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Great Reads in Photography: January 17, 2021

Every Sunday, we bring together a collection of easy reading articles from analytical to how-to to photo-features in no particular order that did not make our regular daily coverage. Enjoy!


Nick Ut: Why I Accepted Trump’s Medal Of Arts – Newsweek

Photographer Nick Ut discusses his 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning image of Napalm Girl. LBJ Library photo by David Hume Kennerly (former White House photographer and also a Pulitzer Prize winner for his Vietnam War coverage)

Nick Ut became the first journalist ever to receive the National Medal of Arts. He accepted the award from President Trump on Thursday.

“It’s my personal life. I’m an old [b. Vietnam, 1951] man now, so I’m happy the president gave me an award,” Ut told Newsweek. “I wanted to be here. For me, it’s more about receiving an award from a president.”

The medal ceremony for Ut was acknowledging his storied career where he was a photojournalist for AP for 50 years. He does not want it to be associated with the prevailing politics.

Nick Ut, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist behind the iconic photo “The Terror of War” known by many as “The Napalm Girl,” had announced in 2017 that he is officially retiring.

Nick has captured many memorable images after Vietnam, including the Olympics, a crying Paris Hilton in the back of a police car, wildfires, riots, O.J. Simpson trial, and the Pope.

Unfortunately, the very next day, on Friday 15, he was attacked by an unknown person while on his way to dinner. “We were attacked by drug addict young guy. He knocked me down and hurt my ribs, back and left leg. Same leg I have metal in from mortar in Vietnam War. Maybe break
my Leica too,” he posted on his Instagram.

Ut, however, is going to stay in DC for the inauguration. “I’m hoping that I will get inside and want to capture a moment between Biden and Kamala Harris,” he hopes like every other photojournalist.

Check out Ut’s 2012 interview with PetaPixel founder Michael Zhang:
Nick Ut, the Photojournalist Who Shot the Iconic “Napalm Girl” Photo


10 Civil Rights Movements in Photography that Changed the World KultureHub

As the latter half of the 20th century illustrated, and this past year reminded us, the fight for civil rights is a necessity.

The photographs of Rosa Park’s arrest to the Freedom Rides to the violent demonstrations of the last 60s have all brought about change for the better.

Here are 10 civil rights photographs that are equally distressing as they are inspiring for the upcoming generation. It tells the story of Martin Luther King to Mohammed Ali. From Rosa Parks being fingerprinted to young Ruby Bridges walking the steps of her Elementary School with a security detail.


Tips on Using Photography Instagram Hashtags – Creators Network

Photo by Rawpixel.com

Here are some tips on using photography Instagram hashtags to gain more exposure.

Tip 1: Target Your Audience
Tip 2: Pay Attention to the Number of Hashtags You Use
Tip 3: A Hashtag’s Popularity is Key
Tip 4: Avoid Spam Hashtags

Interested?

More Tips and details at the link above.


Photo Opportunities in The Kingdom of Bhutan – The Land of Happiness – Bored Panda

Taktsang Palphug (Tiger Nest) Monastery, more famous as Paro Taktsang, is a Buddhist temple complex that clings to a cliff, over 10,000 feet above sea level, on the side of the upper Paro Valley, Bhutan. Photo by Mike Swigunski

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country in the Eastern Himalayas, where China borders it to the north and India to the south.

This remote and breathtaking Kingdom of Bhutan first opened its borders to tourists in 1974.

Hidden for centuries, this high Himalayan paradise, with its ancient monasteries, unique architecture, untouched glacial mountain regions, subtropical forests, and diverse spectrum of various climates and terrains, has continued to capture the imaginations and hearts of even the most seasoned of travelers and especially photographers. Take a peek into the 36 photos above to see what lies in store for your future travel photography!


How to Apply Photographic MakeUp – Loop21

Photo by WavebreakMediaMicro

The first thing to understand is that makeup for photography is totally different from makeup for a social occasion. Wedding photographers are often stressed out by a bride who has had makeup done that is not exactly photo-friendly.

Photoshoots can take an extended time. It’s essential to use the proper products and proper techniques for extended-lasting makeup. Using the proper concealer is critical to a flawless finish, even with regular makeup, but with photographic makeup, the need for concealer is way greater.

Ok, I am now going to stop pretending that I know anything about makeup, and you will have to read the article yourself.


How the Govt. Suppressed Photography of the Pandemic ­– The Intercept

Photo by Artem Kniaz

As the COVID-19 pandemic started spiraling out of control, photojournalists could not get access to produce the imagery that would tell the real story of what was going on.

The Trump administration seemed to be blocking access except to a handful of hospitals and institutions. The guidelines, which seemed to be following HIPAA, the medical privacy law, suggested a nearly impossible standard.

Before journalists could speak or photograph patients, they needed prior authorization from the desired patients and also other patients whose identities would become accessible.

Hospitals that were following Roger Severino’s May 5 guidelines found it impossible to allow photojournalists into their premises.

“Photography has played such a key role in the civil rights movement, in ending the Vietnam War, and any number of key moments in American history — and it just seems missing in action on this crisis,” said Michael Kamber, a former war photographer who directs the Bronx Documentary Center in New York City.


Discover Food Photography During the LockdownAmateur Photographer

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi

Donna Crous is a Surrey, UK based professional food photographer and new Nikon Ambassador. She’s also a food photography tutor for the Nikon School and the first Nikon Northern Europe Ambassador for Food Photography.

“A cup of coffee always makes for a great shot, sifting flour or pouring honey gives the added challenge of working with a fast shutter speed or using backlighting for a glass of pink champagne or a drink that has an interesting color to really make it pop,” says Crous.

The important thing about food photography lighting is to ensure that it is from one direction, either the side or back, never front on; otherwise, your food will look flat and lacking texture.

Tip from Crous: Interestingly, food images look better taken in portrait orientation; a large stack of pancakes or a pitcher of orange juice fits better into portrait orientation than landscape and looks great on social media or a cover of a foodie magazine.


Remembering NPR Photojournalist David Gilkey – NPR

Pictures on the Radio book cover courtesy of powerHouse Books

More than four years ago, NPR photojournalists David Gilkey and Zabihullah Tamanna were killed while on assignment in Afghanistan. They were traveling with the Afghan National Army when their convoy was ambushed.

John Poole, NPR’s senior visuals editor, remembers his friend and colleague with words — and some of the striking photos David took during a remarkable career. The cover photo above shows Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony Espinoza wiping the sweat out of his eyes at the end of a daylong patrol out of the Sangin District in southern Afghanistan in 2011.

“He could paint with his camera like an old master, even in the middle of hot fire,” recollects Poole.

Pictures on the Radio will be released by powerHouse Books on January 21, 2021.

David’s images captured a breadth of truths across the world and showed the humanity of those he photographed, even under the most difficult circumstances. – President Barack Obama

Check out NPR Photographer David Gilkey Killed in Afghanistan


Should Journalists Play a Role in Identifying Rioters? – Poynter

News organizations should soon expect to hear from federal law enforcement agencies. National Press Photographers Association General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher says he expects that they will ask or demand that news organizations and individual journalists who documented the siege of the U.S. Capitol turn over their unpublished images and videos.

“Since these actions involve federal crimes, journalists will quickly realize that we have no federal shield law,” Osterreicher said.


How This Photographer Made $113,441.57 NET in 2020

Photographers generally are not going to disclose what they are making net or gross or anything else.

Along comes Eric Floberg, who is happy to help give you an understanding of the detailed break up of his earnings, gross, and net for the year 2020. He merely wants this video to be “an insight and some transparency into what I make as a creative, as a photographer, filmmaker, YouTuber, so that all of you who are watching it can see what it looks like to have a small business like this…”


Aperture’s Best Photography Features of 2020  – Aperture

Migratory cotton picker with his cotton sack slung over his shoulder rests at the scales before returning to work in the field. Near Coolidge, Arizona, Nov 1940. Photo by Dorothea Lange, via Wikimedia Commons

Nan Goldin, Native America, and how to be a photographer in the age of COVID-19—here are this year’s highlights in photography and ideas.

Aperture was created in 1952 as a not-for-profit foundation by photographers and writers as “common ground for the advancement of photography.”

Here are some of this year’s highlights in photography and ideas.


Jokes Only a Photographer Will Understand

Q: How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?
50.
A: 1 to change the bulb, and 49 to say, “I could have done that!”

Email Phil your favorite photography joke. If we share it, we will credit you and link to your site.


Why I Like This Photo – Dean Zulich

Brigade Magazine © Dean Zulich

This creative collaboration remains one of my favorite conceptual images. Looking back, this will always be a great reminder of an inspired artistic era in reviving Downtown Los Angeles and a major part of my photographic life — it’s storytelling, technically well-executed.

This photo was part of the shoot for the annual Brigade magazine from Downtown Los Angeles in 2014. Though the assignment itself was a fashion shoot, I introduced an element of intrigue and mystery to this particular set up.

I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, Canon EF 85 mm F1.2 II L, and Westcott Spiderlite 3 light LED kit. I chose to use continuous lighting to achieve a cinematic look and feel to the image. I used a slightly longer focal length of 85 mm to bring my subjects closer together with my favorite fashion/portrait lens.

I always try to add more of a story to my photography, and this time I was inspired by filmmaker David Lynch and his cult classic Twin Peaks. The combination of his influence with unique location, excellent and diverse talent resulted in this image. I always try to get more out of my imagery and go the extra mile when it comes to location, talent, and storyboard.

Living in Los Angeles made all this a bit easier, as the pool of talent is perhaps the biggest one there is, and people are always game.

Dean Zulich is a native of Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, residing in Los Angeles, California. His photography journey started about seven years after he immigrated to the US. He graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle’s Commercial Photography Program with honors and the Best Portfolio of Show Award in 2007.  In addition to his success at the VH1’s TV show The Shot, he is proud to be the Art Institute’s Hall of Fame Alumni.

Dean’s work has appeared in Marie Claire, Vogue, New York Times, Boston Globe, Seattle Magazine, Digital Photo Pro, Mix Magazine, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Fashion Magazine, and more. He has spoken at PhotoPlus Expo in New York and PhotoCon in Los Angeles.


Quote of the Week (or a Previous Week):

NICARAGUA. June 1978. Youths practice throwing contact bombs in the forest surrounding Monimbo. © Susan Meiselas

The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong Susan Meiselas

Susan Meiselas (b, 1948) is an American documentary photographer. She has been associated with Magnum Photos since 1976 and has been a full member since 1980. She is best known for her 1970s photographs of war-torn Nicaragua and American carnival strippers.


To see an archive of past issues of Great Reads in Photography, click here.


We welcome comments as well as suggestions. As we cannot possibly cover each and every source, if you see something interesting in your reading or local newspaper anywhere in the world, kindly forward the link to us here. ALL messages will be personally acknowledged.


About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at The International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days Workshops. You can reach him via email here.


Image credits: All photographs as credited and used with permission from the photographers or agencies.

ATEM Mini Pro helps industry adapt to the pandemic’s challenge

ATEM Mini Pro helps industry adapt to the pandemic’s challengeAn ATEM Mini Pro is at the heart of all of LivestreamBCN’s productions for a good reason: its flexibility, durability and portability, says producer Carlos Larrondo.

Playing for Change, an international foundation created to connect people through music, brings together a diverse mix of musicians from all musical genres performing in their local environment. Concerts are broadcast via the Playing for Change YouTube channel, which has more than two million subscribers. To make it all happen, live producer and cofounder of LivestreamBCN, Carlos Larrondo, opted for the ATEM Mini Pro from Blackmagic Design, which handles signals from a range of cameras, including the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K.

Carlos Larrondo has been involved with the foundation for the past seven years. Livestreams for the channel that Carlos has produced direct from Barcelona have included performances from soul and reggae artist Hugo Soares and the Clarence Bekker Band. Although the technical requirements for each event are different, he says, an ATEM Mini Pro is at the heart of all of livestreams because the highest quality production values are paramount.

ATEM Mini Pro helps industry adapt to the pandemic’s challengeMaking production more efficient

“Our technical solutions have to convey the excitement and emotion of the performance,” explains Carlos, adding that’s the reason “I decided on the ATEM Mini Pro for its flexibility, durability and portability, which allows me to tailor to what best suits the ambience that the musician wants to embody, whether this is in a studio, a concert venue or even outdoors.”

All productions are captured at 1080p24, but Carlos explains that if the team is working on performances with a lot of movement, the additional frame rates of 30, 50 and 60fps are invaluable. When working on smaller setups, or in particular if crew numbers are limited, Carlos also controls the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K via the ATEM Mini Pro.

“The ATEM Software Control completes the user experience seamlessly, and the options for AV signal destinations are so easy to operate and edit in the library file, which makes my production even more efficient,” Carlos explains. “And it might sound a small point, but it is enjoyable to use, which makes a huge difference.”

ATEM Mini Pro helps industry adapt to the pandemic’s challenge

Refining the workflow for the future

Carlos believes that producing the Playing for Change livestreams during lockdown has allowed LivestreamBCN to refine its workflow and approach for the future.

“The ability to connect people through music is incredibly powerful and the industry has had to adapt to the challenges that this year has brought. Manufacturers like Blackmagic Design have been instrumental in supporting the innovation in streaming, in order to create content and performances that can truly unite people, no matter where they are in the world.”

My Last Mocha: An 8×10 Polaroid Passion Project

Brzz, bzzzrrr. The rollers on the vintage Polaroid developer start to suck in the 8×10 Polaroid. Dan Bosman, a Mars Cafe barista of 14 years, and I are chatting just like we always do.

“It’s been slow,” says Dan. “None of my regulars have been through.”

The developer is a contraption like no Polaroid camera you’ve seen. Because it’s not a camera. It’s just the developing part, separated from the camera because it’s huge (weighing in at 20 pounds) and has to be plugged into the wall.

Cleaning the rollers of the Polaroid 8×10 developer.

Brrrzzz. The photo jams. Brz, brz, bzzzz. The rollers finally suck in the positive and negative, burst a packet of developer, and squish it between the layers of film before shuttling the photo into the light-sealed holding box.

After a few minutes, Dan and I peek at the photo. It’s not all there. An error in film loading, or a fluke of the processor, has rendered only half the image. I’ll have to try again.

I open up the film holder and slide in a single negative film pack. I close it, pull out the light cover, and walk back to the accordion camera.

Dan Bosman making a mocha at Mars Cafe
Adjusting Arca Swiss tripod head on an 8×10 large format camera

As Dan starts an espresso pull at the bar, I check my angles and start focusing again.

He finishes his latte art pour, a classic tulip with his signature swirl on top, and says, “oh, that one’s perfect” as he sets down the mug and looks up at the camera.

I’ve been a professional photographer for nearly 15 years. I balance the weight of budgets, crew, timelines, client expectations, and deadlines without much thought, but today is different.

Today, I’m nervous.

With my hands shaking and heart racing more than the normal caffeinated amount, I quickly double-check everything.

Are the strobes still connected? Pop.

Is the shutter closed? Is the shutter cocked and ready? Check and check.

Is the film holder sitting correctly? Check.

I pull the dark slide.

I hope Dan’s still in focus, I think to myself as I raise the shutter release cable. I can no longer view the inverted and upside-down image on the ground glass from the back of the camera. The film holder is there in its place.

Sure, a misstep will cost me another $20 frame, but that’s not my worry.

Why am I so nervous?

I am one of the few people who know this is Dan’s last shift, one of the few people who know it’s his last shift because Mars Cafe is running out of time.

Located in the Drake Neighborhood next to Drake University, Mars Cafe has been a Des Moines, IA, staple and important part of the community for 14 years.

In my early 20s, the Russian cosmonaut-themed coffee shop served as my internet connection and study spot of choice when finishing my business degree. It then became my business incubator.

It has been the start to many days before heading off to photograph across the state and country, and it has been the end to less exciting days, a place to grab a beer following hours of editing photos.

It’s been a concert venue, art gallery, movie set, and a political rally site. Dan has photos with dozens of politicians and celebrities to prove it.

You don’t go to Mars just to get a quick caffeine hit. You go to Mars to see who you’ll run into.

I always looked forward to running into Dan. Our favorite topic of conversation: travel.

Dan would talk family road trips to national parks like Acadia and Denali. I would talk about the places my camera takes me, like Alaska’s Iditarod trail and Arizona’s Sky Islands.

Our paths even crossed once in Glacier National Park. I took a photo of Dan and his family in a glacial valley that is hanging on the wall in his home.

COVID-19 has beaten and bruised my coffee shop, and its lease runs out in a couple of days.

This place, and Dan, are important parts of my history. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m using my 8×10 large format camera and special handmade instant film.

I’ve always used instant film for moments that mean something—my wedding was shot in part on instant film. That’s why I keep a fridge full of discontinued instant film.

It has a nostalgic look and provides a nostalgic experience. It allows me to hold a memory in my hand while hundreds of thousands of digital photos get lost on my growing list of hard drives (over 100 and counting).

It might take me a couple of hours to track down a digital photo on a hard drive, but I can always find my box of Polaroids. In fact, this is the reason the Library of Congress requires historical documentation to be done on large format film.

Digital files, formats, and hardware are so easily lost or discontinued. It’s easier to store a physical piece of film.

While Library of Congress photographers aren’t using instant film, the main cultural research arm of congress expects its film negatives to last over 500 years. You can’t say the same about the digital photo you stored on a floppy disk 20 years ago.

It’s taken over two hours to get the first frame and screw up the second. I won’t have time for many more attempts, if any, to capture the second photo of this diptych project, a two-part art piece that I plan to share with Dan. I’ll give him a photo, and I’ll keep one.

I know I’m pushing Dan’s patience, mine too, whether he knows it or not, and we’re losing our ambient light with the sun beginning to dip behind the buildings on University Avenue.

While my first mocha was made by my, now, wife at a different coffee shop, my love for coffee didn’t sprout until Mars introduced me to third wave coffee, distinguishable by its light roast and single origin-sourced beans that are grown with care like fine-wine grapes.

Mars was a breakthrough in Iowa. A first of its kind. It didn’t serve the burnt stuff.

Now, Des Moines has third wave coffee shops popping up left and right. Four have opened in the last year. All serve great coffee that puts Starbucks to shame.

Despite the new blood in town, Mars Cafe is still my coffee shop. My wife and I bought a home a couple of blocks away, and I’d be lying if I told you Mars didn’t influence that decision.

Mars Cafe was started by Larry James to provide Drake University students with an off-campus hangout. Later, Larry transferred ownership to four influential small business owners who have kept the wheels turning. Bless them all.

Coffee shops don’t make much money and can consume a lot of time. These four soon invited Dan into ownership, recognizing his importance to the place.

If you’ve visited Mars Cafe a time or two in the last 14 years, chances are Dan Bosman has made you a drink. Chances are he’s made you more than that.

With the fate of my coffee shop, my home away from home, hanging by a thread in the wake of 2020, I feel the weight of this photo. It was Dan’s last drink.

To prevent a poorly timed blink, I give Dan a countdown. Three, two, one.

Click.


Dan Bosman is now the proud owner of his first solely-owned coffee shop, Daisy Chain, in Des Moines’s East Village. His shop combines his newfound passion for beekeeping and honey with his joy of serving up coffee and conversations. If you stop in, make sure to get his signature honey latte and ask how his bees are doing.

Mars Cafe was purchased and will continue on with new passionate owners!

Behind the scenes photos shot and developed by Logan Christian (@loganchristian @dsmfilmlab).

Dave Poyzer’s words edited by Ryan Borts.

Vintage style camera built with plywood and 3D printed parts in the UK by The Intrepid Camera Company.

Special thanks to CatLABS, curators of vintage and hard-to-find cameras, parts, and accessories for large format photography.

8×10 Polaroid Film was handmade in the Netherlands by Polaroid (formerly known as the Impossible Project).


About the author: David Poyzer (production manager & director of photography) is an accomplished landscape photographer, avid Driftless Area fly fisherman, experienced paddler, mountain bike hobbyist, and roller hockey amateur. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. He has a deep love for all things outdoors, vintage (especially cameras), and third wave coffee. He likes entrepreneuring enjoyable work for himself and others whether it’s a career, an art project, or renovating an 1898 home with his wife Mariah. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.

Cooper & Gorfer’s Delirium: using art to capture a pandemic

Cooper & Gorfer's Delirium: using art to capture a pandemicDelirium is a new piece from Sweden-based Hasselblad Ambassadors Cooper & Gorfer. Photographed in a studio built inside a hospital, it captures the struggle of healthcare workers against the pandemic.

Known for their visually rich collage portraits and free visual language, Sarah Cooper and Nina Gorfer work focuses on female subjects while exploring powerful, political and personal themes. The fine art duo met in Sweden in 2005 while studying their master, and has Sarah Cooper says, “we released each other’s creativity, sort of that perfect storm”, so they decided to work together and set studio in Gothenburg.

With backgrounds in fine art photography/music production and architecture, respectively, Sarah Cooper (Pittsburgh, USA) and Nina Gorfer (Vienna, Austria) led different careers before photography became their common base. Now their creative partnership and collaborative work allows them to build narratives as Delirium, which represents their need to “humanise the story”. By getting close, the duo says, “it enabled us to face our own fears. The arts have a place in reclaiming this. The vulnerability of both the patients and healthcare workers needs the nuance of the creative approach to best capture it.”

Cooper & Gorfer's Delirium: using art to capture a pandemic

Like an epic Renaissance battle

Delirium, that embodies the Covid-19 pandemic, captures the constant struggle of healthcare workers fighting through this historical tragedy. Some suggest that it is beautifully reminiscent of the frontlines of an epic Renaissance battle, the soldiers consisting of nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and anaesthesiologists grapple with handling symbolic comatose patients in their quest to save them. The authors tell the whole story in one article published by Hasselblad, but here at ProVideo Coalition we share some of the images and the behind-the-scenes video revealing how the project was created.

Connecting with Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Mölndal just outside of Gothenburg, Sweden, Cooper & Gorfer worked closely with members of the Intensive Care Unit tending to Covid cases. “The idea was that we wanted to get all the facets of those who care for patients in a critical Covid situation, so it was a blend of nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, and anaesthesiologists. And we wanted to focus on the women so as to be true to our other bodies of work,” explains Sarah Cooper.

Cooper & Gorfer's Delirium: using art to capture a pandemicBuilding a studio inside a hospital

Similar to Cooper & Gorfer’s other works, Delirium was composed in stages. To create a full picture for the artists, they were walked through the different stages of what happens to a Covid patient upon arrival to the hospital. Afterwards, they conducted short interviews with the staff to get a true understanding of their emotions.

The second stage consisted of building up a photo studio at the hospital. Directing their subjects on the spot, they could bring together their vision of this heroic battle. “After the photoshoot, we work as we always do with collaging, taking apart the image, deconstructing and then reconstructing the image, because the feeling that we really wanted to achieve was this continuous struggle. When you look closely at the image, you see that actually some of the subjects are repeating. It’s many moments in time with many moments of their struggle. In total, we actually only photographed 7 care workers,” says Nina Gorfer.

To read the whole story, including technical info about the Hasselblad cameras used to shoot Delirium,  follow the link to Hasselblad’s website. All the images and video are published courtesy of Hasselblad and the final images are published courtesy Cooper & Gorfer.

Shooting Portraits Inside a London COVID Hospital

I first came to the hospital back in June, having decided that the stories and experiences of the front line staff shouldn’t be forgotten. We’d all seen inside the Italian hospitals, but when the virus hit the UK, there was nothing coming out of the UK, so I made it my mission to gain access and document the life and death struggles going on behind closed doors.

This project is unique, and through it, we have a chance to see what it was like inside a COVID hospital at the peak of the pandemic and hear from the front line staff in their own words what they were going through. The Kickstarter book will also help these very same people because all of the royalties are being given to the hospital’s charity, and used only to improve the staff’s working lives. It is a chance to give back to the people who have given so much.

I’ve had some scary photo shoots before, the floor of a nuclear power station is pretty up there, as is the time I had to jump on the back of a motorcycle taxi to escape an angry crowd that had me surrounded, but this was different, and I remember walking in for the first time feeling rather scared. I was knowingly going into a coronavirus hot spot, repeatedly and over many days, back when there were no tests to diagnose the virus and no cast-iron guarantees of how to avoid catching it.

My heart was in my mouth when for the first time I went into a ‘Red Room’ — one with a confirmed Coronavirus patient. I was there to photograph the medical staff as they treated him, and I was both excited and worried as I pulled on the PPE gown, mask, visor, and gloves. It struck me as a bit stupid that I could hardly see through the viewfinder, but in a way that probably helped me concentrate on the photography rather than my worries. It would be pointless to put myself and my assistant in danger if I didn’t even get the shot.

The general atmosphere in the hospital was intimidating. People were rushing to and fro, always on the way somewhere, or gliding by pushing beds with silent occupants. And it’s not surprising that many people didn’t want to be photographed.

They’d been, and in fact were, going through so much. They’d tell me stories of incredible suffering and heartache, such as the physiotherapist seconded into ITU who “could still hear all the beeping and the alarms in my ears when I got home, sitting in a dark quiet room,” or the nurse who told me “I still have nightmares at least three times a week and I know I’m not the only one in there.”

And so it became incredibly important that I approach the people, who nearly always didn’t know to expect me, with a great deal of tact and understanding. A portrait is a photograph of a person who has volunteered to share themselves, for better or worse, with the photographer – they’ve made the decision that they’ll let a stranger in, and show them who they actually are. That’s a big ask at any time, let alone when surrounded by “the most intense pain and grief and suffering.”

And so how do you as a photographer, make a connection in such terrible circumstances? It’s easier to say what not to do. That’s because each person is a world unto themselves. The bridge that the photographer has to build between them and their subject has to relate to them, and not the photographer, and so you can’t come at it with a list or a recipe — otherwise, you’re only taking a portrait of yourself.

So this is how it goes: I’m standing there in a corridor or a ward, lights and set up ready, and I’m feeling anxious about interrupting people as they scoot past. There’s a tug of war happening inside me, one part saying run away so I don’t leave myself open to their rejection, and the other half, the half that eventually wins, picks up when someone slightly slows down or slightly orientates themselves in my direction. But why did they do that? Why are they open?

That’s the question I now resolve to answer. It’s time – time for me to step out and try to find a bridge of some description. It’s always the most nerve-wracking moment, and it’s not something that I enjoy. I also never know what I’m going to say or do, which is doubly worrying! I’m often as much of a spectator as anyone else as to what’s going to come out of my mouth, but I’ve taken a decision that this is the way that it should be done, this is the way that it has to be, and so I follow my own lead – I genuinely want to know why they’re different from all the rest.

The present is a dangerous place which is why so many people avoid it at all costs. But to take a portrait, you have to be present with the other person, and place yourself in the precarious position of not knowing what will happen next. These kinds of portraits require that.

And it’s partly that unknowing, that makes me love this phase of the shoot so much. It’s like racing down a steep slope on a rickey go-cart, knowing that you may well wipe out, but you also might fly triumphantly onwards, reaching your unknown destination in glorious technicolor. And in the hospital, that feeling of being on the way to an unknown destination was heightened because I needed to have something much more meaningful than a regular conversation.

I had to ask them about situations and events that were incredibly painful – literally about the life and death of them, their patients and their families, and all that goes into that – and ask them to go back there and tell me about it. It kinda spooks me, thinking about it now, because of the enormity of what I was asking them to do. But I remember feeling that we were both high up, on a level far above that of a regular mundane moment. It was both enlivening and chastening to be elevated so precipitously without a net beneath, only the two of us. It all felt so fast, and so precarious.

And the difficult thing about photography is that you’re doing two mutually exclusive things at the same time. On the one hand, you are present and together with the other person; and on the other, you’re attending to the technical side of things which are constantly trying to strip you clean of the moment: is the exposure right, the location appropriate, does the composition or lighting need changing, how would they react to me doing that … is the lens cap on?

When you get it wrong, the sense of loss is huge. I’m sure every photographer knows the feeling when one of the spinning plates comes down. Sometimes you’ll only realize it hours or even days later. And here in the hospital, I was continually worried that I was in the wrong place, or taking the wrong approach, or going after the wrong thing. The weight of all the people’s experiences sometimes felt so heavy – what if I just wasn’t up to the job of translating these people’s experiences? What if they were telling, for the first time, the most extreme events of their lives to a stranger, and all for nothing?

The project is now a book, and I like to think that people are alive inside it. As you leaf through, it feels to me that you’re almost walking along the corridors or wards with them, or taking the buses home, or greeting their families on their return. I think also that inside it we can learn how to look after our own selves because so many of the people here are figuring out how to care for themselves too.

What has happened at the hospital, let’s not kid ourselves, is trauma en masse. Many of these people, on these pages, have undergone trauma on a scale unknown outside of war. And indeed, there have been more deaths of British hospital staff in 6 months than the British armed forces suffered during 12 years of war in Afghanistan, and 6 years of war in Iraq, combined. Combined.

It’s not normal, what they’ve been through, and I think, I hope, that this book tells their stories. These are their words, and these are their images.


About the author: Slater King is a photographer in London, UK. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Details of the book are on his site. All royalties from the book are being given to the hospital’s charity – ring-fenced so that they can be used to make these people’s working lives easier and more enjoyable. Think a coffee machine in a staff room, or funding to buy paints for a mural to brighten a place up. The book launched Tuesday, November 24th.. Slater won with three of these images at the prestigious British Journal of Photography’s Portrait of Britain Awards 2020 in September 2020.

These stunning wedding photos show that even the pandemic can’t stop the love

2020 has definitely been the most unusual year we’ve lived in. The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, from daily chores to big life events – including weddings. This is Reportage has chosen the best documentary wedding photos of this weird year, and they’re really something else! They show raw and unstaged moments of 2020 “corona-weddings,” […]

The post These stunning wedding photos show that even the pandemic can’t stop the love appeared first on DIY Photography.

Photographing a Nursing Home Where All Residents Are COVID Positive

At its core, photography allows us to tell the story of our history. Years from now, when we look back at images from 2020, our thoughts and feelings on how this year unfolded will be, undoubtedly, extremely complex.

One such image that encapsulates the heartbreak associated with this year was made by photographer, filmmaker and TED Fellow Isadora Kosofsky. In the photo, Maika Alvarez, a nurse in full PPE, holds an iPad as Jose Montoya, a 94-year old who has COVID-19, interacts with his daughter, Lillie Ortiz, via Facetime.

Isadora recently pulled back the curtain at Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home in New Mexico where every single resident has COVID-19. The culmination of her work can be seen in a powerful story, “Inside a Nursing Home Devoted to Treating Those with Covid-19,” for The New York Times.

Struck by her images and delicate storytelling, I reached out to Isadora to learn more about how she handled working in full PPE, the complicated process of gaining access to Canyon, her experiences with the residents and staff, and her lifelong attraction to photographing remoteness and grief.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Maika Alvarez holds an iPad, as Jose Montoya, 94, interacts with his daughter, Lillie Ortiz, via Facetime. Mr. Montoya is a World War II veteran. “It’s difficult for those of us family members. We are crushed by the helpless position we are in. We cannot hold our loved one’s hand and comfort them by our presence. The only thing that reaches them is our prayers because they are quarantined behind locked doors,” said Ortiz. “It isn’t until COVID hits a nursing home that you see the snowballing effect of its unpredictability and of its devastation.” Jose Montoya passed away on September 13. Photo by Isadora Kosofsky.

In your first Instagram post about the work, you mentioned that you had to get government approval to access Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center. Can you share a bit about what that process entailed?

First, I had to receive approval from Genesis Healthcare who operates Canyon Transitional. Genesis manages about 500 long-term care facilities in the US. Twenty-five of their nursing homes are in New Mexico. Initially, Genesis declined my request. They feared there would be outcry from both families and the general public that a documentarian was granted permission to enter a COVID+ facility. I appealed to Genesis to reconsider. I did not feel there would be a negative reaction to my work. So far, there has not been. In fact, families are grateful that their loved ones are seen and heard through the documentation. I think they were also surprised that someone would be willing to risk their safety for this story. After a few weeks, Genesis decided to reconsider my request. They contacted the state of New Mexico, Department of Health and Aging and Long-Term Services Department. After a few more weeks, they received a response that the state would not rescind the public health order banning visitors for the purpose of my project. I was not going to take no for an answer. I appealed directly to the state and was granted access upon explaining why elevating residents’ and nurses’ experiences was so critical. Basically that I wouldn’t sleep at night if I did not do this. I didn’t take no for an answer.

How do we tell the story of a war without showing where the bombs have been dropped? We are present at the frontlines of war. Where are we in this fight? When I was in the midst of trying to gain access to Canyon, there still had not been a visual reportage that shadowed COVID+ residents in a long-term care setting. Yet, 75,000 people have died in these communities. No photojournalist had been inside a nursing home in the US. The lack of representation in the press felt like an injustice that I could not sit with. Once I entered the facility in August, 4 months had passed since the first conversation with Genesis about this necessary reporting.

Alice Begay, 84, sits in her wheelchair wrapped in a blanket. Photo by Isadora Kosofsky.

We see nurses and occupational therapists in face shields, masks, and gowns in your photos. But what safety precautions did you take for the story? (Clothing, keeping a distance, getting regularly tested?) Do you have any behind-the-scenes photos?

I wore a Hazmat suit, a face shield, an N95, two sets of gloves, and shoe covers. The Times had me in more PPE than the nurses were wearing.

I quarantined for two weeks before entering Canyon. I was tested beforehand. I quarantined after. I was then tested again.

It gets very hot in the suit. I only changed suits once in a 12 hour period, meaning I only went to the bathroom, drank water, and ate once in a 12-14 hour period. Sometimes my face shield was covered in sweat and it was like I was photographing through a shower curtain. I couldn’t touch my face.

The risk is not putting on or taking off your Hazmat suit or PPE appropriately. I did not have to socially distance because every inch of my body was covered. COVID is everywhere in that environment regardless of where you are standing. Also, this work would not have been possible if I had been at 6 feet of those I was shadowing. The rooms are already fairly small with two residents living in the same space. Standing at a distance with PPE that resembles a spacesuit is not really my approach. I am entering the most intimate space with individuals who are in a highly vulnerable position. My priority was making them comfortable with my presence. When someone shares their story with you that is a sacred bond.

The riskiest scenario is to be with a COVID patient in a poorly ventilated room with the door shut for a long period. The only way for me to tell this story was to sit with a COVID patient in a poorly ventilated room with the door shut for hours at a time.

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Rogelio Ramirez, certified nursing assistant, stands in the hallway at Canyon Transitional, an entirely Covid+ nursing home. Rogelio volunteered to transfer from Albuquerque Heights to Canyon Transitional out of a sense of helplessness and grief after his aunt and uncle both died from Covid-19 in Mexico, where he is originally from.  “I felt like I needed to do it,” said Rogelio of his choice to work as a certified nursing assistant for Covid patients.  “If I’m not there, who is going to be there?” Rogelio asked. His wife, Jeri, also works in long-term care. She lost her grandfather to Covid-19 at another Albuquerque area facility.   “I was scared he was going to bring it home to us,” Jeri said. Rogelio lived in his garage during the first two months of Covid-19 exposure. But his daughter, Chloe, 2, struggled to sleep without him in the house.  At work, he is often the only person to speak to his patients. Not all residents have close ties to families. “They are busy in their lives. They don’t really have time,” Leslie, 66, said of her children.    When occupational therapists transferred Leslie from bed to chair, she requested Rogelio be present as a support. “There’s my love,” she said when he emerged. “The C.N.A.s actually talk to you,” said Leslie, “It really makes or breaks whether you get better or not.” C.N.A.s double as caregivers and confidants, sitting with residents through confusion, depression and even suicidal thoughts. “Sometimes all these people need is somebody to listen and be there for them,” said Rogelio, “I can’t leave these people.”  Women of color and immigrants predominantly fill certified nursing assistant roles. “We undervalue this particular workforce out of a very long history in racism and gender inequality,” said Dr. Leah Zallman, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and Director of Research at Cambridge Health Alliance. Dr. Zallman co-authored a study that found one in four workers in long-term care are immigrants. “It’s a perfect intersectionality of gender inequality, ageism, racism and xenophobia that just combines to the highly undervaluing of really important roles.” For more see link in bio @nytimes

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Physical and medical precautions aside, how are you taking care of yourself mentally?

I’m letting myself be sad, anxious, angry, hopeless in moments.

Are there any specific moments or people from your time at the Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center that weren’t included in the story you’d like to share?

So many moments and people have stayed with me from the three days inside Canyon.

I was in a room with Alice, an 84-year-old resident of Albuquerque. She had her blinds open, as the sun was setting. I noticed a woman with white hair at a window across the patio from Alice’s room. The woman, who I later learned is named Juanita, kept waving at me. From the reflections on the window, I could only make out her white hair, a bit of her face, and her waving arm. I later went to the director to ask if we could contact Juanita’s family so that I could enter her room. If she was waving at me, I felt intuitively that I should see her.

For 13 years, I have documented senior citizens in various contexts. I have never once seen any of these individuals as potential grandparents. I attempt to document them as peers. None of them have reminded me of my grandmother who was my best friend until she died when I was 13. When Sylvia, a C.N.A, opened Juanita’s door, I couldn’t believe what I saw. The similarities between 94-year-old Juanita and my grandmother were uncanny. I was astonished to find similarities between Juanita’s thick white hair, manner of sitting, gaze, and relaxed energy, and my grandmother, Marie-Josephine. When I entered the room and sat down beside Juanita’s bed, she asked me if I was a ghost. It was meant as a joke. But it was a strange and mysterious question. I have cried so much after shadowing these residents. And Juanita is someone who I often cry about. Through my work, the people I shadow give me the greatest gifts. Juanita gave me the gift of connection to my past, to the deepest part of me, without her even knowing. I told her I would visit her at the nursing home where she normally lives in Las Cruces. She told me, “I’ll be waiting for you.”

Editor’s note: Juanita is pictured in this pieces’ cover image above.

Leslie Riggins reacts as Sylvia Martinez, a C.N.A, adjusts the blinds in Ms. Riggins’ room. Ms. Riggins struggles with claustrophobia and likes to keep her shade up all day. Sylvia Martinez, 58, who has worked at Canyon for 22 years, has diabetes and congenital heart failure. “My family was worried about me. I would want someone to take care of me. It’s nobody’s fault,” said Ms. Martinez. Photo by Isadora Kosofsky.

In addition to this story, it’s clear from your other work that you have a real interest in immersive and long-form storytelling. How important was it for you to both photograph and write for this story?

I built intimacy and trust with both residents and nurses. It didn’t make sense to bring another writer into that covenant.

The lighting in your images lend to the reality of COVID-19; shadows and reflections off the face masks capturing both loneliness and small glimmers of hope or connectedness between patients and staff. I especially love the image of Sylvia Martinez adjusting the blinds in Ms. Riggins’s room. What element did lighting play in your storytelling for this project? How did you handle so much overhead fluorescent light?

The lighting in the images comes from the windows and from the overhead fluorescent light. I let my empathetic connection to residents and staff guide the way I approached light. Ultimately the interplay of sunlight and fluorescents speaks to the inevitable crossover of loss and resilience that is so much a part of human tragedy and condition.

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Jose Montoya, 94, in his bed at Canyon Transitional, an entirely Covid+ nursing home. Jose is a World War II veteran who participated in the Liberation of France. He is a career long tax preparer from Espanola, New Mexico. “It’s difficult for those of us family members. We are crushed by the helpless position we are in. We cannot hold our loved one’s hand and comfort them by our presence. The only thing that reaches them is our prayers because they are quarantined behind locked doors,” said Lillie, Jose’s daughter. “It isn’t until Covid hits a nursing home that you see the snowballing effect of its unpredictability and of its devastation.” With its beige walls and fluorescent lighting, the Canyon Transitional Care Center, nestled in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, has all the hallmarks of a nursing home. But, except for the occasional medication cart, or a nurse working silently at a keyboard, the hallways are empty. The doors of all 44 rooms are shut tight. Every resident at Canyon has Covid-19. Jose tested positive for the virus on August 10 at Las Palomas, another skilled nursing home, and was moved to Canyon the same day. “We always said that when someone is at the end of their lives in our family that we would be sitting by their beds. I cannot sit with my father,” said Lillie. Jose passed away on September 13. For images and text, you can go to the link in my bio. Or search “Inside a Nursing Home Devoted to Treating Those with Covid-19” through @nytimes

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More generally, how has COVID-19 impacted your photography work? (e.g. Was this one of your first jobs during the pandemic?)

I have been fortunate to be fairly busy. I am also a storyteller who will always create work for myself. I think it is our responsibility to be telling the stories that resonate with each of us. Part of being a documentarian is knowing what story is yours to shepherd. I’ve been working mostly in California and in the Southwest. I was supposed to be on an international reporting trip for Nat Geo at this time, but that has been pushed indefinitely due to the pandemic.

Can you share a bit about your photography background and how you got your start?

I began photographing when I was 13. As a child, I was always drawn to being a journalist. I used to watch foreign correspondents on TV and wanted to do conflict reporting. I learned in my teens that I was much more drawn to interpersonal ruptures and to war within our borders. I was drawn to remoteness and grief in relationship with self and others.

At 14, I knew documentary photography was what I wanted to do with my life. I fell in love with story, believing that it was a means of revolution, which I still feel. My first social documentary project was in a nursing home with a hospice care wing. I learned how to sit with people in the spectrum of their emotions, which is the most important part of being a documentary photographer. Challenging access to institutions has always been a part of my trajectory. I have always been drawn to spaces of confinement that are walled off from public gaze or consciousness.

When I was 16, I received access to a youth prison in Romania after writing worldwide for two years and traveled there on a grant I had received from the state of California that was meant for young artists. Two years later, I began a documentation about youth at a juvenile detention center in Albuquerque, which was deemed by both editors and peers as an “impossible” access situation. When I am drawn to a space and know that I must tell a story, I will not give up. My heart, my intuition, the amalgamation of my own life experiences, the trust from the people I shadow, guide the way.

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Sierra, 24, who has Covid-19, walks with Blane Brown, an occupational therapist, as her roommate, Sharon, watches in their room at Canyon Transitional, an entirely Covid positive nursing home in Albuquerque. Canyon Transitional, like long-term care facilities around the country, is not only home to those 65 and over. According to a study from the CDC, over 15% of nursing home residents are individuals with disabilities. Sierra Cowboy, at 24, the youngest resident, sat patiently in a wheelchair playing solitaire and watching The Simpsons. Sierra is developmentally disabled. She and her parents lived on the Navajo Nation in McKinley County, the hardest hit area in New Mexico.  Sierra and both her parents contracted the virus. They were all airlifted separately from Gallup to Albuquerque area hospitals. Sierra and her father Larry survived. Her mother, Mary, did not. Sierra and her father were transferred from intensive care  and placed in a room together at Canyon from May until his release in early August. “The hardest thing is that she’s still there,” said Larry.  Sierra believed that her mother was still at home. The past six months are a blurry gap with the exception of flashbacks of being unable to breathe, she said. When she arrived at Canyon, she was unable to walk. She now moves around independently with a walker.  Genesis Healthcare estimates that Native Americans make up 70% of the patient population since the facility was converted from a traditional nursing home to an entirely Covid+ setting for 70 people in April. For images and text, you can go to the link in my bio. Or search “Inside a Nursing Home Devoted to Treating Those with Covid-19” through @nytimes. Best viewed on desktop.

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What’s next for you?

Continuing to document the impact the pandemic is having on the elderly and adults with disabilities. I see myself returning to the prison industrial complex for another work. I’m shaping a book that centers around a woman I have been documenting for three years through her post-traumatic journey. And I’m in my last year of a 10 year photo documentary and film. This time has allowed me some time to reflect and organize work that remains indefinitely in folders.

Leslie Riggins in her room at night. Photo by Isadora Kosofsky.

You can check out the full story at The New York Times. Isadora asks that you use your desktop to view the photographs (if possible) as Clinton Cargill, Visual Editor at The New York Times, thoughtfully did the web design for this work.

Follow Isadora at @isadorakosofsky on Instagram as she shares additional images and stories from her time at Canyon.


The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors.


About the author: Caitlyn Edwards is the Community Marketing Manager at PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. She has a degree in Peace & Conflict Resolution and is religious about black coffee and great wine (but never together). This article was also published here.


Image credits: Header photo by Isadora Kosofsky.

How I Work Out of My Car as a Sports Photographer

My name is Howard Lao, and I’m a freelance sports photographer based in Portland, Oregon. Over the past five years, I’ve covered dozens of track meets. From the 2016 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, and the World Track Championships in London and Portland, to meets between the University of Washington and Washington State, I’ve filed and edited photos in a media workroom, surrounded by my fellow photographers.

But the coronavirus pandemic upended both the biggest events of the year and has forever changed photographers’ proximity to each other in those workspaces.

Recently, I drove over 150 miles from Portland into the middle of the Oregon woods to cover a secret track meet between Nike, Brooks, and Oiselle athletes. Cell service was little to none and there was definitely no media workroom. So I turned my car into one.

Working out of a car isn’t anything new. Many photographers have done it and still do it. But since it will be a while before we go back to being crammed elbow-to-elbow, rushing to get an edit out, I’ve really leaned into working out of my car for the foreseeable future. Here’s how I set it all up:

Setting Up My Laptop

I use a steering wheel table that I found online for around $30. It can be adjusted to go higher or lower.

I’ve worked for hours sitting in the driver’s seat, so this function has saved my neck, back, and arms from soreness. If I need to get out to stretch or have to get up and move, I can easily get in and out without bumping the laptop. It also folds flat and can be stored in the car easily. On some personal road trips, I’ve taken it out to watch Netflix, too.

Bonus tip: Velcro your hard drive to the back of your laptop case to save additional space. This also minimizes the movement of your hard drive cable, which you don’t want to touch during downloads.

Powering My Gear

Even though I fully charge my gear at home, sometimes I’ll have a longer edit that requires more power.

I use a Power Inverter DC 12v to 110V AC Car Inverter to use my car’s battery if I’m doing a quick edit.

This inverter was $30 online and has two AC outlets and two USB ports and is small enough to keep in the car all of the time. For longer edits, I use a portable battery. This is a more expensive route but I don’t have to worry about draining my car battery.

Taking a Snack Break

Media food, while it can be a hit or miss, is always a nice gesture when it’s available. I’m like other photographers who work through meals or do planned fastings so I don’t miss any action. I used to just take a basic cooler for the day, but I’ve upgraded recently to a car fridge that runs off of the portable battery pack and doesn’t require ice.

Securing Everything

At meets before the pandemic, I would take as much as I could with me into the stadium and chained it all down there. For these secret meets, I secured everything to the car with multiple chains and covered it with a trunk cargo shield. And of course I have insurance on all of my gear in case these safety security measures fail.

I hope my setup has inspired you to rethink your own vehicular workroom!


About the author: Howard Lao is a freelance sports photographer based in Portland, Oregon. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Lao’s work on his website and Twitter.

How COVID-19 is Impacting the Commercial Photography Set

Has COVID-19 impacted the look of ad campaigns? Maybe, but probably not by as much as you might think. What is impacted, however, is the way that a commercial photography set operates for the foreseeable future.

As an advertising photographer, you are responsible for everything that happens on set while shooting a campaign. This can range from not just the lighting scheme, but the choice of using craft services versus having a chef on set, choosing the appropriate camera and related equipment, and most importantly the safety of everyone present.

This isn’t to say that there are not safety officers on set, or form specific trainers when we photograph professional athletes, but that the buck always stops at the photographer. For those that do commercial photography, we know that there are never-ending insurance certificate pulls happening just to step foot on set. But how do we create when it comes to an unseen virus, and what will those campaigns look like?

I wanted to look at two photoshoots I did that had drastically different sets but with creative demands and outcomes that were very similar. One set of images was produced of Portland Trailblazer basketball player CJ McCollum in Beijing, China with a crew of about 60 personnel. The other photoshoot was done with Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in California with a crew of 4 people.

The approaches to each shoot differed in scope, but in many ways held drastic similarities. For CJ’s photoshoot, we had an entire arena closed down and had a 15-man construction team brought in. They managed to build walls and locations so that we could keep up with a very demanding shot list and pivot from one set to another. Since I was in China, I also needed multiple translators to give direction to the various crews that were building and striking each set as we progressed.

The photoshoot of Stephen Curry was vastly different in that the complexity of the shot schedule and post-production approach enabled us to dramatically reduce crew. The client had commissioned three images for the entire campaign, compared to 30 for CJ. On top of this, we approached the Curry shoot knowing that we had far less time with the athlete, so we would compensate by shooting in a studio so that we could build the environment later.

Now the tricky part. Modern-day social distancing and precautions in a COVID-19 environment necessitate limiting the number of people on set. Yet how are you expected to produce the same look from a shoot with so few people on it? The answer is through meticulous planning and coordination with the client and knowing exactly who will be needed on set.

For the Curry photoshoot, we knew that time would be critical to getting every shot. While it would have been possible to do the photoshoot by hiring all local crew, there would have been inherent risk. To mitigate such risk, we pre-lit and practiced the shoot in Arizona with the set transitions choreographed so that the time lost in breaking down sets would be minimized.

The next big part of being able to operate a photoshoot so efficiently comes down to trust between a client and photographer. I am specifically addressing how much control the client may want to have over the photography process specifically. With the photoshoot of CJ in China, we had multiple digital techs on set and a digital village to preview the images as I shot them. This was in an effort to convey our immediate in-camera results, and then through translators further define and describe direction.

However, for the Curry photoshoot, there was not a digital tech on set and I was not tethered. The client knew that the risk of slowing down the shoot to check each image could mean not getting all of the images needed. Instead, the client trusted that I would know exactly what they needed for the final creative.

The final aspect of keeping a set small and still retaining high-quality images comes down to the skill of each individual. Where on many sets we have grips and assistants, photoshoots during the pandemic will need to have job crossover to keep crew numbers low. This isn’t necessarily to say that budgets need be drastically cut, as I believe crew should be paid for their responsibilities; instead day rates will actually increase to a higher level than before. Producers may have to run a campaign without three Production Assistants, and perhaps even remotely for the time being.

As crazy as it sounds, I am excited about photoshoots during this time, all while being extremely anxious as well. Some of the greatest satisfaction that I get from doing advertising photography comes at the conclusion of a campaign when I finally manage to sit down in my car after wrapping. There is an adrenaline crash and the feelings are difficult to describe — it is simply being wiped the hell out. We are talking so exhausted that I just sit and stare out from the car window for several minutes before even remembering to start the car.

There is something to be said about the feeling of giving a photoshoot everything you can while leaving nothing behind that you wished you had done. With productions being so small in the future, there is no question as to how tired everyone will be at the end of the day, but it will be worth it in safety and satisfaction.

The world has changed around us in only a number of months, and while there will be a future where the normalcy we once knew returns, the time in-between will see boundless creativity. Not just in what we create, but in how we create it.

Safety has always been the end-all for photoshoots and something that was never taken for granted. But now is the time when we have to plan the entire process of creating imagery around the strict limitations of safety on set. I view this as not an obstacle, but rather an intertwined dance that can be carefully orchestrated to give everyone the ability to step foot on set once again.


About the author: Blair Bunting is an advertising photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona. You can see more of his work on his website, blog, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.