Updated: Oct 6, 2018
I think doing something you love can’t never be bought with money. Sometime all you care is to dress up like a posh guy, act professional and gather some experience. Making photos to me is just the same kind. I have been asked the same question several time in different interviews- “why do you want this job?” I all the time had the same answer “I can do this job even if you don’t pay me. Me not getting paid and still doing the job shows how much I care.” I have done it, still doing it and don’t know about the future!
Now, there’s a reason on everything you do. Can be money, passion, interest or commitment etc. I make all these photographs, writing this blog, thinking of internships, so that I can live my only dream. Selfish isn’t? I plan to work for the White House as a Presidential Photographer in any part of my life. Back in 2017 when President Trump came for his official visit to Hawaii, I let go myself to live my dream for a single day. Starting from his arrival to till he departed, I planned to stay as close to the events going around the island.
The night before his arrival, as usual I was deprived off sleep knowing that the day after is a very important day. I had an early morning shift at my student job on the arrival day but I was too bold to give that up. The media crews were supposed to report by 9.30 AM and then followed by a security check at 11.30 AM. Around 1 PM we were given our media credentials to be in the local press pool. Few years prior to that day, my life was just a complex of full of day dreams but that only day I felt right of doing what I thought of doing once. From 9.30 to 1 PM, that’s a long wait under the scorching sun but you do what you have to do. Passion after all! Just around 1:10 PM we could locate the Air-force One up on the east sky but soon after it landed we figured it’s the replica which isn’t the one carrying the president and the first lady. I planned in what ways I could frame my pictures. My excitement was beyond my boundary. No talk, just thinking! Even though the plane’s engine was deafening enough but I could feel my heart pounding. Not because I was nervous, just because it was my day!
Since, the first one came out to be the replica, that means the second one has to be one carrying POTUS and FLOTUS. Within 8-10 minutes of waiting I heard someone saying “THERE HE IS.” The plane was still tiny on the eastern sky but I heard thousands of shutter clicks happening already. Can’t miss a moment! Once coming to USA was a unachievable quote for me but then I felt I was in US; moreover seeing the president and the first lady with my own eyes and photographing them. The plane finally approached the run way and meanwhile I already started clicking my continuous shutter mode.
The president and the first lady finally peeked out of the plug door of AIR FORCE ONE. I still remember the each and every moments looking through my view finder.
About 150 people gathered at the airstrip of Joint Base Pearl Harbor Air Force Base to support and greet the president couple, some of them wearing red “Make America great again” caps. Also, the greeting ceremony involved 9-year-old Mikayla Webb, currently a fourth-grader at Waialua Elementary School, chosen to welcome the Trumps with lei after departing the Air Force One. All I could do is shoot photos without reacting to all these what was happening. My canon 600D wasn’t pro enough to cope up with the load that I was inputting. It paused every 4 frames, recorded the picture and resumed. I was switching cameras as fast as possible, too afraid to lose a moment! I did eventually but all other pictures that happened to me that day was worth of waiting!
The presidential couple was later welcomed with traditional Hawaiian Leis.
At one point the presidential couple got lost in the crowd but I found one kid among the crowd sitting on his dad's shoulder waiting and seemed exhausted. I thought the president might come back and surprise the kid by doing something. I've seen pictures before where the president did something to make the moment special. He did, actually! The Hi5 photograph was my favorite photograph of that day.
After approximately 5-10 minutes with the crowd the coupled headed towards the motorcade on their way to the two important meetings and their visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Security was heightened at Waikiki and the area around Ritz Carlton hotel where the presidential couple was to stay for that night. I only having a local press pool credential didn't have the access to cover other presidential activities. So I thought of spending some time around the hotel looking for other relevant subjects. Approximately 200 people were across the street of the hotel waiting for a glimpse of the presidential motorcade perhaps the president as well.
I saw a massive division among the crowd that day. I've seen supporters and protestors gathered in one place doing what they are supposed to do. Each of them has their own story and own justification. I chose to be a listener and a silent capturer in this case.
Among all the kinds of the people I was meeting that day, out of them I met this old man claiming how he met the former president Barack Obama and shared his experience in getting the original 'Seal of the President of the United States.'
Things were about to get crazy as Mr. & Mrs. Trump will be on their way out of the hotel towards the Pearl Harbor. I had enough picture of the people on the streets already so all I wanted to to was to get an Ariel shot of the presidential motorcade. My co-worker for the assignment Raiyan lives on the 12th floor of the opposite Condo of Ritz Carlton hotel. So I thought this was the time his place could come handy!
My part of my assignment was to have a focus on the protestors. The night before I got a call from "Hawaii J20" for covering their resistance march in front of the Hawaii Capitol, I said I'll be there after I'm done photographing the president. So I started photographing the protestors starting from Waikiki ending all the way to the Capitol building. It was all about how creative they can become in terms of coming up with hard hitting slogans and motifs. It was not an easy experience with them. To come up with a very casual photograph without any posing was my aim and to do that I had to start talking to them and slowing branching out.
ROADS CLOSED! NO CAR! NO LICENSE for me! I had a hard time figuring out getting to the city downtown at this situation! Walked around 5-7 miles to find the nearest bus stop, waited for an hour and no.2 was there for the rescue. Several main streets including free ways were blocked, so the traffic on that day was never ending. Buses took their alternative routes so that long ride in the bus was for me still the longest bus ride in my ongoing 2 years living in Hawaii. Normally, takes like 20-30 minutes to get into downtown from Waikiki but that day it was approx. a 2 hours ride. Tough luck!
Reaching near the Capitol building I could hear the protestors beating the drums, screaming and raging out. This is when my canon mirrorless M5 came out pretty handy. I always love shooting wide angles. There were already many different TV medias and journalists reporting about the event, so I guess I was the last person to photograph them.
There were photo subjects all around over there. That's the main problem!
When there's too many photo composition around you its hard to pick one and concentrate on that. While I was dealing with this, I observed one guy silently blended into the protesting crowd with his "Make America Great Again" poster as a supporter of President Trump. I guess that's the moment when the people grew furious. The cops parked on the other side of the street ran into the crowd to break the intensity.
At least for a moment back then I felt like I'm doing a real life serious assignment given from the desk. I have seen the White House pooled photographers sharing their story on Instagram and using #onassignment. I thought I belong the same on that day.
I couldn't stop photographing until the sun disappeared from the west horizon that day. President Donald Trump finally came to the 50th state for the first time as the President. That was a once in a life time opportunity for me to document the history of Hawaii
Mr. & Mrs. Trump was supposed to leave the island around six in the morning the next day i.e Nov. 4th. That means the media has to be there by 2 in the morning, which included security check in two layers, provided with the credentials etc. The President was supposed to depart from the same place of his arrival except this time the view was a whole lot different than the arrival. No crowds! Only Media and security members. I got my necessary shots I needed during the arrival so the departure was a bit relaxing. The sun was about to rise, so I got to shoot the Air Force One on that rising moment!
The departure happened very swiftly and was quicker than the arrival. The motorcade's arrival was right on time by the schedule. The moment was beautifying as the motor cade was circling the Air Force One and the Secret Service, a light from the rising sun added an extra incense to the moment.
Except watching the President on the TV none of people over there know when he is visiting Hawaii again. Was his first time but may or may not be his last trip as a President of the United States. I may or may not photograph the president again in my life. All these guesses were going over my head with no answer to be given but to hope! That day I used the Canon 70-200mm lens for the first time. Thank you to my partner from my internship Anthony Quintano. Among all the departure shots I took my most favorite one was when the couple was sitting inside the motorcade and I could see them through the window.
They came out, waved at the media for once, started to board the plane, once they reached the top, they waved again and went in. Story ends!
The last three photographs I made was the three differential sequence of the Air Force One leaving the run way.
That was not even 24 hours of their presence but that was still living my dream! That day I happened to get a touch of the life that I want to pursue. I missed my paid shift on my student job in exchange to what I admire the most. At the end of the day when I think about this experience I get into a newer level in people's eye. Yes, I have also seen people judging me on the basis of the current president and his controversies but I chose not to put my ears on it as being a photojournalist its all about handling neutralism. I don't know if the president is coming again or if he is ever going to come to Hawaii, but whenever I see photographs made by the photographers of the president on his campaigns, inside the oval office or inside the plane, I always get teleported back to the time when I had long hair and was wearing the White House Media Credential on that media riser at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor Air Force Base. To my past, present and the future ahead!