Tuesday, October 23, 2007
One Sunday morning in 1983 as Lovely Fiance and I were heading to church, the local news on the stock Philco AM radio in my old Ford pickup said that Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States was coming to town.
Monroe, Louisiana, my home town, is farming country in the Mississippi River delta and was experiencing bad flooding.
The Ouachita River (pronounced WASH-i-taw) that ran through town was over flood stage and was being held back only by the levees. Thousands of square miles of farm land lay underwater and it was going to be a disastrous year for farmers.
On his way back from his California ranch in Air Force One, they diverted to make a quick stop in Monroe so that the President could shovel a few sandbags full of sand for the cameras.
After church I rushed and got my camera bag with my trusty Canon AE-1 and went to the location he was to show up for the sandbag filling.
Only problem was that I had no time to go buy film and my camera was loaded with my first love, Kodachrome 64.
ISO 64 slide film is not the preferred choice for shooting in a jostling crowd on a rainy day where the clouds looked close enough to reach up and touch, but hey, I went anyway.
I was able to get close on a couple of occasions and at a couple of places he passed right by me, literally an arm's length away, but none of those shots came out at all.
These two are my favorites of him from that day. The first photo is just after he and his peeps got out of the Chevy Suburbans they were riding in. The gray haired man whose head you can see behind President Reagan's waving arm is the then governor of Louisiana, Dave Treen.
I love the second pic, President Reagan in a sea of reporters and locals. I only wish that microphone boom wasn't there.
Neither of these is great, but I took them myself and am proud of them. As any new photographic situation is, I learned a lot of lessons that day on how I should have prepared for fast moving situations that I use to this day.
I have one other photo from that day that I love, that is of the Secret Service men in a huddle planning their day among the crowd before the President had arrived, but these are my two best of President Reagan from that day.
I was able to get so close to him later because I had this big camera bag and just acted like I was one of the press and nobody bothered me and I was able to walk into areas that they didn't let the crowd have access to, only the press. I had no credentials showing, so I don't know how they let me past. One of the few times in my life I showed false bravado and got away with it.
It was fun, but I learned that I would have starved to death as a press photographer unless I upped my game a whole lot.
Anyway, that's my story.