Friday, January 30, 2009


The Detroit News writer Charlie LeDuff got a phone call about a man frozen to death in a block of ice in an abandoned building in Detroit and wrote about it in Thursday's paper, read here. Today he found out who the man was and tracked down his brother, read update here.
This is how it relates to me.

I was at McDonalds for dinner with my son Max watching him in the play area while I flipped through the most recent issue of News photographer Magazine. I got a call from the photo desk at the News asking, "What are you doing right now?" So I told them and asked what was up. They said they tracked down a family member of that man that died in the ice and could I go get a photo of a photo he had and a portrait of the brother. BTW the man that died, his name is Johnnie. So I told them I could possibly make it to his house by 7:00 but probably more like 7:30. So I dropped my son off at home just as my wife got home with my daughter. Mapped out where I was going. Mapped out the closest place to transmit like Starbucks, McDonalds or anywhere with Wi-Fi and started to drive.

On the way there I was wondering how I would shoot this sensitive situation. Available light, strobes (off camera of course), take in a light stand and umbrella, just use a small reflector, what? I didn't want to be a pain in the ass depending on the mood of Johnnie's brother Homer Redding. So I wanted to keep things simple. I wanted a nice looking portrait but this wasn't about how cool of a photo I could shoot but how fast I could get a nicely lit portrait and be on my way.
I had to call when I got to his street because I couldn't find his house and it turns out the wrong address was written on my assignment sheet. I was worried he was going to say he changed his mind about being photographed which would be understandable.

Mr. Redding welcomed me in and he had been painting so his furniture was all in the middle of the rooms and not in their normal places. So simple would definitely be best. I did take in a light stand and umbrella, set it up while he looked for a couple of photographs of Johnnie for me to shoot. I shot a few simple images of some old photographs and then ask Mr.' Redding if he would mind holding one of the photos so I could take a shot of that. I already had the lights where I wanted them and did two test shots on my hand so I was ready to go. I used a 285 in a shoot through umbrella camera right and an SB800 in slave mode for a back light camera right and behind Mr. Redding.

Then I asked him to set the photo down so I could get a portrait of him, I told him he could look into the camera if he wanted but didn't have to so he would feel more comfortable.
I shot a few wide shots with one camera body and lens and then had another camera body with a long lens for a couple other shots.
I did have a problem with the lights though, that batteries were weak. But instead of taking up more of his time to change them I just worked through it and shot slow. Sometimes they didn't fire but he was very gracious and put up with me for a few extra minutes.

I joked with him and his nephew about goofy old photographs as I quickly packed up my things. I the told him thank you for allowing me and the paper in. I also told him that I get to meet many people in my job and I was sorry for his loss and we had to meet under these circumstances. I shook his hand and said maybe we would meet again someday under happier conditions.

One more thing. As I was driving my son home he heard me talking on the phone to my wife about what I was shooting. When I hung up he asked my, "dad, why did the man freeze?" I have talked to him in the past about how some people don't have much money, many things and some are homeless. So I reminded him this is why we should always be grateful for what we have and that we have people who love us.
"Didn't anyone love him?" he asked.
If you went to the link above and read the story you might think no one did. I had a tear in my eye and told my 4 year old, "I'm positive some people loved him and I'm going to take their picture so everyone else knows there were people who loved him but sometimes some people just have some bad luck." Thanks Mr. Redding, Thanks Max.


Blogger Soupy said...

Thank you, Bryan, for telling there story....

6:58 PM  

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