When my cousin Elisabeth, an editor at a national conservative magazine- Townhall, approached me about photographing Sean Hannity at the Fox News Headquarters in New York for an article they were doing, I have to admit that I was scared. Having never photographed a celebrity before and not being very political myself, the prospect of being responsible for getting candid photos of this infamous conservative talk show host (along with the hint from the editor that they were hoping for a cover photo – without any time for posed portraits) had me shaking in my boots. Though my interest in photography leans more towards fashion, wedding and fine art photography than photojournalism, when someone asks you to photograph a celebrity behind the scenes for a possible cover story, you say “Yes!”
Now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the videos of Bill O’Reily (another Fox News Conservative talk show host) blowing up at his intern (they are all over youtube) and to be honest that was the atmosphere I was expecting, even when I agreed to take the job. (My theory is always believe for the best, but prepare for the worst). So on the day of, when I heard the article was to focus on Sean Hannity’s personal life and how nice a guy he is, I honestly thought it would be a little far-fetched.
But after spending three hours with Sean, watching him graciously invite the two editors from the magazine (and myself) to his office, answering any question of the magazine’s for over an hour, offering to buy each of us dinner (as well as the entire cast and crew- as apparently he does every night), watching him interact with his assistant who sung his praises and mentioning nothing more political off set than “My assistant won’t tell me if she’s conservative or liberal,” I realized his indignant, angry conservative attitude on television is more of a character, and it made me wonder how many such “characters” there are out there playing a part because it sells TV time.
He graciously let me snap candid photos throughout the interview, once in a while acknowledging the camera with a silly grin or pose. At the end of the night he said “You are a great photographer” (a trusting statement from someone who hasn’t seen a single photo yet) and thanked me for being so considerate and easy going. I’m guessing I’m not the pushy celebrity photographer he was expecting, but he certainly wasn’t what I was expecting either. I wanted to say, “Thank YOU for being so polite and easy-going, you are not at all like I thought you would be!” but I didn’t. I just said “Thank you.” :)
Seeing my photo on the front of a national magazine cover (and nine more inside) with my name credited definitely got me excited, and I’m so glad I didn’t shy away from this really cool opportunity.