September 20, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Anyone can do a quickie campaign book, and lately it seems that everyone is. But might the Democratic party’s special secret weapon for the upcoming election be…Al Gore’s bare chest?

Candid shots of the Vice President — looking lovingly into the camera with shaving cream on his face, romping around the Grand Canyon — are among those featured in wife Tipper Gore’s new collection of her own photojournalism, Picture This: A Visual Diary. It was years in the making, though it did hit shelves just as the comparatively fusty Republicans were being showcased in San Diego.

”People who have seen the book are telling me that they’re really surprised at how intimate the pictures are,” says the Second Lady-cum-shutterbug, whose previous work of authorship was Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society. ”These are pictures that I’ve had by my bedside table for years, and I’ve tried to publish them before, and he’d say no. Finally, in this context, he relented.” So is the Veep embarrassed by the extra…exposure? ”I don’t think he is,” says Ms. Gore, who wields a Nikon N-90. ”Because he’s in swimming suits; he’s at the beach. And they were so many years ago now…. I mean, I think he’s still a hunk.” Not that she’s partisan or anything.

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