Arts & Entertainment

History in focus: Diana Walker, Time Magazine White House photographer

November 1, 2022

History in focus: Diana Walker, Time Magazine White House photographer

Diana Walker

Award-Winning Photojournalist

Award-winning photojournalist, Diana Walker, discusses her career in the world of photojournalism.

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.”  

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