by Alycia Monaco, Class of 2018
This July, I packed up my car and my camera to leave New Jersey for a week to experience and document history. After returning to the familiar faces of my internship with the Department of Photography and New Media at the Disney/ABC Television Group in New York, I was offered the chance to accompany my boss Ida, and photo editor Brett to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. I anticipated speakers such as President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senator Sanders, and Secretary Clinton, but could only begin to imagine what was to come.
Day 1. I arrived at Wells Fargo Arena around 1 PM to greet my boss in order to obtain the appropriate passes. I already had my Secret Service Credential, and I was awaiting the other clearances to the venue, the press hall, and press floor. The security ranged one mile outside the arena at the subway stop where I met my boss. We walked through each phase of security and followed the police fencing to the media entrances.
Once we arrived, and passed through the security checkpoints, we were driven in golf carts to the ABC Network and affiliate workspace tent outside the arena. Brett was also here claiming workspace and Internet connection to upload content to disneyabcpress.com, Flickr, and Getty Images.
After a lot of waiting, and a lot of scouting, Brett, Ida, and I were able to secure a meeting
place, and plans. I would retrieve camera cards from Ida, who was able to obtain a camera stand pass for clean shots. While I wasn’t retrieving and returning camera cards, I was roaming the floor taking photos of delegates, wide shots of the action on the floor, and any other different angles of talent that were different from Ida’s. By the end of the night, we heard from many speakers including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Day 2. I arrived closer to gavel time, around 3:30. Today was the day where roll call took place and where all of the delegates’ votes would be counted to officially name a Democratic Nominee. My impression was that the majority of the delegates were in favor of Bernie Sanders, or at least, these delegates were the more vocal group. By the end of the evening, Hillary Clinton was nominated for President, making history as the first woman ahead of a major political party to receive the nomination.
I mostly covered the reaction of the delegates on this day as we heard from ‘Mothers of the Movement’, which is comprised of a group of mothers who have lost their children to gun violence. Among them were the mothers of Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin. As photographers, it was important to note the shift in audience moods and how adjust our coverage accordingly.
We also heard from former President Bill Clinton that evening about the ‘Hillary Rodham’ he has known and loved since college. As the speakers became more famous, the levels of security escalated quite frequently, and we had to adapt to obtain the best coverage possible under the changing conditions. In this case, I was stuck with many other people on staircases that led to delegate seats in order to comply with fire code.
Day 3. As the group became more tired, we found a new common space behind the World News Tonight pop-up stage. We were out of the way, and we had chairs. We knew that security was going to be tight that day, and were instructed not to leave the floor past 7:30 or we were not going to be allowed back in for speeches after prime time.
During these speeches I was granted permission to kneel in the center aisle and rotate out after a few minutes by security. I would see Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic Nominee for Vice President Tim Kaine, and President Barack Obama speak. I waited my turn for the aisle to have the opportunity, even just for one or two minutes, to take photos that were different angles from the press stand, and to document the event for myself.
Day 4. Secretary Hillary Clinton would accept the Democratic Nomination. The balloons, and confetti would fall and the week would be over. Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother, and the two shared a moment of pride on the stage before Secretary Clinton formally accepted the nomination. However, this day only staff photographers were allowed in the aisle, and I was once again sent up on risers. This time I took a few photos, and took in the moment, and it’s something I will never forget.
By the end of our time in Philadelphia we all needed a lot of sleep, and a break from hearty foods, but I will never forget the events that transpired. I am not sure I will ever be able to attend an event of such magnitude again, and am truly grateful for the opportunity to even be in the arena, let alone be able to shadow relevant industry work, and even get to do a little bit of my own. In wake of the upcoming election, and my first time voting, the DNC of 2016 is something I will not forget.
Through learning from so many talented professionals, I am also able to take away relevant professional experience that I can apply to my education at Catholic University, and my career. I will never look at an event of this magnitude the same way again. It is one thing to watch the speeches on TV, and disconnect afterward, and another to see all of the preparations from security to catering to media coverage. I cannot thank Brett and Ida enough for the practical event experience, but also Wendy, Michele, Janet, and Rosemary back in the office for an introduction to archival studies, photo editing, and all things unpredictable.
All photos by Alycia Monaco, Disney/ABC Television Group