Photographers' Blog

Riding with Obama

October 29, 2008

Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day.

The hardships that fervent supporters of political candidates go through to catch a glimpse of their man in public are sometimes amazing. In blustery rain, bordering on freezing sleet in the Pennsylvania college town of Chester, thousands gathered from the dawn hours to score a prime position in the front row of an outdoor rally with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama at Widener University. The conditions were so poor that in a gesture of compassion, Obama brought the event forward by about an hour so that the poor soaked and freezing souls could shorten their waiting time to hear his stump speech.

 

 

 

To protect our cameras from the conditions, a couple of plastic hotel laundry bags and some duct tape were employed as makeshift rain covers for our gear. Even though I go into covering all the events as if they were my last, I remember that no picture is worth a drowned camera which no longer functions! Without working equipment,  a photographer is relegated to being just a spectator to history.

 

 

 

Likewise, the young supporters of Obama had brought along whatever coats and other protective gear they could find. They endured hours of miserable conditions in the muddy grass. Their close proximity to each other in the chilly wind reminded me of those of arctic penguins who huddle close together in a brave attempt to survive the worst that Mother Nature has to offer. Funny also to see a couple of protesters with global warming banners in the crowd (pictured) who picked the wrong day to rally others to their cause, considering the temperatures were just above freezing at the time.

 

 

 

In between the standard pictures of Barack Obama arriving at the rally and of those delivering his speech, I kept looking back to see the faces of those that seemed to have put their bone-chilling hours behind them and were now seeming to hang on every word of Obama’s typically impassioned speech.

 

 

In addition to those images, my favourite moment from the rally that goes some way to illustrating the appalling conditions was that of Obama’s reflection in pool of rain water that had accumulated on the stage as he spoke to the crowd.

 

 

After we had thawed out in Virginia, I couldn’t help but notice the irony later in the day, as waterworks of another kind were pouring at an indoor rally in Harrisonburg, where diehard Obama fan Cleopatra Nelson was so overcome with emotion that she brought along her own waterfall of tears. Evidence of her emotion ran down both sides of her cheeks as her idol Seantor Obama rallied the crowd to vote in the upcoming November 4 election, now just six days away.

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