What's wrong with this picture?
There is no picture of candidates! I was relegated to shooting protestors.
As I approached the entry of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall in Albuquerque, I was asked, “Are you the Journal?”
“Who are you with?”
“I’m Mark Bralley. I’m shooting for ‘New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan.’”
“Just a minute, wait here,” said the young man, who had been pointed out and directed for me to see. He had been described as the “red-headed man.”
He wore an out of place suit, looking more like a television version of a want-a-be mafia hit man than with his Irish appearing roots would allow. Rather than the volunteer campaign worker he was, his role as a bouncer was apparent just the same. He made a call on his cellular phone to Heather Brewer, Patricia Madrid’s media advisor.
I was directed into a room full of about 100 Democratic candidates and high-dollar party contributors. They were waiting to “meet and greet” with the Democratic Party’s candidate for New Mexico’s Congressional District One.
New Mexico’s Attorney General Patricia A. Madrid and U.S. Congresswoman and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were about to talk to these loyalists.
Democratic State Treasurer candidate James Lewis stuck out his hand and greeted me by name. He knew me from his years of being Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Albuquerque. Land Commissioner candidate Jim Baca nodded his head in recognition.
The “red-headed man” came and told me I could no longer stay in the room. As I walked out, he told me that I had to go to the union hall and wait for the rally.
I asked him, “What if I want to stay in this room…”
He cut me off sharply saying, “You don’t want to talk with the communications director….”
I suggested that picking one news outlet -the Journal- over another certainly would not help their candidates cause and that he should not be so boisterous and argue with people who buy ink by the barrel.
His response was, “Yeah, that’s right!” giving me a condescending nod. I realized that he had missed the meaning of my comment.
I said, “No, you got it backwards.”
So I have no picture of Madrid and Pelosi with other state office seekers to show you.
What never was discussed was that I was trying to photograph the ten, top of the ballot, candidates from both parties. I am trying to capture the flavor of the campaign in a collaborative effort with political blogger Joe Monahan for his site, New Mexico Politics.
I missed several candidates who attended the “meet and greet,” whom I did not see at the rally.
I do have this picture of Madrid that I took a few weeks ago at a party event. The one good image went on Monahan’s blog already. This one’s not very good, but it’s accurate of how the candidate looked. This is what can happen when a campaign tries to over-control the media.
Madrid took a heavy editorial hit recently from the Los Alamos Monitor when her campaign excluded a reporter from an out of district fundraising event in White Rock, N.M.
The political landscape has changed greatly over the last forty years since I first attempted to photograph President Lyndon Baines Johnson at a Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery. I was still new to photography and had improperly loaded my camera. I sold that picture to the Northern Virginia Sun, sight unseen. They sent me to their darkroom to process a print, but because the film never ran through the camera, I had no image.
Like Thursday, that event was lost. Unlike Thursday, it was my fault. The President of the United States stood proudly in the sun memorializing the virtues of all those who served their country buried there and elsewhere.
Monahan did not think that being dismissed by the “red-headed man,” the media advisor, Brewer and ultimately Madrid was any big deal because he says he is only a lowly blogger and I, just a freelancer. Monahan said, “We are not the accredited press, like the Journal.”
To which I say BULL!
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia said it best in 1999 during the oral arguments in Los Angeles Police Department v. United Reporting Publishing Corporation, “A journalistic purpose could be someone with a Xerox machine in a basement.”
Seven years later, the Internet has made anyone with an Internet Protocol address and a journalistic mindset a member of the press.
I joined with Monahan because he is a journalist; professionally trained, with years of experience, great contacts and he writes so well. His blogspot is a mixture of pure journalism and a conduit for political gossip. He is open and up front about what he is doing, but ultimately he is a journalist, often times better than the “pros” over at the Journal. He certainly takes second place to no one.
My history with the Journal started when I threw unsolicited images on editors’ desks. They then bought and published the photos. I never received a freelance assignment from them and later, when I competed head to head with Journal photographers in the local press club photo contests, I took first place more often than not. These four trophies are APEs representing photographic awards from the Albuquerque Press Club. They are for; best photograph 1969 and 1970. In 1972 I won two of three categories for best sports and best feature.
Monahan and I both honor the journalistic code of ethics even though our content is heavy in editorializing rather than basic news reporting.
So, what's wrong with this picture?
I shot more images at the Madrid-Pelosi rally than normal for a couple of reasons; Patricia Madrid is a difficult subject to photographically capture and I want to show her in a fair light. We will have to see whether I succeeded if and when Monahan uses the images. I won’t show any of my work from the rally because I have agreed to allow Monahan first use.
This next paragraph, though short, is as important as the 900 preceding words.
I have not gotten a single photograph of any of the top ten Republican Party’s candidates this season yet. I’m not sure they are trying to hide, but they aren’t being very public.
In the spirit of open disclosure, on the commercial side of my photography, one does have to eat. Four of my last ten jobs have been political; three were candidates, all happened to be Republicans. I am an equal opportunity employee and have also photographed for particular Democratic candidates in years past.
For me to photograph, the candidate’s positions are more important than their party affiliation. If candidates of either party are not making themselves visible, how are those of us willing to show the public what is happening going to accomplish our jobs?