Larry Downing is a Reuters senior staff photographer assigned to the White House. He shares that duty with three other staff photographers. He has lived in Washington since 1977 and has been assigned to cover the White House, since 1978. President Barack Obama is the sixth president Larry has photographed.
Sleep is overrated.
On Wednesday, I was up at 5:30am so I could start my White House shift. U.S. President Barack Obama had 5 press events on his schedule for the day, so I ended up staying until 7pm. I had just sat down to dinner at 8.30pm, when I heard my cell phone ringing, it was Washington Editor-In-Charge Jim Bourg calling about breaking coverage for an Obama event but it was being kept very quiet. The President was planning to fly to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and take part in the dignified transfer and return of 18 U.S. personnel who died Monday in Afghanistan, so I had to be back at the White House by 10pm. The event would be covered the White House travel pool, a very small group of photographers and reporters who always travel with the President, but what we would be allowed to cover was unclear..
Sometimes we Afghan photographers joke that an Afghanistan without burqas, would mean no more good images.
I was with Yannis Behrakis when he shot his version (top). It was the day after the Northern Alliance took over Kabul and the Taliban fled the city. Yannis wanted to shoot some images which could show a change after the fall of the Taliban. We came across a number of women who were waiting to receive some alms from a rich local businessman. Yannis stopped to take some pictures.
In the history of embeds, this one has been pretty unremarkable so far. I kicked things off in Dubai with an impulse purchase of a Canon 5D Mark II. Stills and video ! ASA 6400 ! 20 MB files ! It seemed like a great idea until I dropped it in the mud on a patrol. So much for the resale value.
I’ve spent the past month embedded with the German armed forces Bundeswehr – operating as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in northern Afghanistan – accompanying troops during missions from their bases in Masar-e-Sharif, Feyzabad and Kunduz. This is the first time the German army have allowed news agency photographers to be embedded with operational units, in the way the U.S. have allowed journalists similar access for many years. To be close to the units operating on the ground is the only way to report on their day-to-day work.
Often in our job as photographers we are totally dependent on drivers. Back in 2004, I was on assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan for the first time and came to appreciate just how important a good driver can be, especially in a place like that where your life can depend on it.