A picture from both sides

October 21, 2008

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.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque walks during a visit to the Benito Juarez monument in Mexico City October 20, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

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.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque holds a camera as he jokes with a photojournalist during a walk at Mexico City’s Alameda Central October 20, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

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.

Combination photo shows Cuba’s Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque holding a camera as he jokes with a photojournalist during a walk in Mexico City’s Alameda Central, and a photo he took of photojournalists October 20, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque


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How could you trust a minister ? Do you realize that you put in the hands of a politician something like 8000 $ ? 😀

God job !

Posted by Steven | Report as abusive

I agree with the part where as a news photographer your job is to remain invisible as possible and let events unfold as they do, but I don’t think you made the wrong call in that situation. Moreover, I think you might have done the honorable thing, hopefully going from a part of that faceless mass of lenses that followed him to a real person, but then again I may just be overly optimistic.

As to it’s newsy-ness, being that he addressed you specifically, with out your prompting (more probably to your annoyance) it doesn’t invalidate it as being news worthy. In a fashion he was interacting with his environment that he happens to be in, which included you. Granted that image probably isn’t the best, in the same way that the yahoos at sports games lean over the railing and call out to have their picture taken, but it is an accurate depiction of what happened. If it hadn’t been your camera but a different photographer’s would you have questioned it at all?

Posted by Zac Goodwin | Report as abusive

Zac has a point here and I don’t mean to argue with it :)

You did well, have some fun pictures and a story to tell. What more do you want at the end of the day?

Although as you know your pictures are hard to understand without this many explanation which questions the validity of the _news_ content of your picture… But now I’m totally lost.

Posted by Balint | Report as abusive

But you should have told him to press the AE lock to focus! Actually he might have taken a good picture: the framing is not that bad.

Posted by Lucas | Report as abusive

[…] secuencia entera la cuenta Daniel Aguilera en el blog de los fotógrafos de […]

Posted by Guerra y Paz » Blog Archive » Un ministro metido a fotógrafo | Report as abusive

Also the question is… are you allowed to publish it since you aren’t the one who took the photo???? 😛 the copyright is not yours since you didn’t took the photo, did you took the time to do the paperwork or you simply posted it ;)???

It would be interesting to know if you did all the paperwork to publish the photo taken by another person.

Posted by Ed | Report as abusive

I think you instinct was spot on AND you still got a great story to tell.

Posted by Phoenix Photographers | Report as abusive

Do not pay attention to empty chatter conversations when suddenly there is simply amusing case – what for on it grandiloquently to argue??!! Simply amusing pictures – minister probably simply wished to show the affinity to people, availability, interest someone’s needs??

Posted by Pavel Kashaev (Russia) | Report as abusive

[…] mostrar su preferencia por Obama. En esa visita mexicana vimos a un ministro relajado: hizo bromas, se permitió tomar una foto (desenfocada) a los fotógrafos que lo asediaban, se le veía contento. Nada parecía presagiar su […]

Posted by Ministros indignos | Report as abusive