Project Blog

“If You’re Going to San Francisco…”

Sep 04, 2008

We woke up in the hills of Park City Utah to a brisk day and a gorgeous view, just as I had predicted. Despite knowing we needed to get on the road and on our way to the Bay Area, we couldn’t help but be plied by huge lattes and more good conversation with our hostess Liana. She consented to having her portrait made in front of her home with Schutz, who, despite his size, proved to be the most obedient canine subject we’ve photographed so far. Once again we found it very hard to leave our new friend, and having put off our departure far longer than seemed sensible, we piled into the car at noon, with 11 hours of driving ahead of us.

We took off down the mountain and then across the salt flats of Utah, which stretch off into the distance in every direction, uninterrupted for hours. Only the mountains in the far distance give any perspective, but even these are disorienting, as they seem to float like islands, their reflections shimmering in the crystaline surface. And as Rob once again manned the wheel and marveled at the landscape, I combed the Obama website for events in the Berkeley Area, via the iPhone’s intermittent internet signal. At one point after checking the GPS for the 9th time, Rob asked, “Is it just me, or is Reno not getting any closer?”

We arrived at our friends’ home in Berkley at close to midnight, and went straight to bed, knowing there would be lots to do the next day. When Rob woke up the next morning feeling a bit sick, with a scratchy throat, we knew we had pushed ourselves too hard the day before. I urged him to take a day off from editing photos, but had to settle for him ‘taking it easy.’ Not one to lead by example, I got down to work, looking for an event for us to shoot in San Francisco or Berkeley.

Now, over the last month, we’ve had mixed results trying to work directly with Obama offices. Before we left New York, and several times since, I have attempted to make contact with the national campaign, to no avail. In itself, this is not such a problem for us, as our goal is to document the volunteer grassroots effort. But sometimes an event at an Obama office is the only game in town while we’re there. One of the most remarkable things about Obama’s campaign is that the lines between grassroots and official campaign are often blurred. So when I called the San Francisco for Obama office and the Berkeley Obama Headquarters, I got very different responses. Because the Berkeley office had just been named the Official Northern California Headquarters, the field organizers there told me they would need to get permission from the National Campaign, in order for us to take photos there. In contrast, the San Francisco for Obama office told us to come on over!

As it turns out, there is no paid staff associated with San Francisco group. The main organizers all volunteered to be trained by the campaign, which also provides the resources necessary to help organize communities. But in terms of finding the grassroots, these folks were the real deal! And after a lively photo shoot with the San Francisco for Obama crowd, we could hardly feel badly when the Berkley Office called to say they just couldn’t get clearance from Chicago for us to come.

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