Why The NDP Lost - A Rank Amateur's ViewThursday, May 16, 2013
Somehow from early on I almost exclusively did campaign photographs for both the Federal and Provincial NDP. These jobs came through my involvement with Now Communications where I got to know its head (now retired) Ron Johnson. As anybody might suspect most of those campaign contributions of mine netted only four winners, Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark who became premiers, Larry Campbell, Vancouver mayor and Bob Bose mayor in Surrey.
I remember vividly one day when I was called into Now’s office and asked how I would photograph Mike Harcourt for a campaign poster when he was running for Premier. I suggested that he wear a blue shirt with no tie, that I crop him above the eyebrows so as not to emphasize his baldness and that I set up a studio in his kitchen where he would feel comfortable. To my amazement my suggestions were accepted.
Another time I was asked by designer Ken Hughes to work with him in a campaign package for an engineer, Bob Bose who was running (and did win) for mayor in Surrey. I suggested we photograph him on one side of the fence talking to a farmer on the other side, a Sikh in a wood mill, an old lady in a farmer’s market and a separate portrait of Bose wearing a yellow rain slicker by a red tractor. These photographs had as competition the incumbent mayor sitting at his desk with white shirt and tie. The designer I worked with was Ken Hughes who also at the time was teaching design at Emily Carr.
When Vancouver Magazine’s Malcolm Parry was preparing a story on the influential people of British Columbia (Top Drawer) I told him that since Prime Minister Turner had parachuted to Vancouver Quadra and was an MP, that he should be on the cover. Mac told me, “Go and get him.”
That was not easy as Turner’s campaign manager (Turner was running again) told me bluntly that his man had no time to pose for a city magazine even though after I told him that the magazine would be out a week before the Federal elections.
I called up MP Ron Basford (I had photographed him a couple of years before and used some Coffee Mate to make his bald head less shiny) in Ottawa and told him of my problem. That evening I received a call from a woman from Turner’s campaign office who told me, “Mr. Turner will pose for you tomorrow morning in his room at the Hotel Vancouver at 8am.
I wanted to photograph the new Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson for a magazine and I had no contacts. I was at a standstill as to what to do. I had photographed Larry Campbell for his successful campaign for mayor. He was now a senator in Ottawa. I called him and within days I had Mayor Gregor Robertson in my studio.
I have to reiterate here that I am not a journalist or an expert in politics and that my opinions here represent only those of a photographer who had access to politicians in the intimate quarters of my studio. I have worked with intelligent campaign staffers and two seriously efficient political ad agencies, Now and one run buy Simon Fraser University professor Doug McArthur. Both of those worked in tandem in Larry Campbell’s campaign for Vancouver mayor.
Quite a few of the politicians I photographed for their campaigns lost; among them are Carole James, Alexa MacDonough, Ujjal Dosanjh and Jack Layton.
It was the latter, Jack Layton of whom I remember in having been an articulate and warm person in my presence who was fun to photograph (not like Glen Clark who was not) and who in going from my studio to an NDP office insisted in carrying much of my equipment.
With all that out of the way as an introduction, not a very good one, as to why this amateur will venture to opine on why the NDP lost to the Liberals (who many remember that these Liberals are actually the old Socreds who were never liberal) on Tuesday.
My wife and I voted early on Saturday because Rosemary was off on Sunday to visit our daughter in Lillooet. We voted at the Sunset Community Centre. There were no lineups and the staff there was friendly, efficient and even fun as one of the persons I dealt with was an Argentine so we spoke in Spanish and compared notes on how in our mother country, voting was not always easy or possible and that the usual entrance to any voting location is usually guarded by either police or soldiers with machine guns We talked about how voting in other countries may involve the danger of being killed by bombs or by bullets.
It seems nice, to this former Argentine and now Canadian citizen that voting in Canada is indeed boring. Boring is good.
One aspect of this election was punctuated for me today Thursday (I am writing today) on page A6 of my Vancouver Sun. There is a picture of Adrian Dix with a half smile looking uncomfortably to his left while waving with his left arm. He looks like an uneasy, shifty, uncomfortable white shirted bureaucrat. Under his picture is a smaller picture of Premier Christy Clark in her suit, open collar and a chain necklace. She looks (also glancing to her left) comfortable and her smile is a believable one.
I cite here what to me is a sort of reverse sexism. How can a man in tie and white shirt compete with the warm image of a friendly woman with a beautiful smile? Is this unfair (for the male politician)?
I know nothing of Dix but having met Mike Farnworth a few times I believe Farnworth would have made the better candidate regardless of where he was exactly re his home closet. Three of the most intelligent politicians (and warm, too) that I have photographed, Carole James, Alexa MacDonough and former NDP MP and MLA Dawn Black I found to be intelligent and interesting. Surely Carole James might have been a better candidate to compete with Christy Clark.
My amateur analysis here is that I believe that the NDP did not deal with a seriously good ad agency like Now which would have had the expert advice of Ron Johnson who could have been lured back from retirement. There is no denying that Dix chose Brian Topp, a political expert, who guided Jack Layton’s federal breakthrough in 201. But as Michael Smyth in today’s Vancouver Province writes (so very nicely), “Adrian Dix is no Jack Layton. While Layton was friendly and engaging on the campaign trail, Dix was about as warm and fuzzy as a porcupine in an ice bath.” Image does count as this photographer can attest with at least a bit of experience.
A campaign that might have been run by Now and which would have hired a good political photographer (who could that be?) would have produced results that this week would have proven Angus Reid Public Opinion right and not wrong.
But take the above with a grain of salt; after all I am only a photographer.