Today is Congressman Steve Israel's book launch for his fictional novel, The Global War On Morris. (The jacket cover photo of him is by yours truly). The Congressman and I go way back and I attribute my success as a political photographer in large part to him. When I graduated from college without surefooted direction, he was the first person that hired me to shoot his fundraisers.
At the time, he was a Huntington Town Councilman and now he is a prominent member of Congress with leadership roles. I like to think that everything comes full circle and here we are today, working together again. When I conceived of PiP, Steve was the first person I approached. He thought it was a great idea, and subsequently his support has been unflagging. Steve has helped to secure sign-ons to the project, and he invited me to DCCC women's luncheon where I got to pitch my idea directly to electives.
On the train ride down to NYC, I read Kirsten Gillibrand's Off The Side Lines––a must-read for anyone interested in women and politics. It is filled with inspirational stories and motivating anecdotes for women who desire to participate in the political process.
Senator Gillibrand is also someone I met early on in my career. I remember her from my days as Hillary Clinton's senate campaign photographer in 2000. Kirsten was spearheading a fundraising group of young female professionals for Hillary. When reading the section that describes her first foray into politics, it transported me back to those days. In retrospect, it still amazes me that I was part of that historical moment in US politics. At the time, I didn't realize what a momentous achievement it was (and still is) for a woman to be elected to the Senate. Like many young people, I had no idea that women in politics were so underrepresented. My earlier complacency grew into indignation, and here I am, launching PiP to do my part.
Kirsten writes about a speech she heard by Hillary Clinton: "Decisions are being made everyday in Washington, and if you are not part of those decisions, you might not like what they decide, and you'll have no one to blame but yourself." These words had a big impact on Kirsten and were the clarion call for her to serve in politics. Personally, when I was younger, I believed so-called ‘woman’s lib’ had made great strides since my parents generation. But now I believe change is happening too slowly and I am dumbstruck by the astounding fact that if we continue at the present rate, we will only be able to achieve gender parity in US politics in 500 years. Achievers like Kirsten Gillibrand are the trailblazers pointing the way to reversing this dismal destiny.
When I feel daunted by the ambition and scope of my project, I conjure an adage from Off the Side Lines. Confidence is infectious and builds momentum. The roadmap to success requires hard work, positive thinking, and undaunted persistence. And of course, we are beholden to the kindness of strangers and friends alike. As I showcase female politicians and their remarkable stories, I know I’m adding a powerful reflector in a visual culture. Sooner or later, if I hit my mark, the images and what they stand for will help to influence the next generation of women politicians. Onward and upward!