(editor's note: There are no photographs of Hilda Solis in this post because I have not exactly been granted permission to use them in such a way yet, and may not be.)
Last Friday I received a phone call of a sudden asking if I would be available to photograph U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on Tuesday. I said, sure I can do it! She would be the highest level government official by far that I would have the opportunity to photograph. The previous high was a city level mayor.
Photography-wise, this would not be a new assignment as I have photographed many of these types of roundtable events before. The Secretary would be attending two roundtables, one at the Port of Tampa (very cool building surprisingly) and then another at Centro Asturiano in downtown Tampa. My job was just to photograph her speaking at these events with a focus on images of her with the attendees.
When I arrived at the Port of Tampa at 11:20am it felt like a different photography gig. I could feel the anticipation in everyone already on site. I went through no special security or anything like that, and accepting the job was just a matter of saying, "yes, I will do it," in an e-mail reply. I was hoping to get some kind of clearance badge or something like that to keep as a souvenir!
The Secretary entered the roundtable room with no fanfare or introduction. She seemed very happy to meet and greet people on her way to her seat. Now you might think photographing someone sitting at a table is the easist thing in the world to photograph. It is not. People make lots of facial gestures while speaking, only about 10% of which are flattering! Most of the time if you freeze the look on someone's face while they are talking it will look funny. So it takes quite a few shots to get one to look proper.
After the discussion, which I enjoyed, it was time for what the Department of Labor called "grip and grin" shots, where Secretary Solis shakes hands and poses for a photo with the various guests in attendance. I thought it a very funny term.
All these repeated at the second location of the day. Then Secretary Solis was whisked away to the airport for a flight to Ft. Lauderdale for presumably another day of meeting with the public like this. I think it must be a very good feeling for people to be so happy to meet you and have you them tell you their sincere desires for what they need to improve the local community you happen to be in. It also must be extremely exhausting to have your attention so sought after day after day.
I was impressed by how carefully Secretary Solis listened to everyone's issues and concerns. I saw her and her staff feverishly writing notes and making reminders for follow ups with the appropriate channels. This was most impressive.
When Secretary Solis returns to the Tampa Bay area I look forward to the opportunity to photograph her in action again.