Bush 41’s White House photographer shares perspective on inauguration imagery

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GEORGETOWN, Texas (Nexstar) — David Valdez is in an exclusive club.

The Alice, Texas, native is one of fewer than a dozen people to ever hold the title of chief presidential photographer.

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President George Herbert Walker Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush wave to supporters during an inauguration parade after his swearing-in as the 41st President of the United States on Jan. 20, 1989. (Official White House Photo by David Valdez)

Valdez served under former President George HW Bush while he was Vice President and when he became Commander in Chief.

“My job put me in close proximity, seven days a week, 15 hours a day for a decade,” Valdez recalled.

His memory of Bush’s inaugural parade is somewhat flipped around.

“They just got to walk down the road. I actually did it walking backwards, taking pictures,” Valdez said with a chuckle.

Later that day, the newly-minted President Bush attended a congressional luncheon.

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George Herbert Walker Bush stands at a Congressional luncheon following his swearing-in as the 41st President of the United States on Jan. 20, 1989. (Official White House Photo by David Valdez)

“It was kind of fun, because where now the new-President, George Herbert Walker Bush was seated, right behind him on the wall was a painting of George Washington,” Valdez said. “And at one point in the luncheon, he stood up, and I got a photo of the two George’s— the new-President George Bush and George Washington, the first President of the United States.”

Valdez tallied up 65,000 rolls of film during his time in the Bush administration. He was around for formal gatherings with world leaders and intimate moments with the Bush family.

“At one point, President Bush was being interviewed, and he said that he and Mrs. Bush considered me a part of their family, and I really truly appreciated that sentiment,” Valdez said. “But I never forgot that I was an employee, and never took advantage of the relationship — but everybody knew that I had full unfettered access to everything.”

On Bush’s last day in office, Valdez snapped a shot of him in bed, reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee on the bedside table. Bush used to be able to push a button and a White House butler would bring him what he needed.

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President George Herbert Walker Bush reads the enwspaper in bed on his last day in office on Jan. 20, 1993. (Official White House Photo by David Valdez)

“He could wake up in the morning, he hit the button and the White House Butler would bring him coffee,” Valdez said. The following day, the former President woke up in Houston and reached for the button, which was no longer there.

“Mrs. Bush said, ‘George, from now on, you have to make your own coffee,'” Valdez said.

In a memorable moment for Valdez, he photographed incoming President Bill Clinton turning to the outgoing President Bush, with a round of applause during his inauguration speech in 1993.

“President Clinton won, and he was gracious enough to turn around and congratulate President Bush, and over the years, they became friends, and did a lot of things together,” Valdez said.

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Former White House Photographer David Valdez points to an image he took on Jan. 20, 1993 of President George H.W. Bush leaving President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Valdez captured the moment the helicopter flew over the U.S. Capitol and Bush peeked out the window. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

After that photograph, he rushed to the helicopter awaiting Bush, and captured the 41st President peeking out the window to view the U.S. Capitol.

Valdez now lives in Georgetown, Texas, and has kept in touch with the Bush family. Much of his work is on display at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station.

“The sign out front, says the George Bush Presidential Library, but I tell people, if you squint and kind of turn your head it says, David Valdez photo gallery,” he joked.

Bush has since gone in several trips with the family and was in contact with his former boss until his death in 2018.

Valdez has also recently worked on the campaign of Bush’s grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Photojournalist Frank Martinez contributed to this report.

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President George HW Bush posts with his White House Photographer David Valdez. (Photo Courtesy: David Valdez)
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President George HW Bush talks with his White House Photographer David Valdez in the Oval Office. (Photo Courtesy: David Valdez)

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