It’s Friday night and Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is due to attend a fundraiser at a private home in Salt Lake City. The house is gorgeous, up on a hill. There’s a long driveway leading up to the home. We, the still photographers, reporters, and TV crews, are all waiting in the middle of the cul de sac where the private driveway begins. Also present are some local GOP organizers and a PR guy who works for Rudy.
Rudy’s PR guy explains to us that we won’t be allowed into the party, but not to worry, Rudy will stop and talk to us before he goes in. He points out a spot at the end of the driveway where Rudy will talk. It’s a weed patch with a large boulder. Sitting on the boulder is a bronze sculpture of a little boy looking off into the distance. A little creepy.
One of the photographers suggests a better spot for Rudy to talk, slightly down the driveway where an amazing view of the snow-covered mountains will be the background. It’s a great idea and all agree. The other still photographers and I make plans to, once Rudy shows up, claim the best spots to capture that scenic backdrop. Far too often the TV cameras crowd around the subject and we are left circling the horde. Not this time.
While we’re standing around waiting there’s a lot of time to talk. One of the local GOP guys jokingly refers to us journalists as rubbish and garbage. He jokes about Rudy’s car running over us. As you can tell, he’s a funny guy. He’s holding a copy of Jackie Mason’s book “Schmucks.” He says, “I heard about it on Sean Hannity,” and he shows us the table of contents, explaining how each chapter is about a different schmuck in the world: Bill Clinton, Barbara Streisand, etc. (If you don’t know who Jackie Mason is, go rent Caddyshack 2, where Jackie Mason plays the Rodney Dangerfield character and Dan Akroyd plays the Bill Murray character (who shoots an arrow into his own ass). Are you kidding me? You’ve seen it, too?)
There’s another guy waiting for Rudy. A fan. He’s holding a blue sharpie pen and a copy of Rudy’s book, “Leadership.” The weird thing is, the book is a library book. We ask him if he’s going to have Rudy Giuliani sign a library book and he gets offended. He uncaps his pen and crosses out the words, “Salt Lake City Public Library,” which are rubber-stamped on the book. He says, “It’s not a library book! I bought this used!”
Finally Rudy shows up. Rudy’s PR guy yells to him, “Right over here, sir!” I start to move back toward the sprinkler he’s going to stand by in front of those beautiful mountains. But then I notice that Rudy’s stopping right in the middle of the street. The TV cameras have converged and surrounded him. And now, instead of our lovely snow-covered mountains behind Rudy, the background of the shot is an ugly white TV satellite truck.
He graciously answers questions for a long time. One of the photographers says, “He seems like a straight shooter.” After that Rudy poses for photos with a few onlookers.
He breaks away from the crowd and the fan hands him the library book. Rudy looks at it and chuckles, saying something like, “What the…?” It’s so obviously a library book. Then Rudy says, “Well, okay, I guess I’ll sign it.” He does.
Rudy Giuliani then walks up the long driveway. He looks out at the view and says, “Wow, look at those mountains. What a beautiful view!” I look at the photographer who suggested the mountains as a background and all we can do is laugh.
This week’s trip to Short Creek was another thrilling adventure. Some of it I can’t write about until the stories start to hit print, so I apologize for teasing.
One of the biggest obstacles to good coverage of Utah polygamy right now is finding the time. The drive down alone is around five hours (the photo above is looking south through my windshield into Round Valley near Scipio).
It seems like every time we travel down to Short Creek we never have the time to do all of the stories we’re after. And as far as the stories we end up doing, there always seems to be so much more depth we could get into if we had time. There are so many sources we always plan to stop in on for a visit but before we know it, it’s time to leave. (Like the woman who got a call from the Colorado City public school yesterday asking if it was OK for me to photograph her daughter doing a reading assignment in class — sorry we didn’t have time to stop in and say hello.)
For me, the story is also frustrating in how little time is actually spent photographing. There is so much time spent building relationships just through talking with people, having lunch with sources, and interviews. It’s not that I don’t enjoy these many hours. I thoroughly do enjoy it. I could listen for hours, as the entire story fascinates me. And all of this effort has paid off repeatedly, my knowledge of the people bringing a much deeper context to every photograph. I just wish I was photographing more of the things we talk about.
On Wednesday we worked on four separate stories before 3 p.m. and then did a long interview. As interesting as the talk was, I kept wishing I could drop all my responsibilities and put in some serious time photographing these stories in a serious documentary way.
Hopefully that will happen soon. The next time I see the fish on the side of the red mountains, that evocative shape on the vermillion cliffs above town, I want to be focused and relaxed.
There’s nothing to clear your mind like a long solo drive down to Southern Utah. So to prevent that from happening, I always keep a lot of distractions close at hand. Who wants a clear mind? I’ve got XM Radio, my iPod, even a few stray DVDs to keep myself preoccupied on the drive. (Though for the record I DO NOT watch video while I’m driving. Anymore.)
On today’s four-hour drive to St. George it was all about podcasts. If you don’t know what a podcast is, let me define it — a downloaded episode of a radio show. You can subscribe to a radio show’s podcast and new episodes of the show will automatically download into your computer and onto your iPod. You can then listen to them whenever you want to. No more worrying about the radio station’s schedule. It’s like TiVo for radio.
While my list of podcast subscriptions is always changing, here’s what I’m regular with right now:
Inside Aperture Podcast
American PHOTO Podcasts
LensWork Vision of the Heart
The Candid Frame
News & Issues
KCRW’s Le Show (Harry Shearer)
NPR: Fresh Air
On the Media
Real Time with Bill Maher
This American Life
WAMU: The Diane Rehm Show
TV, Film, Music, Gaming
Chronicle Podcasts: Tim Goodman’s TV Talk Machine
Fat Wreck Chords Podcast
GameSpot presents The HotSpot
HBO Documentary Films
KCRW’s The Business
KCRW’s The Treatment
Xbox Live’s Major Nelson Radio
The Merlin Show
this WEEK in MEDIA
this WEEK in TECH
Every week a daunting amount of information appears on my laptop. There’s no way you could listen to it all. You have to learn to edit. You have to get used to deleting episodes you just know you’ll never listen to.
That’s about all I’ve got right now. Just drove up to the courthouse. I’ll write something about polygamy and Warren Jeffs next. They’re reporting today that a prison guard overheard Warren tell his brother he (Warren) was a fake prophet. Odd timing that such a story would leak on the exact day of Warren Jeffs’ big hearing, don’t you think? I wonder what the motive of the leaker is. More soon…