When House Majority Leader Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost his primary , I knew the next day would be a media zoo on Capitol Hill.
As a photographer, the first priority was to get a picture of Cantor. The most likely time to see him would be when he arrived to the Capitol. However, the one reporter who saw him told me he came in through the Senate carriage entrance. Most people were staked out at the center door of the Capitol on the East Front, which is his usual route.
The route change was an indication he didn’t want to be seen and we probably weren’t going to be able to take a picture of him. I don’t think any other press members saw him until his news conference later in the day.
The next order of business was photographing House members’ reaction to the news. That proved easier because they had meetings in designated rooms and votes on the House floor. Photo Editor Bill Clark and I were able to get most prominent members and those in line for leadership positions.
Bill was able to get a great media scrum shot that shows the chaos of journalists trying to get a picture or comment.
All of these shots were important because comments made by members were making news and it’s nice to have pictures to go with them.
But all of the pictures were starting to look the same, and we still needed Cantor.
In the afternoon, Cantor’s staff announced that he would hold a news conference at 4:30 p.m. So, we would get a picture of him, but that posed another issue – what kind of interesting picture would we get? It would most likely be another shot of him walking through hall or at the podium.
I staked out a little-used position to get a shot of Cantor on his way to a House Republican Caucus meeting, which he would attend before his press conference. It was kind of an iffy position, but other photographers were already staked out at the better positions. If I squeezed in with them I was just going to get some variation of the same photo, so I was willing to gamble on it. It didn’t pay off and I didn’t file the picture. I’m posting it here as an example.
The exposure was ISO 3200, f/2.8 at 1/125. I panned as Cantor and his spokesman Rory Cooper went by, but for some reason I couldn’t keep them in focus. It also has two pretty nasty looking light sources.
Also, they were smiling. They could be genuinely amused about something, but I didn’t think it illustrated the story.
After the meeting, Cantor conducted his news conference across the hall. Bill had a position on a riser and got a shot that would have been a good page one picture.
I was hanging around outside waiting to get him leaving and casually taking pictures of people I know. Pictured here is Cantor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Doug Heye, and journalists Sue Davis and Lauren Burke, listening to his remarks.
Another staffer, Katie Patru, was also in the hall. A fellow photographer remarked that she looked fairly upset. I didn’t take her photo and just left her alone. I tried do a Hail Mary (holding the camera blindly above my head) over everyone while Cantor walked in the room – that didn’t work out.
The more I thought about it, I realized that this was not only a sudden blow to Cantor, but also his staff and supporters. A picture of a distraught staff member would convey emotion and tell a story better than whatever was going on in the room. I’ve known Katie for years and didn’t want to get in her space. There were people milling about in the hall and I waited for them to clear. I raised my camera up to my eye for about a second, took one frame and put the camera down.
I don’t like to make someone’s private moment public, but at the same time I want to give readers a feel for what’s happening on the ground and I felt this illustrated a broader effect of Cantor’s primary loss.
Here are the front pages of the political papers the next day.
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