Brendan Smialowski, a freelance photographer who has covered White House events since 2003, was also at the White House on Sunday night working, in this case, for the European Press Photo Agency. Smialowski, too, photographed the reenactment and captioned one of his resulting photos (in which Obama’s mouth appears closed) as follows:
U.S. President Barack Obama stands after making a televised statement at the White House in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 2011.
That is, literally, what the president is doing in the image. We are told, as in the AP and Reuters captions, that what we are seeing took place “after” the presidential address. Still. I guess I’d like to see the word “reenactment” right there in all the captions. Several photographers used the r-word when talking to Tompkins for his piece. Smialowki used it when talking to me. Smialowski also told me that, as a journalist, he has “an issue” with these
reenactments after photos. That he’s “always been a little uncomfortable” with them, but that he does his best to “address it in the caption, make it clear that it’s not the actual address.”
Doug Mills, a New York Times photographer, told Tompkins, “We [still photographers] have never, never, never, ever been allowed to cover a live presidential address to the nation!” Smialowski, however, recalled a time when he was able to photograph a presidential address as it actually happened: Obama was speaking to the nation from the Oval Office (Smialowski couldn’t recall the content of the speech) and photographers were “held outside in the Rose Garden and had the opportunity to photograph [Obama] through the window because the light was right.” He called this a “great compromise,” in that the president couldn’t hear the camera noise and there was “no way the president was going to look out the window and see one of us looking back at him” as it was nighttime.
A bit paparazzi, perhaps. Still, better than a reenactment.
(**Answer: The top image is a TV grab of the president delivering the address to the nation. The bottom image is Jason Reed’s photo of the president reenacting his address.)