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Matinee: Ron Edmonds' 'I Am Not The Enemy' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

25 February 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 176th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Ron Edmonds' I Am Not The Enemy.

Ron Edmonds, who was a photojournalist for over 30 years, describes how he feels about his profession at the end of this 18-and-a-half minute video:

It's really been an honor and privilege for me to have spent this amount of time doing what I love doing. It gave me the opportunity to work for the Associated Press. And for them to allow me to be the eyes for millions of readers around the world. And I've always felt very privileged for that. And I'm very honored.

The video takes its title, apparently, from the recent insinuations by the current administration that some news sources are the enemy of the people for publishing what it called "fake news." The publishers cited by the administration -- including the New York Times, NBC and CNN -- are, ironically, among the most legitimate news media.

It's the role of the legitimate press to represent not its own interests but the public interest in reporting what those in power are doing. Without the press, we would have no independent inquiry, no unallied report, no unvested party to tell us what we need to know to make our vote an informed one.

Enemy? Far from it. The legitimate press is your trusty sidekick.

And Edmonds' work proves it. He began his career with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin before working for both UPI and AP photographing every U.S. president from Richard Nixon through Obama. He covered presidential inaugurations, shuttle launches, Super Bowls, the Olympics, NBA playoffs, political races, marches on Washington and almost all the Republican and Democratic National Conventions since 1980.

His 1981 images of the attack on President Reagan earned him the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography. And he pioneered the use of digital cameras in news photography, transmitting the first photos of George H.W. Bush's inauguration just 40 seconds after he took the oath of office.

Halfway through we thought this wouldn't make a bad history lesson. Edmonds didn't miss much in compiling a rich portrait of the past 30 years.

He retired in 2009 as the AP's senior White House photographer.

After a short introduction that features a tribute by Senator Patrick Leahy (D., Vermont), the video covers his entire career beginning with his black-and-white coverage of political demonstrations in 1968.

It continues with his images for the Star-Bulletin, where he became chief photographer. Those photos include impressive portraits of the people of Hawaii as well as celebrities like Mick Jagger, Elton John and Elvis Presley, among others.

At UPI he began his coverage of U.S. presidents with Nixon's fall and Ford's pardon. The video's audio includes recordings from key moments during the various presidents' terms as their images flash across the screen.

Edmonds joined the Associated press in 1981, in time to capture Reagan's first inauguration.

Shortly after, we see the assassination attempt on Reagan through Edmonds' eyes. He himself tells a story about meeting Reagan in the Oval Office after Edmonds had won the Pulitzer for his photos of the shooting.

It isn't all presidents, of course. There are a number of familiar political figures. Mikhail Gorbachev, Princess Diana, Yasser Arafat, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginzburg, to name just a few.

Halfway through we thought this wouldn't make a bad history lesson. Edmonds didn't miss much in compiling a rich portrait of the past 30 years.

As we watched it, though, we had an unusual reaction. We couldn't read Edmonds.

His coverage didn't betray an allegiance to one part of the political spectrum or another. Instead he gave us an honest take on what was happening.

And that made us wonder what if Edmonds and other photojournalists, what if journalists in general, had been barred from observing these events. If the events they covered as our eyes and ears had taken place in a gated community instead of a democracy with a free press.

Oh, then no doubt he would certainly have been an enemy. An enthusiastic one. But not of the people. An enemy of manipulation, of deceit, of betrayal by those in power.

Through 30 years Edmonds, like his fellow journalists, was on our side. And while we don't know him personally, we feel like he's an old friend who deserves not only our applause but our thanks.


My daughter just pointed out your review of my work. Thank you for the very kind piece you did on my work. I was lucky to be part of the heyday of our profession and was given the opportunity by the Associated Press to travel the world to bring images back for those who couldn't be there in person.

Thank you again for the review.

-- Ron

You're welcome -- and, once again, thank you, Ron. -- Mike

As someone who worked at UPI and AP with Ron Edmonds I can tell you he is the real deal. A photojournalist who approached each story to present it at face value to the rest of the world. He personified "real" news photojournalism, as did the the wire services overall.

-- Scott Stewart

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