By Kevin Lamarque
Traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, covering seven countries in seven days (Malta, Libya, Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) was sure to present some challenges, but also offer some fresh perspectives. My usual beat, covering Obama at the White House and on his trips abroad, generally involves lots of pushing and shoving with other photographers behind velvet ropes or trying to get a clear photo through layers upon layers of secret service agents. I was welcoming a chance to be free of these constraints in the more low key State Department bubble.
I was the “pool” photographer on this trip, supplying my photos not only to Reuters but to AP and AFP as well. I was hoping that being the only wire photographer on the trip would give me better access and more spontaneous images.
The Secretary of State flies on a smaller plane than the President’s 747; hers being a Boeing 757. It’s similar to the plane we call “baby Air Force One” which the President uses for travels to smaller airfields. I was lucky in the seat lottery and secured a business class seat for the entire week, a huge plus on a trip involving so much flying time.
With the first stop (Malta) out of the way after the exchange of a few diplomatic pleasantries, we headed for Libya. It was certainly an exotic place for me to spend my 48th birthday! The only things I knew for sure about this stop was that it would be fast moving and there were no communications on the ground whatsoever. I had my satellite phone with me, but not a lot of confidence that I would be able to get my photos out on the fly. En-route to Libya, I was given a quick photo op of Clinton at work aboard the C-17 military transport.
Upon landing, things were instantly working in my favor when Clinton was met on the tarmac by TNC (Transitional National Council) fighters. I was given good access, with no security agents pushing me away. What a nice change this was. With photos in the camera so early into the trip, I could take a deep breath. I had images that media outlets around the world would seek to publish. Now I had to find the time to transmit them.