Photographers' Blog

Journalists take White House to task over photo access

Washington, D.C.

By Mark Felsenthal

Simmering tensions between the White House and press corps that covers it spilled into the open on Thursday when news organizations formally protested decisions to bar photojournalists from many presidential events.

The White House Correspondents Association and major news organizations, including Reuters, wrote to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to complain about being shut out of events that the White House documented with its own photographer.

They urged that the White House provide access for independent photojournalists to all public governmental events the president participates in.

“The apparent reason for closing certain events to photographers is that these events have been deemed ‘private,’” the journalists wrote. “That rationale, however, is undermined when the White House contemporaneously releases its own photograph of a so-called private event through social media.”

The evolution of information technology has expanded the ability of the White House to publish photos and video on its website,, or through widely viewed social media.

The first embrace

On the road with President Obama in Myanmar

By Jason Reed

It was something you wouldn’t dream of ten years ago. Based then as a photographer in Bangkok, our forays into neighboring Myanmar consisted of clandestine treks across a slippery border into the jungle camps of Karen rebels. Rebels who were child soldiers brandishing impossibly heavy weapons in their fight against a military junta that had not only persecuted them but also banished Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi into years of house arrest – denying her a place in the political landscape following democratic general elections in May, 1990.

Journalist visas to Myanmar were almost impossible to obtain and the only visual fruit they bore was to strictly-controlled, officially-sanctioned photo opportunities at the ceremonial burning of illicit drugs intercepted from the golden triangle.

Fast forward to November 19, 2012 and the dream is now reality – a first embrace by the United States government to the new social and political reforms in Myanmar. We’re flying into Yangon in a plane bearing the seal of the President of the United States. As journalists we are privileged to have a front-row seat to history. In this case, it was the first visit by a U.S. president to this nation as it slowly reveals itself from behind a curtain of 50 years of strict military rule and international sanctions.

Caught with Obama in a downpour

By Jason Reed

It happens about once a year. If he had waited two more minutes the pictures would not have happened but Mother Nature had other ideas. It was time for a good old soaking at an event featuring President Barack Obama.

The forecast had called for hot and humid conditions on the second day of a two-day campaign swing through Virginia, where the first ominous signs were the crash of thunder in the distance as Obama stopped at a roadside vegetable stand to pick up a crate of tomatoes for the family. On the way to the outdoor campaign rally in Glen Allen, lightning flashed in front of the motorcade. We arrived at the venue with heavy, ominous clouds and some light sprinkles that we all hoped would quickly subside. No one except the Secret Service were carrying rain jackets (they must have all been boy scouts – “Be prepared”). Not even the President was prepared to deal with the next half hour.

With the press gathered in front of the stage in our cotton short sleeve shirts, the light sprinkle, which had been just a small nuisance, quickly turned into a full deluge that would be familiar to anyone who has ever lived in monsoon-prone regions of southeast Asia. (Stand under a bathroom shower fully clothed and turn the water pressure to maximum. You get the drift.) Now grab about $20,000 worth of camera gear and start taking pictures.

Vacation on the Vineyard, without Obama

By Kevin Lamarque

My assignment was to fly on Air Force One to Martha’s Vineyard and cover President Obama’s vacation. Covering is perhaps a misleading term. The term “protective coverage” would be more accurate.

When the President is on vacation, the photo opportunities are few and far between. Days as the “travel pool” Reuters photographer are long, tedious and not necessarily fruitful. The travel pool consisting of photographers, TV crew and reporters is at the ready in case breaking news happens as the President vacations. The pool will also be on hand if the White House actually decides to allow coverage of the President during a rare public appearance. We had a few photo opportunities… a bookstore, a restaurant, a golf course, a bike ride and two statements to reporters (Libya and Hurricane Irene). Total Presidential face time for those photo opportunities…….about 9-minutes out of a 9-day vacation.

(Life’s a beach. As the President and family enjoy the beach, a colleague and I dip our toes in a foul puddle off the main road. Behind is the yellow bus that served as our mobile “office” with the motorcade press vans parked beside.)

Destination: Afghanistan

It all started out with a phone call from Reuters News Pictures Washington Editor In Charge Jim Bourg on Thursday night informing me there was a secret Presidential trip leaving on Saturday to an undisclosed destination which Reuters would like me to travel with the president on. I was told that this was very secretive and that I was not to mention it to anyone and that no details were available yet. I had been with President Obama on his secret trip to Baghdad last year, so it was pretty easy to figure out that the destination this time might be Afghanistan, a trip which had been highly anticipated since Obama became president 15 months ago. I was to expect to be contacted directly by the White House for a meeting to discuss the details. But I was to “open” the White House as the first Reuters photographer arriving there on Friday morning at 7am, my scheduled shift, and to go about my day as planned acting as if everything was normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

That afternoon I was called in to meet with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in his office at 4pm, along with some of the other members of the 14 person media travel pool who would be going on the secret trip aboard Air Force One.

We were given a schedule of events and were sworn to secrecy. I headed home to pack and test out the BGAN satellite phone I had been provided by Reuters for the trip.

The debate over healthcare – Public opinions

People speak out both for and against U.S. healthcare reform at a town hall meeting in Reston, Virginia.

View full coverage of the healthcare debate here.

Camera in the crowd

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.

Riding with Obama – A Final Look Back

 Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed has been traveling with the campaign of Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Barack Obama. He and his colleague Brian Snyder traveling with the McCain campaign have been posting daily photographers blog entries sharing their experiences and favorite pictures of the day from their campaign coverage.

In the past year and a half I have been priviledged to have a front row seat to American political history – on a personal journey as a Reuters photographer on the road to the White House with Barack Obama.
In the first 24 hours that we have all had a chance to absorb the historic election of Democratic Senator Barack Obama to become the 44th president of the United States, I have finally had time to catch my breath after an incredible 21-month journey photographing his unlikely rise on the political world stage, alongside my Reuters photographer colleagues. From the very earliest beginnings of his campaign, at his announcement speech on those frozen steps of the State House in Springfield, Illinois to the grand stage in Chicago’s Grant Park where he delivered his victory speech last night, I feel incredibly privileged to have gone along for the ride and witnessed one of the great ascensions to the U.S. presidency in history.

Of all of those who aspired to the highest office in the land, from the early days when we chased many Republican and Democratic candidates from coffee shop photo-ops to town halls across the state of Iowa, it always seemed to me as a photographer that it was Barack Obama who stood out from the crowd. This was not at all just because of the color of his skin, although the press has made much of his race as the first African-American candidate to go all the way to the White House. When I was taking pictures, it was in observing his quiet grace, the way he engages people from all walks of life and of course his famous ability to crystallize into words the hopes and aspirations of millions through his campaign for ‘change’. The reactions he evokes from his followers and supporters are like no other recent candidate’s I have seen. I have tried to convey this through my pictures on the wire.

Riding with Obama – A final bump from “The Boss”

Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day November 4. He and his colleague Brian Snyder traveling with the McCain campaign are posting daily photographers blog entries sharing their experiences and favorite pictures of the day from their campaign coverage.

When people ask me what its like to cover a presidential election campaign, traveling with Democratic nominee Barack Obama over the past months, my standard reply is it’s like going to three or four rock music concerts a day, every day, for weeks on end. The adrenalin rush you get from the thousands of excited supporters in the crowd is infectious, even after a 14 hour day on the road and you are suffering a nasty case of severe sleep deprivation.

The rock concert analogy played out more literally on Sunday, as American popular music legend Bruce Springsteen headlined for Obama at a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio. Throwing his support behind the democratic nominee, Springsteen fired up the crowd with some of his songs, most with a political flavor, ending his set with a spoken political speech accompanied to the strumming of his guitar.

Riding with Obama – A quiet family meal for 3, watched by dozens

Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day November 4. He and his colleague Brian Snyder traveling with the McCain campaign are posting daily photographers blog entries sharing their experiences and favorite pictures of the day from their campaign coverage.

Following an election rally in the small town of Pueblo, Colorado Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama took his family for a meal at Jorge’s Sombrero, a Mexican restaurant in the quaint desert town. Accompanying the Illinois Senator were a gaggle of dozens of traveling press, who managed to squeeze their way between the tables of diners, who I am sure had not expected their own meals to be interrupted by a sudden horde of tv cameras and correspondents charging in among the waitresses.

Obama, who it appears may be getting a little tired of the intense media attention that now follows his every move, this time played nicely for the cameras, following the previous day’s incident where he appeared to run from the press on his way to a Halloween party in his Chicago neighborhood (previous blog entry). As eight traveling photographers managed to shoehorn their way into the four person booth opposite that of the Obama’s, I thought this is appeared to be about as natural a scene as it can get, considering the popularity of the subject matter and the sheer number of press in that room.

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