A picture from both sides
There was great interest in the visit to Mexico by Cuba’s foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque, especially since Mexico’s previous President Vicente Fox had broken off diplomatic relations with the island nation. Adding to the expectation was the fact that the minister’s first attempt to visit Mexico this year was canceled when Cuba was hit by a hurricane.
Perez Roque’s trip was finally reconfirmed with a packed agenda, with one event closely following the next. The first was a visit to the monument to Cuba’s independence hero, José Martí, followed by a visit to another monument to Mexico’s own hero, Benito Juárez. The monuments are not far apart, but because of the tight schedule most photographers assumed that Perez Roque would be driven between them and they went ahead to take an early position. To the surprise of a few, including myself, the minister decided to walk the distance.
As I was running alongside the Cuban delegation, between them and other colleagues that had taken up a position on the sidelines, Perez Roque suddenly turned to me and said he’d like to take pictures of us for a change. He asked me for the camera I was carrying in my hand, exactly the one with the short zoom that I needed to shoot him from so close, so instead I offered him my second camera equipped with a longer zoom.
I keep thinking that maybe I was a little selfish when the minister asked me how to use the camera I was loaning him, and I only took the time to tell him where to look and which button to press. I was naturally more concerned with taking my own pictures than with teaching him how. I’ve always thought that politicians should stick to politics and photographers to taking pictures. And I also believe that while covering the news a photographer should remain as invisible as possible, so my question is whether or not I should have just ignored the minister’s request. I guess this type of anecdote serves to analyze what we can do and what we shouldn’t do as photographers. In a case like this of an informal encounter between a public figure and photojournalists, is it a valid news picture or not?
After transmitting my pictures taken with the short zoom I checked the card on the other camera that Perez Roque had handled, and I saw that he had indeed taken a couple of shots. So I put together a combination photo of one of his pictures and one of mine.