Lots of eyes on Washington this week. Made me remember this picture. Joe Biden, then senator from Delaware. We do so much currently with flash to re-create window light. And there it is, on a cloudy day, just waiting for tri-x.
I was shooting Biden for People magazine, which really used to do good stories, and do them in B&W. Started as the brain child of Dick Stolley, People has been a juggernaut of magazine publishing for years, though I gather now it faces stiff competition from the likes of US, Them, Now, We, He, She, and It. (Whatever would they all do without little Suri Cruise?)
Anyway, the story used to go around (and it might have been apocryphal for all I know) that readers’ surveys conducted by People always cited the fact that folks enjoyed the stirring color photography which dominated the magazine. Which was odd, ’cause there wasn’t a damn thing in color in the magazine except the ads and the cover. This I’m sure was one of the great coups of magazine publishing–to produce a black and white weekly that somehow at least some of the readers thought was color.
The black and white persona of the magazine was reveled in, right down to the Black and White Ball held every year. Flush with success, the magazine would generously host a bash at the end of every year, and invite even us scruffy freelancers to don a tux and show up. There was a participatory spirit that dominated that era, not the “us vs. them” mentality of now. The magazine realized its’ success depended on the ongoing input and creativity of the band of oddball, goofball (I fell into both categories) shooters out there who contributed every week, and refused, at least for a time, to crush us. The tandem of picture editors up there, Mary Dunn and MC Marden, were the type you would walk through fire for on a handshake.
Things change, as they obviously have for Mr. Biden above, who really has gone onto to greater things. Back then, when I shot this, he was just returning to the Senate after a series of life threatening aneurysms and other medical complications nearly took his life. I met him at the Wilmington station, simple and easy, and just sat down across from him and went to work with a Leica M4, quietly observing his introspective mood about his first days back to work, as the train sped him towards the hill. The soft window light helped the mood. Simple job. Me and a Domke bag, and the future VP.
He’s certainly come up in the world, while I haven’t made much progress, remaining a scruffy freelance content provider. He did me a good turn, actually. I was supposed to be home that night, I mean pretty seriously home, but the lateness of his scheduling precluded that. I had to stick with him, and the story, and spend the night in DC. He called my house and got the voice answering machine and apologized on tape and said it was his fault and if anyone in the McNally household was ever in DC he would buy them lunch at the Senate cafeteria. So far, my daughter Caitlin hasn’t taken him up on that, but knowing Caity, she just might. More tk….