Photographers' Blog

A different political film

By Jim Young

The political game always seems the same to me, only the players change.

This is my third Presidential campaign and I have always been fascinated with U.S. politics. This time around it was the early impact of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, all the way to Romney’s run up to election day that intrigued me.

It all began 18 months ago when I was based in Washington D.C. and started shooting with a Hasselblad x-pan panoramic film camera while covering President Barack Obama. I had never used a rangefinder before and had to remember how to manually focus a camera.

GALLERY: POLITICS ON FILM

Shortly after I started the project, I moved to Chicago. A year and a half before election day and the campaign was already in full swing. A growing list of Republican challengers lined up for a chance to go up against the President.

With my proximity to Iowa, I made a half a dozen trips to Iowa, the early stages of the campaign where the contenders tested their stump speech and their handshakes. Candidates came and went and in the end only one was left standing, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.

I like how film is timeless. There is something about the tangible nature of film, though they were just snapshots along the trail during the campaign. Maybe one day, people will look at film and wonder what it was all about but I like that there is no mistaking where the product comes from. It’s not filtered, manipulated or cropped. I shot a black and white film project with a $20 plastic film camera on President George W. Bush in 2008, a project on the Presidency in 2010 shot with a polaroid-type camera, and now the xpan.

“We’re pulling an all-nighter”

By Kevin Lamarque

“We’re pulling an all-nighter” — President Barack Obama’s refrain to crowds across the U.S.A. throughout his non-stop 40-hour campaign swing.

An all-nighter? Really? As in we sleep on the plane? On a domestic trip? Seriously? This was my initial reaction upon seeing the White House press schedule and failing to find a hotel mentioned anywhere. But sure enough, that was the deal.

I am pretty used to sleeping on Air Force One on the many long-haul international trips taken by presidents, and honestly, the seats are a lot more comfortable than on board your average cramped commercial airliner. But thankfully, to my knowledge, I have never had to call Air Force One my bed or hotel while traveling in my own country. This was about the change.

Into the night: Covert travel with President Obama

By Kevin Lamarque

First there is the phone call. It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon in Washington when the phone rings. “Can you be at the White House for a meeting in four hours? I can’t tell you why, but we need you to be there.”

Hmmm … I’ve seen this show before, and I pretty much know what the deal is. President Obama is going to be traveling somewhere unsavory and everything about it will be Top Secret until he lands at his mystery destination.

A beautiful weekend here in the D.C. area is instantly transformed from worrying about my son’s soccer games to worrying about where I am going, how long I will be gone and what preparations must I make before departure? The wheels are already churning before the White House meeting that evening.

From Downing St. to the White House… and back

It’s cold, it’s very dark and oh…. of course it’s raining. I have no idea if or when I will actually see the Prime Minister after standing here for hours.

That’s my enduring memory from 10 years (1989-1999) of covering Downing St. as a photographer for Reuters. I still tell people that Downing St. is the coldest place on Earth, no matter what month it may be!

Twelve years later, I walked up Downing St. as a veteran of the White House Press Corps for Reuters, and things were very different indeed. The sky was blue, the air was dry and warm and sunshine washed in from Whitehall. This couldn’t be the same place where I regularly photographed Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair all those years ago.

Obama in an Indian instant

Leading up to the midterm elections in November, I worked on a project photographing scenes around the Presidency using an instant film camera called a Fuji Instax, similar to a Polaroid.

(Click here to view the selection in Full Focus.)

That was right on the heels of a President Obama 11 day, 4 country trip to Asia including stops in Mumbai and New Delhi, India.

REUTERS/Jim Young

REUTERS/Jim Young

We arrived several hours early for a welcoming ceremony for Obama at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Indian Presidential Palace, in New Delhi. The security was very tight but once we were inside and in our position, I had time to shoot some Polaroids.

Can you keep a secret?

Want to hear a secret?

“U.S. President Barack Obama will make an unannounced visit to Afghanistan but you cannot tell anyone.” Those seemed like simple enough guidelines, but it certainly wouldn’t end up that way.

President Barack Obama meets with troops at Bagram Air Base, December 3, 2010.    REUTERS/Jim Young

It started with a call from Washington Editor in Charge Jim Bourg during my shift at the White House on Wednesday afternoon. “I never know how to start these kind of conversations…” he said. “You know when we have these trips where we really can’t talk about it?” I had a feeling I knew where this was headed. He kind of paused a bit trying to find the words to say it, without really saying it. But I stopped him and said, “I know where you are going with this and you don’t have to go any further.” Obama would make a surprise visit to Afghanistan. I was careful not to answer his questions out loud, so that anyone standing by wouldn’t figure out the questions or the subject matter, but we were on the same page. He just said it was tomorrow night. The trip would be about 30 hours there and back, with 25 of those hours in the air. I would finish my shift as usual and go to see him in the office to get more details.

We went through the rough details, it was almost the same as Obama’s last announced trip to Afghanistan when I went with him back in late March this year. This would be my fourth such Presidential trip, three times to Afghanistan and once to Iraq. There is always a huge veil of secrecy, rightfully so.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 14 November 2010

A salute to all those who managed to get pictures, text and video out of Myanmar (Burma) of the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a truly historic moment.  No foreign journalists were given visas to cover the election or Suu Kyi's release and there's no Internet.  Respect to you all.

MYANMAR-SUUKYI/

Aung San Suu Kyi (C) waves to supporters gathered to hear her speech outside the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party in Yangon November 14, 2010. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for freedom of speech in army-ruled Myanmar, urged thousands of supporters to stand up for their rights, and indicated she may urge the West to end sanctions.  REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

MYANMAR-SUU KYI/

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks with supporters after she was released from house arrest in Yangon November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in Pictures 7 November 2010

A continual struggle with writing this blog is trying to keep it picture led and not wander off into the top stories from the week that may not have produced the best pictures. This week in Asia we have seen the arrival of U.S President Obama in India, U.S Secretary of State Hilary Clinton doing the rounds, the first election in Myanmar for 20 years (no prizes as to who will win though) not one, but two Qantas jets getting into engine difficulty, the continuing tensions between Japan and China, the failed bid by BHP Billiton to take over of Potash, currency woes as we prepare for G20 in Seoul later this week and let's not forget Afghanistan and bombs in Pakistan. So where to start?  Mick Tsikas produced my favourite picture of the week, a fan at the Melbourne Cup; one can only admire the oral control it takes to shout in celebration while holding firmly onto a lit cigarette.  I thought this was a skill that died out with the passing of Humphrey Bogart.

HORSE RACING/MELBOURNE

A race-goer cheers as jockey Gerald Mosse of France rides Americain to victory in the Melbourne Cup at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne November 2, 2010. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

In Indonesia the stark realities of living in the shadow of an erupting volcano continue to be brought home by Beawiharta. Try as I might I could not edit out any of these four pictures.  So with cries of "overfile ovefile" ringing in my ears I will shamelessly re-publish.  Wearing a hat to protect yourself from the hundreds of tonnes of hot ash raining down, you've been made homeless and the air is filled with dust and smoke - what do you do? Light up - a perfect moment caught as life stoically goes on. The strong diagonal lines and planes of tone in perfect monochromatic harmony.

Obama signs historic health care bill: An easy assignment?

The White House East Room has been, through the decades, the site for countless ceremonies, speeches and historic moments. I have lost count of the number of times I have covered events in there, but on Tuesday, the most historically important moment in the young presidency of Barack Obama unfolded in the most packed working conditions I have ever seen in that grand room. Hundreds of invited Congressmen and women, who each had a hand in bringing about the health care reform bill, sat shoulder-to-shoulder and right up against the stage. Along with dozens of photographers, journalists and television crews, there wasn’t room to breathe and this presented a rare challenge for those that regularly cover the White House – the chance that you may not even see the event taking place!

USA

With the front row of the audience about 3 feet (one meter) from the signing desk, it was almost impossible to see the Presidential Seal and that important document that President Obama was about to sign. Even on step ladders, which normally elevate us sufficiently above the audience, it was touch-and-go, and that’s before camera phones, the new nemesis for any working photographer shooting over a crowd, would inevitably start popping up. Not to mention the audience members standing up themselves to see over the rows in front. I even had to negotiate a compromise with one Congresswoman from New York that if she would refrain from pulling out her cell phone and blocking us behind her, I would ensure that she would receive a copy of one of my pictures as a trade off. She thankfully obliged and I emailed her a jpeg file later in the day for her private collection, for which she was grateful. Other congressmen in the audience were not as considerate, and anticipating this (hey, even elected officials can’t resist pulling out their cameras too), I set in place an “insurance policy”, because news photographer’s never get a second chance at capturing history.

My insurance policy was a Canon 5D camera and 24-105mm lens clamped high above my head on one of the towering light stands, atop of which is enough illumination to set an exposure of 400th sec @ f4, at 1000 asa. They do light White House events well, as administrations past and present recognize the power of the well-crafted image. I know a lot of photographers who shoot indoor events and would dream of soft, plentiful light rather than messing with high ISO speeds or the dreaded flash/strobe. With one dedicated radio transmitter attached to the hotshoe of my handheld camera, and a radio receiver connected to remote camera on the light pole, I could wirelessly fire the remote every time I pushed my shutter button. After editing the pictures from the remote camera for the Reuters wire shortly after the event ended, I thought it would be cool to put the entire sequence together with some sound to give you a sense of being in that room on this historic occasion.

from Russell Boyce:

Don’t drink the water, even if there is any to drink (Update)

One more picture that caught my eye during the 24 hours news cycle for the World Water Day is the image of hundreds of hoses providing drinking water to  residents of a housing block in Jakarta.  The grubby plastic pipes supplying a fragile lifeline to families seem to represent the desperation that people face when the water supply is cut off.

bea 

Hoses used to supply residences with water are seen hanging across a street at the Penjaringan subdistrict in Jakarta March 22, 2010. Residents in the area say that they have had to construct makeshift water supplies for their homes by attaching hoses to pumps bought with their own money, as the government has yet to repair the original water supply which was damaged. March 22 is World Water Day.     REUTERS/Beawiharta

Today, March 22 is World Water Day and Reuters photographers in Asia were given an open brief to shoot feature pictures to illustrate it.  The only requirement I asked of them is that they included in the captions, the fact that while the Earth is literally covered in water, more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation. At the same time in China 50 million people are facing drought conditions and water shortages and the two stories seemed to tie in with one another.