I recently went to my first real press event. I saw my first Royal, and I mixed it up with paparazzi for the first time. It was a day of many firsts.
Upon arriving in London, I managed to secure an invite and press pass to the 2011 World Travel Mart in London. The Travel Mart is basically a giant travel industry trade show. There are booths for individual countries, as well as every conceivable travel related business. There had to be every country in the world represented there, or close to it. Even countries that very recently were disrupted by the Arab spring had tour booths there. There was a group that did tours of Libya, and they were smiling in smart looking suits, insisting on normalcy.
Since I was "press" at least officially, I felt like I should try and find some sort of angle to blog about. But mostly I just walked around. I have to admit, next to all the reporters there, I felt a little bit like a fraud. There were multiple kinds of press people. And from what I could tell, they seemed to operate according to a hierarchy of access and length of answers, with the sharp dressed and make up caked TV reporters being at the top, accompanied by their uniformly tall cameramen who seemed to make a sort of royal court. Then there were the photographers with the ridiculously long camera lenses who always had a bit of scruff and looked like they were killing time until there next cigarette.
, I couldn't understand why they would possibly need to get an extreme close up of anything. Their camera lenses at a trade show seemed to be the photography equivalent of hunting squirrels with an elephant gun.
Finally, at the bottom of the pyramid were the print reporters, overweight and scribbling in notebooks. And completely off the scale, far from relevance, were the bloggers, which was fine with me, I was enjoying exploring the place. But I did kind of feel overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of exhibits and booths. I wanted something to happen, some mission I could embark on. Then I saw this:
I was interested. I had my camera with me, after all, and I had never seen a royal up close. Also, I just wanted to see what kind of scene there would be when they walked through the Travel Mart. Most importantly, I now had a mission. I was a reporter. I was going to cover the future King.
I hurried over to where the press was starting to set up. Yes, there was a press section in front of some double doors that opened into the conference center. And I, thankfully, could get into it. I couldn't help but smiling as I, with my tiny camera that was barely better than a camera phone (probably worse than a few), fought my way to the front of the mob that looked like some sort of firing squad with their musket lenses.
I could tell the guy I parked in front of, at the very front of the press group, was annoyed when he turned around and saw me standing in front of him. He gave me a look that seemed to indicate he thought I had won some make-a-wish contest and now was going to live my dream of meeting Prince Phillip.
Then the doors opened. Prince Phillip and his wife didn’t come out at first; at first there were comically large men in suits with ear pieces and dark sunglasses scoping out the room and speaking into their wrists. People were getting antsy, lenses were being looked through.
Then the Prince and his shockingly beautiful wife came in. There was applause. But I didn’t hear it because of the rapid-fire shuttering that erupted around me. I reached my now hilariously tiny and incongruous camera up to get a picture. I realized I had a good a spot as anyone. And certainly better than the guy who was behind me.
Now, I get that he was just doing his job. I was, well, kind of doing mine too. But it wasn’t like I was intentionally getting in his way. And I wasn’t jumping up and down or anything. That’s why I got pissed off when he shoved me with an elbow as he took pictures at a blistering pace and stopped just long enough to look at me and yell (because you couldn’t hear any other level of vocalization, and also because he was an asshole)…
“Get the FUCK out of the way!”
Well, NOW I was intentionally getting in his way. I drove my shoulder back to create some space (he was quite literally breathing down my neck) and raised my camera higher than before. I think he called me a wanker.
I didn’t get any spectacular shots or anything, but look how close I was. It’s not like he was going to get an unusable shot because he was six inches further back.
We continued to jostle for position, and he again drove an elbow into my back. I turned and looked at him this time. He looked at me. In our brief moment of eye contact we seemed to establish an uneasy truce. I turned back and took pictures like I was at the front row of a concert, he like he was getting a shot of Bigfoot from half a mile away.
The Prince and Princess passed and we all followed the royal couple as they walked around the Trade Mart. But pretty soon I realized that looking at them (and by them, I mean I was totally looking at her) got boring, and I drifted away. But the reporters kept clicking away, that snapping providing the soundtrack for a leisurely walk around a trade show. I could slip away; I had no deadline or boss who needed THE shot of the royal couple pretending to be interested in a cruise line or something. Blogging has its perks.