Trail­ing THE POPE

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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!

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