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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.