British Columbia

B.C. Liberals hire new photographer to document Christy Clark

The B.C. Liberals have hired award-winning photojournalist John Lehmann to document Christy Clark through to the election in 2017. The B.C. NDP says it shows Clark and her party care more about glitz than policy.

NDP calls hiring indication Liberals are all about style over substance

John Lehmann captures Premier Christy Clark laughing before an event. (John Lehmann/BC Liberal Party)

The B.C. Liberals are hoping a new photographer will give British Columbians a chance to see a side of Christy Clark they haven't seen before.

But the NDP says it's just another example of Clark focusing on style over substance. 

The party has hired John Lehmann, a former Globe and Mail photographer and one of the most accomplished photojournalists in Canada to chronicle her through to at least the 2017 election.

"I feel like the Liberals have been looking for someone for awhile, and when I became available, they jumped all over the chance," said Lehmann.

High demand for photos on social media

The NDP has often painted Clark as 'premier photo-op.' 

The government and the premier's office combined already have three video journalists documenting Clark and her colleagues at work.

Christy Clark is photographed by John Lehmann in Kelowna on Remembrance Day, 2016. (John Lehmann/BC Liberal Party)

The pictures and video are used on government websites and in official news releases and, unlike Lehmann, these photographers are paid for by the taxpayer. Whereas Lehman's salary will be paid for by the party.

Lehmann has a resume that includes three awards for Canadian photojournalist of the year.

The long-time news photographer says he sees his job as being much larger than just cranking out photos that are posted to Clark or the B.C. Liberals' social media pages. He says he sees himself as a chronicler of history and a purveyor of information, rather than a tool used by Clark to promote her personal brand. 

"It can be quite timely if you have the right image out there quickly. People are getting their news and information and visuals from social media," said Lehmann.

"I am there for the moments the public doesn't get to see — that the media doesn't get to see. Those downtimes in between, getting out of the car. That is what I am excited to document. I get that access I didn't get before."

Trend growing of personal photographers

This may be the first time a B.C. politician has been followed by a still photographer of this caliber and cost, but the B.C. Liberals are far from the first political party to hire a former news photographer to take political pictures.

Pete Souza, Obama's photographer, was a long-time photojournalist for the Chicago Tribune.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has Adam Scotti.

This photo, of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hugging Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie just before the Kingston show at the K-Rock Centre, was taken by Trudeau's official photographer Adam Scotti. News photographers were not allowed inside the venue. (Adam Scotti/PMO)

The PM's official photographer has captured headline moments that have been printed across the country and beyond from shaking hands at Vancouver's Pride Parade to hugging Tragically Hip front-man Gord Downie before his concert in Kingston, Ontario.

"It's a reaction or maybe a natural extension of how public life is captured and the access people have to public figures trough social media," said SFU communications professor Peter Chow-White. "Communicating the image of the head of state or politician has always been a competition as long as we have had pictures."

'No substance, all glitz'

NDP Leader John Horgan also gets photographed at events. When he is speaking on behalf of the party, the B.C. NDP will hire a freelance photographer occasionally. During legislative work, NDP staff members will take photos in addition to their normal responsibilities.

Premier Christy Clark is photographed while she gets ready at the Drishti Awards in Surrey on November 19, 2016. (John Lehmann/BC Liberal Party)

NDP MLA Selina Robinson is concerned the B.C. Liberals are focused more on image than they are on policy. 

"I think British Columbians will see through this. There's no substance. It's all glitz and glamour," she said.

"British Columbians want substance. They want something more than just a smile and a photograph that, as they say, speaks a thousand words. They want someone that can actually do something."

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