Assignments from the New York Times are always a great exercise because the turn-around time is often very short. For most other assignments, I have at least a week or so where I can research the subject, scout the location, and get a sense of what the weather will be like on the shoot date. Last week I was assigned to photograph for Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed about empathy. The subject of the story had passed away, and it wasn’t possible to cover the funeral because of the deadline for the paper, so I was asked to photograph the story subject’s brother. I arrived at the location and had a quick look around. The first image I was asked to make was of Mr. Green holding a photo of his brother. The best picture available was on a smartphone. That picture-of-a-picture worked well to show a current image of the subject, but was very literal. It served to illustrate what Kevin looked like prior to his passing.
The possibilities for making a stronger image unfolded within the hour or so I had to complete the job. The subject was a kind, gentle man who, despite his hurt foot, was willing to walk a short distance to stand in the glorious sunshine. The idea I had discussed with my editor was to place him in the context of the family farm. It was a bucolic Oregon scene: an old barn, some rusty farm equipment, and a very willing beagle. These together provided the setting for our subject. Mr. Green moved naturally into this position which suggests sadness, so all I had to do was to be sure that the focus and exposure were set properly. I think it worked well. What do you think?
The photos that were used are below.