A week ago, I traveled with a group of journalists assigned to cover French President Emmanuel Macron’s trip to China. It was my first trip to the country, and I was excited.
I have covered many state trips in my career as a photojournalist with The Associated Press. Often, photographers are led from one highly choreographed event to the other. It is a challenge to break from the script laid out by press officers, especially in a country like China, where both guests and media are subject to a strict protocol.
Here, there are no unforeseen events or delays, which the French president is especially prone to. I was thrown from one meeting to another, from one handshake to another. In the middle of all that, I wanted to catch the moments surrounding the orchestrated diplomacy — to show the other side of the scene.
There were security guards in dark green uniforms marching on pavements, white pandemic masks hiding their faces. Young students excitedly pulling up smart phones to snap photos of French media. A lone woman cleaning the red carpet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing before Macron’s arrival and his meeting with the Chinese prime minister. Security guards loitered in hallways.
I wanted to linger on these low intensity moments that punctuated the sudden rush to get to the next place where the next photo would be taken. To get out of the news bubble, to capture less spectacular subjects, as if they were souvenir photos. To show what the public does not usually see: the other side of the story.