Month: September 2006

Into the Contact Sheet

An assignment yesterday took me to the Utah State Capitol to photograph Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. signing a new tax bill into law. Never mind what the bill does tax-wise. That’s certainly not important. Not here in the blog, anyway. What is important is that you are about to see some photos that are never seen. The fun ones. These are the shots that normally end up in a drawer and are certainly not published.

Everything starts out good. I love working with reflections, and the table in the conference room makes for a very cool shot of the Gov. Quick side note: I was flying on his plane one time, headed to cover some massive floods in St. George. He pointed to my Spinal Tap baseball cap and listed the best comedies (in his opinion) of the past three decades. 1980’s: This is Spinal Tap. 1990’s: Dumb and Dumber. 2000’s: Napoleon Dynamite.

Okay, now I’ve got a good shot of the Gov in the can. He’s still talking so I get an overall. I’m shooting a ton of these photographs lately. With the equipment I’m using now, these composite panoramas give me a lot of detail and when I print them up on large roll paper they are very cool to pore over. They also give more historical context than a lot of what we do on a daily basis. Look at the photographs of the early West and you’ll see a lot of this wide stuff that gets all the detail. I’ve got hundreds of these now from all over.

After the Gov speaks, it’s a parade of politicians getting up to thank so and so and praise the bill. One of the TV reporters is actually signaling his cameraman as each one gets up, saying, “Don’t roll on this guy.” Sometimes in the middle of one of their speeches he’ll tell the guy to turn the camera on, but it’s usually for a quick sound bite. If only they knew, but of course they do. No disrespect to these guys, but their talks just weren’t doing it for me either. Certainly not visually. This is where the photographer gets bored and you start to goof around, like the photo above, of Sen. Curtis Bramble.

After Bramble sits down, I try to zoom in on his ID badge. At this point I don’t know his name. It’s a simple face-saving measure; I’m trying to get his name without having to ask. I can’t come back to the paper without knowing his name, and there is nothing worse than having to go up to some of the most powerful men in the state to ask them what their name is. I’m supposed to know this stuff. But really, who does? People might recognize the Gov, but no one on the street would recognize any of these other guys. Sorry, but it’s true. After my failure to photograph his nametag clearly, I start thinking about how I’ll ask his name. I figure I’ll start with, “Pardon my ignorance, sir, but could I ask your name?”

After six men talk, a woman gets her say. It’s Rep. Rebecca Lockhart. The prankster in me just can’t resist taking the photograph.

The last speaker gets up, Senator Sheldon Killpack. I turn to the reflective surface of the table again for inspiration, though I know it is unlikely this photograph will ever be published.

Finally they go to sign the bill and a bunch of politicians crowd around the Gov. Senate President John Valentine cracks a joke (he’s at left for those of you who can’t recognize these guys).

The Gov signs. I try a tight shot cropping out the other people.

Then I shoot a little looser as they applaud the bill. One politician jumps into the photo and before I can ask his name he’s gone. A reporter back at the paper identifies him for me; it’s Fred Fife. I’ve met Fife and taken his photograph before, but for the life of me I didn’t remember his name. Guess I’m not covering politics enough.

Out of the 178 photographs I shot at this 20-minute event, this is the photograph that runs in the paper.

This post appeared on my work blog, at the Tribune’s website.

Muslim Festival

Was sent over to the Salt Lake American Muslim Cultural Festival at the City & County Building in Salt Lake City a couple weekends ago. It was a great event. Lots of culture. From the standpoint of a photographer sent to illustrate a Muslim Festival, it was a little tricky. There was one woman dressed in a black hijab that covered every part of her body except a strip across her face where her eyes shown through. But I didn’t photograph her. It would have been a beautiful, graphic photograph, but I found myself trying to avoid stereotypical shots that didn’t quite illustrate what was going on at the festival.

What was going on was a variety of performers from various ethnic groups, muslim and non. One that made for a surreal juxtaposition was a group of denim-wearing western fiddlers who clearly fell in the non-muslim category. It was one of those only in Utah moments that I love to stumble upon.

The other thing I was drawn to was the selection of food booths. I photographed Zenab Mawaz and her mother Hamida Mawaz serving halal chicken at their Thai-Chinese themed booth. Mawaz is working toward opening an eatery, Halal Restaurant, in West Valley City in December.

As I was getting ready to leave, a group of Ahiska Turk dancers appeared in native costume. They were immediately surrounded by at least four snapping photographers. The group made their way to a tent where they waited for their turn to perform. Since I had another assignment that I was already late getting to, I stuck with the Turks, and came away with this photograph of Sariya Khalilova waiting to go onstage.

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.