Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dueling Press Conferences

Photos © The Arizona Republic

A lot of news was made Thursday. Unfortunately for photographers, most of it was delivered in dueling press conferences. My morning started at the US Department of Justice offices in Phoenix where Thomas Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, (top photo) delivered a scathing report on civil rights violations committed by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department during their "crime suppression" sweeps when deputies blanket a neighborhood and pull over anyone they think might be an undocumented immigrant, and in the county jails, where DoJ officials allege Spanish speaking inmates were not afforded their constitutionally protected rights. 

The day ended at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Offices across the street from the DoJ, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his lawyers strongly refuted the DoJ claims. (On the right in the bottom photo, with Lisa Allen his spokesperson) Arpaio claims the Justice Department's report is politically motivated by Democrats and liberals in Washington DC and retaliation against him because he's investigating whether or not President Obama is a US citizen. His claim is that if the President is not a US citizen he may have committed fraud by duping Arizona voters into voting for him. Arpaio's claim of a political attack overlook the fact that the investigation into his department was started during the Bush administration and his investigation of the President started just a few months ago, just before the DoJ investigation was concluded. If anything, Arpaio's investigation was intended to blunt the DoJ investigation, not the other way around. 

I've been photographing Sheriff Arpaio and the jails for more than 10 years. It's always kind of a surreal experience. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Michele Bachmann Comes to Scottsdale

Congresswoman and GOP Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann (R-MN) attended a Politics on the Rocks mixer in Scottsdale last night. The event was held at The Mint, a former bank (hence the name) now an upscale restaurant and club in downtown Scottsdale. Politics and the Rocks is a networking group for conservative Republicans, Bachmann was very warmly received by the crowd. 

I only had about 10 minutes to photograph Bachmann. She arrived at about 7:15 and I had to leave by 7:25 to make deadline. Sometimes things just work out that way. 

There are more photos of Bachmann working the crowd in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Wreaths for Heroes

About 200 people came to the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix Saturday morning to honor veterans in the final resting place. The occasion was the laying of Christmas wreaths on veterans' headstones. 

It's become an annual tradition. In 1992, Morrill Worcester, a businessman from Maine, placed wreaths on headstones in Arlington National Cemetery. Every year since then the tradition has grown. Now, on the 2nd Saturday of December, Wreaths Across America places wreaths in cemeteries across the United States. Not just veterans' cemeteries but anywhere veterans are interred. 

Saturday I went to the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix to photograph the wreath laying. Hundreds of people - some veterans' groups, some corporate volunteer groups and some individuals lined up for wreaths and then walked through the cemetery placing wreaths on headstones. 

Some people simply walked to a grave and placed a wreath on it, others knelt in quiet prayer. Veterans and military members laid a wreath on a headstone and snapped off a smart salute. It took about 20 minutes to distribute the wreaths. After that some family members kept vigil at loved ones gravesides. 

There are more photos from the wreath laying in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mitt's Back!

Perennial Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in Phoenix this afternoon to announce that former Vice President Dan Quayle was endorsing him for President. The two did a joint appearance on the podium for a few minutes then Romney did a live interview with Neil Cavuto on FOX. In between his appearance with Quayle and the interview on FOX, Romney worked the crowd, talking to children, signing autographs and posing for photos. 

There are more photos from Romney's campaign stop in my archive

Monday, December 5, 2011

Where There's Smoke

I never go anywhere without a camera of some sort. On my walks I just bring my iPhone but when I'm out for anything else I bring a "real" camera. When I'm not working, the real camera is a Panasonic Lumix GF1 and a few lenses (14mm, 20mm and 45mm). The GF1 is a remarkable little camera, not much bigger than a Canon G12 but much more capable. It's a 12megapixel, interchangeable lens micro 4:3 camera, a format pioneered by Panasonic and Olympus. It's small, fast and the lenses are exceptionally sharp. Because it's so small, it's easy to carry around. The whole kit fits into a large belt pouch or tiny shoulder bag. The sensor is half the size of a full sized 35mm sensor like the ones in the Canon 5D Mark II or 1Ds Mark III - it has a 2X crop factor - so the 14mm lens is roughly the equivalent of a 28mm lens, the 20mm lens = a 40mm and the 45mm = a 90mm. In other words, it's nearly a perfect combination for street photography or daily journalism work. 

This afternoon, on my way home from lunch with some of my former coworkers, I happened upon a house fire about two blocks from my home. I stopped to see what was happening and made a few photos. I was certainly helped by the weather. It's cold and very dry, so the sky was a brilliant blue. It was mid to late afternoon, so the light on the south facing house was nearly perfect. The little Lumix did a very nice job. 

This is not the first time I've used the Lumix for photojournalism. I used it to photograph most of a couple of projects in Bangkok. One on the Bangkok's commuter light rail, the Skytrain, and one on Soi Arab, the section of Bangkok popular with tourists from the Middle East. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe

December 12 is Virgin of Guadalupe Day, one of the most important holy days in the Latino Catholic calendar. Between now and then there will be thousands of processions at churches across Latin America and in Latino congregations in the US to honor the Virgin, also known as the Empress or Patroness of the Americas. 

The processions started in Phoenix on Saturday. The Phoenix diocese of the Church hosted the sixth annual "Honor Your Mother" day, which included a procession with hundreds of participants and a special outdoor mass to honor the Virgin. 

According to Mexican history, on December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, had a vision of a young woman while he was on a hill in the Tepeyac desert, near Mexico City. The lady told him to build a church exactly on the spot where they were standing. He told the local bishop, who asked for some proof. He went back and had the vision again. He told the lady that the bishop wanted proof, and she said "Bring the roses behind you." Turning to look, he found a rose bush growing behind him. He cut the roses, placed them in his poncho and returned to the bishop, saying he had brought proof. When he opened his poncho, instead of roses, there was an image of the young lady in his vision.

The Basilica of Guadalupe, one of the largest churches in Mexico City, is built on the site close to where Juan Diego had his visions. The poncho he wore hangs in the Basilica. I've been photographing Virgin of Guadalupe observances for about 20 years, since my first trip to Mexico City. It's one of my favorite religious observances.

There are more photos of the Phoenix procession in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.