Last week AOL News did a piece about Sarah Palin’s official photographer, by Sarah’s biographer (“Shushannah Walshe is the co-author of “Sarah from Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar”). For those of you who don’t subscribe to AOL (which, I imagine, would be all of you), here are the highlights of the article.
Palin’s Private Photographer Has Seen It All
And that’s why she drinks to forget
By Shushannah Walshe
Shealah Craighead works in pictures, not words, but she’s got a lot of good Sarah Palin stories. Here’s one from this winter:
It’s Valentine’s Day, and Palin is spending it at the Daytona 500. As Palin is greeted by the usual crush of fans, Craighead and other members of Palin’s retinue are eyeing another celebrity in attendance, a certain dreamy jazz musician-slash-actor.
Afterward, Craighead can’t resist the opportunity for some girl talk.
“You just sat next to Harry Connick Jr. for 10 minutes! Isn’t he so dreamy?”
“Isn’t he!?” replies Palin, laughing.
Wow, that IS a great Sarah Palin story! (Seriously, that’s the whole story.) Not only do we learn something new and unexpected about Sarah (that Harry Connick Jr. would sit next to her for 10 minutes without excusing himself), we also discover that Sarah’s biographer has to really work to find a story that make Sarah seem half-way human.
(As Ms. Walshe observes, Sarah “has a reputation of chewing through even loyal aides and advisers.” She adds that “the less-than-a-handful of people in her current inner circle seem to genuinely like Palin as a person and enjoy being around her,” but frankly, we find it very hard to believe that Sarah found 3 or 4 people who like her.)
As we learn later, photog Whitehead purposefully tries not to learn anything about Sarah, because she’s afraid if she does, her contempt will affect how she photographs her subject. Here, I’ll let her tell you:
In keeping with her preferred approach, Craighead never talks politics or religion with Palin. If other aides broach those topics with Palin while she’s present, she tries to excuse herself. Of course, that’s not always possible in the rapid-fire world she’s working in.
Craighead says she still recalls the infamous prank call on the Palin campaign from a Canadian comedy duo who duped Palin into believing she was speaking to the president of France. As staffers swung into damage-control mode, things got “awkward” for Craighead. “Those are the moments when I’m like, ‘I’m out. You shouldn’t hear this,’” she says.
Yes, Sergeant Schulz, you know NOTHING! Keep your head in the sand long enough and not only won’t you realize that Sarah is an idiot, the lack of oxygen to your brain will probably make her even seem smart!
“I don’t judge my clients on what they’ve said or didn’t say or their beliefs or non-beliefs or their actions or non-actions, because that’s not my job,” Craighead adds. “If you don’t like this person for whatever reason, you might tend to photograph it in a light that’s negative. You might publish some unflattering photographs … or take photos from an angle that might be unflattering to anybody. At the end of the day I don’t want that to even be a possibility.”
Yes, if you spend anytime talking to Sarah, you would probably photograph her in a light like this:
Anyway, Craighead, who followed Sarah around as she campaigned for VP and then went along on the “Going Rogue” tour, has snapped about 500,000 pictures of Ms. Palin. What for, you may ask?
Everyone who had a copy of “Going Rogue” signed by Palin was able to buy a snapshot by Craighead memorializing the moment.
So, it’s like when you go to the amusement park and they take your photo as you puke your guts out on the roller coaster, and then they try to sell you those shots.
But the vast majority of her photos have been kept from public consumption, retained for some as-yet-undetermined use — perhaps a Palin 2012 website, or an exhibit in a future Palin Presidential Library?
Or perhaps Whitehead is trying to steal Sarah’s soul (as a public service), and it just isn’t working (because obviously hasn’t got one).
Or, maybe if the Presidential Library doesn’t pan out, the photos can be used as part of Sarah’s beatification . . .
The throngs of adoring followers who turned out for Palin’s book tour, Craighead says, was an intense thing to witness and photograph. “People would come through the line after waiting for hours. Sometimes the line moved so quickly that they weren’t able to get in a conversation, but they would just want to touch her and some people would want to pray with her,” Craighead says. “It’s just a whole religious aspect around the governor in itself in the way people reacted to her thinking that maybe she has a higher power.”
And, that, folks, is the scariest thing I’ve read all day.
Anyway, if you want to see some of the book-signing crowd, Whitehead has a gallery online. As you look through it, you can just see the people reacting to Sarah’s higher power.