Continuing our year-long series on Contact Sheets, Iconic Photos looks back at the assassination attempt at Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Mike Evans is best remembered for his 1976 photo of Ronald Reagan wearing a cowboy hat taken at the then candidate’s California ranch while Evans was working for Equus Magazine. The genial photo was later used for campaign buttons and as a model for a statue at the Reagan presidential library, and on the president’s death, appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek and People magazines.
Starting with that photoshoot, Evans and Reagan established a strong rapport that the president asked him to be his personal photographer. It was in such capacity that Evans captured an assassination attempt on the president just 69 days into the Reagan presidency, and narrowly evaded the assassin’s bullets himself. His contact sheets clearly highlighted the wide chasm between the quotidian nature of the trade union event at Washington Hilton where Reagan was previously speaking and the chaotic enormity of the assassination attempt and the brawl that immediately ensued outside.
Evans went on to capture other terse moments, such as Reagan’s heated finger-pointing exchanges with Tip O’Neill inside the Oval Office. His other work during the White House Years, a monumental attempt to document the D.C. denizens — from Supreme Court justices and socialites to the Capitol pages and a janitor (see list in pdf here) — in stark black-and-white portraits rivaled what Richard Avedon did a decade earlier. This work was later published in People and Power: Portraits From the Federal Village.