Photographers' Blog

“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.

In the final stretch of the presidential campaign, with the race tighter than ever, the pace has quickened and the intensity thickened. The Obama team, sensing the pressure, used the clock to pack in as much as they could in a two-day campaign swing through battleground states. The trip: around 7,600 miles, 8 states, 5  time zones, all in 40 hours. Was it really necessary to pull an all-nighter? Probably not. But the image of a president fiercely campaigning through the night, sacrificing sleep for votes, was clearly irresistible. After Obama’s lackluster performance in the first debate, putting the fight back into the man has become a high priority for the campaign team.

So off we went…Washington-Davenport Iowa-Denver Colorado-Burbank California-Las Vegas Nevada-Tampa Florida-Richmond Virigina-Chicago Illinois-Cleveland Ohio and back to Washington. The sleep part came on the flight from Las Vegas-Tampa — a three hour Ambien induced nap.

George H.W. Bush: Old school president top in “Class”

George H.W. Bush stood taller than most men throughout seven decades of public service. That built-in surplus of extra inches came in handy at times when used to intimidate his political opponents struggling to stand up to his eye level while left listening below.

And he has always been slender; looking more like a six-foot, two-inch splinter than what you’d expect from a man who woke up to live the impossible dream of occupying the White House and then retiring as the 41st President of the United States.

A dream born out of an idea almost 50 years earlier when Bush was quietly raising a family while making money out of the barren oil fields of Texas but thinking of ways to escape those hot dusty winds swirling above the cactus and sagebrush.

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.

Ready to record history

The call came at 10pm on a Sunday night at home. “How soon can you get to the White House”? Reuters had got the urgent call that President Barack Obama was due to make a statement within 30 minutes. It had to be something big to bring the press back so late on a weekend night. Even if I dropped everything now and raced down there, would I be too late?

I was there in 14 minutes – a new personal best, from my home three miles away. Running through White House security gates with my shoe laces still untied, I was thinking that I hadn’t made it in time for whatever the big news was. The scene outside the famous 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address was familiarly quiet, with a couple uniformed Secret Service officers and their squad car.

Inside the press briefing room, wire and newspaper photographers started filtering in, showing varying states of preparedness but all wondering the same question. Why are we here?

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:

Finding a nugget in the murky waters

One of the greatest pleasures in editing photographers work is finding an interesting visual nugget that may have already been missed. In years of  looking at raw material a common trait I have spotted is that photographers who are headed to an assignment see something they are attracted to and take a picture of it thinking "that looks interesting".  The assignment is shot, the pictures are quickly edited, captioned and transmitted but the picture that was instinctively taken because it was interesting is often condemned to the darkness of the archive folder on the backup hard drive, never to be transmitted because it was not part of the assignment.

I was asked by our Hanoi based photographer Kham to have a second look at his file of the state visit of East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta to Vietnam; a good selection of handshakes, parade inspections and smiling suits. Then a pleasant surprise - at the end of the file were eleven frames of a fully dressed woman, nose and mouth covered with mask, wearing a traditional Vietnamese hat wading chin deep in water.  

kham

Immediately questions came into my head, probably the same ones that are in your head now. Why was this person wading chin deep in water? Why are they wearing a face mask? Why are they wearing a hat? All questions I asked Kham. He told me that he had chatted with her and she was looking for mussels to sell, is 60 years old and comes from 150k outside Hanoi. I am sure what President Jose Ramos Horta and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Minh Triet had to talk about was very interesting but I just want to know more about this woman - unlike the presidential meeting, an everyday sight for Kham.

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.

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.