Democracy inaction

November 8, 2013 

For reporters and editors, elections are one of the busiest stretches of work. Election day in particular is filled with enough stress to warrant the bosses buying pizza for everybody. But for the photo desk at the Herald, there's rarely much excitement.

This is true even when looking back at the historic 2008 presidential election.

You can find some nice emotion as results come out, though, as seen with Bruce Spanner in the link above and when Terry Christensen celebrated promising returns with his family during the primary for the Richland City Council:

However, the staple of election day "photo-j" here is photographing people dropping off their ballots:

They often serve as an online reminder for readers that ballots are due or as a space filler for the election results page. They also serve to grind my gears as the photojournalism equivalent of TPS Reports.

Not only are they devoid of visual interest or information, these photos can take a surprising amount of time to make depending on the time you're sent out to shoot them. I've spent many an hour lurking around a ballot box, futzing on my phone and wondering where it all went wrong to be standing there.

Sometimes people don't want their photo taken as they make a quick, sweatpantsed trip to exercise their right to vote. And while these are public spaces and I'd be well within my rights to shoot them anyway, I don't value these types of photos enough to go against somebody's wishes like that.

The other election day photo mainstay is to stop by the election office to shoot the votes being counted:

This angle, while also repetitive, is much more interesting. Sure, you don't have much to work with, but at least you can show something that most people don't usually see. The election workers are always helpful and are pretty used to being photographed, which makes things easier. So when I had the choice of go-to election shoots on Tuesday, it was no choice at all. I stopped by the Franklin County office and made some run-of-the-mill images of tabulating and filing:

Then Franklin County Auditor Matt Beaton pointed out the two observers who are legally required to be on hand for ballot counting. A few snaps and a quick chat later, I had my photo:

It's not going into my portfolio or anything, but it was fun to learn a little something about an oft-overlooked cog in the election wheel. I got a funny quote from Jim Rabideau, right, when I asked him why he and John Pietrusiewicz were wearing the opposite colors of the parties they were representing.

"I'm 87 years old, so I could care less how I dress," said Rabideau.

Pietrusiewicz had a quip of his own when I asked if the two ever saw each other outside of election time.

"I'm not sure he exists outside of here," he said.

It made for an unexpectedly fun chat and reminded me that you can always learn something new, even after numerous revisits. Of course, it didn't run in the paper, which is as irritating as it is unsurprising. I really can't complain, though. It's not like I had to churn out a story on deadline as election results trickled in with my stomach churning from too much pizza. The limited space in the paper should be devoted to actual information, after all.

And the next time we need some space filler around election time, I can seek out John and Jim again. Here's hoping they'll have some new jokes by then.

Onto the links...

Profoto seriously upped the gearlust in my life with the B1.

Klaus Pichler has a beautiful set of cosplayers at home.

A Canadian photojournalist became part of the action at the rodeo.

David Guttenfelder has a nice set of images from North Korea.

Ben Lowy has a great interview about Instagram in photojournalism.

And be sure to check out this set of photos from tribes around the world.

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