Photographing President Clinton as a documentary photographer on field
I have been photographing for NGO’s, multinational donor organisations, and many photography projects have been in health sector. However, photographing President Clinton during his tour in India was big, and special. I was assigned as a specialist documentary photographer by Clinton Health Access Initiative to cover his visit to a few villages in Uttar Pradesh.
We were present at the venue a day before the actual visit by the president and there were a lot fo frantic activities. Most of the villagers were clueless. They thought either there’s election in the process or someone important was coming. Many local doctors were seen preparing for the big visit. It was sweltering and the season was like any Indian summer in north India. I too was looking forward to the event.
On the day of the visit, I was carrying two cameras, and one back up camera. Both the main cameras had fixed lens of 35 mm and 50 mm. Being the assigned photographer had given me access to the team. But not the President. There were protocols to be followed and I was not even allowed to come close by his assigned security team. On top of that, the area was full of media persons carrying huge zoom lens.The whole situation reminded me of photographing Kumbh Mela for the first time. Being an independent documentary photographer in India, this was a good opportunity to build my portfolio and continue working with international agencies looking for photographers in India.
You usually get a couple of chances when you can get your images. Luckily they came at the right time for me. One of them, where President Clinton in the classroom addressing doctors and answering their questions is really special. I still remember the moment, slowly sneaking up from behind to front to get a better shot of him. The fixed lens helped me get a different perspective as always. I definitely wanted to avoid zoomed out images that at times miss out on the emotion of the occasion and the whole set up at large. It was pretty gratifying at the end of the day. And even more when I went to deliver the images at CHAI. Such field photography assignments are of immense value and gratification. You end up being on field, see things from close ground and build a positive rapport .