Today the Democratic National Convention officially began. The media focus– including more than a few of our very own reporters’ and editors’ attentions– has been firmly placed on the perception of dissension within the Democratic Party. I sat next to a reporter for the Los Angeles Times through the afternoon and early evening production cycle. He called a number key personnel in the Clinton and Obama campaigns looking for quotes about this perception of dissension. It was fascinating to listen in as he asked his questions, listened to their answers, and then reworked his approach with new information. The level of activity on site has undergone a significant increase each of the last few days. Sound levels are up. Activity levels are up. Things are in motion. The volume of noise, in particular, could approach levels that made telephone conversations difficult. And when your editor is counting on you to get the quote and get it right, there’s a particular amount of stress that permeates the air.
I fully expect Hillary Clinton to spike this discussion of dissension when she takes the stage tomorrow night. We’ll see.
Tonight the big speeches were Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama. I am not going to go over the contents of the speeches or their effects on the site other than to comment that I did get the opportunity to borrow an editorial press credential long enough to get into the hall and watch Michelle Obama speak. The hall was filled beyond capacity for Michelle Obama’s speech. I made my way up into the writing press stands. I thought I might be able to kneel behind the journalists in our set of seats and watch from there. The press stands– like the rest of the hall– were jammed with other onlookers, and once I got up there, I could not move anywhere else. So I took it in like many others did: standing room only. I chose to bring two lenses with me on this trip. My 50mm prime and the 24-70mm zoom lens that Whirl bought for my birthday. That is my longest lens, and the fact of the matter is, that it is just far too short for where I was standing to get a good shot of the speaker. I really required a 400mm lens or longer. So I tried to design my shots to put Michelle Obama inside the greater context of the entirety of the crowd and the hall. A wide shot to take in the scope.
Before Ted Kennedy took the stage, Milbert Brown of the Chicago Tribune asked if I had a photo stand credential. If I did, he was going to invite me to come with him and serve as his backup shooter. I was flattered by the offer. Unfortunately, photo stand credentials are gold and there were none available for me to “borrow”– not for that speech, anyway. I did get a picture of Milbert in the workspace as he contemplated what equipment he wanted to bring to the shoot. I’m happy about that portrait.
I walked through the hall about an hour before the convention opened and felt this quiet air of anticipation. Small clusters of activity would bubble and burst in various areas of the floor. The room was mostly empty. The contrast between this hour before the dawn and the breaking waves of emotion during the night speeches was intense, visceral.
I am glad I could be there.
Tomorrow morning, I leave Denver and the temporary news bureau I have helped to construct. I fly on to St. Paul, Minnesota to begin anew, this time for the Republican National Convention. I wish I could stay. The logistics of the project force me to move on to the next phase, but I know I will retain the memories and contacts of these few days for years to come.