Trailing THE POPE
As a press photographer for international news agencies, Jeff Widener has shot every type of news story, from civil wars to papal visits, the latter providing two memorable moments
Apart from ‘Tank Man’ which other assignment will you never forget?
In 1984, while working as an AP stringer in the Sydney bureau, I got an assignment to photograph Pope John Paul II in Papua New Guinea. I recall standing on a large wooden platform with my trusty Nikkor 600mm f/4. Suddenly, the jungle growth parted and the Pope arrived in a white Jeep with arms reaching skyward to the beating drums of natives, wearing colourful bone necklaces, who sang in pidgin. That was an unforgettable scene.
And what has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?
Again, it involves the Pope! Only this time, I almost dropped the 600mm f/4 on Pope John Paul II during a visit to England. I was positioned high in an archway at Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral when my tripod head came loose as His Holiness proceeded under me. A lastsecond two-finger grip barely prevented the whole setup from crashing down on his papal head. I try not to think about it too much!