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Politicians and the POTUS

Every photojournalist has to photograph politicians at some point. It is one of the few things we newspaper folk can actually count on.  It doesn’t matter where you live and work. One day you can be out shooting a high school basketball game and the next you can be photographing the President meeting with the mayor of Small Town U.S.A. I’ve photographed my fair share of politicians over the past few months.

While I was in between full-time jobs, one of the newspapers I interviewed with was The Courier/Daily Comet in Houma, La. While there, they sent me on an assignment to photograph Ken Salazar, the secretary of the interior. This was deep in oil country right on the Gulf coast.

One thing that I find with almost any public or press event involving a politician is that a flag is displayed in the background. This instance was no different. A massive flag was hanging from a couple of cranes. Sometimes it is nice to use the flag as a background. Sometimes it is too cliché. For this shot, I decided to incorporate it.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar speaks to reporters at Gulf Island Fabrication in Houma, La., Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. (AP Photo/The Daily Comet, Max Gersh) ©2010

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar speaks to reporters at Gulf Island Fabrication in Houma, La., Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. (AP Photo/The Daily Comet, Max Gersh) ©2010

Not all political things are obviously political things. I know that sounds a little goofy but sometimes things that have the facade of a business venture serve more as a political tool.

Last month, Dr. Lu Guanqiu, founder and chairman of Wanxiang (a solar panel manufacturing company) traveled with Chinese President Hu Jintao to the United States. Among his other stops, he visited Rockford, the site of one of their American facilities.

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Dr. Lu Guanqiu, founder and chairman of Wanxiang, (from right) and Pin Ni, president of Wanxiang America Corporation, look at Sunil Puri's business card Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011, at Giovanni's Restaurant and Convention Center in Rockford.

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Dr. Lu Guanqiu, founder and chairman of Wanxiang, (from right) and Pin Ni, president of Wanxiang America Corporation, look at Sunil Puri's business card Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011, at Giovanni's Restaurant and Convention Center in Rockford. ©2011

Shortly after the tragic event in Tuscon, Ariz., Rep. Don Manzullo and Sen. Mark Kirk held a town hall meeting in Rockford. The security was clearly escalated.

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Rep. Don Manzullo speaks Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, at a town hall meeting at the Rock Valley College Stenstrom Center in Rockford. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Rep. Don Manzullo speaks Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, at a town hall meeting at the Rock Valley College Stenstrom Center in Rockford. ©2011

People still came out in force to fill the room.

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR People line up to ask Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Don Manzullo questions Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, at a town hall meeting at the Rock Valley College Stenstrom Center in Rockford. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR People line up to ask Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Don Manzullo questions Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, at a town hall meeting at the Rock Valley College Stenstrom Center in Rockford. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Sen. Mark Kirk (left) and Rep. Don Manzullo answer questions from the media Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, after a town hall meeting at the Rock Valley College Stenstrom Center in Rockford. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Sen. Mark Kirk (left) and Rep. Don Manzullo answer questions from the media Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, after a town hall meeting at the Rock Valley College Stenstrom Center in Rockford. ©2011

Another interesting political assignment I had recently was photographing Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in Sterling, Ill. Gingrich was in town to participate in a centennial celebration for Ronald Reagan.

MAX GERSH | ROCKOFRD REGISTER STAR  Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich talks to the press Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, at Sterling High School in Sterling. Gingrich was in town to participate in the Ronald Reagan centennial celebration. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich talks to the press Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, at Sterling High School in Sterling. Gingrich was in town to participate in the Ronald Reagan centennial celebration. ©2011

Sometimes it’s hard to find a unique photo at these political events. I try to keep an eye on the periphery. I was able to catch this brief moment of Callista Gingrich taking a photo of her husband, Newt, during a press conference.

MAX GERSH | ROCKOFRD REGISTER STAR  Callista Gingrich (right) takes a photo of her husband, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, while Alicia Melvin watches. Gingrich was in town to participate in the Ronald Reagan centennial celebration. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Callista Gingrich (right) takes a photo of her husband, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, while Alicia Melvin watches. Gingrich was in town to participate in the Ronald Reagan centennial celebration. ©2011

Later that night, there was a big gala event where many area politicians showed up. Again, plenty of U.S. flags.

MAX GERSH | ROCKOFRD REGISTER STAR  State Rep. Jerry Mitchell makes opening remarks Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, before a gala dinner in honor of President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday at Deer Valley Golf Club in Deer Grove. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR State Rep. Jerry Mitchell makes opening remarks Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, before a gala dinner in honor of President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday at Deer Valley Golf Club in Deer Grove. ©2011

The photographic gem of the night involved a few politicians out of character, leaning in to blow out some candles on a cake.

MAX GERSH | ROCKOFRD REGISTER STAR  Former Speakers of the House Newt Gingrich (left) and Dennis Hastert and State Rep. Jerry Mitchell blow out the candles on a cake Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, for President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday celebration at Deer Valley Golf Club in Deer Grove. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Former Speakers of the House Newt Gingrich (left) and Dennis Hastert and State Rep. Jerry Mitchell blow out the candles on a cake Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, for President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday celebration at Deer Valley Golf Club in Deer Grove. ©2011

While all of these events have been unique in their own right, none have been as unique as photographing President Barak Obama.  That is a whole day affair.

I was sent with a reporter to Manitowoc, Wis., to cover President Obama the day after he delivered his State of the Union speech. Incorporating the commute, security and required waiting around, I pulled an 11 hour shift at work that included only about 20 minutes of actual photography.

Without fail, the facility that Obama was speaking at managed to place a few large U.S. flags in the background.

MAX GERSH | ROCKOFRD REGISTER STAR People gather at Orion Energy Systems Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2010, to see President Barack Obama speak at the Manitowoc, Wis. facility. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR People gather at Orion Energy Systems Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2010, to see President Barack Obama speak at the Manitowoc, Wis. facility. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKOFRD REGISTER STAR President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, inside of Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wis. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, inside of Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wis. ©2011

Part of the challenge of photographing the President is simply working around a massive amount of press people in a very short time frame. I like to move around a lot to get a wide variety of angles and looks.

MAX GERSH | ROCKOFRD REGISTER STAR President Barack Obama points to a man wearing a Chicago Bears hat Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, inside of Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wis. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR President Barack Obama points to a man wearing a Chicago Bears hat Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, inside of Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wis. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKOFRD REGISTER STAR President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, inside of Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wis. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, inside of Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wis. ©2011

At the end of the day, every politician I photograph is just a subject in my frame. I think many photojournalists would agree that when behind the camera, there is no such thing a celebrity shock. It is just another subject for another assignment.

Blizzard 2011
The new job: Rockford
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