Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Inauguration of Barack Obama

Several weeks ago my boss at the Post-Gazette lets me know that they were planning on sending me to the inauguration. At first I was almost certain that we weren't going to get anywhere near Obama, and I started to plan out ideas for crowd photos and the likes. Then, a week before the big day, my editor calls me and says that we've obtained one credential for the main press riser during the swear-in ceremony. He offered me the credential (which is strange, because I'm the least senior staff member), and I almost turned it down. All I could think about was how standard and similar my image was going to be compared to the countless others photographing the event, a good host of whom would have better positions than I.

I wanted to work the crowds instead. I wanted to be able to do something and have something to show from the event that was unique to me. And I would have probably done that, had I not called a friend of mine that works for our competing paper to ask his advice.

He was fairly shocked that I was really about to turn down the credential. He put it plainly, "You have the opportunity to photograph the swearing-in of the first black president in the history of the United States." Implied meaning: "Are you an idiot?"

It hadn't really hit me, how momentous this occasion was, until he said that. I don't know why I'm like that. But, needless to say, I took the credential.

And this is my frame. It's no different than the hundreds you've all probably seen thus far, except that it is mine. I feel proud about this image in a way I haven't felt before. I'm proud that, in a time defined by cutbacks and layoffs, my paper found a way to send a team of journalists to cover an important moment in this country's history. I'm proud that I can say that I saw Obama raise his hand to take the oath of office with my own eyes. And I'm proud that we live in a country where, truly, any one of us can achieve even the loftiest of goals. Be it a black man becoming president, or a kid who one day decided come hell or high water, all he wanted to do was take photographs for the rest of his life.


old man neill said...

very cool. :)

Toni Conrad said...

Wow Mike!!! That is so cool they sent you there like that! I cant believe you almost turned it down... That was a huge honor for them to let you do it. You will have to keep those photos in a safe place... They are something special. They are really good.