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President Ronald Reagan


Ron Reagan

I was photographing the President on the occasion of his 100th day in office for the cover of FORTUNE magazine. This was his first private sitting for a portrait as President by a photographer other than a White House staffer.

After being thoroughly searched by amiable Secret Service agents, we were allowed onto the floor of the hotel where Reagan was staying in Los Angeles, before heading back to his Rancho Del Cielo in Santa Barbara. My assistants and I set up a makeshift studio in a room adjacent to the Presidential suite. I had made arrangements for one assistant to take some snapshots showing me photographing the President. Besides my two assistants, I augmented all my equipment with doubles in case something might break down. You don't get a second chance in a situation like this!

Two days earlier, at Reagan's ranch, I was included in the pool of press photographers covering the signing ceremony for a new tax bill. I made a nice color headshot of a smiling and exuberant President from a distance away using a 35mm Nikon and a 180mm f2.8 telephoto lens. I sent the film to Fortune. They loved that shot and decided to use it on the cover instead of a studio-style portrait.

Of course, I was still scheduled for my private session with the President later in the week. I was told it wasn't necessary now! What was I to do; call the White House Press Office and say I'd decided to cancel my appointment with the President? Like hell! So I said nothing.

© 2003 Tom Zimberoff