April 31, 2012 The day before French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s last big political meeting.
During a rally one month earlier I had the idea to place a go-pro camera on a television arm to capture general views of Paris’s place de la Concorde. I went to the TV production team to ask if I could hang the small camera under their camera without disturbing their images. The problem is that if you put something on the end of their arm, you need to add some weight to the other end so it is balanced and can “fly” over the crowd. Balancing weight can be long work. The team were really helpful and at the end of the day, I had my go-pro camera fixed up-there.
When I returned the next morning they explained that a rescue helicopter had to land near the arm and that all the adjustments had to be redone. We also needed to clean the camera as it was covered with dust from the helicopter. It took us an hour to re-balance, clean and check the go-pro settings (timed to take a picture every 10 seconds). I explained to the technician how to start the camera. Later, when I was among the crowd, I tried to see if the little red light was blinking every 10 seconds. I wasn’t sure it had worked until I got the camera back and saw it had taken more than 1500 pictures.
May 1, 8:00am
I arrived at the Trocadero and had to negotiate with the press people to have them allow a photographer to follow Sarkozy through the crowd before his speech. I had followed Sarkozy’s electoral campaign from the beginning so all the police around him knew me, which proved useful later in the day. The crowd on the Trocadero facing the Eiffel Tower grew throughout the day – blocking photographer’s movements. Sarkozy arrived at 3pm. The live TV camera and I were waiting for him and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy at the door of the Palais de Chaillot (Trocadero museum) from where the “crowd crossing” would start.
Then it started. He was (we were) pushed, grabbed, pressed, cheered (well… he was) for 300 meters through a heavy crowd. Then we arrived at the podium. The plainclothes police did not even pay attention to me as they had seen me every day for 3 months so I ran to the bottom of the platform. I had in mind to shoot photos of Sarkozy with a blue sky background, complete with the Eiffel tower.
Even Sarkozy’s photographer was stopped and told that it was just going to be Sarkozy and me from that point on. Sarkozy climbed onto the podium and turned to the crowd, which explains why he looks like a dancer. After the speech started, I tried to go back into the crowd but it was too dense to cross again, so I discreetly walked behind Sarkozy to shoot more pictures.
To hide from the TV cameras, I concealed myself behind golden statues as I crossed the square.
Taking pictures of Sarkozy – Photos courtesy of Pascal Segrette
I knew I had nice pictures and wanted to transmit them quickly but there were so many people using their phones that it was impossible to send anything using the 3G network. I went to the other side of the esplanade were I hoped other antennas would be free and it worked. I sent a dozen pictures to the office before going back to cover the rest of the speech.