Photography and the National Conventions

During the Democratic and Republican conventions, I monitored my usual photo blogs for any mention of coverage. I had intended to write an extended, multi-part, profusely illustrated feature discussing the use of photography in the coverage of the conventions. Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions (with the plethora of big news stories in the last week, responding to my licensing requests wasn’t high on anyone’s priority list) and the fact that most blogs that feature photojournalism are rabidly partisan (sometimes to the point of alienating even those who agree with their point of view), I’ve come to the conclusion that I either have to scale back my original concept or abandon it altogether. I’ve chosen the former option.

Please forgive the insanity of an article about photography being completely text-only, but if you take the time to click through to the pictures and articles, I think you’ll be impressed. I’ve made sure to only link to the best of the best (in my own opinion), so I think it will be worth it.

General Resources

Todd Heisler, Damon Winter, and Damon Scull were three of the best staff photojournalists covering the convention. The New York Times has a Photographers’ Journal multimedia presentation which features several of the best images and narration from the three discussing their experiences.

Protests were a big part of the story at both conventions, and Fear and Loathing 2008 was a blog dedicated to covering that side of things.

The Democratic National Convention

Damon Winter (as per above) covered the DNC for the New York Times. A slideshow features his best work from that week.

BAGNewsNotes features photography by Alan Chin. He created a series of slide shows over the course of the week; unfortunately I can’t link directly to the slides, I’ll have to link to the posts containing them. Persons prone to violence if they disagree with strongly-stated points of view are warned.

Ted Kennedy/Michelle Obama Slideshow
Bill Clinton Slideshow
Joe Biden Slideshow
Barack Obama Slideshow

Alan’s very talented, and if you like the coverage provided by BNN, I suggest you browse the website to find his other slideshows.

On opening night of the convention, Matt Slaby got this amazing shot of the crowds.

On night two, Matt again came through with a photo of Senator Clinton taking the stage.

Exposures, the blog for Aperture magazine, showed a photograph by Jon Winet and in an accompanying article, discussed the press access during the conventions as contrasted to the comparatively tight leash the media has been on during the last eight years.

When Senator Obama accepted the nomination, he was criticized for using Roman columns, but in a perceptive comment at BNN, the visual connection to the White House was pointed out. This can be seen in this picture by Al Shaw, this from Getty, and this graphic from

Alan Chin again comes through with images of Senator Obama striding onto the stage, and audience reaction from a woman who seems almost entranced.

For me the shot that brings home the Democratic National Convention is this view of the crowd by Michael David Murphy. MDM is a great photographer, and he’s doing a project on Senator Obama’s campaign, which will be shown in Atlanta the week before the election. I’ll have more comments on that show and MDM’s work in the days ahead.

The Republican National Convention

My resources for the RNC are fewer, for a number of reasons – I was busy with other things that week, most of the blogs I read (that have any slant at all) are liberal, and the convention itself was somewhat circumscribed, as a whole bevy of changes were made out of respect to the victims of Hurricane Gustav.

In fact, the first night, the only thing of real interest was a joint appearance by First Lady Laura Bush and prospective First Lady Cindy McCain. (From an Exposures post that is little more than anti-Republican and has hardly any real substance.)

Since he was dealing with Gustav on Monday, President bush addressed the convention Tuesday night from the White House via a video feed. This image from New York Times photographer Todd Heisler is sure to become iconic, though its interpretation will likely depend on the interpreter. (The article attached to the photo is largely a wrap-up of the day’s events.)

Governor Sarah Palin’s nomination for the vice presidency created a furor of media attention, even moreso when it was announced that her daughter was expecting a baby. Photographers were there when Senator McCain welcomed the father to Minnesota.

Time has an excellent online slideshow of Sarah Palin’s career. Newsweek did a slideshow of Wednesday’s events (the sixteenth photo is a great shot of Governor Palin during her speech).

Senator McCain’s acceptance speech was seen by more TV viewers than any other in history. In his acceptance speech post, Matt Slaby has an excellent photo of the senator onstage. A minor but amusing slipup occurred when the megascreen behind the podium showed a photo of Walter Reed Middle School. (State of the Art explains here.)

Time has these excellent photos of Senator McCain and Governor Palin waving to the crowds and of McCain greeting supporters after his speech. (From another online slideshow, John McCain’s Big Night.)


Several of the photographers I’ve mentioned will probably be posting retrospectives of their coverage in the coming weeks. BAGNewsNotes, for one, has gathered their posts of the Democratic and Republican conventions. As I see more, I’ll post them.


~ by David Cupp on September 17, 2008.

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