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Danny Williams: a profile

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Photojournalist Paul Daly, who incidentally, worked for The Independent in its former incarnation, and The Telegram editorial page editor Russell Wangersky have teamed up to chronicle the political career of Danny Williams through words and pictures.

I was a little wary of reviewing Danny Williams: a profile because it isn’t always easy here in NL to speak in an unbiased manner about Danny Williams, when you know your fellow compatriots are quick to defend him.

I wondered if Daly and Wangersky had felt similar pressure and if it would color the tone of their book. My misgivings were compounded by the fact Williams showed up at the book’s launch and used it as a forum to speak publicly about his rumored rift with the current PC party leadership. Clearly, no matter what they had written about, or photographed him doing, Williams was on, for now, good terms with Wangersky and Daly. To find out how tenuous this relationship can be you’ll have to read the book.

Like you’re sitting across from the former premier while he makes some of his most important decisions about the fate of our province.

Despite the former premier’s familiarity with the book’s contributors, Wangersky does write in a balanced manner about William’s years in office. His descriptions of the former leader’s impatience with never ending press inquiries, failure to implement whistleblower legislation and less than gracious ability to accept criticism allows dissent to flicker amongst passages about our Danny’s many triumphs.

Wangersky’s use of personal anecdotes and historical content brings the reader behind the veil of NL politics under Williams’ reign, but it is Daly’s photos that make you feel like you’re sitting across from the former premier while he makes some of his most important decisions about the fate of our province.

Public figures can often seem remote, or one dimensional, but Daly’s photos manage to capture such a breadth of emotions, actions and reactions from Williams that he becomes something politicians are rarely described as; nuanced.

Daly captures the combative spirit Williams is famous for in shots depicting the removal of the Canadian flag from provincial government offices, the public service workers’ strike in 2004 and Danny’s victorious return to St. John’s after negotiating the Atlantic Accord deal. These images reflect Williams’ commitment to fight for what he believes in, even when, as pictures of the Cameron inquiry remind us, he may be taking an erroneous stand.

The photographs of the damage wrought by hurricane Igor display a side of Danny even I can like, as Williams is seen sadly surveying the devastation with PM Stephen Harper. The sympathetic leader mills about offering reassurance and hugs to citizens who suffered great personal loss at the hands of Igor. On a side note Daly deserves an award for how empathetic his lens manages to make Harper look. I didn’t search the picture, not even once, to see where the Prime Minister’s on switch is located.

Danny Williams: a profile is a visually compelling read about the political career of a man that, when at his best, worked tirelessly to raise NL’s economic and political stature. I’d recommend reading through it to anyone interested in NL politics, regardless of their feelings about the man in question.

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