Dr. Robert Riviello & Jarrod Clowery
I had the honor of being asked to photograph a recent story for Boston Magazine about the recovery process for several victims and the powerful relationships they forged with their doctors. You can see all six profiles across a beautiful six page spread in the newest issue of the magazine (out now), and I’ll be sharing some favorites and outtakes and probably a few anecdotes about the story over the coming week.
It was definitely one of the most difficult shoots I’ve ever done, but I’m thankful to have been a part and I can’t begin to count the number of ways I feel like I grew as a photographer over those two days. I got a call on Friday from the PE at Boston Magazine, Scott Lacey, about traveling to Boston for a two day shoot on Tuesday and Wednesday. Logistically, I knew from the jump that it would a be a challenging two day shoot. We were set to photograph 13 people in six different hospitals scattered across Boston. Along the way, we were thrown a ton of curveballs - changing schedules, busy hospitals, cramped spaces, and some pretty horrible traffic from game 1 of the World Series, but Scott, Brian Struble (design director, and Marcus (assistant) were always there to help pull things together.
The shoots were set for Tuesday and Wednesday, but slots and details were still shifting around even as late as Monday. After finalizing the schedule, I saw that I would not have any time to make our equipment rental in Boston, so I’d have to pick up everything in NYC, rent a car, and then drive it all over that night. Before arriving in Boston, I worked with Scott to chose a backdrop (from Oliphant Studios in NYC) that we wanted to use to unify the shots for the story. Things went smoothly enough with the pick ups, and Marcus and I arrived into Boston late that night (around 1:30 am) and got ready to be up around 5:30 a.m. the following morning. Because we were so short on time Monday and our prelight windows were so small (like 15 minutes or less), I knew all of the lighting would essentially have to be done on the fly. Scott and Brian would be with us on all six shoots though so that gave me a lot of piece of mind. However, we knew next to nothing about which areas the hospitals would allow us to shoot. In a situation like that, you’re praying for the best, but really you just have to do your best with what’s available.
On Tuesday morning we lugged all of our gear up a few floors and into our first location. It was a dark narrow hallway in a lesser used area of the hospital. Available light was scant, ceilings were low, and time was short. Gulp. You can’t count on always having ideal conditions, and your responsibility is to deliver regardless. As we’re getting in, the subjects are also arriving early, and now the pressure is really on. I excused myself to the bathroom to take a deep breath and gather myself. Even thirty seconds of alone time before I get started is so crucial. Say a prayer, go to your happy place, reset your chi, whatever works. But do it, and do it quickly without drawing a lot of attention. I think if you look visibly rattled, that’ll soak through onto every aspect of the shoot.
I’m back now, and I started making moves. Within 10 or 15 minutes, Marcus and I’ve got things set up. We fire a few test frames, and then we’re there, but I’m not out of the woods yet. I’ve already lost some time that’d I’d usually spend talking with our subjects before the shoot. Making a connection before the subjects actually get in front of the camera is so important, but you don’t always have the luxury. Again though, you can’t rely on luxury. If you haven’t had the time to cultivate a relationship that’s going to help someone relax in front of the camera, you really need to be ready to direct. Maybe you’re the type that’ll wait it out in awkward silence until the subject gives you that direct stare you’ve been waiting on. Maybe you can make that instant connection on the spot. Or maybe you’ve got a list of go-to questions or poses you know will illicit the response you’re looking to get from them. Whatever it is, it’s nice to have a well to draw from to keep things moving. For most of these shoots, I was too short on time to form a strong connection with the subjects, but I did notice that most of these subjects were very comfortable talking to each other. I may not have had the connection, but they had one with each other, and that was a saving grace.
Anyways, we wrapped up shoot #1 in about 15-20 and quickly moved on to the next shoot (above image). The shoot was probably my favorite of the six. And although, it was every bit as hectic and rushed as the others, Jarrod and Robert were both easy in front of the camera. Jarrod had this amazing Boston tough-guy charm, and Robert was as nice a person as I’ve ever met. Robert nodded along with a smile as Jarrod shared stories about cute nurses and Bigfoot conventions. Originally, Jarrod was wearing a Celtics t-shirt. We shot a few test-frames with it, and the bright yellow letters across his shirt were too much, so Brian volunteered to swap sweaters with him. It may sound ridiculous to have the design director of the magazine you’re shooting for to swap shirts with your subject, but ridiculous times call for those kinds of measures. After some scheduling flops, we ended up with only 2 shoots on Tuesday, and we’d now have 4 on Wednesday (also game 1 of the World Series), but I’ll share more about that later.
Please pick a copy of the story if you can. It’s a great read about some really inspiring people
Thanks to Scott Lacey for trusting me with this assignment. I’m proud to have met these people, and it was really a humbling experience.