Spotlight On Logan Mock-Bunting

TID:

We've picked a picture from a photo story you did
on your mother, who sadly, died of cancer. Can you
talk about your decision to document your mother?


logan9


LOGAN:

I have to start out by saying I think it is interesting
that you chose this topic, and this image. Today is
exactly three years since she died. And as for this image,
I've recently decided to use it with another image from
this series to go into a book project of this story.

But to get to your question, we have to go back a little bit.
Mom was a very strong supporter of my photography and
journalism; she was also a visual and creative person.
Before she was sick, we would talk for hours about story
and image ideas. I still have two notebooks of our ideas on
my bookshelf.

Ross, you and I have talked many times about how important
it is for the photographer to express their wants and needs to
a subject, so roadblocks don't come up at emotional times during
the story. Explaining expectations for access can very important
in this process. Mom completely understood this concept. She
totally "got" why I would need to be in places and witnessing
events at precise, and sometimes uncomfortable, moments. Not
only did she understand, but she would make suggestions.

That's how the story started.

logan5

Mom called me a few years ago and asked me to come over -
she told me to bring my camera. I'd been freelancing for about
2 years, and like I said, she loved to share thoughts about
imagery. I figured it was probably another idea, or maybe a
pretty flower in the garden that she wanted a picture of.
Instead, that afternoon she told and me and Dad that she had
a tumor in her lung.

I was surprised, but as she began to explain more, it clicked
what was going on, why she specifically asked me to bring the
camera, and I took this image of her talking to Dad:


logan12


Later, she asked if I wanted to photograph her journey. She
didn't want to call it a battle or a fight - those words were too
violent for her. She considered it a journey because she wanted
to survive, as well as embrace the joy of life with what time she
had. But she had obviously thought about me doing a project on
this process before she first called me to come over and talk
about the initial tumor.


TID:

Can you tell us what was going through your mind
while making these images?


LOGAN:

I've had other people ask about what was it like to make
these pictures, and I'm still not really sure what to say.
Obviously, it was really difficult to watch my mother and
family go through this. Sometimes it was difficult to hit
the shutter when it felt like I should be more in the "Son"
role than the "Documenting" role.

There were times I didn't make a photo because it didn't feel
right. Sometimes the only way I got through situations
without completely losing it was being able to put the
camera over my face like a mask, look through a barrier
and think about light and composition instead of what
was going on to my family around me. It ran the spectrum
of all kinds of emotions.

logan3


TID:

This image is one that is intensely intimate. I don't think I
could make this image of my mother, and I was struck by
the comfort level your mother seems to have with you.
Can you please talk to us about your approach to making
this specific image ?


LOGAN:

I was spending a lot of time with Mom and Dad. I'm a
freelancer, and I made it a priority to be with them. One
day, Mom went to take her first shower after her first
surgery (because of the stitches and bandages, she wasn't
allowed to shower for a time). She literally opened the
bathroom door and said, "Hey Logan, you want to see
my scars?" and then she continued drying off. I grabbed
my camera and made a few images. So that was the
logistical series of events - because of conversations
we'd had before, she knew what types of situations were
of interest and kept me updated on them.

logan7

As for the thought process involved, and emotions... I
have to admit, I was a little uncomfortable. I mean, in
our society, it is not normal for a 20-something male to
be in a small room with his naked mother. That just
sounds so ridiculous. And it was a little shocking to me;
I would have never suggested it.

But honestly, I think that shock is what got me through it.
I tend to over-think things WAY too much. And in this
situation, heading into the bathroom, I was thinking about
all kinds of concepts: how the water/bathing was symbolic
of a baptism/rebirth, how the scars were the first outward
sign of her disease (she had no symptoms before being
diagnosed - the tumor was spotted first while doctors were
doing imaging on her heart), and all these heavy metaphors.
Then *BAM*, there is Mom revealed - naked, just like THAT,
and I had stop thinking and react - just make the image that
was there in front of me.

logan11


TID:

At any point was there any conflict, any hesitation on your
mom's (or your) part during the documentation? If so, how
was it handled?


LOGAN:

There certainly were times that I hesitated or didn't make
images. Even though I had both her blessing and the rest
of the family knew what I was doing, there were many
emotional and vulnerable moment where I wasn't sure it
was appropriate to take photos. One time that stands out
is when a Niece saw Mom for the last time. It was obvious
that it would be the final time they would speak, and as the
niece left, she broke down weeping. For whatever reason, I
didn't feel right hitting the shutter at that time, so I didn't. I
hugged and tried to comfort my cousin.

I don't think there is a hard and fast rule here. I've heard some
folks say "it is better to take an image and not use it, then want
it later and not have it." That can be true sometimes, but I think
trust is the most important part. Trust and truth. You have to stay
true to yourself. A serious project may push you, push what you
are comfortable with, and that's OK. Growth spurts are
uncomfortable; physically, mentally and artistically. I think you
have to keep yourself open to pushing. But pushing isn't betraying -
yourself or those you are photographing. There were times the
folks in front of the camera wouldn't have cared if I made a photo,
but it wasn't ok with me. So I didn't hit the shutter. Each
photographer has to find that place within each story, each situation.

One of my motivations FOR hitting the shutter was that I simply
didn't want to do Mom and her story a disservice; she had granted
me this privilege, and I didn't want to squander it, let it go to
waste because I was uncomfortable. It made me step up and be
active in circumstances I would have rather shed away from.
That's what I mean by a "growth spurt" - maximizing and living
up to the tremendous gift your subjects are giving you by letting
you be present.

logan6


TID:

Do you have advice for photographers looking to gain this level
of intimacy with their subjects?


LOGAN:


Communication with subjects (family or not) is so important,
and finding the right subject is paramount. Everyone has different
boundaries; you probably won't find them all out in one conversation.
You probably can't jump right in with a subject and in the first
conversation ask if it is ok to photograph them naked. But you take
steps - ask to visit their home, and once you are in their home, you
can ask to see inside their bedroom, for example.

logan8

Trust is something that is built. You and the folks you are
photographing are constantly building it by exploring private places
and intimate experiences. This growth, this relationship, can happen
many ways and over different periods of time. Sometimes through
jokes and chatting, other times just being around in heavy situations.

Conversations can run in that vein too, where you ask questions
and clarify expectations little by little. It can be very frustrating
when you think you've spelled out needs and have access, then
find yourself shut down in a key moment.

With some folks, I like to ask hypothetical situations in a calm
time, before something emotional happens: "If something
hectic were to happen at your home, how would you feel with
me photographing it?‚” "What would be the best way for me to
photograph __fill in the blank__?"

logan4

I try to avoid yes or no questions, like "Can I photograph this?" -
it is too easy for people not to think about it and just say "No."
If it is a long-term project, you are going to be with this/these
subjects for a while and you're going to be having conversations
with them at some points; I just try to find appropriate times to
set expectations.

Logistically, keeping up with subjects is important. Don't assume
anything. Ask them what they are planning on doing later that day,
that week, that month. Reassure them that, yes, even though some
action or activity may seem mundane or commonplace to them,
we as photographers would like to be present and witness it - we
have to be there when things happen.

Be true to yourself, and be real with the people you are
photographing. People can feel when outsiders are being
fake or holding back. I think you really have to be almost
as vulnerable as the people who are letting you into their lives.
There is a process where everyone involved lets down barriers
and goes with the situation. That's when viewers can FEEL
what is happening in the images.

Please show this old B&W photo of me and mom. I really don't
want people just to think of her as "somebody who died" or
another "Subject in a Cancer Story."

She is my Mom, and I miss her very much. I'd love it if THIS
is how people could remember her.

logan10

Thanks so much Logan.

+++++

Logan has photographed in over a dozen countries for a wide variety of
editorial and advertising clients. His images have been published in books,
magazines and newspapers all over the world, including: TIME, Newsweek,
National Geographic Adventure, WORLD Magazine, People Magazine, USA
Today, Los Angles Times, The Guardian (London), as well as on the front
page of the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and the
International Herald Tribune.

He's been recognized with several national and international honors and
grants, including awards in Pictures of the Year International, NPPA's Best
Of Photojournalism, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, National Hearst
Competition, the Public’s Best Picture of the Year Award on MSNBC, and
North Carolina Press Photographers Association.

You can view his work at:

www.loganmb.com


+++++

Next week on TID, we'll take a look at this image:


tease


As always, if you have a suggestion of someone, or an image you
want to know more about, contact Ross Taylor at: ross_taylor@hotmail.com.

For FAQ about the blog see here:

http://imagedeconstructedfaq.blogspot.com/

Photo Illustration

Some of us don't know the difference
between alien bees and angry birds.

Don't worry, you're not alone.

I wanted to take a break this week from deconstructing
documentary-style images to peek into the world
of photo illustrations, but with the parameters that
most of us face:

A low budget and limited prep time.


superbowlmainpinch


It's a challenge for many photographers. The majority
of us don't have weeks to execute photo illustrations,
nor do we have hundreds of bucks for models and props.

This week's image stems from a story about places our
readers could watch the game other than the couch -
including unusual places like a movie theater.
The catch: we had just a few days, and a small budget.

We decided to use a local theater, to avoid corporate
chains of approval. After scores of calls we found two
fans and borrowed enough props to make a run at the
illustration. The Virginian-Pilot, like many papers,
doesn't have extensive lighting setups, but we do
have two alien bees, enough to make it work.


superbowl


While we waited, I asked the person helping me out
to stand in and act like he was yelling, to check out
the spacing while we waited. It's important for me to
try to have someone assist when possible. In this case
I asked one of our photo editors to come along, but if
I didn't have his help, I would have asked someone at
the theater.

Don't hesitate to ask people for help. Most people in fact,
will think you're just crazy enough to be entertaining,
and they'll be glad to help. You might just be the strangest
thing they see all week. I know I often am.


superbowl2


After the two put on their face makeup, we were ready
to go. I asked them to stand to make sure the positioning
was ok before we got underway.


superbowl4


Now, the fun begins. I asked both to yell as if they were
watching a key play, and also asked the her to throw up
some popcorn to give some momentum to the picture.


superbowl5


Even with the popcorn, I didn't like the stagnant nature of the
image and I thought we'd add more motion to the image.
I asked Bill, the person helping, to toss a bucket of popcorn
into the frame, to give it more motion.


superbowl6


I thought it could work with some practice, so at this point
we were set and ready to go. We had them both scream and on
a five count we'd throw the popcorn into the frame. We tried
unsuccessfully numerous times before getting this.


superbowl7


I thought there was too much popcorn, though, and I also
thought the subjects were too small in the frame. I cloned
out some of the popcorn and then used the pinch filter to
bulge them out a little, to give them a little more presence.
I also darkened the background.


superbowlmainpinch


On a side note, for those who want to learn photoshop, there's
a ton of podcasts out there – one I recommend especially:

“Photoshop for digital photographers,” by Michael Rather.

In the end, we spent less than 30 dollars, and just a few hours
on the shoot. I think it's a good model for daily newspaper
illustrations.

So grab a few dollars, dig into photoshop and if you get
something you really dig, email TID and we'll try to feature
it down the road.

+++++

Next week on TID, we'll take a look at this very moving image
by Logan Mock-Bunting of his mother who was dying of cancer.


tease


As always, if you have a suggestion of someone, or an image you
want to know more about, contact Ross Taylor at: ross_taylor@hotmail.com.

For FAQ about the blog see here:

http://imagedeconstructedfaq.blogspot.com/

Spotlight on Preston Gannaway

FEATURED


The catch

TID:

Preston, thanks for being a part of our discussion.
This image is part of a larger body of work. Can you
tell us what the project is called, and what you're trying
to achieve with it?


PRESTON:

The project is called "Between the Devil and the Deep
Blue Sea," and it's one that began when I moved to
Norfolk two years ago. It's a visual exploration of the
neighborhood I live in, and consists of both personal
work and images I shot for The Virginian-Pilot. The
majority of the images were for a photo column in the
paper. I was really interested in taking on a project that
was more personal, more conceptual, and I wanted an
opportunity to make some pictures in a less
traditional photojournalism way. 

3

TID:

How did you find this couple and why photograph them?


PRESTON:


I took an afternoon to find a story on the pier.
Recreational and commercial fishing is a big
part of life here, and I knew I'd be able to make
a photo there. You know, it's often hard to
pinpoint exactly what draws you to a particular
subject. It could be someone's face or an action
that draws your attention to them, or just some
subconscious impression that they might make a
picture. There were three people in this particular
group (this couple and a friend tagging along), so
that always adds more possibility for interaction
and moments. The friend was dressed pretty stylishly,
with big sunglasses and a bright striped shirt.

Often with this project, I'd head out hoping to find
a photo that reflects a particular demographic or
theme (The idea of beach romance being one). I really
want the body of work to be as diverse as the
neighborhood itself. But mostly, they just seemed really
open when I approached them and game to the idea of
being photographed.

So I stuck with them. 

8

TID:


Can you talk about how this image was made?


PRESTON:

This was at the very end of my time with them, it was
getting dark and they were about to head home. I'd been
shooting for awhile and so I was getting a bit more
comfortable with pushing previous boundaries of intimacy
and physical proximity.  It's always a dance trying to
figure out what the subject's comfortable with and how
comfortable they are with having you around. Much more
of my energy and attention goes into reading the subject
and/or the situation than any actual photographic tasks.
So, when you reach that magic point where you don't have
to worry so much about them, the rapport is in place, it's
so amazing. That's when you can really shoot. 


TID:

Was there any conflict, or a moment when the couple
didn't want you taking pictures? 


PRESTON:

No. They were totally cool. And fun to be with. They
were a bit bashful about the semantics of their
relationship (they weren't "dating," just friends.) But I
think all that comes across in the picture which is
what I like about it. It illustrates that charged moment
of tension and flirting that only happens
at the beginning of a relationship. 

4

TID:

How long did you spend with this couple?


PRESTON:

I spent almost 2 1/2 hours there with them. I think
that's a personal record in terms of time spent with
a stranger I approached out-of-the-blue.

With most of the found situations in Ocean View it was
more like half an hour. And then with the research-
based photos, I would usually do a few different shoots
over a few days. Frankly, it just takes time to make real
documentary photos. Way more time than most people
realize.

7

Since these kids were able to put up with me that
long, it simply increased the odds of my making a real
photo. Some situations don't really warrant that kind
of time, if there's not much potential to start. But
these two people obviously had a lot of chemistry.
It had to come out. The longer I was there, the less
physically private they were with each other. I was
just waiting for the moment when they could express
themselves, when they were comfortable with me
photographing it, and when I could do my job of
bringing it together in a single frame.


TID:

What did you learn from the process of making this
image that you didn't know before (or if you didn't
feel you learned anything, what struck you about the
making of this image that was unique?)


PRESTON:

As I mentioned before, it was mostly the time spent with
a subject I found while feature-hunting. And I was surprised
by the intimacy that came out in that process. That's pretty
rare. More often, those moments come after I've spent months
photographing someone. In terms of what I learned, I guess it
just helped build confidence in my work style. With this couple,
and I'd say 90% of the people I shoot, they respond to someone
who's real and genuine.

If I'm at ease, they're at ease. 

5


TID:

Preston, one of the things I admire about you is your
temperament and your approach to people you photograph.
For those who don't know you, can you talk about your mental
approach to documentary work in general terms?


PRESTON:

Thanks. When I was working early on at the Concord Monitor,
Dan Habib once told me that the subject has to want to have
you around. That might sound obvious to some, but it sorta
opened a whole window to me on how I needed to approach
subjects differently. Prior to that, I always thought, "Okay. I'm
going to be boring. I'm a fly on the wall. People need to pretend
that I'm not here." And that just wasn't working for me.

6

I've really found that building rapport and trust is a two-way
street. I've always been a pretty shy and quiet person. Now I
force myself to talk to people more than I'd be inclined to naturally.
Plus, I realized that you really can look creepy silently following
people around with a camera.

If I were to really pick it apart, I think I try to exaggerate what I have
in common with the subject, to put us on equal footing. Luckily, I'm
physically very non-intimidating. I also slow down and act very casually.
No sudden movements. That keeps people from getting nervous.

I find that people who are calm are just plain easier to have around.


The catch


TID:

Thanks a lot Preston. Before we go, I'd like to ask one more
question. Since this image is part of a largely self-assigned
project - do you have any advice for photographers looking
to work on self-generated projects?


PRESTON:

Yeah. You have to be totally committed to it. Documentary
work doesn't affect the bottom line. So it can be very difficult
to get people to put resources behind it. I hope that eventually
changes, but right now it's just part of the reality. You have to
find a way to work on it and then find ways to get it out to an
audience. I'm really lucky that my editors at The Pilot give me
time to work on it and publish so much of it. On the flip side,
having mental ownership over a project is so great. I push
myself so much harder. And I can only shoot when the light is
nice, if I want. Thanks for having me!

++++

Preston Gannaway has worked as a documentary newspaper
photographer for the past 10 years. She currently works for
The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. Prior to that, she spent a year
on staff at the Rocky Mountain News before its closure in 2009,
and worked for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire (2003-2008).

Gannaway's documentary story on the St. Pierre family, Remember Me,
was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

You can view her work at:

http://prestongannaway.com/



+++++

Next week on TID, we'll take a break from documentary images
and discuss the fun and challenges of doing illustrative work on
short notices and small budgets.

superbowl


As always, if you have a suggestion of someone, or an image you
want to know more about, contact Ross Taylor at: ross_taylor@hotmail.com.

For FAQ about the blog see here:

http://imagedeconstructedfaq.blogspot.com/

Use the Flow, Luke

At the risk of sounding too much like Yoda, I think
there is a flow of energy, a flow of behavior in everything.

I was on a hike once, watching the flow of a river, and
it hit me that human behavior has flows as well.

There are flows when we're at work, and flows when
we're with friends. There are flows when we're sick and
when we're healthy. There are also flows when we're
happy and when we're depressed.

These flows have entry and exit points, just like rivers.

When we photograph people, we also enter into flows
of their behavior. I was thinking about it for TID's
discussion about this picture.

1

My assignment was to photograph a church play that
recounts their impression of the life of Jesus Christ.

I arrived before the beginning of a rehearsal, because
I believe that whenever possible, it's better to be at the
beginning of a flow. Psychologically speaking, you become
embedded into the flow, and generally you're granted
greater access as a result.

I knew I wanted to make an image of the Jesus character
backstage getting ready, so I arrived in the dressing room
before he did. Once he got there, I introduced myself
and let him know my purpose. He then agreed to it, and
upon this, we entered the flow together. If I came later, after
the flow of his behavior began, there most likely would be
more friction, and less access.

I think this is important to realize when photographing.

Lets take a look at the following images. Notice that their
are other people involved as well. Because the Jesus
character, the star of the show, had signed off on my
presence, I was then accepted by the others into their flow.


>2

2a

Lets also think in terms of physical restrictions to flows of
behavior. I have mentioned Eugene Richards before as an
inspiration to me. I once read that he often spends the night
with people he documents.

Now I can understand why.

If you're already within the flow of someone, inside
their home, with their experience, it's easier to document
than if you have to cross a physical barrier (i.e. knocking
on their door)

3

4

5

6


I think it's a great mental exercise to approach situations
with the flow concept in mind. Push yourself to recognize
proper entry and exit points, and how to enter with the
least friction as possible.

When you're within the flow of someone's experience,
greater access, and intimacy, will almost always occur.

1

+++++

Next week on TID, we'll take a look at this compelling image made by Preston Gannaway:

The catch

+++++

And, as always, if you have a suggestion of someone, or an image you
want to know more about, contact Ross Taylor at: ross_taylor@hotmail.com.

For FAQ about the blog see here:

http://imagedeconstructedfaq.blogspot.com/

Spotlight on Melissa Lyttle

FEATURED
TID:

Melissa, great to feature your work with TID.
We appreciate you being willing to share your insight.

MELISSA:

I'm really excited by the idea behind this blog, so thank
you so much for asking me to take part in this.

TID:

You have a number of strong, intimate pictures (it was hard
to pick one), but we'd like to feature this picture from the
Kids in Chaos story.

transitional_stones085

Your access to the family was moving.

If you recall, I emailed you after it was published and asked
you how you gained such intimacy. You didn't know me
back then, but were kind enough to respond.

And now years later, we're back and retracing it, but this
time sharing some of your insight with a larger audience
than one.

Lets now talk about the backstory of the image.
Tell us how you first met this family, and how you began
the story.

(TID NOTE: The pictures in this post were the images taken
moments before and after the featured image)

transitional_stones081

MELISSA:

I was assigned to photograph a daily story about how
people, especially families, were given weekly vouchers
to stay in nearby motels since many shelters were full.

The initial assignment just said to meet this family at
the motel. I had no idea what I was getting into. From
the moment I walked in, the family accepted me.

They were incredibly open and unguarded in their moments.
I had kids hanging off of me by the time I was leaving,
calling me Aunt Melissa. The story was running the next
day, and for the paper's purpose their story was over, but I
had promised the kids that I'd come back the following
afternoon so they could show me how they'd learned to do front
flips in the motel's swimming pool.

I made some time in between assignments the following day to return.

transitional_stones082

When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw a few of the kids
outside, and as I was getting my camera out of the back of
my car, one of them said "Aunt Melissa, Aunt Melissa -
we're moving, we're moving."

I ran up stairs to find Mark and Dempsey (the parents).
Evidently, the motel management had beef with them
over how clean their room was, and kicked them out.
So the shelter that had initially placed them, sent a van
over to move them into transitional housing.

I called the paper and told my assignment editor that this
was a bigger story than we had thought, and asked if there
was anyway I could get out of my next assignment. I
wanted to ride with them to transitional housing to see
where they were being moved and more importantly to
figure out why.

transitional_stones080

I had only been at the paper for about a year at that point,
and had never really worked on a big story before. I sensed
that there was something more there, but wasn't sure what
yet, all I knew was my gut was telling me to follow them.
(Note: I was deeply moved by a story Daniel Anderson at
the Orange County Register had just done the year before
on Motel Children. I had a friend working at that paper and
he sent me a copy of it when it published. It went onto win
the Community Awareness Award in POY, and was a Pulitzer finalist.)

TID:

Access is built over time, and it's clear to me that you spent
a lot of time developing trust with the family. Can you let us
know how long you think you spent in total on the project
(and with this, can you talk about your time management)?

MELISSA:

According to the digital files, the first day was with them was
May 17, 2001. I worked on it through the end of the year,
because just after Thanksgiving, the Stones moved up to
Baltimore with family to get back on their feet. I made one
trip to Maryland to finish the interviews, because at this point
I was writing the story, too.

So I worked on it for about 6-7 months.

transitional_stones083

I spent a lot of time with them, just hanging out, camera
down, talking. The Stones lived in 5 or 6 different places
while I was working on their story, and there was no real
way to get ahold of them - part of the reason I'd drop by
so much was so I didn't lose them.

They were good about calling me when stuff was happening,
but it was always from a nearby pay phone, and there was no
way to call them back. I knew it was important that I was
there as much as possible, but I also knew I needed to dig
deeper and find what pictures I needed to make.

It was important for me to have an honest conversation
with when I needed to be there for in order to tell their
story fairly. Early on, that's what a lot of my visits were.

Conversations.

transitional_stones084

TID:

Now that we have a good idea of the time and origins
of the story, lets move to the picture. Can you tell us
where this picture fits in with the story, and about the
time leading up to the image.

MELISSA:

I'd try to schedule my time so I could put myself in
the right situations to witness those bigger moments,
but I'd also make it a habit of dropping by their house
after I got off work, to shoot the moments in between.

That's when this picture was made - after work one night.

The time stamps show I was there for 90 minutes, from 7:30
until 9 p.m. I shot 134 frames that night - most of them
horrible, A lot of them blurry and out of focus.

I was just responding to the moments of the chaos, and trying
to push the heck out of a Nikon D1 in really low light situations.

TID:

Given this, can you talk about the moment of the image,
and please include how you were feeling at the time.

MELISSA:

The caption on the photo read: After using a cuss word in
front of not only her parents, but also her younger brothers
and sisters, Meghan, 10,gets a lecture from dad and a less
harsh, but similar gesture from her youngest brother Matthew, 1.

It happened so quickly, and it was over before I knew it.
I literally shot two frames of this scene.

transitional_stones085

transitional_stones086

I was in the other room photographing Dempsey changing Piglet's
diaper, so I don't even remember Piglet being up and in this frame.
He was at that stage though where he was mimicking a lot of
words and gestures that the others did, so it was a really pleasant
surprise to see him there in the bottom corner of the frame,
mimicking his dad pointing at Meghan. She had a lot of
pressure on her being the oldest, and the funny thing is,
I think she was just mimicking words she'd heard adults
say when she let a cuss word out.

I remember being struck by Meghan's body language,
defeated, hands behind her back and she took her
punishment, but I don't really think I even knew what
I had until I got back and looked at it on the computer later.

TID:

At any point was there any conflict with the family
or anyone else – meaning, did anyone ever object
to your presence or ask you not to photograph?
If so, how did you handle this?

MELISSA:

No, the family never objected. In fact I think
I was kind of a nice distraction from reality sometimes.

transitional_stones088

The hardest obstacle was getting a hold of them.
I think at one point I hadn't been out to visit them
in a week or so, and I dropped by to say hi and they
were gone.

Luckily, I was able to track them down again through
a church group that they'd been working with. That
was the nature of their lives, though, at the time,
constantly in transition and in chaos.

I knew when things were going astray and they were
being moved from one transitional housing center to
the next, picking up the phone to call a photographer
wasn't always a top priority (nor should it have been).

Everything went pretty smoothly, the only really
bureaucracy I faced was when I had to explain to
the school officials why I was interested in photographing
one of the kids in class.

They finally agreed, because they had a lot of kids
in similar situation, and they let me in.

transitional_stones090

TID:

This was relatively early in your career, can you talk
about how this project impacted you as you started working on it?

MELISSA:

It was a year into my first staff job, and it was the biggest
story I had worked on. I think I made a lot of mistakes,
I learned and grew a lot from them, and it impacted me
greatly, by solidifying that this was what I really wanted to
do with my career. For me, the real power I gained came
from going beyond the daily assignment, in recognizing
the potential that something bigger was there beyond just
the tip of the iceberg that I was initially told to photograph.

It taught me to question things more, to follow my curiosities
and to trust my instincts.

Most importantly, it taught the importance of being a
photojournalist, not just a photographer.

TID:

In closing, what advice would you give to photographers
who want to dig deeper and build better access with
the people they are photographing?

MELISSA:

I'd say the most important thing is to approach stories
and your subjects with an open mind and not let
stereotypes or your own insecurities shape the story you're telling.

I can't stress enough the value of having an honest
conversation with people about why you're there, what
you want to be there for, and asking them what's important
for you to photograph in order to tell their story fairly and honestly.

I've found that the best told stories are ones when there's
somewhat of a partnership between you and your subjects.

What this story taught me, and what I've carried with me
into every other story I've done since, is that ultimately it's
not your story - it's their story.

You have to respect that and let your subjects guide you through it.

Melissa Lyttle is a staff photographer at The St. Petersburg Times,
and founder of:

www.aphotoaday.org

You can view her intimate, award-winning work at:

www.melissalyttle.com

+++++++++

Next week on TID, we'll spotlight this image:

jesus

And, as always, if you have a suggestion of someone, or an image you
want to know more about, contact Ross Taylor at: ross_taylor@hotmail.com.

For FAQ about the blog see here:

http://imagedeconstructedfaq.blogspot.com/