Along The Campaign Trail; The Political Beat With Photojournalist David Burnett Page 2

Burnett believes that people will like or dislike a candidate based on their attitudes and their policies. "Certainly letting them see you as a real person doesn't hurt. You do want to feel you're connecting in some way," he says. "Most of us are looking for someone like ourselves, just an average American."

Burnett has covered the White House for 40 years since the summer of 1967 and recalls photographing John Kennedy when he himself was a senior in high school. Kennedy had come to Salt Lake City on a trip and Burnett went and shot his first batch of political pictures. "They weren't great pictures," he says, "but I have gotten everyone from Kennedy on."

The days are long for a press photographer. When the shoot is over there's the extra couple of hours contemplating and working on a laptop trying to get files saved and captioned.

Not So Fast. President George W. Bush greets the Premier of China, Hu Jintao, and keeps him from leaving the podium too quickly, during a State visit in Washington.
2006 © David Burnett/Contact Press Images

"You're really trying to make good pictures," Burnett says, "and the fewer the roadblocks, the easier time you have. Everybody wants to be in charge." The roadblocks Burnett is referring to are: "you can't stand here"--"you can't be there"--"there's not enough room." Or sometimes, he adds, "You're in a room where the light is really lousy.

"You see something that looks good and you would like to be able to take that picture. You look for a situation--something that will relate to the campaign generally or you try to get some kind of facial gesture that may indicate what that person is like. As with any other kind of photography, you're just trying to boil it down. Occasionally you get a few minutes where you can direct them but by and large you're along for the ride. Events take place and you try and trap an image out of it. You never know--I am always looking around, not just forward but to the sides and the back."

Burnett will tell you the important thing is to keep looking. "Force yourself to look for the unexpected; things you hadn't known would be there. It's the unexpected that will often make the best picture.

"You need to be ready. Things happen very quickly and somebody might come onstage and there may be just one moment when they turn to acknowledge somebody behind you, looking past you or over your head and that might be just the telling moment."

There is a lot of moving around in this business and Burnett is looking forward to the next stop. "We have a lot of good candidates this year and it's going to be very interesting as Hillary and Obama duke it out," he says.

"A lot of things happen. After all, news happens--that's why they call it news."

To see more of David Burnett's images, visit his website at: www.davidburnett.com.

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