Wednesday, April 24, 2013

No photographers allowed

It happened again. I wanted to take photos of the staff preparing the new George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The dedication is Thursday, April 25, and I could see an interesting picture of someone hanging a sign, "Oval Office this way," or with half the display hung and the rest of it laying in order on the floor. It would be a great promotion to run previous to the opening. But nobody would return my calls or set up an appointment. After several days of cloudy weather, the sky was blue and I thought I'd go to the library and try to argue my case.

It was a beautiful day and I wanted to take advantage of the afternoon light, so I arrived after 3pm when the light was best. Parking near the loading dock, I started looking for the staff entrance and noticed the wildflowers blooming. The light was just right, so I started taking photos. Finding a walking path, I walked around looking for a good foreground with the Presidential Center in the background. 

Then the security officer arrived and I had to explained how I wanted to do a photo story on the library. I called the communications director and was told that I had to make an appointment to see her.  In order to arrange for another appointment to take photos?

So I'll just take exterior views, the security said it was okay if I stayed on the sidewalk. I started around looking for photos to upload to Demotix, Alamy and Tandem Stock.

It was around 5pm and with the Presidential Library facing north the only shot would be at dusk with the lights on, so I had a few hours to wander around trying to get stock photos. I saw several signs directing visitors to the visitor parking, but then found one which let me get the library in the background. I started taking pictures and the Southern Methodist University campus police drove up and said I was trespassing again and they had to issue be a warning that forbid me to step on the Bush property. 

Okay, I got some pictures and maybe the other building shots could be taken from across the street on SMU property. I took a break for water, then came back at 6pm to scout out the best location for the night shot and the police pulled me over. I thought I was on the campus sidewalk, but they said it was the Bush Library sidewalk! They had to give me another trespassing warning, this time I was forbidden to ever step foot on the SMU campus!

I uploaded the photos that night to the agencies, I still think I got some unique bluebonnet shots that show off the urban park better than they'll look at the dedication. 

My specialty has been to come back with a picture.

At the Philadelphia Inquirer I was sent to Dover AB in Delaware to get photos of the Marines killed in a failed attempt to rescue US hostages in Tehran. I get to the base and they tell me the press wasn't allowed on the base. I drove all this way and don't have a picture!

I  start circling the airbase and wonder if I shoot through the fence with a long lens I might be able to get something of them unloading the plane. I sit beside bushes and wait, and wait getting eaten by bugs, then I see a line of hearses driving out.  I watch them through the lenses and as they drive out a cargo plane starts to land. It tells the story and ran 8-col on the top of the front page!

The Inquirer was still competing with the Philadelphia Bulletin,  and sent me to Kansas City to cover the Republican convention. Shooting b&w and getting prints made in the AP darkroom meant waiting in line and squeezing transmission time in between network transmissions. A transmission might tame 20 minutes, which meant spending a couple of hours editing and waiting for it to get transmitted. 

Friday night was the last day and I wanted to get a different shot. There was a press seating area in the balcony to the rear of the podium, but it was for word people, no photographers allowed.

But it was a great angle to get the convention delegates in the background when President Gerald Ford and his running mate Sen Robert Dole greeted the crowd. Seemed to me to be a good conclusion to the convention and tell the story. I had time and put my camera in the camera bag and walked to the section showing my press pass. They let me in, I chose a good seat with a view and sat there.

They did the roll count, I just sat there waiting. Then they brought the candidates on stage with their families. An exclusive shot, I raised my camera and started shooting. The security didn't notice they were watching the action on stage. I got the photo I had envisioned. 

Rushing to the AP darkroom we transmitted it to the paper. But it never ran. The editors thought it was old news. It had been on TV and they had reported Doles nomination in Friday's paper. No reason to take up space with a photo. Darn

Then there was another time when I had rushed to get the Philadelphia Police arresting illegal occupants living in a commune and calling themselves MOVE. It had been going on for years and I'd taken photos of MOVE members yelling at police who were stationed across the street. 

Photo Director Gary Haynes thought the arrest would be quick and I happened to live the closest to MOVE. I got called at midnight and rushed over, thinking I'd be using my strobe to get a picture of them being led into a paddy wagon.

I waited in front with some other photographers, lots of police were around. We waited and waited, nothing except more police and a big semi truck arrived with a bulldozer? 

The sun rose and they started setting up barricades at the end of the block, two other Inquirer photographers with long lenses arrived. My longest lens was a 90mm!

They told us to clear the street and Bill Steinmetz with his telephoto positioned himself in front, Behind the barricades 50 yards away was no good, but across the alley was a three story apartment building, I rushed inside and went to the managers apartment. He had a view of the back of the MOVE building. 

Both of us wanted to watch and I talked him into removing the screen from the window, a policeman arrived and stood beside me watching. We heard the police demand they come out and then gunfire. I didn't want to hang out and risk getting shot. They sprayed water into the house to get them to come out. 

Then Delbert Africa came to the basement window. Hands up, a policeman behind a protective shield pointed a pistol at him and told him to get out. He walked out with hands held high, two policemen walked up and started beating him, pulled him by the hair to beneath the building kicking him along the way. I kept shooting with my Leica and 90mm lens.

The TV reported how successful the police had been and how they had finally brought order to the neighborhood, then the next morning the Philadelphia Inquirer shocked the city showing the beating.

I got the picture because I wasn't allowed to stand in front of the building.# # #