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Fearless female press photographer shares work from the White House

American presidents George Bush and Clinton
(Image credit: Christy Bowe)

Christy Bowe has been a member of the White House Press Corps since 1995, having covered two-term Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush as well as President Barack Obama.

Her career as a female press photographer has placed her at the center stage of severe historical happenings, including the horrors of 9/11, and photographing three historical impeachments as well.

Christy is also the founder of ImageCatcher News Services, covering the Washington DC area for 30 years, and her work can be found in many prominent publications. Now Christy aims her Nikon lenses at the 46th US President, Joe Biden.

• Looking for the best Nikon portrait lenses (opens in new tab)?

We had a chance to interview Nikon-shooter Christy Bowe all about her fascinating career as a female member of the official White House Press Corps (opens in new tab). As explained in her latest photo book, Eyes That Speak: One Woman News Photographer’s Journey with History Makers, Christy documents her experiences photographing American Leaders, and political tensions, from January 1993 through to January 2021

Having photographed eight US presidential inaugurations and photographing royalty such as Princess Diana, it's safe to say that Christy has had one of the most thrilling careers that a photographer could ever hope to achieve. She has a distinct passion for being where the action is and recording history as it happens.

Christy Bowe headshot
Christy Bowe

Christy Bowe is a photojournalist, and has been a member of the White House Press Corps since 1995, covering Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Her photos have been features in publications including The Washington Post, Time, The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career working as a White House photographer over the last two decades?

It has been three decades, but who’s counting?! I think seeing more women coming into this field is great. I would say one of the most significant events I have covered was the first Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama.

How did you initially get into this line of work and industry, and do you feel that female-identifying photographers are given equal chances and opportunities to be hired in this particular field of photography and journalistic media?

I have always had a penchant for going towards where the action is so getting into photographing the news was a nice fit for me. I began with landscape photography and then drifted toward photographing people and was intrigued with the concept of having a picture portray the essence of the subject.

I had my first real exposure to that while photographing a Pro Choice Rally as I talk about in my book Eyes That Speak. After being allowed up onto the press truck with the official media, I was hooked and never looked back. I do think that women are proving themselves to be very competent and there certainly are more women in our line of work today than when I started out.

What camera equipment do you use to shoot with? Do you have a go-to setup or favorite type of lens that you would always use?

I have been using Nikon for years beginning with an F and going digital in 2001. For the past six years I have been using the Nikon D5 (opens in new tab) with a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 (opens in new tab)and a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 (opens in new tab) lenses. When needed I use a Nikon 80-400mm f/4 (opens in new tab) lens. I now use a Nikon Z9 (opens in new tab) mirrorless camera and it is awesome.

President George Bush and Clinton walking together

(Image credit: Christy Bowe)

Have you at all struggled in your career to remain diplomatically impartial in how you portray your subjects, especially if there were any individuals that you may not have been particularly fond of? 

Yes. When that happens I have to concentrate on the technical aspects of my job. I always try to get different emotions so the editors can decide what they want to use.

Do you have any tips for those looking to shoot political portraits or those beginning their careers as a photojournalist? What were some hurdles you had to overcome to get to where you are now?

Stringing for a wire service or newspaper is a good way to learn the ropes in the business. I am still trying to overcome the hurdles and always will. The biggest one being access. It continues to be a challenge to gain access to events and even more so since Covid. Fewer media are allowed in to cover events now and I hope that will not be a permanent situation.

President George Bush wearing a hat

(Image credit: Christy Bowe)

What is your favorite image (or the one you are most proud of) captured during your career as a Member of the White House Press Corps? 

I generally like the candid pictures the best. The one of President Clinton and Bush walking through the columns at the White House and President Bush in his cowboy hat at dawn are two of my favs. A couple others were  Michelle Obama with her daughter fixing her hair and President Obama high fiving a bunch of kids. Both of these pics were taken at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Christy Bowe Eyes that Speak book jacket

(Image credit: Christy Bowe)

You can now purchase Christy's book Eyes That Speak on Amazon (opens in new tab) priced at $49.95.

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