Riding with Obama: Backstage
Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day.
It is on extremely rare occasions that individual wire service photographers get exclusive behind the scenes access with the U.S. presidential candidates for even just a few moments during the 2008 campaign. When we do it represents a fleeting chance to grab a few unguarded moments where the candidates are more relaxed and less wary of scrutiny away from the glare of the lights and the constant presence of dozens of intrusive cameras and microphones. When you cover the same man, day in and day out, with most of the time spent jostling with dozens of other photographers to get essentially the same shots from the same positions, any chance to get a few exclusive unguarded moments with just the candidate and yourself is a huge bonus.
One of those rare opportunities occurred Monday night as I requested and was granted access backstage and behind the scenes with the Democratic Presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama before a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Armed with a relatively quiet Canon 5D digital camera and a 50mm f1.2 ‘fast’ lens for the poorly-lit corridors of the sports arena where the rally was being held, I attempted my best impersonation of a fly-on-the-wall as Obama made small talk with aides and local officials behind the scenes before addressing a rally of thousands of supporters just minutes later.
In the brief moments that I was snapping away during this rare glimpse, what struck me on a personal level was Obama’s ability to engage with pretty much anyone he was introduced to, from young children to the elderly, on most topics. One moment he was chatting with young kids about their favourite drawings and then he switched almost instantly into a more sophisticated chat about health care policy and the economy with local campaign officials. Within a few minutes, Obama left it all behind and took to the stage to deliver a rousing speech and whipped the crowd of thousands up into a frenzy of enthusiasm, trying to cheer him on to victory.
I transmitted more than 50 news photos of Senator Obama on Monday October 27th, a day which included a major policy speech described by the campaign as Obama’s “closing argument” of the campaign, another major campaign rally and a visit to a local campaign field office. But my favorite pictures were of course those quieter more rare images that I made behind the scenes, from the senator signing the dozens of books owned by supporters, or walking alone backstage towards the rally, or sharing a light moment with local officials in a holding room. As this almost two year long election campaign kicks into high gear in its final days, we may not get another chance to experience more of those fleeting private moments with the two major candidates, but I am glad that Reuters and I got this rare opportunity with just one week to go before America elects a new president.