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An unfortunate place to sit, Enda - but photos like this are harder to avoid than you might think

When it comes to sitting under unfortunate words or phrases, it’s a case of ‘win some, lose some’ for politicians.

THERE’S NO QUESTION about it – Leon Farrell’s photo of a forlorn-looking Enda Kenny underneath the word ‘help’ is the Irish news photo of the week.

The symbolism (as symbolism tends to) speaks volumes.

In the wake of last night’s confidence vote and speculation about the Taoiseach’s leadership of Fine Gael, it’s no surprise that the three main broadsheet newspapers all chose the photo for their front pages.

The format – politician pictured under unfortunate word – is a standard one for photojournalists. Attend any press conference and you’ll spot the photographers hovering around figuring out where the exits signs are – in case the resulting photo may be of use in the coming weeks, months or even years.

How do politicians let themselves get engineered into such hapless scenarios, you might wonder… Perhaps they ought to think twice about appearing in front of giant signs displaying inappropriate phrases?

For the most part, that’s a consideration that falls to press advisers. “An occupational hazard,” is how one experienced handler described the process to us this morning.

“Photographers are very inventive – they have an eye. They’ll usually spot something that even someone in that kind of advisory role mightn’t be tuned into,” Richard Moore, who has advised government ministers as well as business and media figures over his decades-long career, said.

far1 Source: Anna Gowthorpe PA Archive/PA Images

2010 General Election campaign Apr 30th Source: PA Archive/PA Images

“Invariably if you had time you would arrive in advance of any minister or senior politician because usually you get a chance to talk to the journalists beforehand – but you could also scope the surrounding area.

“You’d keep a weather eye out for something – but then again the photograph might only be relevant if the politician is in the eye of a storm. But invariably there is a backdrop somewhere – it’s a common enough thing, where they’ll frame a photograph with maybe half a word or a word that’s germane at the time [see examples above].

But there’s a limit to what you can do, to an extent… You’d nearly twig what the photographers are up to sometimes. You’d spot them gathering around certain locations and you’d say ‘right, why are they all standing here’?”

AO9Z7282 Taoiseach Jobs_90502886 Source: RollingNews.ie

Some eventualities are nearly impossible to plan for, Moore said – like, for instance, photoshoots at museums that might include exhibits of antique swords: “You’ll get captions like – ‘is the minister for the chop?’”.

Most politicians and advisers take a ‘win some, lose some’ approach, he reckons. Moore also recalled an event at DCU during the 2011 presidential election, when he was working for Sean Gallagher (an independent candidate with Fianna Fáil links, but who wasn’t keen to talk up his connection to the party, considering their toxic, post-crash status).

“There were a number of student stalls, I remember. And I noticed out of the corner of my eye photographers gathering at a certain stall – which was the Ógra Fianna Fáil stall. You just make sure he doesn’t walk by there – they knew I twigged them, and there was a bit of a smile and wink between us.

“That phrase comes to mind … ‘I have to be lucky all the time, they only have to be lucky once’.”

7321 Taoiseach jobs_90502904 Source: RollingNews.ie

Photojournalist Leon Farrell of Rollingnews.ie, who took yesterday’s infamous Enda Kenny photo, said he set out to convey the circumstances the Taoiseach had found himself in in the wake of a poor Dáil performance earlier this week, the continuing fallout from the McCabe controversy, and the mounting pressure on his leadership.

The media had been told the Fine Gael leader wouldn’t be answering press questions – “and normally if there’s a doorstep you’d try and depict the situation via a particular expression or gesture”.

Watching the Taoiseach’s appearance at a jobs announcement in the city centre, he realised after a few minutes that Kenny’s position, just under the word ‘help’ in a display behind him was the photo to get.

I just positioned myself down on the ground – he was giving all of these expressions, and I was just looking for one expression that might indicate what was going on.

There’s always competition with other photographers to get the ideal photo, Farrell said. In this case he was best positioned to capture the shot, and managed to time the photo perfectly to catch the Taoiseach with his eyes cast to the heavens.

Farrell is an agency photographer – meaning newspapers and web outlets like TheJournal.ie pay a subscription fee for use of photos. As a result, he said, “getting the front page is always the goal”.

Even so – a ‘treble’ is a very rare thing for an agency photographer. He’s been working since 1992, Farrell said, but this is the first time his photo has been selected by all three broadsheets.

I’ve had two out of three before, several times – but it’s great to finally get it.

Read: Kenny on the ropes as Fine Gael hopefuls line up to challenge him >

Read: Charlton Tribunal will examine allegations of ‘inappropriate contacts’ between gardaí and Tusla >

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