BRATTLEBORO—“World Leaders and Global Citizens: Photographs by Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator” opens Saturday, Nov. 1, at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC).
The exhibit marks the 40th anniversary of Leahy’s election to the U.S. Senate. An opening reception, free and open to all, will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The senator will not be present at the opening but is expected to give a guided tour of the exhibit at a later date.
Today the most senior senator and third in the line of succession to the presidency, Leahy has had a keen interest in photography since he was a child.
Born blind in one eye, Leahy, the son of a printer in Montpelier, realized at an early age that “photography, like reading, was something I could do. You only need one eye.” His earliest photographs were taken with a Hopalong Cassidy box camera he received as a gift from his parents. Today, the six-term senator is rarely seen without a camera slung over his shoulder.
Leahy’s four-decade career in the U.S. Senate has afforded him a unique vantage point on world events. His photographs capture world leaders during momentous occasions and in informal moments of repose.
Accordingly, the BMAC exhibit presents Leahy’s 1985 photograph of President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration, which Reagan declared to be his favorite image from the event. This is alongside a shot of President George H.W. Bush and two senators donning silly hats at a private White House get-together in 1989.
A series of images taken during a 2010 closed meeting of senators with President Obama to discuss health care depicts a palpably tense exchange between Obama and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.
A 1996 photo taken on a military transport serving as Air Force One shows Army Gen. John Shalikashvili and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a lighter moment, with President Clinton looking on in the background.
Photos of world leaders notwithstanding, BMAC Chief Curator Mara Williams says it is Leahy’s pictures of “global citizens,” photographs that document the richness and complexity, as well as the joy or the terror, of lives lived out of the spotlight, that she finds “truly astonishing.”
These include a Tibetan man holding his son and clasping a forbidden picture of the Dalai Lama; a refugee from El Salvador gazing into the camera lens; Turkish children flying a homemade kite from a perilous perch high above city streets; Vietnamese landmine victims, and many more.