As an intern in the White House Photo Office, I was given the opportunity to photograph President Donald J. Trump signing the Veteran Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. Just half an hour before the signing began, I was told to grab a camera and follow one of the Official White House Photographers to the East Room. The room was already filled with people, and dozens of video and still cameras were pointed at a stage at the front of the room. I was taken to stand between the press pool and the stage, about six feet away from the desk where the bill lay, waiting to be signed by the President.
Soon after I got into position, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David J. Shulkin came to the podium and introduced U.S. Army veteran Sgt. Michael Verardo. Sgt. Verardo spoke about his experiences with the Department of Veterans Affairs after being injured by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. Then, President Trump arrived and addressed the room, and as he spoke I snapped photos from my spot by the stage. It was intense to be shooting at such an important event, but after a few minutes I was so immersed in my work that I forgot about the pressure. My focus became capturing as many moments as possible.
President Trump sat at the desk and signed the Veteran Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. It occurred to me as the President penned his signature that I was standing just feet away as a bill officially became a law. It was literally history in the making, and I caught it all on my camera.
For me, the best part might have been after the event, when President Trump posted two of my photos on his Instagram account. One is of him signing the bill, and the other is of him shaking hands with Sgt. Verardo. It was surreal to see my images posted by the President of the United States. The experience has been one of the defining moments of my time as a White House Intern.
Claire Barnett is from Clarksville, Tennessee and is a freshman studying Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University. Claire is a member of the Summer 2017 White House Internship Program in the Photo Office.