Thursday, 22 January 2009

New beginnings...

Like many I watched and listened to the inauguration of the incoming President of the United States Barack Hussein Obama. Even Lewis my seven-year-old sat and watched whilst Obama gave us an indication of how he wished his government to work. That he acknowledged that Americans themselves are at least partly to blame for the situation in which they find themselves seems to me to be a huge step forward in achieving some solutions.

Mr. Obama said.

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world,"

"Duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

Lots of rhetoric, but I do sense that maybe (at last) an American President really does understand that the issue with the US and the Rest of the World really does revolve around the US itself.

With news that Guantanamo Bay is at least being dealt with, and that Military Tribunals have been halted (Washington Post) albeit initially only for 120 days. Hopefully, this is just a start.

Will the US establishment allow this President to do what the rest of the world wants to see?


Despite the political desirability of having someone who is (seemingly) the political opposite of George W in the hot seat in the US, it doesn’t stop politicians (even the good ones) and their Public Relations machines trying to control the media.

Three news agencies have refused to distribute White House-provided photos of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, arguing that access should have been provided to news photographers. (Newsvine)

In the scheme of things many would consider this unimportant, who cares whether news photographers get access to the president, or if a tame snapper produces images in house? And yes, I can see that as it was the re-run of the oath it wasn’t exactly an earth moving piece, but really should we be prepared to accept the Whitehouse dolling out the only images of Presidential events?

I should say no. It is the start of a slippery slope. From the point of view of being a photographer, it would mean sanitised images, which are never as good as those taken by a selection of photographers competing for the best pic. From the point of view of publications few if any picture editors, will be happy at only ever being able to get the same few pictures as every other publication on the planet.

It doesn’t even matter how good a photographer Mr Obamas official photographer Pete Souza is, as the PR machine churning out his work will put out sanitised photos, they won’t be able to help themselves. We probably never will see Souzas best work, which will be a shame.

More from PDN

We have already seen similar practises here in the UK. When Tony Blair came to Nottingham a couple of years ago, very few (if any) Nottingham based news photographers got access, and precious few photographers working directly for the nationals.

News events should be open to as many editorial photographers as possible, that way we will get the best possible images. It is never right to restrict access to the in house person, doesn’t matter whether it is a football club or president of the United States.

© 2009 Pete Jenkins

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