“My father didn’t really engage the topic of Cuba on a larger scale, but we knew that it was a special place to my dad,” said Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images News staff photographer. “And we knew that it was a country that had broken my grandmother’s heart.”
Composed of first and second-generation Cuban-Americans, Somodevilla’s family often had disagreements about the relationship between Cuba and the U.S.
In 2016, Somodevilla was able to travel to Cuba with former President Barack Obama after 11 years of working as a photographer covering politics for Getty Images News.
“It was the one time in my life where I felt like it wasn’t real,” said Somodevilla. “When something I was covering in politics collided with something personal, it was amazing.
“I guess I felt like the earth had shifted under my feet.”
Most of the time, Somodevilla is in Washington, D.C., photographing events in the capital and major politicians for the public.
“But working now in politics and covering the nation’s capital can sometimes feel like you’re on a different planet,” said Somodevilla. “We are contributing to a larger message about what’s going on here and we do (it) through our images that speak truth to power.”
No matter the political climate at a given time, Somodevilla strives to maintain objectivity in his photojournalism.
“It’s also important to be fair,” said Somodevilla. “I am always going to be respectful and allow a person to have their dignity, and I think that comes across in my pictures of politicians as well.”
Somodevilla currently works on a team with four other photojournalists, who together have accumulated expertise on the capital.
“We all know who the major players are and that’s based on, again, years of working on Capitol Hill,” said Somodevilla. “We know the people who influence which direction legislation takes. You can get lost physically and also get lost in the story without having the essential knowledge, so experience is important.”
Before working in Washington, Somodevilla worked at news outlets such as the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel and the Detroit Free Press, after studying journalism and photography in college.
“At first, what I found exciting about working for a newspaper and being a journalist was telling people stories and working really hard to make compelling or interesting images of things that were part of our everyday lives,” said Somodevilla.
Somodevilla will present at the “The Journalist as Witness: Politics, Protests and Displaced Peoples” journalism conference on Friday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Dana Auditorium.
“What I’m going to talk about is what it was like to be there photographing the campaign, the 2016 presidential campaign, and say ‘Okay, what did I see then? Was that a hint of what I see now?” said Somodevilla. “And I think that’s what I want to talk to people about.
“I want them to be able to take away a new, or a better, educated set of words that they can use to talk about photography.”