Former Biden White House Photographer to Release New Book Sept. 8

By Olivia Montes
Photo by David Lienemann

In his new book, Biden: The Obama Years and the Battle for the Soul of America, David Lienemann gives readers a chance to get to know the former vice president.

 With the 2020 presidential election just months away, former White House photographer David Lienemann is stepping out from behind the lens and giving the nation a chance to get to know the real former Vice President Joe Biden.

In his new book, Biden: The Obama Years and the Battle for the Soul of America, Lienemann presents a collection of images that convey different faces of former President Obama’s second in command. From documenting Biden’s professional life in the political mainstream to his day-to-day experiences in the White House, Lienemann conveys a story of achievement and determination through his images for all of America to see,

Delaware Today sat down with Lienemann to hear the story behind the book, how it came to be and what he ultimately hopes readers will take away from it.

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Photo by David Lienemann

Delaware Today: You were the official White House photographer for former Vice President Joe Biden. What was that experience like?

David Lienemann: It was an incredible experience. I worked with a journalist covering the campaign in 2007, so I covered then-Senator Biden and Senator Obama and of all the other candidates that were running in that cycle. I sort of got to know him a little bit then, and when he got picked as the Vice Presidential candidate, I started emailing people I knew trying to see if I could join the campaign but that never actually happened; I ended up coming on in March in the first year of the administration. I was 24 years old then, and it was a really incredible experience to go from being a journalist to traveling with the vice president of the United States all over the country and all over the world, getting to know the folks in the administration…it was a tremendous opportunity.

DT: Do you have any favorite images in the book? What memories do they bring up for you?

DL: It’s so hard to pick…I think there’s a photograph of the vice president, Dr. [Jill] Biden, and their son Beau backstage at the Democratic Convention in 2012, and Beau is reaching over and fixing his father’s tie before they went out on stage, and…that father-son relationship, that quiet little moment backstage—in an arena full of thousands of people—it just has always been really powerful for me, and I think that is probably my favorite photo in the book.

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DT: What are the challenges of being a White House photographer?

DL: I don’t want to say that it’s a 24/7 job, but you work six to seven days a week [and] the hours are really long. You’re trying to make yourself invisible or close to it in meetings to record intimate, powerful moments, whether that’s backstage at a convention or the vice president is greeting auto workers in Ohio, or meeting with foreign leaders—there is a huge diversity of things that are happening and you need to be there, but not distract from the event. You need to be trusted, and you need to know that you being in the room doesn’t mean that everything happening in the room gets out, and that they [everyone] feel comfortable with you being around. If you strike that balance, then you can make some really incredible photos. I think I worked really hard to earn the trust of the president, vice president, and the presidential staff as well.

Photo by David Lienemann

DT: What was your process of selecting photographs for the book?

DL: It was a little bit chaotic [but] it came together really quickly; the folks I worked with at Little, Brown, and Company Publishing told me that normally, we would do this over six months, and we did it in four weeks, but I really wanted to show readers the Joe Biden that I got to see every day that I don’t think most Americans necessarily know about as a high, decent person, and to show these moments of him with the president, with Dr. Biden, and with his kids and grandkids, and to give people a sense of who he is beyond the vice president. I think Delawareans have this special relationship with the vice president because he served in the Senate for years, and they really got to know him, he was very accessible and out…but I think that outside of Delaware, people don’t know him as well, and I think showing who he is and giving people a sense of who he is in especially, the opportunity to get this close to the election [this November] was really what I trying to keep in mind when I was selecting photographs.

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DT: What do you hope readers take away from the book?

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DL: I would like readers to have a better appreciation for who Joe Biden is. I think that he is so focused on the American people and the decisions that the government takes and how that impacts their lives, and enacting the policies…that improves people’s lives, and I think a perfect example of that is with the Affordable Care Act [in 2010]… that has given so many Americans access to healthcare that didn’t previously have it…to see policies like that just have an incredible impact on people’s livelihoods and well-being, and I hope that people, readers, just Americans in general, understand that Joe Biden has worked in government for years, and… he has always wanted to make America a better place with better opportunities, and ensure that people are getting a fair shot at the American dream that I think he has embodied in his life… and I hope people get that: a better sense of who he is and his story, and what he hopes to do as president. 

Lienemann’s book, Biden: The Obama Years and the Battle for the Soul of America, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers, goes on sale Sept. 8.

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