White House and New York Times photographer Doug Mills has captured seven different presidents through his lens. In a short video interview with Today, he discusses his time behind the lens covering some of the most powerful people on Earth.
A Photographer with Decades of Experience
Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Mills has been a photojournalist for nearly four decades and has been responsible for photographing everything from major sporting events to seven different presidents of the United States. He is currently a photographer for the Washington bureau of the New York Times and has been in that position since 2002. Prior to that, he worked for 15 years as the chief photographer for The Associated Press in Washington, which he joined after working for four years in the Washington bureau of United Press International.
He won his first Pulitzer prize for photography with the Associated Press during coverage of the Clinton/Gore campaign, and won his second cor his coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. He is also a multiple awardee of the White House News Photographers Association.
It has been said that Mills was the first photographer to use a remote camera to photograph a president, which he did in 2001. On his Instagram, Mills has been publishing photos from the Beijing Olympics, his 16th time covering the Olympic Games.
Looking Back on Capturing Presidents
When asked about what he is looking for when taking a photo of a president, Mills says that his job is more than just capturing a moment in time, but doing so in a way that is unique, special, or that accurately portrays the subject.
“I’m looking for any moment of expression with the president, or light around the president, or who else is in the room, who he might be looking at,” he says. “Taking chances and just looking at things differently and trying to do that every day is what motivates me.”
Mills says that complicating that task is how little wiggle room he has to operate around a president.
“Our access around the president is very limited. Extremely limited. I’m always walking into a secret service agent [and asking them], ‘can you give me an edge, can you give me two feet,’” he says.
“Looking around the room, you pick up the president mood. Every president wears their mood on their sleeves.”
Mills says that thanks to his lenses, he can get extremely close to a president, which can have the effect of translating emotion to him.
“I feel like I’m right there in his body, at times, because you’re so close. You’re so zoomed in on them.”
Mills says that of the seven presidents he has photographed, the most photogenic has been Barack Obama, and the most iconic has been Donald Trump.
“[Obama] was like a chameleon. He could fit into any situation whether he was in a suit or jeans or playing basketball or going into a bar to have beers with people,” Mills says.
“You can take any picture of [Trump] in any situation, and show his hands, or his hair, or his jacket, or a silhouette and people would recognize him right away,” he says, speaking to the iconic nature of the 45th president.
Today’s interview showcases Mills’ variety of work, from his political photographs through his excellent sports photography, and is certainly worth watching. More of Mills’ photography can also be seen on his Instagram.