Our year-end issue is not just an occasion for a summing-up in words but also a showcase for TIME's extraordinary photographers, and they had a privileged view of the year's biggest story. WILLIAM COUPON, who has done portraits of six previous Presidents for TIME, took the cover shot of George W. Bush at the Governor's Mansion in Austin, Texas, on Monday, Dec. 4, minutes after he got word of the U.S. Supreme Court's first decision in his favor. That put Bush in an upbeat mood, and Coupon found him to be a relaxed and cooperative subject, especially contrasted with some past ones. "Clinton wanted to appear a certain way and had strong ideas about how he wanted to look," says Coupon. "Bush gave the impression that he was more in a position to be compromising." Good news for the Democrats in Congress?
BROOKS KRAFT, who took the photos of Bush at his ranch, has dogged the Governor's steps full time since January. He found Bush outwardly calm and confident, even during the low spots of his campaign. "You had to look at him carefully to pick up on the tension," says Kraft. The two got on well, with Bush inquiring regularly about the baby Kraft and his wife are expecting. "I think it comes naturally to him to remember this stuff--that's how he's bonded with Democrats in Texas."
We're especially proud of our Class of 2000, a gallery of the people who mattered this year, with evocative photos by GREGORY HEISLER, NIGEL PARRY and others, put together by picture editor MaryAnne Golon and designed by art director Arthur Hochstein, with text written by James Poniewozik. Getting these shots posed some challenges. Heisler, in the Middle East to shoot Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, spent five days in Gaza waiting for an audience with Arafat. But the Israelis called first, with word that Barak would be available the next morning. So Heisler and his crew lugged their gear across the border for the photo session--and barely got back to Gaza in time for a call saying that Arafat was ready for his close-up. They quickly hustled over to Arafat's stronghold, setting up an elegantly lighted portrait to match the one Heisler had shot of Barak just hours earlier.