Clinton from afar
The disconnect between what the advance people for a presidential campaign think makes a good photo and the reality of what makes a good photo was on full display last night during a Clinton campaign stop in DC. After being escorted to the stage for 105 seconds (according to my image date stamps) of close access, we were brought to a 2nd floor spot approximately 50 yards from the stage, a position that demanded at least a 600mm lens to get any kind of close shot. After some discussion with the press person, it was clear this night was only going to get worse, so I hung back a bit as the rest of the press was escorted away and made my way downstairs.
At this point it might be more exciting to list my repertoire of stealth moves I used to get near the stage, but in reality it was lots of back tracking as I walked behind some curtains, through the kitchen that had been set up to prepare food and out into the glare of the stage lights as I found myself a few steps from Terry McAuliffe who was standing on the side of the stage.
I moved up a little bit more until I got that look from the Secret Service agent that meant going any further would result in a violent and efficient removal of myself from the area.
The sidelight worked well against the dark backdrop and I hung close as Senator Clinton wrapped up her speech and I waited for the inevitable breakdown of order that always concludes these events and would hopefully allow me to get closer.
In the end, negotiating fair access with the press people would have benefited them, as the photos of their candidate would have been better and benefited me in that I wouldn't have had to jump through so many hoops in order to get anything solid from the night.
I think there's a few factors at work here that have made these situations more difficult recently. First, you have people showing up with a point and shoot digital camera mounted on a monopod and getting self-righteous about freedom of press until they're allowed to stand with the rest of the press photographers. I'm not against free and open media access, but I am against people acting unprofessionally, casting a negative light on the whole profession and thereby making it harder for professionals to do their jobs. This in turn makes the campaign's press people wary of the photographers, lumping us all into this same unruly and combative group and results in the sort of penned-in situation that happened here.
I'm not sure there's an easy solution here without getting into some sticky issues about what constitutes legitimate press, but as the campaign season reaches a fever pitch, this feels like a situation that's going to get worse. The upside to all of this is that these restrictions will help separate the professionals whose ability to make great images in difficult situations will continue to be a valued skill.