It’s a friendly game of softball, but you can’t tell it by the grit on Jimmy Carter’s face. Swinging the bat, his forearms are flexed and his fingers are tense. His eyes are on fire, his lips curled. It might be the seventh game of the World Series.
The catcher, New York Times reporter Jim Wooten, is relaxed and cool. The umpire, five-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader, doesn’t bother to shed his coat and tie. Carter is ready to fight.
We see this moment because Ken Hawkins was there. He’s a photographer. More than that, he’s a historian, letting us see what he sees.
He stopped off at the Ledger-Enquirer from 1971 to 1973 and now lives in Oregon. He has been around the world several times, photographing disasters, war and hunger.
Several hundred thousand times over 40 busy years, he took Carter’s picture, preserving glimpses seen only by an understanding eye such as his. He has compiled a significant collection in “Jimmy Carter — Photographs 1970-2010.”
The book was presented Saturday in Plains, Ga., backdrop for so many of the photographs. It marks the 40th anniversary of the Carter campaign, with profits going to missions of the Carter Center.
We share many scenes. I was at Westville on the Fourth of July 1976 when Hawkins snapped the Carters in the back of an antique carriage. I was in the peanut patch as astronaut John Glenn auditioned for vice president. I was at the foot of the depot in Plains when the president-elect hoisted the Columbus Enquirer proclaiming “Carter Wins.”
But when you’re around a person so driven, there are other moments.
“After a meeting in his office I asked him to sign the first page of the infamous Playboy Magazine interview — an interview that many say could have cost him the 1980 election,” Hawkins said.
Playboy interviewer Robert Scheer failed to bring along a photographer and Hawkins was drafted at the last moment.
“While Carter never held the photos against me, I think it was still a bit of a sore point for him as he felt that some of the ‘more interesting’ quotes were recorded while off the record,”
The book is $21.95 and is available at Carterbook.com.
Richard Hyatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org