Skip to main content

Photographers gear up for the Republican National Convention as if it were a war zone

pentagon laws of war update rafael ben ari conflict photographer
Rafael Ben-Ari/
As the Republican National Convention gets underway, some photojournalists are choosing to take extra precautions when it comes to safety. Given the political climate in Cleveland and Donald Trump’s general animosity toward the press, photographers are not without reason to treat the RNC like a conflict zone. Joining the list of gear that normally includes only cameras and lenses will be Kevlar vests, gas masks, and helmets, according to a report in WIRED.

“This rates on the same level as covering the revolution in Cairo,” Timothy Fadek, a freelance photographer, told Wired.

Fadek isn’t alone. Spencer Platt, a Getty staff photographer with more than 20 years experience covering international conflicts, also weighed in on the situation. “I’ve been reading about Cleveland for the past few days, and it looks pretty rough,” he said.

Political protests at national conventions are nothing new, but this year’s RNC is unique. Trump’s particular brand of conservatism is polarizing, and violence has broken out at his events in the past. Much of the concern also comes from Ohio’s open-carry laws, which both Cleveland police and RNC organizers tried, and failed, to suspend for the convention. Several organizations plan to be in attendance and exercise their right to carry firearms, including the Black Panthers, Hells Angels, and multiple white nationalist groups. “It’s more dangerous than ever,” Platt said.

Not all photographers share Fadek and Platt’s concerns, however. Andrew Lichtenstein, a freelancer, worried that wearing protective gear could create a dissonance between the press and the audience. He added that “most of these situations are overblown.” He also told Wired it’s easier to run from trouble without the weight of protective gear slowing him down.

One thing they all seem to agree on: not showing up wasn’t an option. Any potential conflict and the stories behind it only make the role of photography even more crucial. Documenting history as it unfolds is an important task, and senior photojournalists are certainly not strangers to the risks involved.

Fadek and Platt arrived in Cleveland early and plan to assess the situation as it evolves. As of now, things look relatively calm. Nobody wants to wear more than what’s necessary, but as always, it’s better to have something and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Editors' Recommendations

Daven Mathies
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Daven is a contributing writer to the photography section. He has been with Digital Trends since 2016 and has been writing…
Best Camera Deals: Save on Canon, Panasonic, Nikon, and GoPro
fujifilm x t4 review set 2 dm 1

Whether you're looking for the best digital cameras or the best travel cameras, there are a ton of options out there, sometimes too many options, especially for those who aren't familiar with the photography world. Luckily, we've done a lot of legwork for you and collected a range of great camera deals across the spectrum, so even if you want something more sports-oriented, like a GoPro, there are a couple of deals for those too. So, let's jump right into it.
Today's Best Camera Deals
One of our favorite deals is the Canon EOS Rebel T7 going for $400, as it's one of the better DSLR cameras on the market, and it has a reasonably budget-friendly price on it, making it a great starter camera. Of course, if you've been in the game for a while and are looking for a powerful upgrade, the Sony Alpha 7R IV is one of the best full-frame cameras on the market, and while it still costs a hefty $3,200, that's still $300 off the usual $3,500 price tag. That said, if you're looking for something more portable and action-oriented, you can't go wrong with the GoPro HERO11 Black Mini, although if you're a professional content creator, the GoPro HERO9 Black 5K is probably the one to go for instead.

Do I Need a DSLR or a Mirrorless Camera?
Like most things, this really depends on what you're trying to do. Mirrorless cameras have fewer internal moving parts, which generally means they can capture images quicker, so if you're taking pictures of action-packed stuff like sports or animals in the wilderness, a mirrorless camera is a great option. On the other hand, DSLR cameras are great for low-light conditions and are great for anything from portraits to landscapes. DSLRs are also cheaper and have much better battery life, as well as having a decade or two worth of lenses to choose from.

Read more
How to blur a background in photos
A person photographed with iPhone 11's portrait mode.

Introducing a background blur to your photos can draw attention to a specific subject, such as an individual in a portrait or an item in a still life, while also adding a professional flair to your image. This beautiful background blur, also known as bokeh, can be achieved even after shooting your photo, thanks to advances in editing software. This guide will walk you through the process on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS.

Read more
How to download Instagram photos (5 easy ways)
Instagram app running on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.

Instagram is amazing, and many of us use it as a record of our lives — uploading the best bits of our trips, adventures, and notable moments. But sometimes you can lose the original files of those moments, leaving the Instagram copy as the only available one . While you may be happy to leave it up there, it's a lot more convenient to have another version of it downloaded onto your phone or computer. While downloading directly from Instagram can be tricky, there are ways around it. Here are a few easy ways to download Instagram photos.

Read more