State of the Union Behind-the-Scenes with Gary Palmer


Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6) reads briefing materials in his office at the beginning of the day.

Photographed by Cameron Carnes

Did you know that many of the offices and meeting rooms that members of Congress meet in aren’t in the Capitol, but in surrounding buildings? Neither did photographer Cameron Carnes. But this past January, Carnes was invited to attend the State of the Union address, shadowing Congressman Gary Palmer, who represents Alabama’s sixth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. And that day, as he followed Palmer around the Capitol and surrounding premises for meetings, the two covered a lot of ground. “The complex is connected by a series of underground tunnels,” Carnes says. “According to my iPhone, we walked 9 miles throughout the day. There’s also this little subway system that connects a few of the buildings, but Congressman Palmer likes to walk.”

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The course of the day included six meetings, two votes, two TV interviews, and, of course, the State of the Union address. For Carnes, a self-professed “civics nerd,” the opportunity to witness such an iconic address was several ticks above “exciting.” “Being in the House chamber while the President delivered the State of the Union was incredible,” he says. “Being in the same room as every member of the House, Senate, Cabinet, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the President was pretty wild. During the day, being within arms reach of people like the Speaker of the House and people you see on Meet the Press was thrilling.”

Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6) attending a House Oversight Committee meeting.

On this spread, Carnes shares his documentation of his day in D.C. with Palmer, which he says was exhausting but exhilarating. “It was certainly a long day!” he says. “I don’t think most people understand how much work it really is to be a member of Congress. It was a tiring day, but there was more than enough of a rush to keep me going.”

Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6) holds a staff meeting.

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