Gateway to the soul

This last week I was handed two assignments that had to very different opportunities for photos. One was about a man who was thrown in Panamanian jail by a business partner for six months. He was in the office for an interview and it was after dark. The story was to run the next day, so I was asked to make a glorified mug shot.

N0118BOBBY05c.jpg, originally uploaded by ©JL.

As soon as I met Bobby Hammond I felt I needed to illustrate the story as best I could given the situation. I had already set up the studio to make a photo, but quickly decided that I needed to show this man's patient yet aching eyes. I tend not to look too much into people's eyes when I talk to them. I feel that it is intrusive at times and wouldn't want someone else peering into my soul with professionally trained eyes. But Bobby's eyes were so bright despite all that he had endured in what is regarded as one of the worst places to be put jail. He had his collarbone broken while detained and although it healed, he is now limited in his work as a landscaper. He waited as I fumbled and flailed to capture his gaze into the camera.

Portraits of people in their environment are fairly easy to create. All you have to do is carefully select aspects to keep in the photo, find a good location for the person to sit and literally throw some interesting light on it all. A straight up portrait is much harder to do in a photojournalistic sense. There is nothing to fill in the information other than a persons face and eyes. I don't know that I was able to show Bobby's story in his eyes, but I hope they are engaging enough to make you want to read the story.

N0121BRUCE51c.jpg, originally uploaded by ©JL.

The following day I was sent to make some photos of Bruce Randolph Jr. He has a barbecue restaurant in Boulder and was present for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington D.C. in 1968. He also cut the reverend's hair in a Denver barbershop during the civil rights movement. Once again, how to illustrate an event that took place in another city at another time? I made several photos of Daddy Bruce Jr. working and serving up his beef or chicken plates. But I didn't feel it would hold water for the story about MLK. As Bruce sat near a window to talk with another man I couldn't help but watch his eyes as he talked. He is a very carefree man and told me to go about my business as soon as I walked into his world. I just made photos of him as he talked. He showed an entire range of emotion as he talked about an issue with family and church members. After he finished he went about his work and I asked if he would let me get some audio of him while he worked. I might not have stated it clearly, but it seemed that he would rather sit and talk than just speak as he worked. So I clipped the mic and barely hit the microscopic red button to start recording when he began to talk about the trip to Washington D.C.

For this story the audio was the key to conveying the message. His eyes were a an integral part, but to hear his voice and the feeling behind it is completely different. To hear the tone and richness of his voice about the civil rights movement and how it effected him struck me hard. The problem was all the photos I had made had nothing really to do with his interactions with Martin Luther King Jr. Just random portions of time in a place so far removed from those difficult times. So here's a video that may be a bit different, but hopefully the message still comes through it all. Thankfully our society has changed. Not nearly enough, but maybe it will continue to change for the better.


Christopher Lawson said...

Nice light on the portraits. Very telling too. The one of Daddy Bruce Randolph Jr. is a lovely moment. I like the video for its different approach and his voice adds wonderful vitality to the piece.

Joshua Duplechian said...

I love it man! What a refreshing way to tell this story. It kept me wanting to watch more and more. We can all learn a little more from watching this piece. Keep it up bro.

Logan said...

I think the "book-ending" by repeating his emancipation comment at the beginning and end tied things together nicely. I enjoyed it.

Joshua Buck said...


Some of your best video work to date and I'm tired of saying that each time I see a new show from you. That being said, the pressure is on when you do the next video. I am really pleased you are not taking the standard T.V. approach to these shows, i.e. not your standard "interview." Josh Dup said it best: "We can all learn a little more from watching this piece."
Keep working...