Editorial in Florida Trend Magazine
I love the movie Forrest Gump, I have probably watched it a dozen times but rarely from beginning to end. I usually seem to just pick it up somewhere in the middle and finish it. One of my favorite scene’s in the movie is when Forrest is sitting on the park bench with the man, who later doesn’t believe his story, telling him about his being a great ping pong player. Forrest looks at the man and in his very flat southern draw says, “A few months later, they invited me and the ping-pong team to visit the White House. So I went… again, and I met the President of the United States… again.” I love the way he acts like its just an everyday event to go to the White House and meet the President.
So now every time I get published I think of that saying, “So I got published… again.” Of course that is not as big as going to the White House to meet the President, but for me its always exciting to see work in publication. This time my work appeared in Florida Trend Magazine. I got the call from Jason a few months back asking if I would be willing to travel down to Vernon, FL to photograph nurse practitioner Dawn Frost. Frost operates a small medical clinic in Vernon providing medical service to a community of about 1,200 people, were doctors are scarce. She services a poor community where 80% of the population is on Medicaid, some of them living in tents and trailers along the river. Vernon is a very small town, as they say in the south, “You can spit across it.” Frost struggles to get paid due to the way the laws in Florida work and faces even greater challenges being able to afford to continue providing care with the new Healthcare laws coming in to place. If Tallahassee doesn’t provide a solution that allows people like Frost to get paid poor communities across the state could be in a situation of having no local medical care.
My brief from Jason was typical, get a picture of the subject in their work environment with people working behind her, get a picture of her working with a patient, and then just get some pictures in general. All of that means, “get a picture that tells our story.” This is the part of I love about what I do. I get to tell a story. So after making arrangements with Frost and her staff I drove down to Vernon early in the morning to get the pictures. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the clinic but whatever I may have thought I would find it wasn’t even that much. The clinic was small, very small, with plain white walls and tile floors. I found out later that at one time it had been a auto supply store so now when I tell you there was nothing visually interesting you’ll understand there was NOTHING visually interesting. However for my assignment that didn’t matter. I had to find a way to get a picture of Frost in her space and make it something that would cause the reader to stop and look. Thankfully I have a lot of practice of creating images in boring spaces.
As usual my first task is to get the pictures the art director wanted. The ones specifically in the brief. These may or may not excite me but they will be looking for them and it’s my job to make sure they are there. Frost office had a large central room that all the exam rooms connected to along with her staff’s office. I decided this would be the best place to create the portrait of her with staff in the background. To set up the shot I used three lights; one in the far back reflecting off the ceiling to light the workers in their space, one behind Frost to light the back of the room she is in and give her some rim light, and then my key light.
For the picture of her working with a patient I asked her mother, who works in the office, to sit in as the patient. This was a very small room so I placed lights facing opposing walls and reflected them to to fill the room with a more interesting light than just straight off camera. For each shot I took portrait and landscape orientation so that the art director would have options for how they placed the photo in the article. In between each shot Frost was seeing patients, so I would set up lights, test exposure, and wait till she finished. Then she would come over, we took a few shots, then she was off to see another patient while I tore down the lights to reset them for the next set. With the ones from Jason completed I wanted to get something that showed a little bit of who she was. There was not much decorations or personal effect but in a cabinet she had a series of nick-nacks that related to the medical field, next to the cabinet was an American flag. Earlier I had noticed several references to the military in her office and had learned she had served in the Army. So placing a light inside the cabinet I stood her next it in front of the flag to get a more personal portrait. I asked her to look away from the camera because I wanted the image to feel the disconnect she faces when dealing with the government agencies trying to get paid. All the elements come together to create a look that ecompassess a bit of her history and her feelings.
Though technically I was done I wanted one more picture. Something that showed both the smallness of the clinic and the turmoil she is facing in trying to provide medical service in an environment that is stacked against her. Thankfully it was a stormy day outside with dark clouds gathering for a rain storm. I grabbed a small flash, a shoot through umbrella, and a light stand so I could take Frost outside and get one more image. I had her stand in front of her clinic and shot low to get the sign in the background. The wind was blowing so I literally had one foot on the light stand to keep it from taking off. Frost had a patient waiting in the exam room and a fast filling lobby so it was click, click, and thank you we are done. Though Frost was more than willing to get the photos I knew nobody likes waiting to see the doctor so I thanked her and her staff and got out of the way.
It was good that I took the last picture because that was the one that became the lead for the story.