Thursday, May 15, 2008

Being Present For History

Edwards Obama 1006"Here? John Edwards is going to be here?"

I looked at WOOD TV's Brian Sterling in disbelief, jaw dropped open...

"Did you go live with it already?"

He nodded.

Damn, can't break a story. Oh well, I didn't bring the laptop anyway. I did put in a call to "headquarters" and told Christine what was going on. I could barely hear her over the music blasting through the arena and the murmur of the crowd animal, who at this point did not know this would be happening.

They are going to love this. I just smiled.

Edwards Obama 1053And oh, did they ever. I'm a veteran of many rock concerts, have had my ears blasted out before by the yells and the cheers and the music - and this crowd didn't disappoint. The place erupted when Obama came on in the first place, and managed to get even louder when Edwards walked out. The arena was charged to begin with, and this ramped up the energy to a spectacular level. I know it sounds cliche', but you could feel it running through you. you really could.

I was almost in tears, part of the reason I had a hard time getting shots of the two together at first. Between the rocking of the riser and my hands literally shaking (and no monopod to steady the camera in the low light), for the most part they were blurred. Damn.

Before the ShowI'm not a reporter and I really don't try to be. Sure I could take notes, get quotes, hit the main highlights of what was said, but that isn't how I operate. I'm feeling it, rather than trying to report it or intellectualize it. I parse all that later. It was a campaign speech, and they are what they are. Rally points for the faithful, and it's all good, but I listen with a jaundiced ear because I know it's about the hope, and the reality usually turns out to be a different result in the end.

I love being a photographer for selfish reasons - I love to record history. Trying to capture the moment, get "the shot", something I feel I failed at last night (and why I expect to beat the folks that carry around more equipment than my net worth, I dunno, but that is where I love to compete) - but I did manage to get a few good ones. Check them out here.

The main thing was being there. Just being there. If you would have told me back in January that Edwards would endorse Obama at the frickin' Van Andel, I would have laughed my head off. And yet, here we are.

Six Lonely Protesters Starting from the beginning. Six protesters stood in front of the arena with signs such as "My pastor isn't a racist" and whatever - I give them credit for bravery. Six against thousands, they weren't going to get far. Don't know if they made the media (besides now). Don't really care. I think the Republicans are doomed this fall. I walked on.

Obama Time T-ShirtThe line. Holy cow, look at the line. It stretched all the way down the block (and it's a BIG block), around the back, and to the street on the opposite corner. They even started a line down a side street. All shapes and forms and ages of life, and they were all smiling and excited and laughing, having a blast even though they were standing in probably the longest line I have ever seen in my life. The vendors were out hawking the Obama stuff, and people gladly snapped it up. Oh yeah, this guy is a rock star, no doubt.

I made my way to the security entrance, no problem getting in. Name on the list, here is your press pass, get the stuff searched and the body wanded. The security dude thought it was fun to take pictures of me while he was checking my camera. Ha ha. Delete. They were all very friendly, polite, seemed to be happy to be there. That was great, nasty security can be such a downer.

Wandered in to the floor of the arena and into the press corral, chatted with some other photogs, drooled over their equipment, and started to just soak it all in. This was really happening. Pinch myself. They let the crowd in soon after, and just like a rock concert, they ran across the floor to try to get close to the stage. Part of me was envious of them; I wasn't allowed to leave the pen (although after it was over I did, and got yelled at by the Secret Service. Oops.)

Van Andel Arena FillsTime passed quickly, watched WOOD do their live shots for the five and six o'clock news. Watched the place fill to capacity. And then they surprised me by starting early, which turns out was actually late (they meant to go at 6:15), but I was thinking "7pm", so it kind of caught me off-guard. Guess they wanted to make the national news. Wise political move.

You saw what happened from there. I furiously clicked clicked clicked away, not really stopping to check what I was getting, just go! Made it up to the tall riser, should have stayed there, but tried to move for different angles. Burned through 3 gigs on the cards.

Edwards 989Impressions - Edwards. Edwards being Edwards. Love that guy. Tried to listen as I was shooting; that is hard because my head is in a totally different space. He smiles. I melt. Still shocked that he is even here.

Obama 1125Obama - serious. I was struck by how serious, how presidential he looked during the speech. The man is on a mission, the man has a plan. I think of the complete and total mess the Republicans have made of things, and wonder if he will be saddled with what I have come to call the "Granholm Syndrome"; take over a system that is broken and fiscally broke, and everybody and their brother runs at you with their hands out, begging for relief, and then gets pissed off when you don't instantly deliver. It might be easier at the federal level because they just print the money up there, but have things ever been this damaged before in my lifetime?

Good luck, Senator Obama, I think to myself.

One last impression of the speeches - what really struck me was the total kiss-up to Hillary and her supporters. Very, very smart. If there is a person that can heal this division, Barack can do it, and I think he will. Clinton will help. I don't believe the "she will destroy the party to run in 2012" rumor. She is too smart for that.

A magical night, right here in my hometown. So, so glad I could be there. Very surreal to come home and flip on the cable news, and there was an event in Grand Rapids being featured. Yea for us. Hope we did good. I think we did.