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It’s not easy to find a genuine moment at a staged event.
One of my biggest challenges as a photojournalist is photographing press conferences.
It’s not because there’s anything technically challenging. There’s usually nice even light and a clear subject matter.
But photojournalists try to depict reality. And press conferences are, by their very nature, contrived situations.
Take, for example, the photo at the top of this story. This is T.J. Zane, executive director of the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, pointing at the mayor’s spokesman and telling everyone to listen up. Darren Pudgil, the spokesman, was directing the group about how he wanted them to stand.
The message they wanted you to hear: voters should put on the ballot and approve a pension reform proposal hatched by members of this group.
Here’s the picture they wanted you to see. Gets the message across pretty clear, doesn’t it? It’s a united coalition, getting behind one clear objective.
I don’t blame them for trying to send a clear message. This is basic public relations.
And I’m certainly guilty of running pictures like this one over and over again. Quite frankly, it’s not easy to get away from. A well-organized press conference pulls out all the stops. They’ve got signs, emphasizing their point:
They bring out a big group of well-dressed, influential supporters:
And they’ve always got someone looking over their shoulder, making sure everything runs smoothly.
But there are opportunities to find more-real pictures. Like this image, below. This is the mayor heading toward the press conference, with an entourage in tow. Heading the other direction are two members of the public, people who are potentially affected by his decisions.
Or this image of the event being set up, where young staffers unravel a sign carrying the slogan of the day
Hanging around after the press conference can be fruitful as well. This is Councilman Kevin Faulconer giving an interview, while his spokesman Tony Manolatos talks to the mayor’s press secretary, Pudgil.
It’s always a challenge, whether at a press conference, or in someone’s home, to get a truthful, storytelling image. And it’s my job, not theirs, to try to find that picture.
So, more than anything, this is a reminder to myself, and to other photographers out there, to always push to find something real.