Barbara Kinney—an award-winning photojournalist, former White House photographer, Hillary Clinton presidential campaign photographer, and longtime friend of Holton photography teacher Donna Maclean—shared her work and wisdom with photography students on Thursday, Sept. 24 via a Google Meet.
While showing the students photos from the White House and presidential campaigns, Kinney shared stories about the moments she captured, giving tips on how she reads the situation to get a successful shot.
“The best moments are usually before and after the event,” she says. This is evident in “Primping for Peace,” one of her most famous photos. Taken in 1995, the photo shows President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres straighten their ties as PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat looks on, just moments before they enter the room to sign the Middle East Peace Accord. Kinney said she aims to capture a more personal and emotional viewpoint of her famous subjects as it helps viewers relate to them on a “more human and normal level.”
Anushka Dar ’21 asked, “As a campaign photographer, do you feel like you have to portray the candidate in a positive light, or do you try to be honest and capture everything?” As Hillary Clinton’s campaign photographer, Kinney said she tried to capture every moment, but was always looking for ways to make the campaign appear more interesting by shooting from different angles and cropping the photos for the best composition. Her aim was to make Clinton look good, but also her job was “to document this for history.”
On a lighter note, she added, “You really know you’ve made it in the world when one of your photos becomes a meme,” referring to a photo of Clinton and Barack Obama laughing that has since been seen in many memes.
The “selfie” is one of the biggest differences that Kinney noticed from Clinton’s first campaign to her second. Instead of the usual handshaking with and asking questions of the candidate, people wanted a selfie with Clinton. Kinney said that this unfortunately detracts from the emotional connection of direct eye contact and interactions that used to make great campaign photos.
Maclean asked Kinney for advice on how the students can improve their photography skills. Kinney said that shooting photos every day, making mistakes, and correcting those mistakes is the best way to develop, in addition to critiquing one another’s work and learning from each other. She also mentioned that she got her start in high school by working with the school’s yearbook and newspaper. Kinney summed up her philosophy, saying, “I like to try and tell a story when I’m taking pictures.”