Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Chance To Photograph A Rising Star

All images © David Ball: 2007Last September, I received a letter from my old alma mater informing me that former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee, would be the keynote speaker for their annual fund raising dinner. I had been hearing a fair amount about his presidential bid and thought him to be a very interesting candidate. In fact, I liked him a lot and was hoping he could start getting more media exposure. But, at this point, he was still a 2nd tier candidate, and very few had heard of him. However, thinking this might be a great opportunity to hear the Governor speak AND get some good photos, I immediately offered my services as a professional photographer to the school. And to my great delight, they accepted my offer.

As it turned out, I was assigned to photograph the VIP reception, then was to continue photographing the evening’s events up to and through the Governor's address after the dinner.

Well, VIP photos are as VIP photos go. You pose the VIPs, tell them to smile and grab the shot. And then do it again as long as your time lasts. It's pretty boring, but that's how it goes. However, in-between the shots, I could tell that Governor Huckabee was a very gracious and genuinely affable man. It didn’t seem like he was “tolerating” the moment, but genuinely enjoyed greeting the guests. This seemed especially true when he was talking with the young undergrads in the university’s choir who were also at the VIP reception.

Since – as in most situations like this – I felt it was my duty as an event photographer to simply take the photos and try to stay in the background, I went about doing my job as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thus I didn’t plan to “chat it up” with the Governor since I was working the evening in a professional capacity.

All images © David Ball: 2007However, as the VIP event wrapped up, it was time to rush the Governor to the next venue for yet another photo shoot. It was during this time that one of the university VPs (seen here walking with the Governor) unexpectedly and graciously started singing my praises to him as the three of us dashed across the mall. He went on an on about my "great photography" and that I was a huge fan of the Governor to the point that I could no longer blend into the background and just do my job. Thus I was introduced to the Governor and blurted out the first thing I could express which was something to the effect of, “I’m seriously hoping your campaign takes traction.” (Which seems to have been prophetic as he is now leading all the other GOP candidates in some polls.)

All images © David Ball: 2007Now this was not one of the more brilliant of opening lines offered to the man you would like to see as your next president, but as I was unprepared to make any conversation, it was pretty much the only thing that came to my mind on the spur of the moment.

Graciously, the Governor offered me his hand and made some small talk about needing a White House photographer should he be elected. To which I didn’t dare slobber out the first thing that came to my mind which was something along the lines of, “YESIWOULDLOVETHEJOB!!!”

You don't want to kid a photographer about a dream job like that. But I'm sure the poor man was put on the spot just as much as I was.

In any case, we ran to our next stop for the evening and the Governor was just as affable with the other folks in the general photo session which followed.

All images © David Ball: 2007I didn’t have an opportunity to talk with the Governor any further, but listened as intently as I could during his address later that evening. Unfortunately, I was quite preoccupied with working the room for the best photo locations, so I kind of dipped in and out with my attention. But he gave a very impressive message regarding the young Christian students of my alma mater being the exact type of young leaders we need if our country is to have a brighter future. Which might seem more like the banal platitudes one would expect when a politician is addressing a room full of university alums. However, as I have previously demonstrated by my lack of quick thinking on my feet during my brief introduction to the Governor, I am likewise not doing his message justice as I describe it here since I am unable able to adequately recount the effect of the Governor’s presence and message as he delivered it with his southern humor and gracious style.

Nonetheless, his audience obviously “got it” when they gave him a standing ovation as he hurriedly exited the room to catch a flight to his next campaign obligation.

All images © David Ball: 2007After returning home and processing the photos, I felt it might be appropriate (considering our brief meeting) to send the Governor a little gift album of some of the photos from that night along with a note expressing that it would be my great pleasure to offer my professional services as a photographer to his campaign should he have any upcoming events in our state.

Unfortunately, I have the misfortune to live in the great blue state of California which – if I remember correctly – hasn’t been carried by a member of the GOP since Reagan ran for office. There is no greater feeling than to know that your vote means about as much as ten thousand "Who's Line is it Anyway" points when it comes to a Presidential race. However, I digress…

I also assumed that my gift might be brought to the Governor’s attention by a staffer, but that it probably wouldn’t go any further than that.

So, all this to say, I thought if I was really lucky (if the Huckabee campaign lasts as long as our state's primaries), perhaps I might get a call from a staffer saying I could tag along with my camera during a California stop .

All images © David Ball: 2007So what comes to my mail box a few weeks later??? To my great surprise nothing less than a very gracious, self effacing, hand signed, personal note from the Governor thanking me for my gift album along with high praise regarding my work and a final note that my contact information has been forwarded to his press secretary for future reference.

Well, it’s a long way from being offered a position as a photographer on the White House staff, but I was still very impressed that the Governor would take a moment from his busy campaign schedule to bother sending me a personal note. Besides that, the California primaries aren’t until February 5th which – politically speaking – is a hundred years from now. He needs to focus on Iowa, New Hampshire and the early primary states. However, come January and February, you can bet that I will be answering my phone on the first ring.

All images © David Ball: 2007Funny thing is, the Huckabee campaign was considered a long shot at best when I took these photos in early October. His national poll numbers weren't even in double digits. Now, just a few weeks later, the latest Rasmussen Poll has him 4 points AHEAD of Giuliani not just in Iowa or New Hampshire, but in the NATIONAL race as I write this. It's a very real possibility that this man might be our next president. Who knows!?! Stranger things have happened to former two term Governors from Hope Arkansas who play musical instruments. (In case you didn't know, both Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee play a musical instrument.)

In any case, as I’ve been following the Governor’s campaign more closely since my experience with him, I’ve noticed many other written reports and blogs with the same kinds of personal warmth and charm by others who have only met him once … as well as others who have known him for years.

Perhaps what I like most of all is that the Governor carries his power lightly. He comes off as a strong man with firm opinions and well thought out positions, yet he delivers his message in a soft spoken, Southern way that is not abrasive. He really seems like the kind of candidate who can collect a lot of Reagan Democrat crossover votes. And if he wins Iowa (as the polls suggest) and does well in New Hampshire, Florida and South Carolina ... who knows. We might be seeing a President Huckabee sworn in on January 20, 2009.

All images © David Ball: 2007In any case, I got some great photos, got to hear the Governor in person, got to see some old college friends I hadn't seen in 25 years and - who knows - might have gotten a contact for a future job offer.

Well, a guy can dream anyway...

1 comment:

carrie wigal said...

What a great story! I found you via Huck's Army's forum for making your own campaign signs. Thank you for providing these pictures for us.

Congratulations on this rare opportunity...and yes, dare to dream - that's where the future begins.

Go Mike!