What's Wrong With This Picture?
This is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson after giving a welcoming speech to the 2006 Southwest Conference on Disability, shaking hands with Ronald Saunders of Crownpoint, Oct. 4, 2006, at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque.
Richardson has been on the move so much, out of state quite a bit, and not publicly campaigning. This was the first time during this campaign season I was able to catch up with the governor to photograph him for the work I am doing for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan - joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com - since late July.
So what's wrong with this picture?
Here, Richardson poses with people attending the conference. When people wanting pictures taken with him, but had no one to take them, or their cellular phone cameras were not working properly, the governor turned and asked me to take pictures with two different individuals. I do not begrudge them their moment with Richardson.
Let’s digress a moment. I was photographing Richardson as a photojournalistic endeavor, not as his staff, or for his campaign. I was also not shooting for the conference. When Saunders asked Richardson if he could get his picture taken with him, Richardson turned to me and asked that I take their picture. I am sure Saunders had no idea who I was.
There is more than one way I could have handled this, but denying the request of the governor of the state, while acting in his official capacity and not as a partisan campaign activity, although the line is nearly indistinguishable, raises a couple of interesting ethical and social questions.
To deny the request would be socially inappropriate. When you are equipped, how do you not respond to the request of the governor? It’s not based on any personal or political consideration, pro or con; I am not dealing with the personality or even the politics of Bill Richardson. I am dealing with the Governor of the State of New Mexico.
So I will send a print of Sunders to the governor for his signature, to then pass on to his constituent and see if the Richardson makes good on some payment for my service.
I won’t speculate as to that outcome. I am sure there are some journalists and photographers who won’t view the situation the same way. I can already hear an ethical discussion that I am pandering to the political goals of a politician.
However, Richardson is not the only one to make such requests. Earlier this summer, I attended a Bernalillo County Republican Party fundraiser to photograph Republican state candidates and was asked by one of the organizers if I would sell some of my pictures for their purposes. That conversation was different than the one with the governor; it was not in a crowd of people looking to shake his hand. I explained that I was trying to maintain journalistic neutrality and was under contract for my pictures. He alluded to the fact that I was welcomed to their event and suggested that I might not be. He went to a fine Republican position that he was sure that I worked for a living and they would pay.
To resolve the issue I gave him my business card and I took some pictures of multiple candidates and organized a group shot of all the candidates present.
A number of loyal Republicans produced cameras and flashes abounded. I never received a call from the Party.
This “campaign” seems more about fundraising than it does about appearing in public forums to talk about issues.