Pitching an emerging politician

What’s it like to pitch an emerging politician - one already being talked about for the “big job” itself, though she only recently “all but declared” for Congress? It has to be timed right - and the pitch itself has to be carefully crafted.
In my case, I waited until the emerging politician “all but declared” for Congress last year - despite having shot the movie-poster-like photo that made the prospective congressman world-famous much earlier. I then emailed the pitch within several days - after working out the details.
The pitch itself - emailed to the emerging politician - included: a cover letter with link to my portfolio, which includes photos of various national-level political personalities in political settings and where the photos had run, plus references; a resume; large photos from political and other settings, including that photo that had made the emerging politician world-famous.
Since sending that pitch, “someone” has clicked on the story my photo of the emerging politician ran atop worldwide - and others featuring her, shot in the same style - repeatedly, many times, to get that Google ranking. My guess is it’s one of her top backers.

I only wish I’d had a photo package of Newt Gingrich before he was famous!
Here, he campaigns for president in 2012 at a Tea Party rally.


Why on-assignment work is less expensive

My on-assignment rate for one top New York City daily is $500 per day or portion thereof - and it saves them money every time they hire me.
Here’s why. It would cost them more just to buy airline tickets to and from New York City before one of their shooters even got to whatever they wanted covered - especially when the tickets would almost certainly be on short notice. Rental car would add to the expenses. If the job was for more than one day, hotel bills would add to the cost of using their own shooter instead of hiring me.
That’s aside from the costs of their own shooter himself - a shooter costing salary, benefits, unemployment, workers comp, Obamacare, etc. Plus, of course, their own shooter means their own equipment - and, as in one assignment, a prior shooter had the “star” swing her car door into her lens!
They get top-quality work on deadline - and it costs them less than sending one of their staff shooters would cost.

Paula Broadwell’s kids with a neighbor at height of Petraeus/Broadwell scandal.
Shot on assignment for the New York Daily News.


Covering Election Day 2014

Covering 2014’s actual elections began with the planning. It was apparent from North Carolina’s “early voting” period that turnout was very likely to be slight - as, while the first day of early voting had long lines, the second day had nil. Plan was to shoot a package of photos at a polling place - the one I vote at.
Being that the photos were being shot for stock and foreign news use - not just here - I planned to shoot the same types of images as others covering the election had: “VOTE HERE” signs, signs warning that 2016’s elections would require photo ID to vote under a controversial new state law, political activists working the polls, and voters getting ready to vote. Obvious choice of lens - the 24-70mm f/2.8, since some photos would be indoors and available light, while all would be shot at close range. I decided camera settings in advance - settling on “P” to avoid having to fiddle with the camera settings indoors.
I shot most all the outdoor photos first - the political campaigners and most all of the signs. I then went in - and shot the scene of the voters actually preparing to vote through the doorway of the room where the voting machines were. Last indoor photo: the sign warning about the coming photo-ID requirement.
I then went home, evaluated the photos - and uploaded the package to a news-photo agency.

Voters check in before voting, Election Day 2014, Burlington, N.C.


Covering the 2014 congressional races

North Carolina now has some hot congressional races - but covering them is difficult, as some areas are taken for granted by one party (or candidate) and written off by the other. Nowhere is this as true as the U.S. Senate race - in which Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) is in a very tight reelection race against state legislator and Tea Party darling Thom Tillis, while this county is seen as hopelessly-safe Republican territory for all congressional races this year.
Contact with a Tea Party source weeks ago found none of the candidates coming to this county - at least not on any significant basis. The Tea Party source - who is at the level that the Tea Party and Republican Party merge - made clear that each candidate had written off or taken for granted this county and significant areas of neighboring Guilford County.
Nonetheless, something to cover in the Senate race did appear this week here in Burlington: signs placed by Tea Party group FreedomWorks (below) tying Sen. Hagan to Obamacare - which is very unpopular in this state. They appeared along major roads - and I stopped and photographed this one, aware that past photos of yard-type signs from political campaigns had sold for me. I then uploaded the photos to a news-photo agency.

A Tea Party-placed sign ties Sen. Hagan to (unpopular) Obamacare.


The economy - a continuing story for me.

Aside from particular big stories in the news - such as Eastman Kodak’s bankruptcy - the economy’s problems overall are a favorite story for me, as it’s a daily reality for the famous “99%.” I see something showing it, I shoot it - and I upload the package to a news-photo agency.
Shooting the economy’s continuing problems - most-recently reported in the Washington Post in an Oct. 2 story on how the middle class now is poorer than it was 24 years ago - has its difficulties now for photojournalists compared to shooting the iconic photos of the 1930s Depression. For one thing, today’s social programs hide today’s poverty; for instance, Food Stamps prevent shooting anything like the bread line under a sign boasting that the U.S. had the world’s highest living standard. Whether or not that concealing poverty is its real intent, it is a major effect of the social programs.
Nonetheless, plenty of images of today’s failed economy abound for today’s photojournalist. Topping the list is the death of the “middle division” car brands - which long sold to the middle class: Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Mercury, and (now overwhelmingly sold in China) Buick. As the long-established sole Lincoln-Mercury dealership here in Burlington, N.C. suddenly collapsed - and then the Mercury brand itself did - the dealership’s location became a story in itself. Despite being on a busy road near a busy interstate, it proved impossible to sell for the longest time - despite a realtor hanging a desperation-size banner on it.
So I shot a package of photos on the then-vacant dealership (below) and uploaded them to a news-photo agency. No Food Stamps could conceal that facet of the dead economy.

Long vacant, the former Burlington Lincoln-Mercury dealership location.


I saw it; I shot the photo; I sold the photo - again.

Although now having shot on-assignment for two years, I still shoot on-spec anything apparently newsworthy - and upload the photos to a news-photo agency. I do this for potential additional sales of photos that I own - and for additional exposure when on-assignment work is slow. And because, simply put, I love photojournalism.
So it was again last March - when, while doing errands locally, I saw a cellular-phone tower. As a longtime ham-radio operator, I was well aware of the “not-in-my-back-yard” disputes that had long plagued the industry. I also was well aware that the industry was hot - and that use for such photos might be significant.
As a shooter, I noticed that the background and lighting were near-perfect. I headed to a nearby place near the tower’s base - and got out my dSLR; the lens I had on it then - a 70-200mm - was perfect for this. I checked camera settings - and shot a small package. I then uploaded them to a news-photo agency.
Over a year later - last week - a photo (below) from that package ran widely on a paid basis in many Russian publications. I’d later learn that was because Russia now is developing its own cellular phone industry.

Cellular phone tower, Burlington, N.C. - run Sept. 16, 2014 in Daily Digital Digest (Russia) and other Russian news publications.


Covering a political fundraiser.

Last Friday - on Sept. 5 - I had a new type of assignment: covering a political fundraiser. Client was the candidate the fundraiser was for. The event was being held indoors on a college campus, so I put the flash unit and diffuser on the dSLR - only to be told upon arrival by the event’s “star” that the many old paintings all around the room meant no flash could be used.
Shooting without flash turned out to be the easy part of covering the event. Unfortunately for the “star” - a candidate for a judgeship - his white hair blended into the paint in most conceivable backgrounds around the room! Constant motion prevented use of the dark paintings as a background - as did the candidate’s dark suit. His wife’s and daughter’s hair and outfits did stand out in photos.
Depth of field was shallow - due to the use of non-flash available-light shooting.
I discussed sizing the photos for Web site use with the candidate during our time at the event, recommending a good size for such use - and had the smaller ones all emailed to him in plenty of time. The one of local musician Tom Maxwell (below) playing the event was his favorite.

Area musician Tom Maxwell plays Matthew Martin’s fundraiser in Chapel Hill, N.C.,
Sept. 5, 2014.


Covering the Tea Party - Part III

Sometime between April 2010 and October 2010, the Tea Party here in central N.C. underwent a drastic change. It went from being merely an expression of unfocused rage to being capable of focusing on one issue - and showed that - as of just before the 2010 elections that it won for the “conventional” Republican Party, both here in N.C. and nationally.
While its April 2010 rally in Greensboro was the as-usual unfocused rage - complete with a man with a memorable lengthy stream-of-consciousness rant on a sign taller than he was - the October 2010 rally focused on a pending sales-tax-hike referendum locally two weeks later. That was clear from a first-ever large banner up front (photo below) - again, a first ever for the movement.
The movement’s change would become increasingly clear in the first months after the newly-elected-in-2010 state legislators took office in Raleigh - but that October rally, predating that election by a couple weeks, was the first sign that the Tea Party now was an actual political party-within-a-party.

This sign at an Oct. 14, 2010 Tea Party rally in Greensboro, N.C. clearly shows the movement by then is capable of a unified focus on one or more issues and politicians.


Covering the Tea Party - Part II

The Tea Party’s start was in the disorganized “street” rallies that became its iconic symbol - but, almost immediately after delivering in 2010 what the “formal” GOP couldn’t (election victories at both the state and federal level), it largely got off the street and into much-more-organized “conventional” political activity such as pestering legislators as key votes approached in Raleigh. The “street” rallies almost immediately got much smaller in attendance - or even just weren’t held at all any more in some cities and had much smaller attendance in the others they still were held in. That necessitated a major change in covering it.
It was very hard to tell whether the “formal” GOP had coopted the Tea Party or the reverse - but continued coverage of the movement meant having good sources within it rather than depending on roadside signs announcing “street” rallies. I developed such a source at the level that the Tea Party and “formal” GOP merged here in central N.C. - while staying in close touch with the veterans of the “street” rallies for the considerable information they still provided.
In Feb. 2011 - right after the inauguration of the new politicians it had elected - the Tea Party did the first of its new-style activities here in central N.C., picketing the Greensboro office of Sen. Kay Hagan, who had generally sided with Pres. Obama and who had voted for Obamacare; both were highly unpopular in this state. Only a couple dozen were present - very unlike the “street” rallies downtown that had turned out hundreds each.
On Aug. 7, 2014, the Tea Party again picketed Sen. Hagan’s Greensboro office (below) - with about the same number present. Like the first time in 2011, those involved crowded into Sen. Hagan’s office itself before picketing outside the building. This time, however, she was facing reelection - and in a close match - in only a couple months.

A Tea Party member pickets Sen. Kay Hagan’s office in Greensboro, N.C., Aug. 7, 2014.
One of my photos from a 2012 Tea Party rally was published on a paid basis in the Scandinavian news magazine Illustreret Videnskab Historie.


Covering the Tea Party - Part I

Political rallies, politicians’ appearances - of any kind - are among my favorite things to cover. So the emergence of the Tea Party - which started as a street-protest movement of “the people who don’t protest,” middle-class whites, most over 40, was a fascinating story from the start.
Its roots - at least in central N.C. - were in protests against illegal immigration that dated to June 2007, when building tradesmen in my county who were angry about the sudden glut of illegal immigrants in the building trades protested at the courthouse. I’d covered those earlier protests. These people were the nucleus of what later was termed the Tea Party here.
After its 2010 election victories here in N.C., the Tea Party largely got off the streets - and largely shifted to at-the-legislature activism instead of its iconic rallies. But in covering it I had developed a great source very early on: a local organizer who was at the level where the Tea Party and the “official” Republican Party merged. I also had a second source among the building tradesmen involved in the Tea Party - and in the earlier illegal-immigration protests. These sources gave me advance notice of upcoming events - and I covered most all of the movement’s street rallies here in central N.C. I even covered street protests of the movement’s that didn’t have widespread notification.
One older man’s sign I photographed at a 2010 rally in Greensboro made clear what the Tea Party’s only unifying theme was, despite all the different issues on homemade signs participants brought: that Tea Party members just wanted back the U.S. as it long had existed - even quite recently (below). Discussions with the building-tradesman source made clear that was the one unifying driving force fueling the movement. Other than that, it is a movement of unfocused rage - something my coverage found early.
At least one of my photos from a Tea Party rally ran paid in a Scandinavian news magazine.

Tea Party member demands back the America he knew.
Another Tea Party rally photo of mine ran paid in a Scandinavian news magazine.