Monica and Bill, 1996

Dirck Halstead started his career covering the 1954 Guatemalan coup at the age of 17 and he was already a veteran Time magazine photographer by 1998. When the news of President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky broke, Halstead said to himself: “I’ve seen that face. I’ve photographed that face.” So he asked researchers to begin inspecting his photo archives, stored at the University of Texas.

It yielded nothing. So, he hired a researcher to look through 18 boxes, each with 1,000 transparencies, stacked in a Time magazine store room. After five days, and roughly 5,000 images, one frame was found. It was taken during the last days of the previous election campaign at an Oct. 23, 1996 fund-raiser at the Washington Sheraton for the Saxophone Club which were young democrats. Time magazine decided to sit on the image for eight months, until Ms. Lewinsky agreed to testify before the grand jury in August 1998. (The photo won the Elsie Award for cover photography).

Within six hours of Time magazine putting out that picture, ABC was able to go into their files and find the video. Once they had the date and event, they had a place to look. The reporters raced to the White House archives to discover what Clinton said on that day; he said these dubious words, “I was tired when I walked in, but I’m not tired any more. You’ve given me a lot of energy.”

Dirck Halstead had this to say about why he remembered Lewinsky’s face and other photographers present at that fund raiser did not: “This goes to the whole point of how we can lose our visual legacy: On that stand with me that night were photographers from AFP, AP and Reuters, and they were all shooting the same thing. The difference is, they were shooting digital.”

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