Three Dimensional Checkers
There are three ways to look at presidential campaigns.
There’s the normal way, which is to read, watch the news and do your research, which is what most Americans do.
There’s the professional, insiders way, which is to know all the players both personally and professionally, pick your winners and losers, package your choices as journalism and distribute it to the masses (see above). This might not be the best way to report on things, but it makes the carpools much less awkward.
Then there’s the third way, which is to intently observe those running for office and make pictures that somehow reveal to the viewer who these people really are. That’s what us photojournalists, in theory, try to do.
Campaign photography is challenging, imperfect and filled with compromise, but on the rare occasions when it’s done right, it is magical.
When you’re inside a campaign someone else decides everything for you, the venue, where you stand, the light you use, the foreground, background and whether or not balloons will be involved are all outside of your control. You don’t even get to choose the food you eat or the amount of sleep you get.
On the campaign, everybody you interact with has an angle to spin and the people doing the most spinning hold all the cards.
Still, just because they may control the menu, doesn’t mean they can force you to swallow any of it.
That’s where both photo and journalism lives. The obstacles, the level of difficulty, just make the successful images that much sweeter. They’ve worked very hard and spent a lot of money to advance their narrative. There’s a victory in making an image (and getting it published) that doesn’t meet their goals.
It’s not that I’m cynical, honest. It’s just that when I think of politics, I imagine a long table covered in a checker style board covered with red and blue pieces. This table has a lot more squares than a normal checkerboard and there’s something like a dozen players sitting on…