Every once in a while, an assignment comes along that makes you remember what a unique experience working in Washington, D.C. can be.
The fact that you are a witness to history, with a vantage point not afforded to every member of the media, much less the rest of the citizenry, is often overlooked. Your mind is preoccupied with traffic and parking hassles, jumping through hoops to obtain proper credentials, deadline pressures and the indignity of being herded around by a 20-something PR flak.
But time and reflection, and the images you made, reminds you what a rare privilege it was to have frozen your butt off for hours on a metal riser, in order to make a photograph of the very moment in January 2009, that Barack Obama was sworn in as the first African-American President of the United States. A singular moment when our glorious nation’s aspirations were realized.
At the time, I was cold and tired and stressed and yearning for the warmth of my home. Today I can look at the frame that I made of Barack Obama’s broad grin as Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the oath of office and smile just as wide myself. I was there and I captured a watershed moment in my nation’s history.
I was granted another opportunity recently to photograph the President in a less pivotal, but slightly more personal moment, as I covered the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner and had lone access, aside from White House photographer Lawrence Jackson, to the VIP reception room before the dinner.
It was a rare opportunity to photograph some of Hollywood’s loftiest stars, who are used to the fawning and blubbering of fans, became the fawners and blubbers themselves when given a behind the scenes audience with the President.
DC may have a weak spot for Hollywood but Hollywood can go downright gaga in the presence of a Commander-in-Chief.
From Zooey Deschanel gushing, “Oh my God, it’s such a pleasure to meet you!” to Andrew Luck sheepishly having to answer for not playing for the President’s beloved Chicago Bears, it was a kick to see such superstars taken aback and fumbling for words.
I had covered the dinner many times in the past as part of the media pool, but this went beyond the exclusive access of the stage-front photographers’ buffer and it was a blast to be there.
Thanks so much to WHCA President, Steven Thomma, Government and Politics Editor and Senior White House Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers Washington Bureau and Julia Whiston, Executive Director of WHCA, for hiring me to document the event. Also thanks the White House Advance Staff and Secret Service agents who helped with my unfettered access. Can’t wait till next year.
The first thing you notice is the mustache.
Jason Healey already commands a room or TV studio with his expertise and finely tailored suit, but that magnificent, waxed masterpiece straight out of Central Casting is the thing that makes a portrait photographer all giddy inside.
And yes, I googled the hell out of the guy before I hit the road on this assignment for SC Magazine so I thought I knew what lay ahead; not one image with that Snidely Whiplash of a marvel on his upper lip.
Drop this guy in a fantastic environment like the Atlantic Council offices in Washington, D.C. and your Beauty Dish is screaming, "Let me at 'em!"
Jason Healey is the director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council focusing on international cooperation, competition and conflict in cyberspace. He was also Director for Cyber Infrastructure Protection at the White House from 2003 to 2005, where he helped advise the president and coordinated efforts to secure U.S. cyberspace and critical infrastructure. So I am guessing that, were he so inclined, he could crack my hard drive over lunch with a couple of touches of his iPhone.
Despite being a man at the pinnacle of his field with the ear of world leaders, and presumably a pretty busy guy, he could not have been more accommodating and willing to play along with my posing and adjusting and strobing. He was an absolute dream subject and it was a pleasure to photograph him.
Many thanks to Michael Strong, Art Director at SC Magazine produced by Haymarket Media, Inc. and to Florence Combes at Zuma Press for putting us together for this shoot. Lastly, thanks to Jason Healey for his patience, energy and that incredible facial centerpiece preserved in wax. Love ya Jason, Don't EVER shave.
I have been advised that blogging is an integral component of any effort to promote and advance one's self and one's business model by creating a synergistic link between branding, product and clientele.
At least that is what my next door neighbor's 6-year-old grandkid told me the other day.
I will take her word for it, because she is the same 6-year-old that was able to defrag my hard-drive and then add this page to my website, all while kicking my butt at Angry Birds.
She further advised that I should use this blog to inform readers not only of my new work, but of my successes and achievements. "Brag a little", she said.
I recently commented on a photo of the two of us posted on Facebook - Have you ever been walking down the street or in a restaurant and seen a beautiful, intriguing, self-assured and mysterious women on the arm of some lucky doofus with a doughy midsection and the facial expression of a late-night tollbooth attendant? Then you say to yourself, "I don't get it. How does THAT happen?" I then realized from that photo that I WAS that lucky doofus.
She is beautiful, intriguing and mysterious, yes. But equally attractive and important, she is a hardworking, dedicated and immensely talented photojournalist. Her name is Mary F. Calvert.
On the twelfth anniversary of the day she made me the luckiest doofus within an enormous population of lucky doofuses, we were preparing to travel to Perpignan, France. Once there, she was to receive the Canon Female Photojournalist Award
Presented by the French Association of Female Journalists (AFJ - Association des Femmes Journalistes) in partnership with Le Figaro Magazine The award was given during the final evening show of Visa Pour L'Image 2013 by its director, Jean Francois Leroy, Director of Communication Canon France, Pascal Briard and AFJ's Vice-President, Isabelle Fougere and included a grant to complete her photo reportage project, The War Within, Sexual Violence in the US Military.
Throughout the week, she talked not of her award, but the plight of these brave military women who have given so much to their country only to be abused, attacked and raped by their "comrades in arms" and then dismissed by their supposed superiors.
I am bragging, because she will not.
This woman is carrying on the finest traditions of journalism by giving a voice to the oppressed, while most of the media is busy posting the latest "news" about Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus to get "clicks", all the while, praising the bravery of these military women for allowing her into their lives in order to tell their stories and, hopefully, to shame a powerful people and their government into giving them some semblance of justice.
So yeah, I am bragging about my success. She married me; the doofus. I win.