The Washington Post

Values Voter Summit: What’s in it for a photog?

James Lo Scalzo has seen a lot of action in his 20-year career as a news and feature photographer. He’s covered turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan; tragedy in Haiti; Sept. 11; historic protests in Seattle; and much more.

Early this morning Lo Scalzo arrived at a ballroom in Washington’s Omni-Shoreham Hotel. The task? Shooting the Values Voter Summit, a conservative talkfest organized by Family Research Council Action. Packed with panel discussions, speeches, and news conferences, the summit couldn’t possibly excite a photographer like Lo Scalzo, could it?


No one assigned Lo Scalzo to shoot this confab; it was his call. He worked for U.S. News & World Report for 18 years and is now with the European Pressphoto Agency. He’s a veteran of the Values Voter Summit, for compelling visual reasons.

“There’s a guy . . . in a tricorner hat,” exclaims the photographer, referring to a man dressed in colonial garb and later introduced to the audience as Paul Revere.

There’s also a collective prayer, an undertaking that you don’t find too often in the conference rooms of plush Washington hotels. Before the prayer went down, Lo Scalzo said, “They don’t pray the way Catholics do. Their arms are in the air, their faces are winced, occasionally there are tears. There’s a lot of outward emotion in the morning prayer here.” The scene, suggested Lo Scalzo, is D.C.’s version of the sort of revival that Rick Perry held over the summer in Houston.

The sideshow presents other opportunities: booths and displays that round out the feel of a conservative event. And the final attraction is the big shots. ”It’s not every day that you get Tony Perkins and Ralph Reed together with these other guys like Rick Perry and John Boehner,” he says.

It’s all about visually capturing the religious element of right-wing politics — something that Lo Scalzo claims isn’t easily executed without events like the Values Voter Summit. “I’ve always liked to cover the far right,” he says.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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