Photographers' Blog

Smoker of the House Boehner lights up

Last night was the annual Members of Congress picnic hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady, Michelle Obama, and held on the South Lawn of the White House.

Tradition calls for the entire back yard to be converted into a happy place for a one-night lawn carnival for all U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives to make themselves at home while playing on the lawn with their families.

Invitees are encouraged to leave their briefcases in the car, remove their ties, and enjoy an off-the-record and easy night of relaxed conversations and friendly bonding with their political rivals.

Children are allowed to run freely around brightly decorated picnic tables, eat foot-long hot dogs while listening to live music performances as guests of the president. Even Obama’s personal photographer, Pete Souza, couldn’t resist and grabbed a free dinner before returning to work.

A “friendly” pie tossing game is generously provided by the White House for those who can’t leave their political bickering on Capitol Hill.

Six miles underground with a politician and no light

His main claim to fame to audiences overseas are his beachside antics. Beyond that, Australia’s conservative opposition leader doesn’t demand a whole lot of our work time.

However, I ended up next to him, underground, 10 kilometers (6 miles) into a coal mine.

Reuters just happened to be writing a piece about Tony Abbott and we write about mining many times every day Down Under. So here was a chance to match this piece while shooting lots of subterranean stock images.

Hockey night in Washington

Hockey and politics? A strange combination.

As a Canadian growing up in a small rural town, street hockey was a big part of my youth. So when the White House announced an event billed as a street hockey game on the South Lawn of the White House as part of first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, a lot of great memories came flooding back. Stoppages in play for oncoming cars and playing under street lights until all hours of the night were a way of life.

We do a lot of remotes at the White House and with a ceremony being held for the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Black Hawks in the shadow of one of the world’s most recognizable buildings, I was trying to come up with an interesting way to capture the event.

I made a trip to the local department store to pick up a small plastic container to package up a Canon 5D Mark II, 15mm fisheye lens and a pocketwizard transmitter. They would only be using a plastic hockey ball, so I wouldn’t need a professional plexiglass version that we use at NHL hockey games.

Beachside politics

U.S. Election Day has its recurring motifs: red, white and blue vote signs, corrugated plastic voting booths, ballot boxes, stars and stripes. Voting photos quickly become repetitive, even before the sun rises on the West Coast.

An election worker puts up signs as the sun rises at a polling station on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, November 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Quirky polling stations such as laundromats, beauty salons and churches are hard to find, buried among hundreds of voting places listed only by address.

Hoping to portray something uniquely Californian, I woke before dawn and headed to the lifeguard headquarters on Venice Beach. During Obama fever in 2008, a long line of waiting voters cast shadows on the wall outside.

Gloves off for political brawl

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators scuffle with ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators (top) at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei July 8, 2010. Taiwan legislators threw objects, splashed water and kicked one another on Thursday, sending two to the hospital in a brawl over how fast to ratify a trade pact with China that is shaping up as a pivotal election issue.   REUTERS/Nicky Loh

Legislators throwing objects, splashing water and kicking one another inside the parliament is probably one of the most interesting yet bizarre news events I’ve covered during my stint in Taiwan. Seeing grown men in suits going at each other like children, yelling and even laughing as if it was all sport, is not something you would expect to see every day.

In fact, everybody in the Taiwan media knew that the opposition DPP were going to clash with the ruling KMT party lawmakers. It was just a matter of how and when. A fellow local photographer told me that the fighting between the parties only happens when lawmakers need to send a message to the public through the media. You could even say that lawmakers act out violence to get some publicity from the media, though some of them really do get hurt in the process.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators scuffle with ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators (top) at the Legislative Yuan In Taipei July 8, 2010.    REUTERS/Nicky LohThe root reason for the fighting stems from tensions between the two biggest political parties in Taiwan – the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the ruling Nationalist (KMT) Party, which is headed by the China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou. The cause of the brawl this time? Disagreements on how the recently signed Taiwan-China cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) should be reviewed.

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.

Welcome aboard Air Force One

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 , including flying aboard Air Force One, since 1978. President Barack Obama is the sixth president Larry has photographed.

Only two identical aircraft exist in the world which both share the same high-level function. They mirror one another precisely except for the numeric identifier on the tail. One reads 28000, the other 29000.
They’re as sleek as they are majestic. Anticipation runs high when either travels and both are red carpet worthy. They are concealed around-the-clock in a protective cocoon while being constantly pampered at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

“Use of Deadly Force is Authorized” inside the security perimeter ringing around the outermost tips of their wings, and absolutely no one is allowed to enter without permission.

Bush years: Defining his presidency

As I take my last pictures of George W. Bush as President just days before Barack Obama’s inauguration, I reflect on what it was like to cover the 43rd President of the United States for the past six years.

I would characterize President Bush as a person of single-minded determination, a man guided by a moral compass to protect the nation, all the while bringing a style of Texas swagger into the oval office. We shared a passion of mountain biking and on several occasions I was fortunate enough to ride on his ranch in Texas where, away from the prying eyes of the press, I witnessed a man who loved the sport, always rode fast at the front of the pack and showed genuine interest in those around him.

Two of my favorite pictures center around perhaps the most definitive legacy of  Bush’s presidency – the war in Iraq.

Bush years: Impressions of the man in office

Bush has faced many battles in his tenure. Record low approval ratings, a failing economy, the September 11 attacks, a war with no near end in sight, and for the last year, most of the world was looking more to his successor, than to the sitting President himself.

But when I look back over my three years here in Washington, I come away with two impressions of the man in the office.

One impression is that of a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, an insurmountable burden. As from my first image of Bush, making the long, slow walk back to the Oval Office, head and hands hanging low.

Bush years: Good, bad and ugly

Reuters Washington staff photographer Kevin Lamarque made the move to White House coverage in 1999. Before that, he was covering London politics spanning the end of Margaret Thatcher, the John Major years, and the beginning of the Tony Blair era.  Washington proved to be an interesting contrast.  He has covered the final two years of the President Bill Clinton, and all eight years of President George W. Bush.

As one of only two Reuters photographers covering the entire eight years of President Bush’s term, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately, most of his time was defined by the latter two.

Early days in Crawford, with both of us looking much younger.

From the beginning Bush seemed a most unlikely President. I have often used the metaphor of a schoolboy who has not studied for an exam showing up on test day. He seemed as surprised as anyone that he actually was in fact president. He gradually grew into the role, though it could be argued that it never was a good fit.

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