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Matinee: 'The Well: Covering Capitol Hill' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

5 September 2015

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 101st in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Well: Covering Capitol Hill.

In just under five minutes (and five minutes will be more than enough to break a sweat), you'll see what it's like to be a working photojournalist covering Capitol Hill.

We've always thought that watching other people work is not a bad way to celebrate Labor Day weekend.

We've always thought that watching other people work is not a bad way to celebrate Labor Day weekend.

The Well is that little orchestra pit between the members of a congressional committee and the table where some citizen or other testifies. It's packed with photographers trying to get an image that tells the story.

But there are "wells" in every room. And we see more than a few in this video.

At one time, as the video reports, there were just 10 or so photographers jostling for the best angle. But these days there are a couple dozen credentialed photojournalists politely angling alongside each other.

They aren't hoisting the bulky Speed Graphics of the past. So they don't have to swap out a 4x5 film holder between shots. Instead, they have dSLRs that can fire several frames a second with long zooms to get intimate shots.

As one of them complains, they don't have time to think about what they're doing. They're just doing it (quickly) and moving on. The photo sessions can be quite brief.

As for deadlines, well, there's no deadline, another says. "We're always on deadline" to beat the competition.

Getting beyond the canned message is the trick, according to one thoughtful pro. Find a different perspective, maybe before or after the official photo session. It serves the readership better, they explain, taking them places they've never been before.

Considering what's a stake for each photographer, it's remarkably civilized. At least in the Well.

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