Working at the White House
I have covered a lot of cool stuff over my 25-plus years as a photojournalist. I have covered 10 U.S. Open golf tournaments, been to the Masters 4 times and played Augusta National. I have gone up in 2 blimps for shoots and ridden with game wardens in those cool little helicopters. I covered protests and Presidential speeches and have met countless famous people and some really neat not-so-famous ones.
So, I have done some pretty neat shit, but I don’t care how much you have shot and seen as a photographer, your first trip to the home of the leader of the free world is going to be pretty cool.
I was covering the signing of the Health Care Reform Bill by President Obama at the White House. My first trip. It was quite nerve racking since you want to make sure that you are not looking like a tourist and your not doing anything you are not supposed to do.
Of course everyone else there for the most part had been there before. Hell, the NYT intern has been there probably 10 times!
So I was the virgin of the day. But regardless, everyone was quite nice and helpful.
The first step was getting in the gate, and as of 7:00 a.m., I had not received the email from the press office granting my clearance. After checking in at the gate, they didn’t have my name either. It was time to send some emails.
My email to the press office was replied to promptly and after giving them the required information about me and my purpose for seeking access, within 15 minutes I had clearance and was going though security.
Once I was scanned and cleared, I got directions to the press facility and I was officially on the grounds of the White House.
Then it was the waiting game until the press officer gave us the clearance to enter the White House to stake out our positions in the East Room for the signing ceremony.
While waiting, it was obvious very quickly that most everyone had something I did not, a ladder. Some had smaller stepladders. Some had bigger ones. But most had one and it was not real apparent to me yet as to why they. Even though I had figured there would be spectators there, I figured they would be seated. Well I was right, but apparently they also like to stand and applaud. A LOT. (You would think that after watching countless State of the Union Addresses, I would have thought about it.)
The press waits for the OK to enter the White House's East Room for setup.
OK. Don’t panic. Just get a position in front of one of the guys on the ladder and do your best. Right?
We get the word to enter and set up so in we go. Things where not looking good for a decent shooting position but I spied a spot in front of the television cameras right in the middle of the room. I was shocked. How could this spot be free? Well mainly because it was in front of the riser with the only TV camera that was suppling the live feed. The all-important pool camera.
One of the veteran photographers that I talked with a lot at the Capitol told me that it was not likely that I would be allowed to stay there, but I figured I would chance it and began the PR campaign with the cameraman.
Ladders. These are, as I have found out, mandatory if you want a good vantage point at an event where there is an audience.
I told him that under no circumstances would I sit, bump, lean on or touch the riser or the tripod. TV guys are real touchy about cameras that move when shooting. I don’t blame them. After all, I hate to see jumpy video when I am watching the news. He did not seem to mind me being there so I figured I had won most of the battle to remain. Then the moment of truth came.
The press officer came by about 10 minutes before the event was about to begin. She was very nice. She asked the TV cameraman if he was cool, and then went on to explain that if I or the other woman who had now come to share the spot bumped the riser or the tripod or otherwise made the TV guy’s life miserable, that we would be removed and there would be a very public execution.
She was nice, but firm. I assured her that there would be not problems.
So there I was in a prime spot, directly in front of the podium where the President and Vice President would speak and a direct shot at the table where the signing would occur…. PROVIDED PEOPLE STAYED SEATED…. RIGHT!
Actually, it worked out pretty well. Sure there where some missed shots, but I felt pretty good about what I got. If anyone is interested, you can see the selects from the event on my PhotoShelter Archive (CLICK HERE).
Yeah Yeah, but lets be fair... you would have too.