In the final weeks of the 1992 New Hampshire presidential primary, Bill Clinton had been through the wringer: Allegations of draft-dodging and womanizing had chased him from Pittsfield to Portsmouth and beyond. He was weary, his throat was sore, his voice was ragged — exhaustion captured in a photograph that quickly became iconic.
Here’s the tale of how that image came to be.
I was a staff photographer for the Concord Monitor when the newspaper first started its “Day in the Life” photo pages on the presidential candidates. I asked to cover then-Arkansas Governor Clinton, and I negotiated for full photo access to the campaign for one full day, Jan. 11, 1992 — weeks before the primary election.
We started the day at about 7:30 a.m. in the lobby of a Manchester hotel, just me jogging backward and taking photos as Clinton meandered through the city streets. No security, no gawkers, no campaign aides. I rode on his tiny plane and in his van, and stayed with him between events. When Clinton made his way into a bathroom at the WMUR television studios before an interview, I took our agreement literally and followed him in.
His campaign aide, Bruce Lindsey, grabbed my arm and said, “You can’t go in there” — but I reminded him of the “full access” agreement, and Clinton said it was OK.
I didn’t take photos as he used the urinal, but as he washed up, I started shooting.
And as he rubbed his face with his hands, I asked him, “Is this campaign what you thought it would be?”
“No,” Clinton said. “It’s much more difficult. You have to be ‘on’ 24 hours a day. It’s exhausting.”
The photo didn’t actually run with the day-in-the-life photo story we published in mid-January leading up to the primary. It seemed too odd, so we chose a different photo of Clinton combing his hair in the mirror.
But then, later that month, a scandal erupted in the Clinton campaign after the Star tabloid published a cover story claiming that Clinton had had an affair with Gennifer Flowers in Arkansas. The photo of the exhausted candidate suddenly seemed a lot more telling, and the Monitor published it as part of a “Campaign Outtakes” photo essay in the days leading up to the primary.
Fifteen years later, when Bill Clinton came to the Monitor to campaign for his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, I was photo editor at the paper and asked him to sign the picture. I assumed he had seen the image at some point, because it had gotten quite a bit of national play over the years. But he seemed surprised by it.
The former president looked at the title I had given the photo — “Weary Clinton” — and then signed it, “All too true. Great photo.”
Dan Habib is a filmmaker and project director at the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability in Concord, N.H.