On Assignment with HRC

On Assignment with HRC

It was the “handlers” we were worried about. On assignment to photo­graph the recipients of the 2003 Alumnae Achievement Awards for Wellesley, the magazine’s art director, my assistant, and I were prepared. We had a concept for the photographs and a space reserved at the College Club, where we set up a makeshift photo studio. And we had three award recipients—Barbara Loomis Jackson ’50, Niramol Bulakul Suriyasat ’54 (represented by her family), and Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69.

The first two shoots went off without a hitch that afternoon. Then we had a three-hour wait for the final portrait. Would Sen. Clinton’s handlers give us access?

Around 6 p.m., crisp-looking guys with wires coming out of their ears started to appear. One came into our studio and asked what we were doing. He was satisfied with our answers, but insisted that we close the drapes across the picture windows. We asked what he had in the bright yellow bag he was carrying. “You don’t want to know,” he replied. We settled in for more anxious waiting.

Just before the Achievement Awards reception was scheduled to start, one of Clinton’s aides appeared. She was gracious and assured us that the senator would be available. The “handler” fears were put to rest. And at the promised hour, Clinton did arrive.

While we were waiting, we had been issued name tags. I inscribed mine, “Daniel Day Howard.” It was a longstanding joke. When I meet people and say, “I’m Richard Howard,” nine out of 10 respond, “Nice to meet you, Ron.” I always say I would be happier if even 30 percent would reply, “Nice to meet you, Daniel Day.” So, for this day, Daniel Day Howard it was. When Clinton came in, she looked at me and without missing a beat said, “Nice to meet you, Daniel Day. Thanks for taking time out from acting to do these photographs.” And she laughed. We were off and running.

She could not have been more professional or gracious. She made an effort to connect with every person in the room. She adjusted her pose. She recollected sliding down snow-covered Severance Hill on lunch trays. She laughed at my jokes. She was radiant and had clearly been having a good time all day. Soon she headed off to the next event, but not without taking time for pictures with the support and waitstaff working the reception.

Richard Howard has been Wellesley magazine’s principal photographer for many years. This essay was originally published in the spring ’03 issue. See “Go Forth, Be Great” for Howard’s photos of Clinton at this year’s commencement.

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