Camera in the crowd

January 27, 2009

It was an early wake up call for Barack Obama’s inauguration day, and I was assigned to photograph the enormous crowds on the National Mall in Washington. I left the office with New York City based photographer Shannon Stapleton, only to find out the crowds of people would prevent us from entering the National Mall. Even without media accreditation the amount of people trying to gain access to the National Mall became a giant obstacle.

After trying to gain access at all of the entrance points we realized that it may not be possible to get in and do our jobs. Stress levels quickly rose as we realized that our assignment would not be easy, or even possible. We were stuck in the streets with impatient crowds with all of our gear and computers strapped to our shoulders.

Shannon had heard rumors of an entrance at 3rd st while we were waiting in line at the 7th st entrance. We decided to split up, hoping that at least one of us would get in. Around 10 am, I got a phone call from Shannon and learned he had gained access. I quickly ran down to the 3rd st entrance, only to find out it was too late, the line up was too long.

It was 10:30 am, I knew I had about an hour as the swearing in ceremony was set to start around 11:30. I heard a rumor that they were letting people in at 18th st and I figured that was my last hope. Knowing it would be at least a 45 minute walk to 18th st, I hired a bike rickshaw driver with another photographer working for Polaris photo agency and made it to 18th street.

I made it just in time for Obama’s speech where people were gathered in front of the Washington Monument watching the speech on large video screens. The people were joyous in smiles and tears and the pictures were plentiful. Luckily the speech ran for about 20 minutes and I was able to do my job and come away with some pictures I am proud of.


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Are the pictures visible somewhere, Mark? Now I am curious.

I have covered a huge (2 millions) religious parade in Brazil some years ago and despite the press access it was a struggle to follow it, hopefully I got an exhibition out of it.

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Posted by Valueless | Report as abusive

Thanks, that was pretty interesting!

Posted by D.Beaumont | Report as abusive