Presidential photographer captures history through the lens

Brett Heilman –

David Valdez believes in going after what he wants.

“Be bold enough to go ask for the job” was the advice the presidential photographer had for the Tarleton students he spoke to on Monday during a daylong visit.

Valdez is an accomplished photographer, best known as the White House photographer for George Herbert Walker Bush during Bush’s vice presidency and presidency.

"Be bold enough to ask for the job...take the initiative," former White House Photographer David Valdez said to Tarleton students on Nov. 18, 2013.  (Kurt Mogonye, Tarleton State University)

“Be bold enough to ask for the job…take the initiative,” former White House Photographer David Valdez said to Tarleton students on Nov. 18, 2013.
(Kurt Mogonye, Tarleton State University)

Valdez has had his work published in Life, Time and National Geographic magazines and numerous other publications. He also published a book, George Herbert Walker Bush: A Photographic Profile. 

Valdez’s photographs are on display at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station. He joked that “at least, that’s what they call it.  In my family we call it the David Valdez Photo Gallery.”

Throughout his talks, Valdez focused on the need for students, or anyone else, to go after what they want. Valdez said several times, “Be bold enough to ask for the job” and “take the initiative” to go after what you want.

He certainly did. Valdez was born in Alice in south Texas and graduated from high school in Albuquerque, N.M.  After graduation Valdez enlisted in the U.S. Air Force where he was trained as a photographer. After leaving the Air Force, Valdez attended and graduated from the University of Maryland, earning a degree in journalism.

Before becoming President Bush’s personal photographer, Valdez held several jobs as a photographer, including working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Valdez said he learned that a position had come open as the vice presidential photographer.  Valdez wrote a letter to the press secretary to the vice president and went through the interview process. In 1983 he went to work as Vice President George Bush’s photographer.

When he was elected president in 1988, Bush kept Valdez on the staff as his personal photographer and head of the White House Photo Office. During his time working for President Bush, Valdez visited all 50 states and 75 different countries.

After Bush failed to be re-elected, Valdez went to work for Walt Disney Attractions.  Valdez said that he contacted Disney – again through a “cold letter” — and told them that he would like to work for them.  Valdez said that he was told that while there were no open positions available, they would create one for him.

Valdez emphasized the importance of student internships and told the story of a college intern who came to work for Disney. During his summer internship, the student had photos published in Time, Sports Illustrated and People magazines.

Brett Heilman is a junior agricultural communication student from Van Alstyne, Texas.


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