Publisher's Letter

updated 10/01/1990 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/01/1990 01:00AM

At PEOPLE we never try to calculate the worth of a picture by the number of words it would replace. We know words and pictures are both essential to the telling of a good story, and we go to extraordinary lengths at times to put our writer-photographer teams in the thick of the action. This week two veteran PEOPLE photographers faced very different obstacles in completing their assignments. In Baghdad, determined to capture candid images of a city under siege, Ken Regan had to outwit an Iraqi regime bent on managing every 35-mm frame emanating from Saddam Hussein's jittery nation (page 46). Christopher Little, on the other hand, granted rare access at the White House to photograph First Lady Barbara Bush (page 82), found himself praying for the good health of a 3-year-old English springer spaniel named Millie.

The negotiating skills of Regan and senior writer Ron Arias were put to the test from the moment they touched down at Baghdad airport. Detained because of a question about their visas, the two appealed, then waited four hours for permission to stay. Two days later they were assigned a "minder" who had just one duty. "Whenever we wanted to photograph something," says Regan, "the minder's job was to say, 'No.' "

Eventually the team hit on a stratagem: They persuaded a pretty British photographer to join them. While she distracted the driver and Arias engaged their minder in conversation, Regan slipped away to capture some unsupervised photos. One day Regan and Arias returned to their hotel while their minder went off to lunch. Then they made off in a taxi to meet with three American college students who had been detained in Baghdad after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. To illustrate the plight of other U.S. citizens held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait, Regan surreptitiously photographed the young Americans in front of one of the ubiquitous Saddam posters that decorate the city.

Christopher Little didn't have to outwit a minder. In fact, the White House assigned him an electrician, three furniture movers and a press aide to help him get his picture in the Map Room. But Little, who had become acquainted with Barbara Bush during five previous photo sessions for PEOPLE, found the First Lady to be less relaxed than usual. "She had just returned with the President from their vacation in Kennebunkport," Little says. "But with the crisis in Iraq, it couldn't have been very restful." Concerns about the First Dog seemed to add to Mrs. Bush's anxiety. To mark the recent publication of her whimsical story, Millie's Book, the First Lady was eager to be photographed with the title character. But Millie had been suffering of late from a form of lupus, manifested in her case by arthritis, fever and muscle pain. "Before the shoot I got several calls from the First Lady's press office," says Little. "They were concerned whether Millie would be up to it."

Millie was in fine fettle for the photos but proved to have a mind of her own. During Mrs. Bush's interview with Washington bureau chief Maria Wilhelm and managing editor Lanny Jones, the First Lady repeatedly summoned Millie. Instead, the recalcitrant pooch settled comfortably at Jones's feet. Meanwhile, Ranger, one of Millie's pups, began chomping noisily on a bone, and the interview was punctuated by Mrs. Bush's repeated commands—repeatedly ignored—for Ranger to "cut it out."

During the interview, Mrs. Bush recalled the Sept. 10 PEOPLE cover story, "Mom Goes to War," and expressed her concern for the soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia. "I know families are being broken up," she said. "I know it's very, very hard." This is a sentiment that is undoubtedly shared by many of you. Readers wishing to send a message of support can write to Any Servicemember, Operation Desert Shield, APO N.Y., N.Y. 09848-0006 (for land-based forces); or Operation Desert Shield, FPO N.Y, N.Y. 09866-0006 (for those on board ship).

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