For a guy who never liked politics, I was pretty inspired by this young Senator in 2007. Not only did I align with his politics, but I enjoyed watching him speak and connect with his audience. So I decided to join the campaign trail for a few of Obama’s local rallies. It’s truly fascinating to watch scores of photojournalists and cameramen jostling for space to get the best shot in what proved a non-stop vigil on the trail. This page features some favorite photographs I created from the experience.
Photographing presidential campaigns takes patience and endurance: 18-hour work days are the norm. I knew I was merely a guest peeking in on their grueling job. The ultra-controlled atmosphere can complicate things for a photographer, often under unflattering fluorescent lights, restricted movement and serious Secret Service agents. This was a fun challenge for me.
Getting beyond the carefully constructed PR stagecraft and tightly scripted events can be a challenge. It’s not easy to find a shred of reality in what often feels like an elaborately staged fiction. I was able to meet photographers who showed a brilliant eye for capturing the human being, not just the candidate… people like Pete Souza and Scout Tufankjian who were granted full access and used it to incredible results. I was truly in awe of their editorial vision and they couldn’t be kinder to me, a curious visitor intruding their workspace.
My first Obama event was attended by about 40 people. One year later, I was shooting a rally for 18,000 people with a line wrapped around Joe Louis Arena. Typically, the local media is required to stay on the back riser that’s sometimes 100 yards or more from the stage. So when I arrived to one event, I was surprised that Obama’s campaign chose me to be one of the three photographers to work in what’s called “the buffer,” that area between the stage and the crowd. I walked away feeling like I was given full access and didn’t get “the shot.” I appreciate that humbling feeling which only makes me anxious for another opportunity.
The surreal nature of the campaign trail for any candidate is like theater. I requested press credentials because I was hoping to get a chance to ignore the rules of engagement and “break from the pack” to capture a more candid Obama but I had to work within the parameters of Secret Service agents and shouty campaign aides. I never got that chance to truly “connect” with my camera. Radio has given me the chance to meet and interview names you see on campaign signs like Obama, McCain, Gore, Clinton, Bush and others so I had hoped to convey the more human side of the politician. But that was not going to happen with my limited access. Novelist E.L. Doctorow said, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” The photographs I aim to produce are about sharing moods and moments. Obama is so charismatic that he demands the attention of your camera… I would sometimes forget to capture the mood of the whole room. Still, I found it a fun exercise to get outside my wheelhouse of nature and travel photography and try something new.
In the last two years, the candidates and supporters are much more hostile towards each other than I’ve ever seen… and even more hostile towards the working press in attendance. I would never want to step into that arena again. But ten years ago, I saw voters leaving political rallies feeling optimistic and inspired. Me too.
To a guy who never liked politics, my attitude was changed by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. They left our country better than they found it. They represented us well on the world stage. They served America with grace, wisdom and a dignity that I hope someday returns.
All photos on this page were taken by me © 2007-2018 Buzz Click Photography. All Rights Reserved.
…yes, my family was given a tour of the White House on my birthday which was pretty much the coolest thing ever.
And I wasn’t allowed to walk on the carpet in the East Room so I kinda know how my dog feels now.