Making Sorrow

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Back in December, I met a young woman at the wedding of some friends. A month later, I received a cryptic text message – Are you interested in a new project? Never one to turn down something interesting, I said: “Sure, what do you have in mind?”

I soon learned that her long term relationship had ended and that she wanted me to photograph her while she cried. She saw the project as a cathartic opportunity to get the pain out of her system. My first thought was – What a terribly emotional and painful thing to do. My second thought was – What an amazing opportunity to shoot some very powerful images.

We discussed our vision of how the results would look. Dark. Black and White. Stark contrasts. We decided that the location would be her home. I brought a single light and stand as well as a backdrop. She provided a small chair. I thought the simplicity would focus the viewer on her expressions, making their experience profoundly emotional.

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She had a fear that when we started shooting, she would not be able to cry. However, she had a stack of old post cards and love notes that quickly stirred up the pain inside of her. Crying was not a problem at all.

As a photographer, I was focused on shooting. As a human being, I was very cognizant that just in front of me was a woman in pain. I kept reminding myself that I was there to shoot and not comfort her. She wanted to get those emotions out of her. In the end, when she was emotionally spent and we were finished with the shoot, I did give her a hug.

That’s it. That’s how I shot the most gut wrenching shoot of my career. I am glad that I did it. I am honored that she asked me to be her photographer.

Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Becoming better at what you do often means leaving your comfort zone. It means taking risks and learning from the experience. This was one of those opportunities. I would do it again in a heart beat.

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