Ten Minutes with the President

Jimmy Carter - 39th President of the United States of America

copy by: Lydia Plunk - photos by: Gene Sasse



Jimmy Carter - 39th President






Maloof: Beyond 90 was inspired by the master craftsman Sam Maloof, as he passed his ninetieth birthday, still personally vital and professionally active. As ideas for the book stirred my imagination, I dreamed how to build a book into a fitting tribute to the master craftsman. This was also the time when former Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President Jimmy Carter contributed the prologue to the book which was the companion to the PBS series Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects, which I also contributed to.

I sent a request inviting the President to write the introduction to Maloof: Beyond 90.  He graciously accepted. Reading his opening thoughts, his enthusiasm for Sam's work crystallized. An amateur woodworker himself, he not only collects Maloof furniture, he looks to Sam as a mentor.  It was obvious I needed to make a second request. The book required a photograph of the President Carter taken where he enjoys his personal Maloof collection. The place where he hones his own woodworking skills: in his workshop.  
His staff initially resisted this request. After all, his workshop is at his personal residence. The assistant reasoned: staff could provide a photograph.

I persisted.  Maloof: Beyond 90 is a fine art book. No other image is a photo-op copy.  After some hesitance, his assistant promised to pass along my request.  

In time, the President's assistant called back. There was an opening on the President's schedule the following Tuesday at 10 AM. If I was available then, I could have no more than ten minutes.

The President's staff provided no address in Plains, Georgia. Just instructions to, "look for the guard shack."  In a town with only population six-hundred, a guard shack should stand out. It did.
The Secret Service escorted me to the workshop in the detached two car garage of the modest Ranch style home. I was keenly aware of this being a high-stakes "shoot ." There was no time to scout, style a set or stage lighting.  I would react instinctively to moments where a visual story appeared.  There would be no time to go over or redo.  No sooner had I removed my camera from the equipment bag, than I was ushered to the home's entryway.

The President greeted me, dressed in the casual clothing favored by retired men at home. He chatted pleasantly as he led me though a brief tour of his home, particularly the office and workshop areas. Standing inside his shop, you see his appreciation for his staff, which gave him the equipment, when he left the Presidency.

In the images that day have been preserved who Jimmy Carter is: why the personal affinity for Sam Maloof and his creations. The former President is humble, quietly friendly, and easy to work with.  He is a serious hobbyist, striving to improve. He is a man who truly appreciates the straightforward flowing simplicity and unique comfort of a Maloof chair.



Gene Sasse © 2008 | gene@genesasse.com | 909-941-3993