One man but two Men of the Year. It was one thing for senior writer George J. Church to explain our unorthodox choice in words. George Bush, he writes in the opening essay of our package, "seemed almost to be two Presidents last year, turning to the world two faces that were not just different but also had few features in common." But how to convey that concept clearly and elegantly on the magazine's cover?
The answer was to call on Gregory Heisler, 36, who produced several of our most notable photographic covers last year (John Sununu, David Lynch and the Dick Cheney-Colin Powell combination). The dual image on the cover of this issue is no darkroom trick, no product of digital wizardry. It is photography, pure if not so simple. Heisler first clicked his shutter as the President looked to his left; then on the same sheet of film he captured Bush looking the opposite way.
The key to the success of any double exposure is getting the elements to match up just so. "One boo-boo," says Heisler, "and his ear winds up in the middle of his face." Heisler spent 25 hours in the studio preparing for his 15-minute session with the President, using a stand-in to represent Bush and meticulously measuring precisely where to position his cameras. For his part, Bush had to keep perfectly still to ensure that his profile lined up exactly where the photographer needed it.
At TIME, Heisler is known as an artist "who can really take portraits into the beyond," as deputy art director Arthur Hochstein puts it. For our cover story on Sununu last May, Heisler had the White House chief of staff's face melting into an American flag. In August, he used double-exposure techniques to concoct an unearthly cover photo of eccentric director Lynch. "I told him we were going to make his face do things faces can't do," Heisler recalls. "He really liked that."
These effects could have been produced by an illustrator instead. But the use of photography gives such works what Heisler calls "an undeniable realism." Says the Chicago-born photographer: "These images make you say, 'Hey, what's going on here?' because you are looking not at a drawing but, in this case, at the President himself." All two of him, in fact.