Over the last couple of days I was on assignment for Getty Images covering a visit by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as he came to Teesside.
The first part was to cover him as he spoke to a gathering of party faithful at the River Tees Watersports Centre on the banks of the River Tees in Stockton where during his address he spoke about Labour’s future plans.
The next morning I then had to meet him and his small entourage at Middlesbrough bus station where the plan then was to take the Number 36 bus to Stockton High Street and chat to some of the commuters. On the bus Mr Corbyn was joined by the MP for Middlesbrough Andy McDonald and Redcar and Cleveland council leader Sue Jeffrey.
Mr Corbyn has recently announced his support for Sue Jeffrey who launches her campaign manifesto this Monday in her bid to become the inaugural Tees Valley Metro Mayor in elections this coming May.
On arrival in Stockton the Labour leader went for a short walk down the high street as he headed back to his car.
Now I like to maintain some understanding of what is happening in the political world mainly because of work as it helps to understand what is going on and what pictures might present themselves during an event that might be related to current news but I have no affiliation to any particular party but I do quite enjoy covering political events.
I find it a challenge photographically to try and find an opportunity to make an interesting picture from what are mostly fairly routine and at times quite boring events. When a political figure is speaking I’m not really listening to what they say as such but more the intonation and the body language so that I can try and anticipate the next possible picture.
The challenge is to find different or unusual angles that might show the person differently but invariably the light is bad and movement can sometimes be restricted either because of the physical location the event is held in or because of restrictions by the party media people who organise the media at these events.
In this case however I was essentially free to go where I wanted and common sense will keep you right but one side of the room was inaccessible due to the arrangement of the chairs but you do what you can.
Now I always try and remain as professional as I can at all events including political jobs, irrespective of which party it might be…Conservative, Labour, UKIP or whatever it doesn’t matter to me as I’m representing either myself if I’m freelancing or as in most other cases I’m representing Getty Images but whoever it is you need to be courteous at all times even if you might disagree with what some people say.
All I want are the pictures that show the event. I don’t try and orchestrate a picture to make the politician look stupid or bad I just shoot what I see in front of me and regardless of my own thoughts about what they’re saying or what they represent I maintain a strong degree of integrity when I shoot and remain as impartial as I can.
Of course depending on which newspaper might then run a picture with their own political take on things it might not always show them in the best light, at least as far as they’re concerned, but this is the world that politicians live in and it’s part of the political game – and both sides play it.
In this case when the chance of travelling on a bus with the leader of a political party comes up then it offers some good picture potential. Even though the whole event is organised the people travelling on the bus were ‘regular people’ so it could have led to any kind of interaction and what you try to look for is that interaction and the animation and a different side to the normal ‘media face’ that politicians present – and they all have them – the more experienced the politician the better they maintain that face.
Along with that I try and take uncluttered pictures of the politician. This isn’t always easy as there is usually someone else with them. This might be a local politician they’re meeting with or a member of their entourage but it’s always a challenge to try and get a picture of them on their own and without distractions.
Obviously it’s a given that during the speech eye contact with the photographer is important in at least a couple of pictures so you train your lens on them for most of the time waiting for the moment they look up and hopefully straight down your lens before firing off a few shots getting the one where they aren’t blinking and are looking straight at you. Once again the more experienced the politician the more they are aware of and do this as they know it makes a better picture. Like I said, it’s all a game.
You’re also looking for wide shots, tight head shots, half-length shots, full-length shots to give a number of different options for using them in the paper. You’re looking for unusual composition and framing. You’re looking to use the light well and try and be different and creative – even though it’s all been done before a thousand times. But you have to try. Sometimes it works other times it doesn’t. You’re looking at reflections, shadows or silhouettes or shooting through gaps or leaving lots of what’s called in photographic terms ‘negative space’ around the subject or shooting them in profile.
Also you’re thinking about the audience and their reaction. This is where listening to the tone and rhythm of a speech comes in as you can then tell when the peak is coming and as such if it’s a particular inspiring speech – that does occasionally happen! Then you can keep one eye on the audience and be ready for their reaction.
So basically you have to watch for everything! From the main event to the smallest details around it whilst also trying to be ready for the unplanned and impromptu. Trying to position yourself well so you can make use of any particular mannerisms. For example Jeremy Corbyn quite often raises a ‘thumb’s up’ sign when he meets party supporters at smaller events if there is applause as he enters and he generally uses his right hand for many gestures through his speech so that’s worth remembering.
The more gregarious the politician the more animated they tend to be so it can be easier but the challenge is to get good reaction shots from the less-animated ones where it might not be in their usual character and it’s why I find them interesting to cover even if the politics may not always be as inspiring at times.
So below are a selection of pictures that I shot from the coverage and at the bottom are some that made it into the newspapers and online news sites this weekend…
The pictures below were used in The Times and The Herald and online with the Guardian ‘Photos of the Day’ and the Gazette…
On a technical note all the pictures above were taken with a Fuji X Pro 2 with 16mm f1.4 lens and a Fuji XT1 with 50-140mm f2.8 lens. No flash was used. All pictures were edited in Photoshop and received basic editing. No images have been altered in any other way.
See more of my work on my website and blogs…. HERE
Images copyright Ian Forsyth 2017 / Getty Images
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