I’m a pretty calm individual, and I’m very comfortable working in a really low-key way (no lighting, no entourage, no clients on set, no assistants). I suppose that’s part of the reason I’m brought in on these sensitive assignments. In the past few years I’ve worked with terminal cancer sufferers, mourning parents, Iraq War veterans, former hostages, palliative care patients, child abuse survivors, and recently released prison inmates. I can’t speak to how other photographers deal with these sorts of difficult subjects, but I find that if I think too much about the larger context of the story at hand while working, it gets very overwhelming.
For me, looking back at these assignments, their success or failure is measured by how vividly the final images bring me back to the shoot day. When I look at these photos, I can still hear the wind in the leaves behind us, and feel the sun on my shoulders. I remember how soft the ground felt beneath my feet, and I can hear Brenda’s voice as we work out the best place for her to stand. I can still see the geese in the reservoir next to where we were shooting, and the group of teenagers watching us work, as they mutter to each other and smoke cigarettes. Which I guess is another way of saying that the best approach is to stay in the moment, and deal only with what you find in front of and around you on the day you’re there, rather than with anything you may have read or heard about the person you’re shooting.
I am so in tune with this way of shooting.