P.F. Bentley
P.F. Bentley
Clinton: Portrait of Victory
ISBN: 0446517585
Clinton: Portrait of Victory
Photographer P.F. Bentley discussed his book, Clinton: Portrait of Victory, published by Warner Books, a photographic essay of the Clinton presidential campaign and ultimate victory. He discussed his access to candidate Clinton and his personal experiences accompanying the campaign and showed many of his photographs from the book.
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TRANSCRIPT
Clinton: Portrait of Victory
Program Air Date: January 17, 1993

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: P. F. Bentley, photographer, and photographer with a new book called "Clinton: Portrait of Victory," what was the experience like?
P. F. BENTLEY, AUTHOR, "CLINTON: PORTRAIT OF VICTORY": It was a long haul. It was an honor to be in on it all. Clinton was pretty easy to take pictures of. It was a great year. I was happy that it was over because it was just a very hard year too, I mean, just town to town over and over.
LAMB: Let me just hold this up again because we started off with this picture of the cover. Did you choose this picture for the cover?
BENTLEY: Alex Castro, who lighted it all out, and I chose it. It was really his choice on it and I okayed it. It just really had a good feel, and instead of having Clinton up on stage we wanted it to have a whole other look.
LAMB: Where was this picture taken?
BENTLEY: That was on an aircraft going from Seattle to L.A.
LAMB: What kind of access did you have to him?
BENTLEY: It was totally open. Whatever I cared to do, it was open.
LAMB: Where was the picture on the back of your book taken?
BENTLEY: I honestly can't tell you. I'd have to check, but it's out on the trail. I was trying to get a picture of all the hands that come up to his.
LAMB: Anybody choose to follow George Bush like this?
BENTLEY: No.
LAMB: Why?
BENTLEY: I had the idea early on, and I picked Clinton and talked to him. I don't think that Bush would have been as open. It could be that he isn't out on the trail at all. It's harder to have a guy in when you're the chief. That was it. We had asked them to give them equal time, and they let a photog in but it was for a brief time.
LAMB: What does P. F. stand for?
BENTLEY: P. F.
LAMB: No name.
BENTLEY: Well, P. F.
LAMB: You don't tell people what your name is.
BENTLEY: I don't tell people.
LAMB: How come?
BENTLEY: It's just who I am.
LAMB: Where are you from?
BENTLEY: I came from Honolulu. After Honolulu I came to the Coast and then I came to the East and then I'm out at the Coast.
LAMB: Did you go to college?
BENTLEY: Yes, U of H.
LAMB: University of Honolulu?
BENTLEY: Hawaii. I have a degree in education.
LAMB: We're going to do something we normally don't do on this "Booknotes" program. We're going to take a break periodically and look at some of your photos. The first one I think is about three minutes long. It's not in any particular order, and we're rolling tape at the moment. I might say as a way of apology, some of our camera shots are so close it makes the pictures look grainy. When you see them in the book that people can buy in the bookstores for $19.95, you can't see that. Let's just watch and we'll come back and ask you what we're seeing. . . . P. F. Bentley, this is what your book looks like. It's called "Clinton: Portrait of Victory." What would you have done had he lost?
BENTLEY: I'd have to change the title of it.
LAMB: Would you have published it anyway?
BENTLEY: I think we would have. It probably wouldn't have had any hopes of being a huge hit; however, it was still how it all happened.
LAMB: You've got a camera sitting there. Why don't you show the audience what that camera looks like.
BENTLEY: It's a Leica, and it's an M-6. It's an extremely quiet camera, and it's the camera that I used on the book on about three-quarters of it.
LAMB: We have a picture here in the beginning of the book. This is right before the prologue, written by Roger Rosenblatt.
BENTLEY: Right.
LAMB: He talks about the black-and-white nature of all the photos as being important to you. Why did you choose black and white?
BENTLEY: When you look at a campaign, your eye tends to go towards all the color ops, and I wanted to see how the campaign truly is without the color, without all the hoopla, without all the hype, and show that it's a hard year, that what appears on the tube is only like one little tip of it. Your people had an ongoing TV show, "Road to the White House," and what they did there was kind of let the camera roll on it all, and that's kind of the idea I had here but to be in the inner core of it. A lot of campaign coverage is, you're in the press pool and you're looking in on it. I had an idea: How is it to be in on it and look outward?
LAMB: When did you first meet Bill Clinton?
BENTLEY: It was about a year ago up in New Hampshire. I was up there to cover all of them, and I covered the entire field, and I had this idea and I had a hunch that if he was the ticket that he had kind of the highest odds.
LAMB: Let's take a little time. This is a double spread inside, meaning it goes across the two pages. We'll take a long look at this. Where was this taken?
BENTLEY: This was on another aircraft up in New Hampshire. This was during all the scandal times, and I stood up and they were holding hands looking at each other, and I believe that was the only picture. It just kind of tells that even though the press had an idea of how they treated each other that they cared, they were in love, that they were and had been a team.
LAMB: How many pictures did you take? Not how many are in here, but how many did you take?
BENTLEY: In a whole year? We counted up at the end of the year, I took about 500 rolls.
LAMB: Thirty-six?
BENTLEY: Yes.
LAMB: Fifteen thousand plus.
BENTLEY: Yes. The hard part here was to choose. We could have had a 300-page book.
LAMB: How many photos are in the book?
BENTLEY: There's about 110. It was a hard choice.
LAMB: This is in New Hampshire.
BENTLEY: Yes.
LAMB: In a diner?
BENTLEY: Right.
LAMB: What do you think of Hillary Clinton?
BENTLEY: I think that you can tell it's kind of taken its toll on her and him, that, you know, here's yet another photo op. I believe that was a day before the New Hampshire primary.
LAMB: Did you have any agreement with them about things that you heard that you wouldn't repeat?
BENTLEY: The rule was that when I walked out of the room, I just couldn't recall any of it.
LAMB: Did you ever write it down?
BENTLEY: No.
LAMB: Did you vote for Bill Clinton?
BENTLEY: Can't tell you that.
LAMB: Why wouldn't you say?
BENTLEY: I'm there to take pictures, and you ought to be there coldly. If it was another year and it was the other party and I had a chance to cover this how I had, I would have.
LAMB: At the back it says, "An Epicenter Communications book." What's Epicenter?
BENTLEY: They are the people out on the Coast who put the book together.
LAMB: Who do you work for on a regular daily basis?
BENTLEY: I work for Time.
LAMB: Full time?
BENTLEY: Yes.
LAMB: "Clinton: Portrait of Victory" is also available as interactive multimedia on CD-ROM for Mac and DOS computers. What does that mean?
BENTLEY: It is out on a CD that you can put either into your Apple or IBM. There's 300 pictures on it, whereas in here there were only 110.
LAMB: What does it cost?
BENTLEY: I believe 38.
LAMB: Thirty-eight dollars?
BENTLEY: Yes. It's high tech and it really tells the tale of the campaign how I have here but it has added pictures and tapes and all.
LAMB: By the way, for our audience, there's an 800 number on the back of this book. If they really want, they can go into a bookstore, look for the 800 number, call and get the CD-ROM. Before we pause again, you and I talked before about your stuttering, and so the audience at this point is obviously hearing that. Is this hard for you to do?
BENTLEY: I'm calm here. It's only that this is how I talk and can't help it.
LAMB: Have you been this way all your life?
BENTLEY: Yes, I have been.
LAMB: Does it make it difficult at any time in your work to do the job you want to do?
BENTLEY: As long as I don't hesitate as I click the camera here, it really hasn't hurt at all. People understand I have it; they understand who I am, as long as the pictures are OK. I'm eager just to tell people that your attitude is really a good part of it, and as a child I wasn't ever the type to hide and be quiet at all.
LAMB: Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that you went into the still-photography business?
BENTLEY: Actually, I have to talk to people in order to take their pictures. I had to talk to Clinton and let him have an idea on what I had been trying to achieve and talk him into trusting who I am. I think that people that do take pictures, we have to talk all the time and so it really isn't that I'm hiding here because you can't hide.
LAMB: Have you ever found other people that you're dealing with feeling awkward and doing unusual things because they don't know how to deal with it?
BENTLEY: It happens off and on but then they realize that I have it. People at times think ha, ha, ha, it's a joke, and then I just keep talking. Then they have an idea, Oh, no, he really talks like this.
LAMB: Let's look, four minutes, more pictures .... P. F. Bentley, as we were watching that, you said that this particular picture is Bill Clinton's favorite. How do you know that?
BENTLEY: He told that to NBC.
LAMB: Where was this taken?
BENTLEY: That was in Chicago, and they had a staff party up in his hotel room. That was about 1 a.m. and Hillary went, "OK, all of you, let's all head out of here. We're tired out." I, of course, hung on and did about 10 pictures and then took off.
LAMB: Did you ever get the feeling that they were posing for you?
BENTLEY: No. The pictures in the book are unposed. The whole idea was to be out of that whole picture-opportunity head trip where it is posed.
LAMB: One of the most unusual photos in the book is this one, unusual because it doesn't have anything to do with the candidate. Stephan Savoia of the Associated Press and Jose Lopez, the gentleman behind, of the New York Times. Why did this make it?
BENTLEY: It was just the campaign can be very comical, and the press corps and the campaign staff at times have to be just a little out of it to ease up on all the tense times.
LAMB: If you're just joining us, this is what the book looks like. It's called "Clinton: Portrait of Victory" by P. F. Bentley, a Time Warner book selling for $19.95 unless you can find a discount store.
BENTLEY: Right.
LAMB: How's it doing?
BENTLEY: I've heard it's kind of a hit, that it's doing quite well.
LAMB: Did you get invited to the inaugural because of this?
BENTLEY: No, I'm here in town to just check it all out.
LAMB: Have you done any other books like this before?
BENTLEY: I've been on other books, however, as part of a team of people.
LAMB: The book has a prologue by Roger Rosenblatt and an epilogue by Michael Kramer. Who decided that?
BENTLEY: The book packagers and I were talking on who would be good and who could really tell why I didn't choose to do this in color. Kramer had been out on the trail, and we wanted his input.
LAMB: "Others have been hobbled by less. Clinton tucked it in, bit his lip" -- this is Michael Kramer -- "an expression that signals deep thought, extreme satisfaction or consuming anger. An observer rarely knows which." The biting of the lip, we see that picture all the time. Did you figure out whether he was angry or whether he was satisfied, because you spent that much time around him?
BENTLEY: I don't think it was anger. I think it's because he gets really into what he's talking of, and the people that he's talking of, people who have tried to get ahead in our country who haven't had the opportunity to.
LAMB: In the Michael Kramer epilogue, he three or four times mentions Gennifer Flowers. You don't have any pictures in there of that particular episode that I could find. Or do you?
BENTLEY: I was there at the tail end of that.
LAMB: Did you get any pictures of the "60 Minutes" experience, because that's written up? Were you not allowed to?
BENTLEY: No, it was during a period where I was still talking to him, and we were trying to work it out.
LAMB: Who owns the photographs?
BENTLEY: I do.
LAMB: You can do anything with them that you want?
BENTLEY: Yes.
LAMB: Will you sell them individually?
BENTLEY: Not really. It's a package.
LAMB: Did you write the acknowledgments in the back?
BENTLEY: Yes.
LAMB: The last thing you say is, "Thanks, Elvis. I know you're alive." Why did you put that in there?
BENTLEY: That was kind of an ode to Clinton. We had called him Elvis on the trail early on. I kind of started this and it grew, and it was the press corps, I mean kiddingly, called him that the whole time.
LAMB: What did the press corps in general think of him during the campaign itself?
BENTLEY: I thought they really enjoyed him, that we would get on the aircraft and he would come to all of them and just hang out.
LAMB: Did he ever ask you for one of your pictures?
BENTLEY: No, I've given him prints, however.
LAMB: In the acknowledgements you say, "In the governor's mansion, special thanks to Mark Allen for your laughter and good cheers. The catfish dinners weren't bad either."
BENTLEY: He is a state trooper who early on in the campaign came out on the trail. This was up in New Hampshire, and we really hit it off. Then when I would come into town, then if Clinton hit home, his wife and I would head out to eat.
LAMB: You say some special things about your girlfriend, Beth, "who had to endure my being gone most of the year. Thinking of her and our life in Stinson Beach helped keep me going during the long hours of the campaign. Her spiritual support was essential to this project. Thanks, Beth. I love you very much." Was it hard to decide to put that in there? It's a very personal note.
BENTLEY: It wasn't really hard at all because people that do what I do, at least half the year we aren't home. It's tough on the people who are at home, and it's tough on us. We call each other all the time and try and keep in touch ever though I am out, but I think that people who are the half that is staying at home, they have this idea that you're out there and it's a party and it's a great time. The truth is, it's airports at 2 a.m. It's odd hotels. You're tired out. You aren't out here to have a party at all. That's how come I put her in there.
LAMB: Where is Stinson Beach?
BENTLEY: It's about a half hour north of S.F.
LAMB: San Francisco?
BENTLEY: Yes.
LAMB: Another four minutes we'll look at more photography from this book called Clinton. Let's take a look. . . . Did you ever think that this might lead to a positive image of the president?
BENTLEY: I was eager to get at the truth, and Bill Clinton early on in the campaign, as the press was hounding him on every scandal that you could hit on, he opened up his campaign to us. If he had anything to hide, then it's odd that he opened it all up. I believe it's a good image of him because it proves that he's a real person like all of us are.
LAMB: You said earlier that when you walked out of a room and you heard conversations that you just promptly forgot it. Let me ask a general question. If everyone had the opportunity that you had, to be around him for a year behind the scenes, would they change their opinion of him in any way?
BENTLEY: I think that they would. If people hadn't had a trust of him they would trust him, that he's really open, that he really cares. All I can tell you is, I can't tell if he will change the course of our country, but I can tell you that he'll try and that he'll be up until 2 a. m. The guy has like energy that I hadn't had at all, and up to all hours. He'll try.
LAMB: Have you ever had an assignment close to a war?
BENTLEY: Yes, I have. Haiti, El Salvador, Panama.
LAMB: Which of all the experiences that you've had would you rank up there as No. 1 and 2?
BENTLEY: In war coverage?
LAMB: No, in just satisfaction for you.
BENTLEY: I think that this year has been a great year. I had an extremely close call one time in Haiti that I got out of, and I'm here.
LAMB: Back in November?
BENTLEY: October.
LAMB: This magazine was in October.
BENTLEY: It came out at the end of October.
LAMB: Is this your photo?
BENTLEY: Yes, it is.
LAMB: Do you remember where it was taken?
BENTLEY: It was, again, on the aircraft.
LAMB: How often did your photos appear in Time magazine during the year?
BENTLEY: We did three hits.
LAMB: What does a hit mean?
BENTLEY: Long pictorials.
LAMB: What was the toughest time you had during this experience?
BENTLEY: I think in the autumn because I was out on the campaign, and I had to do the book too. I was crazy.
LAMB: What happened when the other part of this team got together with the president?
BENTLEY: It was really easy. Gore is just like Clinton in that he hasn't any airs at all. They're both extremely easy to take pictures of.
LAMB: Did you have to negotiate with Vice President Gore?
BENTLEY: No, I had covered him in 88, and so we knew each other and I guess he had looked at Time, and I take it that Clinton told him, and he was happy to be part of it.
LAMB: We were talking earlier that you shot this with a Leica M-6. How much does that cost someone if they walk into a store and buy it?
BENTLEY: Twenty-five hundred without the optic on it, only the camera as it is.
LAMB: Have you always used a Leica?
BENTLEY: It depends on the piece. At times I use Canons. The camera here was extremely quiet.
LAMB: How about the number of lenses that you used?
BENTLEY: I only used three.
LAMB: When we see photographers out on the campaign trail and they've got all these cameras . . .
BENTLEY: Eight cameras and strobes and everything.
LAMB: Why do they do that?
BENTLEY: They're probably doing color and they have to shoot with indoor color and outdoor color and high speed and low. Every camera has another type of color in it, or they don't want to take the time to change the optic on the camera.
LAMB: Were any of your colleagues from other publications jealous of what you were able to do?
BENTLEY: They were actually happy because I believe that they were hoping that this type of coverage will help all the press, and the editors will go, "Maybe that's another look to it." They were all behind it.
LAMB: What do you know that you're going to do in 1993 on assignment from Time magazine?
BENTLEY: I can't tell you here.
LAMB: Another picture. This is a Secret Service man holding a bulletproof protection device. How often did you see this kind of thing around the campaign?
BENTLEY: That was all the time.
LAMB: What would he do with that in his left hand?
BENTLEY: It is used in case a gun or a weapon comes out. They can shield the protectee.
LAMB: Would your showing a photo like that expose the security measures?
BENTLEY: I don't think they are. Everyone knows that it's out there. They have other ways to protect him, too.
LAMB: Did you ever have any problems with the Secret Service?
BENTLEY: No.
LAMB: They knew who you were and they let you move?
BENTLEY: Yes.
LAMB: We have one more long series of photos. Before we show this particular one, I want to ask you if you have a favorite photo in this book.
BENTLEY: I have. It's the picture where he's in the car and it's about 12 a.m.
LAMB: And it's a double in this book.
BENTLEY: Yes, it is.
LAMB: And we'll get a good shot of it here from Brett. Where was this taken?
BENTLEY: This is in Columbia.
LAMB: South Carolina.
BENTLEY: Yes, at the airport. It was after a whole day on the trail. We're heading on the aircraft to the town that we have to be in in the a.m. hours. He had one last call he had to do. It really kind of tells how it is that the candidates has all these hordes all over him, staff and press and agents; however, in the end of it he is on his own.
LAMB: When did you decide that that was your favorite?
BENTLEY: I'd say about halfway into the year. It just really tells how it is.
LAMB: Did you ever have any disagreements with your editors on which photos would go in and which wouldn't?
BENTLEY: In Time or in the book?
LAMB: Either one.
BENTLEY: In Time I had, but that's the course of it.
LAMB: Let's look at some more photos. This will take about five minutes and 20 seconds, and we'll wrap it up. . . . Any of those that you are particularly fond of?
BENTLEY: All of them.
LAMB: What is it like seeing your work so prominently displayed?
BENTLEY: I was at the airport at home . . .
LAMB: San Francisco.
BENTLEY: . . . and I came into a store, and there they had it -- the book -- up. I was like, it's even here at the airport.
LAMB: How long have you been a photographer for Time magazine?
BENTLEY: About 13 years.
LAMB: What did you do right before that?
BENTLEY: I worked for a host of other people.
LAMB: Do you have other ambitions in the still-photography field?
BENTLEY: Oh, just to kind of keep at it.
LAMB: What's the best part of this for you?
BENTLEY: I guess being able to be with people and go to other cultures. The camera is a real passport.
LAMB: Just a little bit of time left. I just want to ask you -- we didn't show the audience this photo. Why did you choose this one?
BENTLEY: The crowd is part of it, and this guy had just interesting eyes and he was really intent on speaking to Clinton.
LAMB: This is what the book looks like. P. F. Bentley is the photographer that is responsible for all these photos. He won't tell us what P. F. stands for. Maybe someday we'll learn. It's called "Portrait of Victory." It's in your bookstores selling for $19.95. Thank you very much for joining us.
BENTLEY: Thank you.
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