Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pittsburgh G20 Summit...My story. Part Two

So Thursday finally arrived and it was showtime! I woke earlier than normal, downed a banana and some OJ and started my drive into downtown. Traffic was extremely light and it was apparent very quickly that most of the people who worked in the city had stayed home to work from their laptops, mow their lawns or just take some time off. I arrived at the Mellon Arena and parked after trying to give a very surly parking lot attendant a twenty dollar bill at 7AM. I never get why they should be mad a me when I give them legal currency...I DIDN'T set the parking rates!

Security checkpoint was interesting. We had to pass through a metal detector after emptying our pockets. Unlike the airport, I was able to leave my watch and shoes on. My equipment bags were checked by TSA, Border Patrol, and Secret Service people and a bored German Shepherd. I must say, even though there were many people and camera bags to sift through they were very professional, treated the equipment with kid gloves and were gentle handling all my thousand dollar tools. I wish that crew worked at every airport. After checkpoint we loaded into a motorcoach complete with Secret Service agent riding shotgun to assure there would be no funny stuff. I made a comment that the agent's Revo sunglasses were the same ones that I had. Of course, I wasn't wearing mine since it was still DARK outside...The agent grunted something without cracking a smile. So much for any conversation...she was clearly on the case.

We rode quietly into downtown and viewed the empty streets, high steel barricades, National Guard on every corner, and more black SUVS with tinted glass than I could count. I felt like I was on a movie set of some sci-fi flick, but this was the real deal.

Upon entering the Convention Center I started looking around for interesting angles and interesting things happening. The outside of the Center was shrouded in gray soup clouds and fog. No beautiful morning sun light was going to take place, much to my disappointment. I set up camp on the first floor media room. It was an ugly room that had been converted to a media center with tables, internet connection, large screen monitors to watch CNN (I'm more of a Fox news person but I didn't think anyone was about to change channels for me), and a small lunch counter. Also along one wall was a riser for TV crews to do shots of their reporters with the anticipated 1500 media spaces on the tables filled in the background. I sat next to some writers from Canada and they were fun to speak to and I shared some Pittsburgh hospitality guiding them where I thought they would enjoy dinner and drinks that evening. Right behind me, KDKA's political reporter, Jon Delano was holding court and stayed busy gathering info and doing interviews. Eventually Jon would even get to ask President Obama a question during the final briefing. I thought it was great that the Prez would call on a local reporter along with his trusty White House Press Staff.

The remainder of Thursday was spent mostly photographing media who was photographing and interviewing media. Most reporters as well as photographers were quite bored, for there just wasn't much going on and the entourages from around the world had yet to arrive. I did get some strong photos of the Center with people in the foreground, shots out the beautiful windows, and many media in action photos on the balcony where all the networks had set up to do live shots. Most of their cameras were pointed towards the "Golden Lady" bridges and PNC Park. However, I noted on my Twitter page, that some European crew had pointed their camera towards the ugly rusted brown and black rail road bridge that runs from the Amtrak station across the Allegheny. I wanted to say something to them, but fearing an international incident...I kept my mouth shut.
My client, an international architectural firm was mostly interested in seeing their building in use with lots of people and photos that showed media technology, so I had to incorporate the building in my shots whenever I could. Though I did leave the Convention Center for a bit in the afternoon to get an obligatory protester photo. The Tibetans were angry at China in a peaceful march on Liberty Avenue, so I shot that for about 10 minutes and quickly got bored of all the screaming and drama. Apparently, nobody told all the protesters that the China delegation was still sitting in their 747 sipping tea, or whatever it is that they drink. One thing for sure was that no delegate member ever saw a single protester for two days. The worst part about going outside was that meant me walking back to the Mellon Arena and going through security again and taking another bus ride back to the Convention Center to regain access. But by then, the sun had broke through the clouds and it was nice just to get some fresh air.

It was fun talking to a few photographers that I knew. Ran into Post Gazette shooters, Steve Mellon and Bob Donaldson, former assistant Steve Dietz, and makeup artist, Patty Bell who is ALWAYS working wherever there is something cool going on. Patty was working for the Eurovision crew and looked as bored as everyone else. We spent time swapping family stories and social media ideas. We both are seeing payoffs from the heavy social media time we've been putting in and it was interesting to compare ideas. Also spoke at length to Tom Buell from Global Pittsburgh, a fellow Twitter Tweep, avid photographer, and Ben Avon resident. I also got to corner County Executive Dan Onorato and pestered him asking why the county hasn't purchased a few hundred copies of my, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait book. He said I should call his secretary...Thanks, but been there, done that...

This is a photo of Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner. I wasn't listening to him as I shot, but I'm guessing he's explaining that all our tax dollars are being spent with the utmost care and that investment house bailouts with no government oversight is good for the United States...

Part 3 to follow...


Karen Banfield said...

Beautiful photo work Mark. I enjoyed reading about your backstage experience. I am, however, surprised that a guy you likes Fox News also likes Obama.


Thanks for the comments Karen. If you saw someplace where I said I liked Obama, please let me know where you read that :-) When I'm shooting I just need to get the shot, for this assignment politics was the last thing on my mind. If anything, it just reinforced my beliefs that other than security, the government tends to screw everything up.