12/11/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
Photographs by P.F. Bentley
With his pudgy cheeks, Cheshire grin and shock of silver hair, Newt Gingrich can look like a creature dreamed up by Dr. Seuss (even his name is Seussian). But in these intimate black-and-white pictures, he's a surprisingly warm, rumpled figure, more like your friendly grocer than the fiery leader of the Republican revolution.
Credit this softening to stealthy photographer P.F. Bentley, who was invited by the Speaker to cover his first 100 days in office. Given unprecedented access, Bentley bought his first suit (so he'd fit in on Capitol Hill) and shadowed Gingrich for up to 18 hours a day, eventually shooting 908 rolls of film. The results strip the sheen from Newt's sudden celebrity by focusing on his nuts-and-bolts style of leadership (lots of finger-pointing shots), though there are a few silhouettes more suitable to a campaign brochure-artsy pictures even Gingrich didn't like.
Most revealing are the folksy scenes: a frumpy Gingrich riding the subway, standing unnoticed in a department store line, downing a can of beer at work, and collapsing on the couch at the end of his remarkable first 100 days. Newt's human. Who knew?
As he did in his 1992 photo book, Bill Clinton: Portrait of Victory, Bentley conveys the sweep and excitement of a historic event by capturing small moments. He also delivers what the media-savvy Speaker must have hoped for: plenty of regular-guy shots to cushion his image as a claws-bared political animal. (Rutledge Hill, $19.95)