So Much?” This next image of President Bush with the troops in Iraq, President Clinton with Hillary, and Chelsea. Steve Jobs speaking with Bill Gates as they put together the first agreement between Microsoft and Apple that had ever been done. An iconic photograph that many, many of you have seen. This one probably is the transition from old school media to new school media in the sense that this meme went viral around the globe after my mother took this picture of Hillary Clinton inside the C-140 airplane, and then this picture of President Reagan and Nancy, after the president had gotten colon cancer, and that picture was so important of that moment where everyone wanted to know that the President of United States was okay after his surgery and he came out and gave the A-OK.
So, Mom, I want to dive in for a moment to how you did what you did. This picture has you here with President Reagan looking over his shoulder as he signs some document or studies something. This picture here – I tried to show some of the experiences you had there with President Reagan, and that's his chief of staff, Senator Baker, on the left. And then who's in the middle?
Diana Walker: Frank Carlucci.
Willy Walker: Who was the national security adviser?
Diana Walker: Yes.
Willy Walker: And then this photograph with you and Steve Jobs back when you went to photograph Steve, way back when. This picture I've always loved of Nancy Reagan kissing Mr. T's forehead and then you are getting your opportunity to sit on Mr. T's lap. Really a fun one. I think those images give everyone a sense of both the access you had, the people you interacted with, and at the same time, it all started with you getting your press pass to cover Capitol Hill. And this is a picture of late Senator Moynihan holding up the newspaper of the day and grilling somebody down there on the left. Talk for a moment about how you got into photojournalism and what it was like to get into Capitol Hill and kind of be a fly on the wall, if you will.
Diana Walker: Well, I always took pictures as a child, and I had a darkroom in the basement, and I would try and process my film there. I lived in a very old Georgetown house in Washington, D.C. and my father would walk across the living room floor above me, and all the dirt would come down into my trays of developer. So that wasn't too successful. But finally, after you and Taylor had been born, I started taking more pictures and a dear friend of mine said, “Oh, why don't you become a photographer?” And I said, “Become a photographer? How do you do that?” And she said, “Look, I'll go into business with you, and I'll do the books and I'll do all the extraneous stuff and pay the bills and bring in the cash and you take the pictures.” And so that's what we started to do, and we weren’t very good at it. And I remember being at a wedding photographing it, and I was backing up, going down the aisle and the bride and groom were leaving the church. Everybody was so excited, and it was thrilling. I backed right into the font for the baptism, and there I was sort of splayed all over the place.
So luckily I had a friend who worked for a small political magazine called The Washington Monthly, and she called me up one day and she said, “Charlie, the editor wants you to come take pictures for The Washington Monthly. I said, but The Washington Monthly doesn't have pictures. And she said, oh, he wants to try. So, are you interested in photographing politics in Washington?” And I said, “Am I interested?” And she said, “Well, wait, he can only pay you $25 for each picture he uses.” Even though this was back in the seventies, $25 a picture was a little bit small. You could hardly buy your film and make contact sheets for that. But I said, “Well, maybe.” And then she said, the key thing. She said, “He will get you your press credentials to be able to shoot on Capitol Hill and in the White House.” Well, that cemented the deal, and so for several years I did that, and I photographed all kinds of events on spec. I would go over to the White House and the Shah of Iran was visiting and there was a welcome ceremony on the South Lawn with Jimmy Carter. I would photograph it, print it, and put it in a portfolio that showed whether I could take pictures of those kinds of events or not. And then I would look up the name on the masthead of a lot of magazines that came out in Washington or were read by Washingtonians. And then I'd get on the train, and I'd go up to New York and see a magazine like New York Magazine or The Village Voice or something like that, and slowly I was able to get work, and so that's how it all started.
Willy Walker: Jump to this, which was, I believe, the first time that you traveled abroad with either a president or first lady. You went to Cambodia, I believe, with Rosalynn Carter in 1978 or something?
Diana Walker: Yes, I eventually went to Time. I was urged by another photographer to go to Time and show them my work, and I went, and they started giving me work, which was really wonderful. They had a full-time photographer on the White House, but he did President Carter. When President Carter announced that he would no longer travel, he was so upset and concerned, obviously, about the seizure of the American embassy employees in Iran that he said he would not leave the Rose Garden until the hostages were back. So, he literally did not leave the White House. His wife, Rosalynn, the first lady, did all of his travel and he was up to be on a lot of primaries. He was involved in a lot of primaries because he was running again for the second term. And so, Rosalynn went to all of her, all of the states where he was on the ballot, and she went on every foreign trip he was scheduled to do. So, Time sort of turned to me and wondered out loud whether a woman covering another woman would work, and so that began my career with Time – following Rosalynn Carter even to Cambodia. We were really in Thailand on the border of Cambodia, to photograph Rosalynn Carter, meeting with refugees from the Khmer Rouge, the awful group that had taken power in Cambodia. And here in this picture, she is holding a little baby, and the baby died about an hour later while we were there. And she was a wonderful person to follow.
Willy Walker: So, you go to Time in 1980 to start covering the White House during President Reagan's tenure, and you stayed on the White House from 1980 until 2000. This picture and the next one of Reagan and the Queen, talk for a moment, Mom, about sort of the physical nature of getting in place to take an image like that. So, talk us through that the doors open. What did you need to do to get yourself in position to either take that picture of Reagan and the first lady or that picture of Reagan and the Queen?
Diana Walker: Well, I'll start with Reagan and the queen, because I do like it. And it was a very funny moment, and it taught me something, on the way to the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, where the dinner was being given for the Queen by the Reagans. They had invited her to come to California and see their ranch and go up and down the state. And she came and she brought Britannia, her yacht. Unfortunately, it rained horribly in California during her trip. It rained everywhere. And there just wasn't anything she did that she wasn't wet. We got to the bus to take us out to the Legion of Honor. And our correspondent Larry Barratt, who covered Mrs. Reagan, had a copy of the Queen's toast that she was going to make that night. Often the toasts and the events are given to the press before they happen so they can meet their own deadlines. So, I took Larry's information he had, and I read what the Queen was going to say, and I saw where the laugh line was. So, when I got there, you get to an event and then you had to sort of run into place. You have to find your place as soon as you possibly can. And on my way to find a place to make this picture, I broke my monopod, which is something you put your camera on to hold it steady. So, I turned around in desperation for a monopod and this man from the San Francisco Chronicle said, “I don't need mine. Here, take it.” It was so nice of him. And so, I got all set up for this picture. And then it happened. The Queen said, “Oh, I knew that the Puritans had brought to this country many of our customs, but I had no idea they had brought the rotten weather with them.” And the President thought that was so funny.
Willy Walker: Did you know the moment you got that that you had the image?
Diana Walker: The trouble was you may think you had the image, and then they'd look at the film and they'd say, “We don't see what you're talking about.” You can think you do. You get the image. But so many things depend on how you took the picture, whether technically you have to know that you're exposing it correctly. You have to know you've got the right kind of film for the kind of light.
Willy Walker: And to all of us today, when we sit there and look at our iPhone and see instantaneously whether we got the image or not, back then there were no screen views on the back of your camera. You took the picture, and it went and got processed and you crossed your fingers between taking the picture and getting a process that you actually got what you got.
Diana Walker: That's exactly right.
Willy Walker: So go to this one, mom, here, where you're trying to find a different angle, because I think one of the things that a lot of people kind of don't get is that the press corps is all corralled into one spot and that you're standing there trying to compete for “the” image, like the one of Reagan. There's someone right over your shoulder who just as equally could catch the exact same image. In this one that I pulled up of Walter Mondale, you used a wide-angle lens here to kind of show a different view of rather than focusing just on his face as the candidate – you tried to show what was going on as far as the press corps around him.
Diana Walker: Yes. Mondale was running for president, and I followed him for 16 months. I think. While your father looked after you.
Willy Walker: This is the image right there, that's at the beginning of the campaign. I put this image in there just because you did follow Mondale for 16 months. And there are a lot of people who don't get, if you will, the loneliness of campaigning that every candidate who runs for president, the United States does a lot of that which is sitting there with your, you know, your foot on a boat, talking 1 to 1 with a with a fisherman up in New Hampshire.
Diana Walker: I shared that picture, I sent that to Vice President Mondale after the campaign. And he wrote on it to me that this is what he wished the whole campaign had been like, talking to a fisherman about how the fish were running. He loved to fish. And my magazine loved the picture because they thought since he wasn't leading in the polls, that perhaps this picture showed you why he wasn't. So, there are all kinds of ways you can look at the picture that you produce.
Willy Walker: One of the interesting things on this one, I didn't put the actual picture in, but my mother in her office as a back in the day, they would mockup covers of Time because they had to have it. If there was an issue that was happening, for instance, a big football game, that might end up on the cover. You obviously had to make two covers, one with Alabama winning and the other one with LSU winning, what have you. In the election, similarly, they would mockup different covers. Going into this election, many of you know, Ronald Reagan won by a landslide. Walter Mondale won the District of Columbia in the state of Minnesota, and that was it. But they had to print up a cover. And so, mom has in her office the cover, which has a picture of hers of Walter Mondale with a big grinning smile and above it is printed, Amazing!, because had he won, it would have been an amazing turnaround from where the polls were going into Election Day on that Tuesday.
Let's go to this picture, mom of Nancy Reagan waving at you. There are a couple I want to run through here with first ladies. That picture to all of you seeing that there, my mom is literally hanging out of a helicopter. They opened up the side door on that helicopter. And my mom was in the pool that day and they slid it open, and they were flying around the Statue of Liberty, and she got Nancy Reagan waving. But technically, that's a really hard image to take. You're moving. You've got to get the lighting right. See how you can actually see Nancy Reagan there. There's no flash that will light up her face like that. So, you have to make all that work.
This next one of Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev. This one's fun because you look at the two gentlemen who are serving tea and they're kind of having their own conversation as the two principals are having theirs. I'm going to ask you a question in a second. I just want to run through this quickly. Here is Mrs. Bush with some puppies, and then there you are with Mrs. Bush. Talk for a moment about once you started covering the White House, clearly with Rosalyn Carter, you were covering her when you went on to cover Reagan into Bush, into Clinton. You're covering the president and yet you had individual relationships with the first ladies. Talk about that kind of woman-to-woman relationship you had.
Diana Walker: Well, I was lucky, although I didn't really know the Carters very well, because I just traveled with Mrs. Carter. She, to me, was a sort of surprisingly competent and thoughtful first lady, and I was very admiring of her, but I never got to know her at all. And whether I admired her or didn't admire her was never a question that I paid any attention to because I was to be as neutral as possible. As a photographer, that's one of the basic tenets of my job. But someone like Mrs. Bush, although I didn't cover many of her activities, we weren't quite as interested in what she was doing as we were interested in what Mrs. Reagan was doing, because “just say no” was a new concept, and it was very questionable whether it was going to work or not. So, in the first four years that I went over to the White House for Time, I did a lot of photographing Mrs. Reagan in these situations “just say no”. And she had a wonderful staff, and she had a press secretary whose name was Elaine Chrispin. And she was so funny, and she was so wonderful. And I got to know her really very well.
Willy Walker: Mrs. Reagan?
Diana Walker: I got to know Mrs. Reagan very well through Elaine. Mrs. Reagan did something. She saw a child that I knew who was very sick, and I brought him to the White House. And Elaine Crispin said to me, “I'm going to speak to the Mrs.” and the Mrs. did something extremely kind, and a lot of people don't know really how kind Nancy Reagan was because her persona was so sophisticated and she was really behind the scenes, extremely warm and extremely kind. And this child, I brought him to the White House. He was in fifth grade. And she arranged for the President to meet him and the President's dog to meet him and have him come and watch the helicopter leave. From that moment on, I really paid attention to Mrs. Reagan because she had shown me a side of her that I had not seen out front.
Willy Walker: So, on this picture, I put this one up because I want this to be a lead into the time when you yelled at President Bush. So, talk for a moment, mom, about the role of the press as it relates to calling out. I mean, today we watch when President Biden walks out or when President Trump walks out and they get kind of heckled by the press corps as they're heading to the helicopter. But back in the day, in this picture, for instance, you're up on a riser. You want a photograph. Did you say anything to Mrs. Reagan to get her to look up at you?
Diana Walker: Willy, this picture. This picture. Yes, I did. What happened in this picture is that it was the inauguration of George Herbert Walker Bush. And you do notice everybody is quite dressed up in this picture. And it's because I was on the top balustrade of the United States Capitol, and I was looking over the balustrade down on to the part of the Capitol that they build out for the inaugurals. I was up there, and Mrs. Reagan was leaving. I'd covered them for eight years and I don't know what possessed me because it's just something people don't do who hang out at the White House. The reporters call to the President quite often because they don't get that many chances to speak to him and ask him a question, especially Reagan. He didn't have press conferences very often, so Sam Donaldson had a reason for shouting at him. There was no excuse for a photographer to shout at the President of the United States. And she was turning, and they were walking. I thought to myself, I'm never going to see her again. And I picked up my camera and I put it down for half a second and I said, “Mrs. Reagan, goodbye!” and took her picture. She looked right up and waved. And so that was the end of those eight years.
Willy Walker: So, we now go to Bush and Gorbachev. I pulled this up because I actually happened to be with you when you took that picture. The reason I pulled this out because I think it's very important. We've talked a little bit, mom, about the technology and the evolution of technology and the fact that when you were taking pictures, it was to take a photograph, the film came out that you had couriers who would come and meet you to take the film off to a lab. It got developed. It got shipped to New York. They splayed the slides out on a big table, and they would sit there and pick which picture they wanted to put in the magazine, and then it had to go and get mocked up. I mean, the world has changed so dramatically, but I remember specifically in this picture there was something called the Cytek machine. This is 1991?
Diana Walker: Yes.
Willy Walker: In 1991. Talk for a moment about that because we're at Camp David, Gorbachev has come over. He's walking around D.C. This is the beginning of glasnost and US Russian relations cooling down. The Cold War is definitely over and they're out at Camp David here. In that picture in the golf cart encapsulated the kind of U.S. Russian relationship getting better, two of them gesturing up in the air. But how that picture got into the magazine, if you could briefly talk about what the technology did out at Camp David.
Diana Walker: Well, you know more about that day than I do, Willy was working as an assistant to Time out at Camp David. And we photographers didn't go to Camp David that much. It was a special thing to be there. We also needed very much to ship, as fast as possible, film to New York. We were on deadline. We wanted the latest picture of the President and Gorbachev that we could put in the magazine. I remember we had an opportunity, there were two or three of us photographing for Time that day because he arrived on a helicopter, so there was a picture there. And then Bush put him in his golf cart and drove him around, and then there was going to be a picture of them signing something, presumably. So, we rented a machine, isn't that correct? You remember it better than I called a Cytek machine, and it could take an image and count all the pixels. It was an early digital type of machine to send pictures. It’s the way the Associated Press (AP) used to send pictures. But Time had never used it because they felt that the color wasn't as true as a beautiful piece of Kodachrome could be in the magazine. But this day they needed it, and they needed it fast. So, I think I handed my film off to Willy and I think he ran to the Cytek machine, and they sent it to New York. There were plenty of times when we didn't have a Cytek machine, and we needed the film in New York as soon as possible. And you know, the story of the two pilots on the night Ronald Reagan won, he was in, I think, Los Angeles.
Willy Walker: It was the Republican convention, was it not? I don't think it was the election.
Diana Walker: It was ‘91. There were two pilots sitting at a counter in a place to eat at the airport, and they knew each other. They both worked for planes.
Willy Walker: Plane charter companies.
Diana Walker: That's right. And so, one of them said to the other, “You know, Charlie, I'm doing the damnedest thing tonight.” He said, “Time magazine has rented our airplane and they have built a darkroom in the plane. And they are going to process the film as we go across the country. And then when we get to Long Island, to New York, they have a motorcycle waiting, which will take it to where they print the magazine and it'll be in the stores tomorrow morning”, he said, “Have you ever heard of spending that much money for a photograph to be that current?” And Jack or Charlie said, “Yeah, I have because guess what? I'm doing it for Newsweek.” And so, we were highly competitive, and it was one thing to get in position to take the picture, but then you had to run pretty fast one way or another to get it actually into the magazine.
Willy Walker: So, I love this picture of President Bush with the troops. That's the first Iraq war. Just one of the iconic photographs. I want to transition mom to sort of behind the scenes, and I pulled this picture up because some of you may if you look in the middle, there's President Clinton straight ahead. But look at it on his desk right in the middle. We may have seen that image at the beginning – that's mom's picture on his desk right in the middle of his desk of him with Hillary and Chelsea, which I thought was pretty neat of my mom taking a picture of him with her own picture between him and her, him and the President. But you went behind the scenes. It started with President Bush, where time got access for you to do “a day in the life of.” And there's actually another image in here. This is probably the first real behind the scenes photograph that you took with President Reagan, and that was a reception for Walter Cronkite. If you can see on the left there is CBS News. This image, one thing that I would put forth on this image is I looked at this. It's an incredible image of all of these people. There's only one person in the picture who's still alive. David Gergen, who is straight ahead. Other than David…
Diana Walker: And Jim Baker.
Willy Walker: Jim Baker is still alive.
Diana Walker: Yes.
Willy Walker: Yes. Thank you. On the right-hand side. That's correct. But it made me just think that here's a wonderful time that they were all having and to sort of, if you will, enjoy life, because at some point, we all aren't here anymore. But the reason that I brought this one up is this is the first time that mom caught something that nobody else had seen, and one of the interesting things about this photograph is that she has a signed copy of this from President Reagan that says, “I'm not sure what the joke was, but it certainly was a good one.” And I'll just back up for a second to this one of Clinton with his senior staff and that's Madeleine Albright to his left, your right, and the “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil, I am evil.” And which is a great one. And that's behind the scenes at the Democratic Convention.
Diana Walker: No, at a NATO meeting at the Reagan Office Building.
Willy Walker: And then this one of Clinton. I mean, here's somebody who does big speeches every single day whom you'd think was accustomed to going out in front of audiences and presenting, and you can see the very human nature. Here he is taking a deep breath before he goes out to make this presentation and even he is sitting there saying, I've got to get myself ready and get presented.
This shot of Hillary with Chelsea, where it's the typical mom looking at her daughter. It's not the first lady looking at the first daughter. It's sort of like, “let me see what you're wearing to this thing.” And she's sort of like looking up and down.
And then this next one of Madeleine Albright whispering in Hillary Clinton's ear and, kind of that insider's perspective. You know, there is my mom is really close to them. That's not a zoom lens. You're right there, and there they are. And Madeleine said something to the first lady that obviously is meant just for the first lady, and mom was there capturing it and seeing it.
Talk for a moment about why you think you were allowed to go behind the scenes, because you really did, if you will, advent that. You were the first one let in, it was mimicked by lots of people in there, plenty of people who've been let in subsequently. But back to the issue of you confronting issues as a woman and men treating you in disrespectful ways, the physicality of your job, all the things you had to deal with as a woman in a man's world. But do you think it had to do with you being a woman that they let you behind the scenes?
Diana Walker: I think it worked both ways. I think all of you women who are here will understand what I mean, that I was less heavy-handed than a lot of the men photographers. And I think they bet, they thought by now that I understood the technicalities of my work and that I would go into the Oval Office or behind the scenes with a public figure, and I wouldn't go and push the furniture out of the way or, you know, I think they thought that I knew how to behave. And I think that they thought that I had good manners. And I think all of that played in my favor. I really do.
Willy Walker: I know that President Bush had a nickname for you, “Lady Di.” And do you think that when they put forth to him, we're going to allow Diana Walker to come behind the scenes and follow you for a day that that personal relationship you had with him played into him saying, I'm game for that?
Diana Walker: Yes. And I know that every time I went behind the scenes, we did it very, very openly in that our photo editor would write a letter from New York asking the press secretary if I could go behind the scenes with George Bush, Bill Clinton or whomever. And, yes, I think that I think it made a difference.
Willy Walker: So, let's go to this one. So, the Clinton’s people you know well, I remember distinctly, you and I, driving down Massachusetts Avenue one day after the Monica Lewinsky news had hit the wire, and you were distraught about having to have a conversation about a certain sexual act with your 29-year-old son. And you were just like, “This is outrageous that I have to be talking about this issue with you.” And I remember how upset you were just deep, deep down. This picture was a trip that was soon thereafter to Africa. Talk for a moment about that moment that you captured being on the boat with the Clintons.
Diana Walker: People have asked me over the years whether I think what I saw was truly how they felt about each other. And I think in this picture, this is April, the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in I think January. You know, I took this series of pictures because I was behind the scenes on the whole trip to Africa, and all the press was put on one boat and I was put on the boat with the President, Mrs. Clinton, an ambassador, his wife and a few close in staff. And I was there crouched down next to the ambassador when the President began to touch Mrs. Clinton in the most wonderful way. I mean, it was very affectionate, it was very normal, and it was very sweet, and I just couldn't believe that it happened right in front of me. Then I quietly got up and I walked to the other side of the boat, and I knew I had exceptional pictures. And I knew they meant something, or I thought they did. And I knew I could get up and leave. I didn't have to be there any longer. I knew I had “the” pictures.
Willy Walker: So, this picture is on Robben Island in Nelson Mandela's cell with President Clinton and the first lady. As you've told me, and I'm going to jump through this story a little bit, but I think it's important. Yesterday when I walked you through that, I was going to put this slide up. You said, “Well, I never tell the real story behind that because the President said something so nice about me that I never said about myself.” So as your son, I get to say the story.
So, Mandela and Clinton walk out. And as they're walking out, my mom is with them walking down just outside of his cell on Robben Island. The President introduces Mandela to my mom and says, “Diana, come over here.” Mom says to President Mandela, “it is a huge honor to meet you President Mandela.” To which President Mandela says, “If what President Clinton just told me about you, it is my honor in meeting you.” Which is really quiet something coming from someone like Nelson Mandela. She doesn't tell that story, but that's a pretty neat spot to be in, visiting Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island with the President of the United States and President Mandela.
Diana Walker: Yes, there really was a special relationship between the President and Mandela. You could tell it in the way they walked together. President Clinton would take Mandela's arm and put his arm through his arm. And he held his hand, and they were very close. And it was a very beautiful relationship. And you can tell when you're photographing people and watching them as carefully as I had to. You can tell what their relationship is so often by how they are physically. I remember when I went to photograph former President George Bush and President Bill Clinton.
Willy Walker: I'll show that right now.
Diana Walker: And it was I had heard ever since the campaign how George Bush – the first George Bush – did not like President Clinton very much. He couldn't believe that Clinton could beat him. And I think he was thinking of a question of character. I'm not sure what he was thinking about, but I think that Bush really didn't care for the President. And it was very hard when Clinton won that election, it was extremely hard for Bush. I watched him carefully over that period. But I began to hear that Clinton and Bush were meeting with each other. It was very lucky that young George W. Bush, assigned these two former presidents to go down to New Orleans and help with the aftermath of Katrina, the terrible hurricane. And they apparently began to really get along well. And the Bushes had even invited Clinton to come up to their place in Maine in Kennebunkport. I couldn't imagine Mrs. Bush with President Clinton. And apparently they all really hit it off, but I didn't know if that was true or not. So, our reporter Michael Duffy was interviewing former President Clinton, former President Bush, in this very small room with two metal chairs and a white wall. Couldn't have been a more, simple and unattractive sort of place to take a picture. But they both started to talk, and all of a sudden, Clinton said something very funny, and Bush took his hand and he put his hand on his shoulder. And I said, “Got it. That's it. They really do like each other.” And it was just the nicest thing. Just that one little gesture told my writer and told the magazine that this was legitimate, that they did care for each other.
Willy Walker: So, I want to go to someone who cared for you a lot. Let me go here, Steve, to any of you who've read Walter Isaacson's book about Steve Jobs. It's an incredible book. One of the unique things, if you look at it, the only photographer's photographs in that entire book are my mom's. So, Walter sat there, there were millions of photographs of Steve Jobs, and he decided to, if you will, sole source, because my mom's catalog of photographs of Steve was expansive enough and good enough, as you can tell by this photograph, that Walter decided to just have photographs of my mom. You had a unique relationship with Steve that went back to when he was considered for Man of the Year in 1982. To any of you who can think back that far as I clearly can, Time that year decided to go with Machine of the Year rather than either Bill Gates on software or Steve Jobs on hardware. But Mom had gone out to take pictures of Steve Jobs for Man of the Year. He ended up being one of the main protagonists in the issue on Man of the Year. And Mom and Steve created a relationship in ‘82 that endured all the way until Steve's death in I believe 2011. What was it about you and Steve?
Diana Walker: You know, I was on the White House at that time and the first time I photographed him. And they called me up and said, “Listen, we have to ask you to be your most diplomatic self.” And I said, “Oh, why?” And they said, “We're sending you out to photograph Steve Jobs. And he couldn't stand the photographer we sent the last time.” It's really important to us to have a good relationship with him, obviously. And he was coming out with all these new products. “And you're to go to California tomorrow and do your best. We don't know how many opportunities you're going to get to photograph him. He could kick you out as soon as you get there.” And so that was the warning. So, I knew I was going into…
Willy Walker: Hostile?
Diana Walker: Hostile territory. It couldn't have been a more inaccurate description. Yes, Steve had trouble with the photographer we had sent. And so, I thought, just don't talk about that. What happened was and this has to do with the relationship that you do develop, like the relationship with Hillary Clinton, whom you photograph a lot behind the scenes and with Steve Jobs, while I was photographing him in a lounge at Stanford University, where he was talking about his work and what he does, someone asked him if there was any change in his life since he had been a Man of the Year two years before this, this was Machine of the Year. But had there been any change to his life? And he said, “Yeah, you have paparazzi following me.” And he looked right at me and gestured right at me. And I thought, “Huh?” So, I didn't think I'd look like Ron Galella, but I just. I didn't. So afterwards, he said nice things to all the students and everything and then he turned to me, and I said, “Hi, I'm Diana Walker, and I'm with Time magazine.” And he said, “Oh, I'm glad to meet you.” And I said, “That was really rude of you.” And he looked at me and he said, “Excuse me?” And I said, “You just called me a paparazzi, and we're making fun of me down there on the floor taking your picture.” And he said, “Oh, I am so sorry. I didn't mean to be rude.” And I said, “I've got children who are older than you.” (Everyone laughs.)
Willy Walker: Well, not true. Thank you very little, Mom. That is incorrect. But go ahead. Keep playing on it.
Diana Walker: Anyway, we were friends from that moment on, and he knew I didn't have children his age. He liked my pictures, first of all, which was very nice, and it was very nice of him to tell me that. And he got so used to my coming out because of course Time continued to send me out there because we'd hit it off so well. And I photographed him until he got sick. Then I was worried about telling Time that I didn't want to photograph him anymore. And they said, “Diana, we wouldn't ask you to photograph him anymore. If he comes out into public, we will have somebody in that crowd that photographs him. But no, you don't have to worry about that.”
You know one of the things you ask about my job, but one of the wonderful things about it was working for a magazine that had people working in it who had a lot of the same sensibilities I have. I had a photo department that just of course, they weren't going to send me when he was sick, and of course, if I took a picture that was offensive to my subject they would hold it if they could and not use it. They had heart. And that's what made Time wonderful. In my view, it is one of the best news magazines.
Willy Walker: So, before I go to our final topic, I want to show these pictures of you photographing Hillary here. I love this picture of you in the background. You obviously didn't plan on taking a picture of yourself as you were taking a picture of her. And then this one, which, you know, is one of many, many photographs of Hillary. There's a whole book that you have on Hillary.
Diana Walker: This picture of Hillary, this was taken when she was secretary of state, and she was about to go from Malta to Libya. And it was a big secret because they had to keep it a secret. Pictures with some Gadhafi forces might try to shoot her plane out of the air. I took this picture. Reuters News took it with me. There were just two of us on this trip because there wasn’t room for a whole pool of photographers. And I was on it with my managing editor, Rick Stengel, who was very, very interested in Hillary. And we went from Libya to Afghanistan. So, it was a dangerous trip. She loved this picture. And her press people called up and said, could she use it on her Facebook page? And I said, “Well, yeah, if you give me credit for it.” And they said, “We already have your name on it.” And so, it was up there and out there.
Willy Walker: To some degree, that's your first viral image. Up until then, I mean this. Because up until then everything had been Time magazine printed in the pic in the magazine. Millions of people saw it, but Time had it. People had to pay copyright on it etc.. This with Hillary putting it on her Facebook page, went out to millions, tens, hundreds of millions of people around the globe.
Diana Walker: Yes. And it bothered me very much.
Willy Walker: That losing control of your image?
Diana Walker: Is that they took control of my image. Yes. I was furious because they made a meme about it, which is one of those little sorts of…
Willy Walker: Everyone in this crowd knows what a meme is. (Everyone laughs)
Diana Walker: I am so behind the times. Oh, meme was a new word to me, you know. And so, I was furious that they stole my picture off the Internet and made it a meme. And then South by Southwest, that wonderful festival, asked me to come down with my photo editor and with the meme guys. I thought, well, I'm going to give them a piece of my mind. And so, all of a sudden, I'm standing there, and I said, “What does it mean to go viral?” You know, I had no idea. And it was explained to me that my picture was seen by God knows how many people. And I said, well, publicly right then and there, when I had to stand up and talk about the picture, I said, “Well, you know, you guys, I was going to chew you out for taking my picture away, off the website of Time magazine, and now I'm saying thank you.” And I said, this is very exciting. I never had a picture that had gone viral before, and I've never had one since and so it was thrilling. But, of course, when this whole controversy about Hillary Clinton using her…
Willy Walker: Personal email?
Diana Walker: Personal computer for business emails became such a to do, she took it off her Facebook page.
Willy Walker: Because it shows her using technology and her BlackBerry. I want to end on this, mom. You know, one of the things that I think a lot of your images show is the human side of these people that we all only see from afar. We may have loved George H.W. Bush or not like George H.W. Bush. We may have loved Bill Clinton or not like Bill Clinton. But a lot of your images bring up that at the end of the day, they are human beings, that George Bush loved his grandchildren, and this in this picture here. And he's you know, and you can see the whole family back behind him. And on this one, you can't help but think that Bill Clinton sitting there saying, what an incredible moment for me. My daughter's got her head against my chest, and this is just me being a father.
Diana Walker: Yes. The whole point to me, of my photography work was first you have to get the scene, where the person is and what they're doing. And then you've got to tell the audience, the person who is looking at the picture, something about the character of the president or the vice president or whomever, or Steve Jobs or whomever I was photographing. That honestly was one of the big points of my work – I was always looking for that hand on the shoulder, and when I was able to achieve it, I was thrilled. Like the picture you showed of hear no evil, see, no evil, speak no evil, which was a spontaneous moment created by the President of the United States, and I was in the room, and it happened. And I thought, look at those people. Here they are in these incredible jobs. Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense – all of them sitting there making these funny gestures of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. That tells you something about the humanity of the people who are running our country. And it is a really important thing to be able to show.
Willy Walker: On that, Mom, I want to say thank you for being the mom that you've always been and thank you for joining me today for all these wonderful women at this event and on the Walker Webcast.
Diana Walker: Well, thank you, Willy. It's about the nicest thing in the world to be interviewed by your son. I'm very thrilled to have been here and especially in front of this group.
Willy Walker: Thanks, Mom. Thank you all.