Politics

‘I’ll Go Somewhere Else’ — Roll Call Photographers Under the Lens

What makes a good Capitol image? Knowing where not to go sometimes

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, demonstrates his hula hoop abilities in front of the U.S. Capitol during the National Women’s Law Center and Mom’s Rising event calling for Pre-K education for all on Sept. 18, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It could be the unofficial motto of Roll Call: Photos of powerful people don’t have to suck. 

“I’ll go somewhere else and kind of take my chances,” says staff photographer Tom Williams, referring to the times when he sees a group of photographers gathering in the Capitol, even when they might have the best angle for a shot. 

UNITED STATES - JUNE 11: Katie Patru stands outside of a news conference in the Capitol, June 11, 2014, as her boss, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announces he will be stepping down from the position effective July 31st. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Katie Patru stands outside of a news conference in the Capitol, June 11, 2014, as her boss, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announces he will be stepping down from the position effective July 31st. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It’s taking chances like that landed him shots like the one of Katie Patru, a senior aide for Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., whom Williams captured with his camera as her boss was announcing he would be stepping down from his position as majority leader after he lost his primary race in 2014. 

As he explains in the latest Political Theater podcast, the reason he got the shot was that there was literally no space left in the room where Cantor was speaking, and while he was separate from the crowd of other journalists covering the event, the hallway where Patru stood provided the backdrop for a very emotional image. 

It’s images like that, Tom Harkin-hula-hooping-on-the-Capitol-lawn, and countless others by Williams, his co-worker Bill Clark, and their former colleagues like Douglas Graham, Al Drago and Chris Maddaloni, that provided ample material for my new book, “Under the Dome.”

Podcast:

But wait! There’s more. Just choosing the photos to use was a task easy to underestimate. There are, literally, hundreds of thousands of images in the Roll Call and CQ archives. Gillian Roberts, Roll Call’s deputy editor for visual reporting, and I explained part of our process for doing so in a video for Roll Call’s Reporter’s Notebook series.Reporter’s Notebook: The Story Behind ‘Under the Dome’: Humans of Capitol Hill 

The Kicker

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 13: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., fools around with colleagues upon arriving for a news conference in the Senate studio on Guantanamo detainees, January 13, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., fools around with colleagues upon arriving for a news conference in the Senate studio on Guantanamo detainees, January 13, 2015. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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