Sunday, November 21, 2010

The politics of photography

David Cameron and Nick Clegg walk into Number 10 Downing St, 12 May 2010 (Andy Parsons)
This week saw the photographer Andy Parsons and web producer Nicky Woodhouse taken off the civil service payroll and returning to the conservative party's books after there was outrage that they were being paid for by the tax payer at this time of extreme spending cuts.  Whilst I appreciate that it is necessary that savings must be made, it is important that this time is recorded.

Cameron working on his statement with Osborne and aides at St Stephen's Club in London before speaking to the press on the day after after the general election,  7 May 2010 (Andy Parsons) 
Labour MP Paul Flynn said "Photographers fall over themselves, climb up step ladders and get their telephoto lens out to grab a picture of every pore on the Prime Minister's beautiful face.
"So why on earth do we need to pay a photographer out of public funds to take pictures of him? It's indefensible."  And I agree with him.

David Cameron at Conservative HQ watching the election results come in in the early
hours of Friday morning, 7 May 2010 (Andy Parsons)

David Cameron prepares for his first statement as Prime Minister, 11 May 2010 (Andy Parsons)

Prime Minister David Cameron talks to President Barack Obama on the phone in
Number 10 Downing St, 11 May 2010 (Andy Parsons)

Photographer for the New York Times, Nathaniel Brooks, in an interview the newspapers Lens Blog, explains the most common photography of political figures: "Usually, it’s a press conference. It’s all very stagy. They come out for 10 minutes, and you get 10 minutes to photograph them...It’s so hard to take a meaningful photograph. What they force-feed you is their version of what you should be photographing."

President Barack Obama walks to a podium in the Cross Hall, Grand Foyer of the White House, before making a statement regarding the American auto industry, 30 March 2009
(Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Barack Obama fixes the tie of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, as they prepare for an announcement at the Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C., 3 March 2009
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But what of those moments in the confines of number 10 when there are no press photographers around?  those moments that are the cornerstones of history which happen on the spur of the moment, those quite moments; first phone calls to world leaders, the moment after the door to number 10 shut with the press behind, a quite moment of calm before giving a speech.

President Barack Obama waits in the Green Room prior to signing an Executive Order for the White House Council on Women and Girls in the East Room of the White House, 11 March 2009
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne working on his speech in his room at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, 3 October 2010 (Andy Parsons)

I have been following the photostreams of the Conservatives, Number 10 and The White House on flickr for a while and they are producing some amazing and intimate images.  Barack Obama as he waited to walk onto the podium in Washington before his inauguration, David Cameron moments after entering 10 Downing Street after becoming Prime Minister.

President Barack Obama makes phone calls from the Oval Office, with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro in the foreground, 24 April 2009
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama reflects during a budget meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, 29 January 2009 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

These are moments in which we are so aware of what is about to happen, what has happened, we get a chance to see what the calm before the storm looks like, to see their reactions not just a smile put on for the papers and TV press.

Standing on the Colonnade with Phil Schiliro, assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, prior to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act Bil signing ceremony in the Red Room of the White House, 30 March 2009 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama waits backstage before stepping out onto the inauguration stand (Callie Shell / Aurora for TIME)

Are these moments not important? I think they are more important.  They are the moments when our history happens, they are more important than images of the prime minister standing shaking hands with a world leader in front of a crowd of people.

President Barack Obama talks alone with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada during the Summit of the Americas 18 April 2009, in Port of Spain, Trinidad (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama rides the elevator to the Private Residence of the White House after attending 10 inaugural balls and a long day, including being sworn in as President, 20 January 2009
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Lens Blog for The New York Times interview goes into more detail with Nathanial Brooks about what it is like to be a photographer in the political world of Albany, New York.  Images sourced from the Conservatives flickr page, The White House flickr page and Time Magazine.  

Since the Conservative party's election to government in May their flickr photostream has moved to Number10gov, although it's not sure how long this will be updated considering that the photographer is back on the conservatives payroll.
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