Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pittsburgh G20 Summit...My story concludes.










I awoke Friday morning to more darkness and gray skies. I was hoping to get a nice exterior at sunrise for my client that would show the convention center and the outdoor balcony that was packed with television crews, but alas my plans were not to be.
I did shoot from the Northside across the river before heading up to the Mellon Arena to go through another round of security, but my heart wasn't in it as I knew even the best of Photoshop tricks would give my exterior photos an average look at best.

The security check point was more crowded than the previous morning and I had to wait quite some time after walking through the metal detector for my equipment to be poked, prodded, and sniffed. I passed the time talking with a photographer whom I met a long time ago on a shoot for Alcoa. We were both in the same location, but working on different projects.

The convention center was abuzz with activity when I arrived. Because I attempted to photograph the exterior, I missed Obama's impromptu press conference where he announced the US and allies would be cracking down on the nuclear program in Iran. This conference actually stole the G20 thunder and remained the headline throughout the rest of the Summit.

The next photo opportunity would have been the "family" photo session where all the heads of state are on a riser for the historic photo. Unfortunately, I was lead to believe by the State Department that no additional credential or "underlay" would be needed to photograph this event. Of course, when I showed up at the door I learned that if you didn't have a special credential you weren't getting in. No one sent me the memo. I did get the "shot" by sitting in the US Television control room for about 45 minutes and photographed the live feed off from a large monitor. I was able to get the convention center in the background as well, so I figured my client would be pleased.

Shortly after I went into the White House Press Corp briefing room where Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary and Gary Samore, the White House expert on WMD's were holding court. I entered the room half way through the conference and thought it was a little strange that I was the only photographer. I went to the back of the room and shot about 8 frames. I was then approached by some freshly scrubbed White House press office intern who told me that this was a "no photography session". I told her I hadn't got that memo either...I did quit shooting since I already had what I needed and quietly left the room in my walk of shame. I don't think anyone really cared that I was shooting, for the press was taking notes and typing on their laptops, trying hard to keep up with the breaking content that was being thrown out.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful till I did the final Obama wrap up press conference photos. We waited on risers for about 45 minutes waiting for a late Obama to show up. The video people were all complaining because whomever built the risers didn't make them sturdy enough and everytime someone would so much as take a step, all the video cameras started getting vibration problems and un-stabilized shots. The only other thing that I thought was out of the ordinary, was that powerful quartz lighting was turned on aimed directly towards us in the back of the room and in to our camera lenses. I couldn't imagine why anyone would design lighting like that as light in your lens isn't conducive to great photos. It then dawned on me that they were there so the Secret Service could keep their eyes on everyone as they didn't want to be staring in to a black hole. I didn't really hear much of what he had to say, as I was concentrating on getting a good shot, not vibrating the riser, and fighting the body odor of the French videographer whom I was standing next to that hadn't taken his weekly shower yet.

The day was finished after I photographed two other smaller conferences with the Canadian Prime Minister, Swedish Prime Minister and the Secretary for the European Union.

All in all...it was a good two days. Despite a closed downtown and business losing out on two days of revenue, the Summit was considered a success bringing in a conservative 35 million dollars to the economy. There was very little protester damage done, though a few dopey anarchists broke some glass in Oakland. From what I heard many of the people who clogged the streets wearing black and face masks were shouting, "HERE WE GO STEELERS!" and "LET"S GO PENS!". Note to protesters: Next time don't bother coming out and making a nuisance of yourselves. Just put a cogent thought or two together and send a letter to someone who CARES...The violent protesters NEVER get their point across, since the criminal actions always out weigh any message the protester might have. Of course the news kept showing a video of a stupid girl throwing her bike at some cops where they quickly introduced her to the pavement. They might have been just a little over zealous in their actions, but I figure you better stay on the porch if you can't run with the big dogs...Maybe next time she'll take my advice and write a letter, but somehow I doubt it.

In the end the G20 finally turned out to be profitable for me which was what I was hoping for all along. Not only did I land a great assignment, but a local hotel bought 150 copies of my book for dignitaries and VIP's staying with them. My only disappointment was that I was not able to curate a Pittsburgh photo show in the convention center which I thought would have been a great opportunity to sell our region to the throng of captive media. Maybe I'll try again in a couple of years. I hear rumblings that the G20 would like Pittsburgh to be a host again!

Thanks for following my blog and being interested in this event!

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