I went to Harrisburg yesterday to photograph casino developer Steve Wynn as he testified before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. It was his first appearance as the potential new face of the proposed $600 million Foxwoods Casino in South Philadelphia. I knew the newspaper was probably only interested in a simple mug shot, but...
...I went all out covering the hearing. Maybe it was because Wynn was actually one of the very first "celebrities" I ever photographed.
I had worked nights and weekends for the North Las Vegas Valley Times newspaper during my senior year in high school and they'd hired me as a full time photographer for the summer. Wynn was among the most "famous" men in town (this was 1970's Las Vegas ) and well on his way to mogul-dom having just completed real estate deals with both Howard Hughes and Caesars Palace. I can't even remember the photo - I probably had him standing in his Golden Nugget casino next to a cocktail waitress and a slot machine. (That summer I also photographed comedians Alan King and Gabe Kaplan - who later went on to star in the tv sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter).
Trips down memory lane aside, I've always enjoyed these type of political/governmental assignments because while on the surface they seem like simple photos - somebody stands in front of a microphone and says something - they present all kinds of nuanced visual opportunites. I like the challenge of waiting for what is sometimes only a single moment when there is just that subtle degree of difference between what is actually going on and what the participants want to present to the tv cameras.
It also reminds me how of the responsiblity to be as fair as possible when covering partisan events. Like the photo above. There's nothing going on. Just Wynn and his friend Andrea Hisson with their Capitol Police escort to go past casino protesters as they leave the hearing during a lunch break.
There were sign-bearing spectators on both sides.
Members of Philadelphia's International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 and other building trades union members came to Harrisburg to rally before the hearing in support of Wynn...
...while Casino-Free Philadelphia members who oppose both Foxwoods and the SugarHouse Casino boarded a bus and brought their signs as well.
Photographers were not permitted in front of the attendees as they testifyed before the board (as in congressional hearings in Washington) but we were able to move in closer during a break.
Lai Har Cheung of South Philadelphia held up her sign, and when the hearing resumed, she stood to speak and interupt Wynn.
Then, like another half dozen Casino-Free members before the break, she was escorted from the meeting by Capitol Police.