Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Jay Leno and Terry Bradshaw have a cake fight in 2012.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

Tom Cruise and Jay Leno in 2005.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

Jeremy Piven and Jay Leno in 2006.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

Jay Leno, actor Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat and television personality Martha Stewart in 2006.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

Jay Leno celebrates New Year's Eve on Dec. 31, 2004.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

Jay Leno and a lion in 2000.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

Olympic weightlifter Shane Hamman lifts host Jay Leno in 2000.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Jay Leno take a drive after a taping in 2013.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

President Obama talks with Jay Leno during a commercial break in 2013.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

Jay Leno during an interview with Johnny Carson in 1990.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Drinkwater / NBC

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Behind the lens | NBC 'Tonight Show' photographer Paul Drinkwater

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Behind the lens | NBC ‘Tonight Show’ photographer Paul Drinkwater

By Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times

NBC photographer Paul Drinkwater has covered the “Tonight Show” on a regular basis since 1978. In addition to covering Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien as hosts, he has photographed appearances by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, various animal guests and even was in a cake fight with Terry Bradshaw. Comedian George Carlin was one of Drinkwater’s favorite guests to photograph, and Jason Sehorn’s marriage proposal to Angie Harmon in 2000 was among his favorite shows.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno --

Jason Sehorn, right, proposes to Angie Harmon on the “Tonight Show” in 2000 as host Jay Leno and Elton John, left, look on.

Drinkwater started at NBC as a page at age 21, which mainly required that he give tours and seat audiences for shows such as “Midnight Special” and “Wheel of Fortune.” Nine months later a photography job opened up and he was hired. Among his first assignments was the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” Drinkwater remembers Carson was a very private person offstage in contrast to his stage persona.

When Leno took over in 1992, Drinkwater was there. On covering Leno, Drinkwater says, “Jay is the best. He’s the same guy in the studio as he is when you see him driving around in a Stanley Steamer or Lamborghini.  He likes people.”

Jay Leno and Paul Drinkwater.

Jay Leno and Paul Drinkwater.

Despite the thousands of “Tonight” shows that Drinkwater has photographed through the years, from Carson to Leno to O’Brien and the return of Leno, there is one show that Paul will not be shooting: Leno’s last show on Thursday. Paul’s obligations with NBC have taken him to Sochi, Russia, for the Winter Olympics.

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