One thing nobody really tells you is that when you're in the Washington Press Corps (an unofficial name loosely applied to all the journalists and photojournalists stationed in Washington, D.C. by news organizations from around the country and around the globe—and there are thousands upon thousands of 'em), mainly you just don't have a lot to do. Tuesday was a big exception, of course. But for the most part you're taking pictures of fundamentally boring stuff, and you're usually competing in red-tooth fashion with far too many other guys to do it. You're herded around, confined to the ropes, challenged for credentials and passes, and struggling, usually in vain, to somehow distinguish your shots of the boring photo-op from nineteen other guys' shots of the boring photo-op. Not to say there isn't good work done in D.C., or that there aren't lots of good photographers there. But that's the life, for the most part. Except on the good days.
Or when you get lucky. It's kind of unfair that Salgado doesn't even hang out in Washington most of the time, and yet he was right there when Reagan got shot by John Hinckley. Although I'm not sure "lucky" is the nicest term for such an undesirable event.
Anyway, readers of the Times dead-trees edition awoke this morning to see this rare meta-photo of photo-dawgs clustered around...well, the pen Obama used to sign his first executive order. There's always that line in there somewhere...the boundary at which the significant and the historical somehow crosses over into the trivial and the contrived. You never really know where that line is, and yours is not to question why....
It's not the photographers' fault. They tell you to get a picture of the pen, what are you going to do? You get a picture of the pen.
Of course, sometimes, what happens is that you go to take a picture of a stupid pen and you end up finding something all on your own that lands at the top of Page One, splashed across three columns. He shoots, he scores! And incidentally, I'm normally one of those never-crop guys, but I have to admit that the top picture is a lot stronger the way the editors ran it.
Kudos to Doug Mills.
(Thanks to Steve Greenwood)
Featured Comment by Bruce Robbins: "I could well be wrong here and I haven't read the story but I think, rather than being told to get a pic of the pen, one photographer has just thought it looked like a good shot and the rest have dived in to cover themselves. That's the way the press pack usually works...."
Mike replies: Could be, Bruce, could be. I don't really know either....