David Lienemann From left: President Barack Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Joe Biden
David Lienemann, who photographed Joe Biden’s eight years in the White House with President Barack Obama, wants people to learn more about the man now seeking that high office — and has some of his stories to tell about his time with the former vice president.
In his just-released photography book, Biden: The Obama Years and the Battle for the Soul of America, Lienemann shares memories and photos of Biden as a man with empathy informed by loss — and who, yes, really loves ice cream as much as the memes suggest.
It’s a first-hand contrast to a bitter campaign season in which Biden is challenging President Donald Trump, who has assailed Biden as enfeebled and extreme.
Lienemann has a different view of his old boss.
“In meetings, he would say, ‘How is this going to affect people in my old neighborhood in Scranton? How is this policy going to affect them? How are we making their lives better?’ ” the photographer says. “I think he’s much more concerned about those people than the machinations in D.C.”
After spending almost a decade capturing the most intimate and most public moments, Biden’s former official White House photographer also saw how he was changed by the 1972 death of wife Neilia Hunter Biden and their baby daughter, Naomi, and the 2015 death of oldest son Beau.
(Biden raised sons Beau and Hunter with his second wife, former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, with whom he also shares daughter Ashley.)
“He did something that I don’t think I would be able to do, and I haven’t really ever seen anyone else do,” Lienemann tells PEOPLE.
“Instead of wallowing in the tragedy,” Lienemann says, “[Biden] really pushing himself to do more. President [Obama] announced the Cancer Moonshot initiative to drive cancer research and make huge leaps forward in treatment and research. And the vice president and Dr. Biden led that initiative while they were still grieving over their son.”
David Lienemann Joe Biden (second from right) celebrating re-election with President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, in Chicago on Nov. 6, 2012.
David Lienemann Joe Biden (right) made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan in 2011 to meet with Afghan leaders and U.S. service members. The agenda included a side trip to Forward Operating Base Airborne in Wardak Province, just southwest of Kabul, to present the Bronze Star to Staff Sgt. Chad Workman.
During his time in the White House, Lienemann perfected the art of not being seen and captured nearly a million photographs. One of his favorites is a photo he took of the Bidens with Beau, then attorney general of Delaware, at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Just before they were supposed to walk on stage, Beau leaned over to fix his dad’s tie.
“It was just such a personal moment and such a loving moment,” says Lienemann. “It’s something that