Picture power: Secret agents

Secret Service agents keep watch as US President Barack Obama visits a Pat Quinn campaign office in Chicago, 20 October 2014 Image copyright Kevin Lamarque/reuters

From the drama of the cinematic image, through to the gloss of the advertisement, every photograph has a layer of visual baggage hanging over it. Even when working with straight pictures of news events, the line between fact and fiction can blur.

This picture by Kevin Lamarque, of Reuters, leapt out at me from among the thousands that arrive on the news wires each day, as it conjured up memories of secret agents in the movies or those 1970s spy thrillers on TV. Of course the matching poses, suits and shoes are visually intriguing and what really make this stand out as a picture.

So what's the story behind the image?

Lamarque and the other photographers in the White House press pool were positioned outside a campaign office in Chicago where US President Barack Obama was meeting volunteers working for Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn during elections.

"The Secret Service story has recently been all over the front pages, so I was a bit more observant of their activities," says Lamarque. "Two agents were posted outside this generic campaign office, and the simplicity of the setting and placement of the agents caught my eye. I took about 10 frames, and then one agent looked up.

"Being a White House news photographer, a lot of what we do is orchestrated in advance and 'different' images can be few and far between. Taking these photos is one of the greatest challenges in this kind of work.

"At the end of the day, the job of a Secret Service presidential protective detail agent and a White House press travel pool photographer are not all that different.

"We go everywhere the president goes, we are ready to react to anything that might happen to the president, and we think on our feet.

"We spend lots of hours waiting, we spend a lot of time on the road, we work strange hours and we are very close with our colleagues.

"Of course there some major differences.

"While we watch the president, the agents scan the crowd.

"We carry cameras and they carry guns.

"Oh, they also tend to look a whole lot sharper than we do... those suits, haircuts and sunglasses do not come cheap."

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