Photographers show up hours before POTUS is to arrive. We must pass security. That takes time. We get wanded by magnetometers and inspected by bomb sniffing dogs. We are ushered, guided, and ordered by secret service and handlers. And then we wait.
On some Connecticut visits Courant photographers are designated “pool photographers” granting them better access to the president on the condition that we share whatever we photograph with other media. We join the traveling press corps and ride in the official motorcade. The status grants us closer and more fluid movement around the president. Somewhat closer that our colleagues standing in the back of the room.
Presidents arrive in a flash of activity like a midsummer thunderstorm . The police, secret service, politicians and the traveling press arrive at once. Then POTUS arrives. And as quickly as he arrives, he leaves. The police, secret service and traveling press leave too.
My first experience photographing President Jimmy Carter was not a success.
I knew President Jimmy Carter liked to press the flesh. He would wander up to shake, squeeze, wave, touch and smile his way down along line of fans pressed against the barricades, eager to be close to the most powerful man in the country. I’ve seen it. I wanted to photograph that ritual up close when he came to Hartford December 10th, 1978.
I planted myself at the fence hours before he was to arrive. The crowds grew. So did the excitement. Soon people were standing 4 deep behind me.
We all waited together.
He got out of his limo surrounded by politicians and Secret service and raised his right hand in a wistful way to acknowledge the crowd. Then he was gone, ushered into the Hartford Hilton in one swift smooth motion. The idea for the picture didn’t work this time.
I got a picture of his arm and the back of his hand. That was my first attempt at photographing a visiting president.