I had an opportunity in early May to visit with Paul Haring, staff photographer for Catholic News Service who is based in Rome. Haring has been shooting images at the Vatican since 2009 and his photos are used by Catholic print and electronic publications around the world.
Before moving to Rome, Paul worked five years for CNS in Washington, D.C., where he edited and captioned photos used by the wire service. “The bulk of the editing I did was photos of the pope and the Vatican,” he told me over a bottle of Peroni in the lounge of the Hotel Cicerone, about a 15-minute walk from the Vatican.
While editing photos from the Vatican, Haring said he realized he could be taking the photos.
“The opportunity came along in 2005,” he said. “CNS wanted to create a staff position. … I volunteered myself for it and in August 2009 my wife and I came over here and we began this grand adventure in Rome.”
Haring says his schedule is based on events at the Vatican.
“I adhere to the schedule of the Vatican, following the activities of the pope. He has two regular events every week — the Wednesday general audience and the Sunday Angelus,” he said. “I photograph both those events and other events the pope has and many other Catholic events throughout the city.”
Haring also does a lot of international photo editing. “I work with L’Osservatore Romano and another agency, Catholic Press Photo. I try to get some of that editing done and some of my own pictures.”
Many of Paul’s images of Pope Benedict are shot with long glass. Most of the close-up shots of the pope are taken by Vatican photographers. Haring said he is within close distance to the pope only on rare occasions.
“I consider it a very privileged opportunity to be close to the pope … maybe less than 10 times a year,” he said. “For the most part we work with long lenses and we try to do the best that we can in that way.”
Asked if he had a favorite image he’s shot, Haring described a photo taken in 2010.
“Every photographer wants to get a good picture of the pope kissing a baby or something like that,” he said. “There was one moment in the basilica where the pope spontaneously went over to a baby. Sometimes the children are brought to him by ushers, but this was completely spontaneous. He was processing out and the baby gave him this angelic look and I got the moment.
“It was very rewarding because it’s very hard to get” engaging photos of the pope, noted Haring. “We have to compete, in a sense, with other photographers who are closer and are trying to get that moment as well. That was a special picture for me.”
Check out the audio slide show I put together for The Compass, which features numerous photos shot by Haring in Italy — including that angelic baby.