I always said there were two people I wanted to be commissioned to photograph in my career; American President Bill Clinton and Al Pacino. I had the opportunity to work on an event that Mr. Clinton was attending last year but it was a PR shoot rather that a portrait sitting, speakers, and groups of people, the usual thing.
I mentioned it to my client that I really wanted to photograph Mr. Clinton on is own. He said if I could organize it, it was fine with him. On the evening of the event I was introduced to the lady looking after Mr. Clinton. I was told I had to shoot 3 groups of people with him. She instructed me to get the shots as quickly as possible, no posing, no fixing of ties, bang bang in and out. I asked her if I could have a clean shot of just him on his own, it would take 10 seconds. She said I had literally only 10 seconds.
The backdrop was set up and the people were waiting for the President to arrive. I was shooting with a Canon flash on the camera, a typical PR setup. I knew this wasn’t the lighting I wanted for the portrait shot so I also set up a Bowens 500 head with a wafer 56 to the side of the backdrop.
There must have been 6 or 7 secret service agents hovering around. The president arrived and I started taking the group shots. When I had the 3 groups done I asked the president to hold on for 1 second. I turned the Canon flash to shoot behind me and trigger the Bowens head and changed the settings on my camera. I changed the 24-70 lens to my 45mm shift, something I always do for portraits, I love the perspective and the quality. When I put the camera up to my eye the president was looking straight at me. I fired the shutter and a secret service agent who was about 2 inches away from my ear said, ” What are you doing?” “I’m just getting a clean shot,” I said. “ Look that way Mr. President” I said pointing toward the light. He turned his head and I fired again. “ STOP WHAT YOUR DOING“ the secret service agent said. It must have only taken 6 seconds, that was it, two shots.
I knew from my days working in the darkroom that the background didn’t matter I would burn it in later. Both shots were sharp and he didn’t blink so I got to shoot the president with just two shots.