A two-minute portrait with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stands for a portrait before a campaign event for fellow Democrat Kaniela Ing in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia – RC1A8566A7F0

Late last week, local politician Kaniela Ing announced political wunderkind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be in Honolulu to stump for Ing’s campaign for Congress.

I approached Reuters News and asked to cover the event which they approved.  With the popularity of the social democrat in the media currently, I wanted to capture a portrait of AOC before the rally.

I reached out to her campaign people and arranged to two minute photo shoot. I knew I’d have to work quick and fast and wouldn’t have anyone really helping me.

For the lighting, I opted for a Profoto ring light powered by a Profoto 7B2 and would place her against a silk background stretched over my homemade 6×6 frame.  I don’t usually use a ring light because it can be a one trick pony but I figured I would have a tough time moving a light bank and stand around by myself.  So I stuffed my Canon 1Dx Mark II with my ever present 28-70mm 2.8 lens into the case with the pack and ring light prepared to move quickly.

The event was held inside a school cafeteria at a school near Waikiki.  I arrived early and looked for a place to set up.  Ing’s people were scrambling to set up the event and didn’t have much time for me.  At the last minute, I was told the meet and greet would be in a classroom upstairs from the cafeteria.  I grabbed my gear and rushed up to build my set.

As I ran up the stairs I ran straight into AOC.  She had just arrived and was looking for a bathroom.  I told her it was downstairs and she smiled politely and I went on to meet her crew and set up the studio.

When AOC returned from the bathroom, her hair was wet like she had run water through her locks. I felt she wasn’t photo ready but her appearance was youthful and it all seem to fit.   She didn’t carry herself like a rising political star and it wouldn’t be tough to imagine her running across campus to her next class.

We chit-chatted for a few minutes before I posed her in front of my background which was being held up by two of her aides.  I awkwardly told her that standing straight at me comes across like a mug shot so I pointed her feet and shoulders at an angle and I shot about 8 frames of her and that was that.

Afterwards, I covered the rally and got the usual pictures of politicians raging against the machine.

I almost gave up as I lost time and patience trying to get the portrait set up.  But I persevered was glad I captured something different of the rising political star.

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigns for fellow Democrat Kaniela Ing ahead of the Democratic Primary Election in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia


Not worthy for the wire…

Not worthy for the wire...

A day of shooting election primaries for a wire news agency isn’t loads of fun.  It usually consists of chasing the fake smiles of hopeful candidates and shooting their manicured smiles and prom queen waves.   You drive all around town to different locations where the politicians are doing their last minute sign waving trying to capture that one undecided voter passing by.

So last week’s coverage of the primaries gave me some of the better pictures I’ve taken in some time.  As I drove down Beretania St. on the way to see Ed Case waving down on the Pali Hwy, the traffic slowed down a bit as we neared the Capital.  Several police cars with flashing lights caused just enough rubbernecking to make traffic just that more irritating but I noticed something slightly out of place.

She’s naked!

So I weaved my way through the rubberneckers spinning around the Capital to rush up on the small group of Occupy Wall Streeters turn Honolulu and found a porty protestor, a cop, and a leggy blonde with plenty of tattoos and just enough tape to cover the naughty bits.  With these type of elements forming all around, its hard not to get a great photo.  Her sign of getting screwed bu the politicians works very well.

I had just enough time to capture them waving their signs and cops around them to capture a few pictures and move on. So I hopped back in the car and was driving past the protest when I noticed the large lady in the wheelchair rolling down the cross walk nearing the Occupiers.  I only had my 24-70mm lens at hand and the light was green so I had no other option but to shoot and just crop.  Little did I know I captured a great moment.

So I get back and transmit my take to NYC and sadly found the editors didn’t have the courage to move the “graphic content” or so they say.  They can run headless bodies, blood and guts, and whatnot but no boobs.  Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

A note on pictures…sometimes you can’t plan it.  It just happens.  Looking through past great photographs, it seems most photographers didn’t plan to be at that place at that moment.  Things just unraveled in front of them.  This New York Times piece has a POWERFUL image of a Tibetan protestor who set himself on fire protesting Ju Jintao’s visit to India this year.  Its a powerful moment that could have never been planned.  I can only imagine the photographer, Manish Swarup, never would have thought he have a shot like this.  There was no time to think about composure, f stops, what type of lens is on the camera, filters, iso, etc…nothing.  Absolutely no time to think as its just a reaction. And sometimes those reactions are things that happen out of no where.

My picture is not award winning  nor is it life changing for me and I shouldn’t event mention my name in the same breath as Manish Swarp, but its those moments that are unplanned and just happen.

Funny, AP ran the image of the self-immolation…but they didn’t run mine.

Another Photo EtC

Another Photo EtC

The APEC Summit has come and gone.  To me, and to probably loads of other photographers, APEC was just Another Photo, EtC…

What a pain!  3AM call times so Secret Service could sweep you and your gear, the suspicious stares from foreign security guards, the endless traffic congestion due to heighten security and dignitaries’ motorcades, the endless waiting for someone to make an appearance.  It just goes on and on.

Yet, I’ve gotten to photograph the three most powerful men in the world…Medvedev, Obama, and Hu Jintao.  No to mention Hillary Clinton, just about every APEC nation’s leaders landing at the airport.  I was no further than a very short stone’s throw from two of the most powerful men whose mere presence can shake the course of history.  Do I exaggerate?  Anyone who holds the US debt plus possibly the EU’s?  No.  I don’t exaggerate.

Yet, its all just Another Photo, EtC.  Really.  Images to catalog, to burn on a disc, and to file away. After its all over, all you have left is the lingering rush and adrenaline still pumping from the job.

The Associated Press was happy as I got a “Thanks for the good work” email from Tom Stathis…and that means a lot.  I got to be a part of something important although I was just on the outside.

Here are a few of the selects from the APEC hell week.

Above you see Mr. Obama through the bullet proof glass of his pimped out Caddy.  As he drove up to the tarmac and I spotted him in the rear seat, I couldn’t help to be struck by the fact that he’s the US President.

The toughest part of the week was being stuck on arrival duty and having to be cleared to enter Joint Base Pearl Harbor/Hickam at 4am on Friday and 3am on Saturday.  Those days were tough yet I got to see the smiling Dimitry Medvedev exiting his crappy Russian state plane.  The Sultan of Brunei had the BIG PIMPIN’ 747 ride that was just as big as Air Force One, or so it seems.  Hu Jintao was rumored to hit Honolulu’s Chinatown but since I live a few blocks away, I would have probably been alerted to the super security that would have surrounded the Chinese presidents’ present, no?  He, Medvedev and and Obama had full on security detail meaning they could shut down the city when they rolled.  I saw no such action in Ctown the week they were here.

One rumor I read was the Russian delegation demanded the bars at the Modern Waikiki (hotel) remain open 24 hours a day.  Stoli on the rocks at any time, no?

The Hu Jintao photo op was mired in constant “meiyou meiyou” and suspicious glares.  The Chinese security forces around the President clearly were doing their job but seemed awfully unorganized and never believed anything the American handlers would tell them.  Constant badgering, criticism, and attitude.  Constant confrontation and getting into people’s faces.  Not aggressive like Westerners but like Chinese…a mildly aggressive badgering.  Bad haircuts and bad suits.  At the end, we were hosed by the State Run media which got the better pictures and we got sidelined for cheaper and faster images.  And when I say State Run, I refer to China, not our government media complex.

Speaking of bad suits,  we had a run in with Russian security.  As we were waiting in media line to enter Hickam for the arrivals on Friday, three guys in cheap suits got in line with us and tried to enter the base.  They drove a black US sedan (which you knew stunk of Russian cigarettes and vodka and probably had a dissident tied and bloodied in the trunk) and got out of the car eyeing all of us suspiciously while sauntering over to the military police to get onto base. Medvedev was arriving and they had a job to do.  They were young and didn’t look all the menacing but you knew if you screwed with them, you’d end up in the trunk with that dissident.  I looked for bloody knuckles and blood smears on their jackets to no avail.  The Cold War lives on.

Security was insane…but who can blame them.  Imagine the fool who could get close enough to knock off a world leader.  Their names would line the history books!  I remember when I worked as an assistant and being left alone in a studio with Bill Gates for like 15 minutes.  Boy did my mind drift to those c stands in the corner and how I could use it as a bat. We all know who assassinated Lincoln, Lennon, Kennedy, and Reagan, no?*  Gates?  Well, it didn’t happen.  Your kid won’t learn about me in the history books and they’ll still have to deal with Windows crashing.

*Booth, Chapman, Oswald, Hinckley.

And for my last image, all I have to say is the 60’s live on.  Most of those protesters, God bless ’em, who demonstrated in anti-APEC protests across town and in the country do have a point.  Banks, politicians, media, etc…are in need for reform.  I myself can’t help but to wonder how members of Congress are able to dance around insider trading laws, how millionaires like Michael Fat Boy Moore and P Diddy can hob nob with the protesters, and how the Democrats claim to support the peoples when they are the 1%.  Obama didn’t fund raise at Disney’s Aluani with the homeless out living on the Waianae Coast.  He charged $1000 per head and pix with the Commander in Chief were $5000.  I wish AP paid me what those donors paid for a simple snap with Barack.  I’d be big pimpin’ with da Sultan in no time.

Again, back to the pits…the harry hippies of yesteryear haven’t disappeared.  Their indelible stain on society protrudes on our lovely siren holding a most important bed sheet while splashing around Waikiki’s warm waters.  Yet might it be the marketing and the romance of the hippie culture which sells the image of revolution?  No doubt the younger generations have copycatted the protest movements, clothing, music and chants of those stinking masses of yesteryear.  The chants of “Hey Hey Ho Ho (add your chic cause here) has got to go!” are no different than those chanted by those who spit on my uniformed father when he returned from ‘Nam.  The attraction of free love and free living along with being free of all society’s constraints is just too great.   And to think those sandal wearing pot smokers went on to sell their wares in the capitalists markets.  Now you can find hippie attire and culture all neatly packaged at Urban Outfitters or other such chain stores.  And lets not skimp on the irony that its made by our comrades in China.

The scarfed, tent dwelling, cardboard waving  sandalnista is no more than a carbon copy of old grainy film stock images of 60’s hippies.  Except they use the the 1%ers Twitter, Facebook and web devices to carry on the message.

The message is correct to some degree but 1969 has come and gone.  Vote them out I say.  We elected the hope and change and got nothing.  Vote them out.  That vote weighs more than some scrawled message on an old cardboard box.  But if we are not careful, we might not even have a vote.  Then we’re gonna need to do something much more than occupying a city park and smoking dope.