Two words, when used in conjunction, send shivers up any news photographer’s spine.
These contrived photo opportunities are anything but, and overeager public relations representatives only compound the misery. Gaudy banners and advertisements are also common at these functions, and their often-obnoxious placement serves the unseen function of shearing off a piece of our souls without the added bonus of immortality.
I don’t begrudge the P.R. folks for doing their jobs, but their goals of creating an environment with a specific shot in mind stands in opposition to our goals as photojournalists who strive to capture real moments. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible at press conferences, but one nice thing about working in a smaller market is the ability to get better access to the subjects we cover.
Whenever possible, I show up nice and early in search of an image more interesting than people behind a podium in front of a banner. Such was the case when Alex Ekstrom, assistant U.S. attorney for Washington’s Eastern District and former prosecutor in Franklin and Benton counties, announced his candidacy for Benton Country District Court judge a couple weeks ago.
I had some decent window light to work with in the very academic-looking conference room and snapped this shot of Ekstrom chatting with Richland Police Chief Tony Corsi:
Then the antics of his daughter Annaliese made for a quirky frame:
Before her cute little kiddedness helped out the standard press conference shot:
I left reasonably happy with my take, which I suppose speaks more to the low expectations I have when approaching these assignments than the strength of the images. I started agonizing over the minutiae within these three photos to pick my favorite. The shot of Ekstrom with Chief Corsi has some bright distracting elements above Ekstrom’s head, and it looks like his oldest son Nicholas is looking at me while his sister plays underneath the desk. The window lighting is a little hot on the more standard shot, but that one was probably going to be the winner until I found out that we were short on space and would only have room for a mug shot of Ekstrom to run with the story.
Despite my efforts to get something different at press conferences, I’d say I fail in producing anything of even the mildest interest at least 75 percent of the time, so it would make sense that a small victory would be snatched away from me. But I suppose that in this increasingly cruel industry, this is one defeat I’ll gladly take on the chin.