WWCD? Or, What Would Cher Do? Portrait Photography meets politics
Perhaps it’s not proper to write this blog about photographing the former Vice President. But I can’t help it. Maybe it’s disrespectful. But I can’t help it.
It all started with Linda Springer. Linda Springer was the former Director of the Office of Personnel Management, which is a big deal. She was in charge of all federal employees, and her portrait hung in all federal office buildings.
And who took her portrait that hung in all federal office buildings? Why, me of course! My second most famous portrait, to this day I don’t know how I landed that gig. What was my first most famous portrait? Why, I’m glad you asked: that would be my portrait of Mario Andretti that Honda used to make the cardboard cut out that you pose next to at all the Indycar races. The way I figure it, more people have seen that photo than any other I’ve ever taken. So, step aside Linda Springer. Third most famous? Photo of Arie Luyendyk slapped on a cardboard fan, also handed out free at sweltering Indycar races.
But, I digress. For Mrs. Springer’s portrait shoot, we had everything in place at her office. A clean white, back-lit background, the flag pinned just perfectly. She walked in.
“Ohhhhh, I hate to have my picture taken,” she said.
That one, single comment prompts a question:
WWCD? Or, what would Cher do?
Would Cher say she hates to have her photo taken? Would she insist I take 30 lbs off in Photoshop? Would she moan and groan? NO! Cher would put her hands on her perfectly rounded boobs, and say, “take it BABY! I am Cher! I know I look GOOD.” And, she would look good. Not because she is Cher, but because that confidence and attitude transmits right to the photographer. (Besides, Cher’s Photoshopping is done by a DOCTOR, but that is beside the point).
Now, back to Springer. I give her the above Cher speech, and she smiles at me. Perhaps a person at such a high level isn’t used to being told to act like Cher? But I didn’t care. It worked. She went from uptight to relaxed in 8 seconds — and that is my real job. So, the portrait was great, and it hung in all the Federal office buildings.
Now, the portrait shoot concluded, I was hired to photograph the official swearing in of the Director.
“Get Cher’s photographer,” Springer reportedly requested. Of course, I never actually photographed Cher, but I kept that fact quiet.
And who conducts the official swearing in for the Head of the Office of Personnel Management? Why, the Vice President, then Dick Cheney.
“Mom,” I said on one of our morning calls, “you’ll never guess what I’ve been hired to do!” And I told her. I also told her I was going to become famous for getting the only photograph in existence where VP Cheney was not scowling. I was determined to get one picture of the man looking happy. It had to be possible. After all, I’d pulled it off with Springer. I couldn’t wait to tell Cheney to act like Cher. No, I would never do that…ever…
So, I arrived at the swearing in at the required two hour advance time. I was shown to my “x”, and was told, unceremoniously, not to move from that spot. For some reason, I was told not to speak. (now why would that be?) If I did, the Secret Service would tackle me, confiscate my camera equipment, and send me to Gitmo. I did not want to go to Gitmo.
So, I waited. Eventually, the ceremony started. I put my camera up to my eye. I took my photos.
Dick Cheney was scowling in every one. And, even when he was smiling, he was scowling. How is that possible?
A few weeks later, Cheney shot that guy in the ass while hunting. Glad I wasn’t on that shoot.
(Above) Linda Springer is sworn in by Darth Vader, and her official state portrait.
My third most famous portrait ever. First, Mario Andretti’s cutout. Second, Linda Springer. Third, Arie Luyendyk. No, not the exhasted looking guy with the red shirt, the guy on the fan. Do you know how many people fan themselves with this thing?! Thousands.
My most famous portrait ever. The cardboard cut out of Mario Andretti, destined for the Smithsonian.