Last week, Reuters senior photographer Leah Millis became the first woman to capture the State of the Union speech from the single floor pool position. The pool position was created 25 years ago to allow one news photographer to document the event, rotating each year to a different news organization.
This year, Millis was selected to represent Reuters as the lead news photographer, marking the first time a woman from any news outlet has photographed the annual message by the President and U.S. Congress from the floor. Reuters Pictures were then distributed to the rest of the news agencies via a pool.
On capturing the significant historic moment, Millis said, “I was told by people who had the experience of the floor position that it is a special assignment. Other than being high pressure because you’re the only one with that angle, I also heard it’s lots of fun because you don’t have the usual pack of 5-plus photographers around you. Before the most important people entered the chamber I was allowed to wander up and down the aisles, photograph members of Congress as they arrived, while they were chatting and catching up with each other.”
Millis continued, “I don’t think anyone was aware that I was the first woman to have that position until after the event. I began asking around to see what other women had done it because some others had asked. I worked with a staffer from the U.S. Senate Press Photographers Gallery, who looked into their records and we discovered that I was, in fact, the first.”
“It still shocks me to think that I was the first and it’s 2020. To be honest, it’s frustrating to me that none of the women who have been in D.C. for the past few decades were the ones with that honor. I felt that it should have been one of them since they have been fighting for space to be here and do the work for a long time. I was on the floor because of those women. I hope to do my part in carving out more space so that we can see women of color, trans and non-binary people on that floor someday too.”
Joyce Adeluwoye-Adams, Editor for Newsroom Diversity, Reuters said, “Increasing diversity in photojournalism is critically important to Reuters and to the news industry as a whole. There is still more work to be done in this space, but Leah’s position at the SOTU speech was a step in the right direction.”
[Reuters PR Blog Post]
deepal.patadia @ thomsonreuters.com