Traveling the World with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (without leaving Honolulu)

Dedicated photojournalists log countless hours in airports and hotels, while documenting the often mundane details of the world’s leaders.  This is not my job description.  On a recent assignment for The Department of State, covering APEC Leaders’ Week in Hawaii, I got a glimpse into what it would be like to work in this manner.  I was assigned to cover Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for three days while she held bi-lateral meetings, gave speeches, hosted dinners and attended many other events.  In fact I got to travel around the world with The Secretary of State without leaving Honolulu.  Our first stop was the East West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii, where Secretary Clinton met with Pacific Island Country Leaders and gave a speech to a large and enthusiastic crowd.  It was en route to this location in the motorcade, complete with secret service and a police escort,  that I realized this job was unlike any other I had done before.

Secretary Clinton at East West Center

The rest of the day was consumed with Bi-Lateral meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Japan, China and The President of Vietnam.  Shooting these meetings is fast and a bit unrewarding as the press is allowed in at the top of the meeting for a quick handshake photo-op and out the door we go.

Bi-Lateral meetings with Australia, China, Japan and Vietnam

From the final meeting with the president of Japan we traveled to Shangri-la, the mansion built by Doris Duke to house and preserve her Islamic Art Collection.  A dinner reception was being held for trade ministers from APEC economies.

Secretary Clinton receives a private tour of the art collection at Shangri-la

The next day we got to work early and spent the day in meetings, in a press conference, at the CEO Summit and finally back at Shangri-la for another dinner, this time with The Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo.  The dinner was prepared by Iron Chef Morimoto.

The Foreign Ministers Breakfast at The hawaii Convention Center

Secretary Clinton at The CEO Summit

Back at Shangri-la with Iron Chef Morimoto and The Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo

The final day in my 3 day assignment with Secretary Clinton was a long and slow one spent primarily waiting around the hotel for my photo-op.  Only 4 meetings were held and that means I had a total of less than ten minutes of actual photography work in a day that began at 8:00 and ended at 6:00.  It was all worth it though, with a priceless moment during the last meeting with the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.  The sun was setting so the shot was at least a bit interesting when out of nowhere comes a man running, presumably on his way to the luau complete with torch.  The security was nowhere to be seen.

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A Day With The White House Press Pool

4 a.m wake up

5 a.m arrive at Hawaii Convention Center for security sweep

6 a.m secret service and dogs check all camera bags

7 a.m load buses to JW Marriott

8 a.m arrive JW Marriott

9 a.m move to first photo location APEC Leaders’ Meeting

10:30 photo spray at top of meeting

President Obama greets world leaders at APEC Leaders’ Meeting

11 a.m return to press hold to edit and upload images

1 p.m press pool moves to second photo location

2:30 p.m Leaders arrive for group photo

APEC Leaders gather for “Family Photo”

2:45 p.m return to press hold to edit and upload images

4:00 p.m move to third photo location for concluding press conference

5:00 p.m President Obama arrives for press conference

President Obama arrives for press conference

6:00 p.m setting sun frames President Obama as he concludes his press conference

President Obama concludes his press conference

6:30 p.m return to press hold to pack up gear

7:00 p.m board buses back to Honolulu

8:00 p.m arrive International Media Center at Hawaii Convention Center to edit and upload images

9:30 p.m quick dinner

11:00 bedtime

This was the final day of APEC Leaders’ Week in Hawaii and it was a long and exhausting experience, but one that I will not soon forget.
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Landing the big one

As a young photographer, just out of college and idealistic enough to believe that my love of music was enough to have a career as a music photographer, I loved to look at books by established photographers.  The first book I remember spending a lot of time with was “Photo Diary” by Lynn Goldsmith.  This chronicle of her adventures with musicians on various shoots from the mid-seventies to the late eighties hooked me and I loved it.  The stories are insightful and allowed me a glimpse into a world I only dreamed about.  One story that has stuck with me over the years involves Bob Dylan and an assignment that she received in 1976.  Lynn tells the story better than I do so I will use her words here,

“But I never really experienced what it meant to be a professional photographer until I got a call late one night in 1976 to come down to Secret Studio to photograph Bob Dylan and Bette Midler.  I grabbed my cameras and hopped in a cab.  I was so excited I started talking to myself, saying over and over, ‘I’m going to shoot Dylan, Bob Dylan!’  The driver heard me and pulled over.  He told me to get out of his cab, he didn’t want to drive ‘no assassins’.

Many photographers use this term ‘shoot’ to describe the act of making pictures but in today’s world it is best to change the verb under certain circumstances.  This morning I received a similar call and an assignment that makes me very excited.  When I step into the cab and head to the airport on Sunday I will only say, “I am off to Hawaii to photograph the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”

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