Growing up in the European Parliament
By Vincent Kessler
To be totally honest I didn’t see Vittoria at first glance when I took pictures of her and her mother, Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli, for the first time on September 22, 2010.
The European Parliament plenary room is a giant hemicycle for the 766 MEP’s elected from the twenty-eight Member States of the enlarged European Union. It’s not easy to see in detail what’s going on with each lawmaker especially when seated in the back rows, and when your shooting position is on a 10-meter-high balcony.
But thanks to a telephone call from my friend and Reuters journalist Gilbert Reilhac, who was following the voting session on the internal TV service of the parliament, and thanks to a 400mm lens and converters, I spotted her for the first time. I did not know it at the time but she was then only a few weeks old. The pictures were widely used by newspapers and online sites.
I learned two years later after a phone call from Licia Ronzulli’s assistant, asking if I could send her pictures for her private use, that the child was called Vittoria and was then two years old. It was the sixth time that she accompanied her mother to voting sessions at the parliament and was already known as “the baby of the parliament” by the papers.
Over the last three years we have seen Vittoria nine times at the parliament. Each of her appearances was a surprise for us and was not in any way pre-arranged with Licia Ronzulli or even announced in advance to us, as someone would think. Even her teddy bear took part in the voting process: one woman, three votes?
When I saw her last Tuesday I was there to take “routine” pictures of the votes as we usually do to illustrate the everyday workings of the parliament. It was a pleasant surprise as we had not seen her in the last twelve months and we could see now how much she had grown up when comparing the pictures taken through the years.
Some people say that Ronzulli has made a career out of taking her daughter to work. She says bringing Vittoria to work was, and is, a way to bring attention to working mothers and their working conditions. With that point in mind, I think she has at least succeeded in provoking reactions and generating buzz.
I am not naïve and I know that I have played a part in that polemic. Working with politicians is always walking a thin line between information and communication. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. I don’t know if Ronzulli will be elected next year for a new term at the European Parliament, nor even if she will be a candidate. What I know is that I would maybe like to see Vittoria once in a while to see how she grows up.