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Friday August 12th

Photojournalist Eric Draper shares his journey to the White House with UNC Viscom

DTH Photo Illustration. On Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, the UNC Chapel Hill student chapter of the NPPA hosts former White House photographer Eric Draper for a Zoom photo night. The free event gives participants an exclusive presentation of Draper's work capturing President George W. Bush followed by a Q-and-A session.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. On Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, the UNC Chapel Hill student chapter of the NPPA hosts former White House photographer Eric Draper for a Zoom photo night. The free event gives participants an exclusive presentation of Draper's work capturing President George W. Bush followed by a Q-and-A session.

Photojournalist Eric Draper shared his experience and knowledge of photography with UNC's National Press Photographers Association student chapter earlier this month.

During this presentation, part of UNC Viscom's virtual photo night on Sept. 2, Draper shared his experience and his upbringing to the position of chief photographer for President George W. Bush. 

Emily Caroline Sartin, a senior and president of the NPPA student chapter, said it was the organization's first time holding a virtual photo night. 

"I was amazed by the turnout and appreciative of Eric Draper for sharing his time and experiences with us," she said.

Draper incorporated many images during the presentation while explaining the stories behind them to demonstrate his development as a photographer.

"One thing I've noticed about Eric is his photos are breathtaking, very quiet, yet very poignant," said UNC graduate and photojournalist Matt Couch when introducing Draper at the event. 

Draper said he primarily studied artistic photography before he discovered photojournalism. 

"It was like this kind of golden ticket to the world," he said. 

Draper held multiple paid internships throughout college, including positions with The News & Observer and the Los Angeles Times. 

After Draper graduated college, he said he had various jobs before going to work at the White House. 

"Each job was kind of like a jumping point to expand my experience and knowledge," he said. 

Right after he graduated college, he said, he landed a job with The Seattle Times, where he was able to hone his skills. 

He said he then worked for various newspaper organizations before working at the Associated Press, which allowed him to travel to countries like Japan, Haiti and Kosovo.  

In 2000, he was assigned to cover the Bush campaign by the AP for nearly a year. Right after Bush was elected president, Draper said he personally asked Bush to be his photographer and presented his portfolio. 

"If you want something, ask for it," he said.

Draper also discussed his book "Front Row Seat," which encompasses the eight years that he served as chief photographer for Bush.

In this role, he said, he was always on his toes — needing to be ready to capture any and every moment. 

"I had the President's private schedules, official schedule, and so I will try to photograph everything that was on the schedule," Draper said. 

He also said he not only captured historical and heartbreaking moments such as 9/11 but also intimate moments beyond Bush's work as president — including moments with his family and pets. 

Draper said that he wants to advise aspiring photographers to "keep getting that experience and that knowledge and don't take anything for granted."

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