Portraits of Heroism in the Age of Pandemic
As the coronavirus swept through the nation, photographer Javon Longieliere, Cr.Photog., CPP, did what children’s TV host Mister Rogers once advised: He looked for the helpers. Longieliere launched a portrait series to highlight good Samaritans in his community of Valdosta, Georgia. At press time he'd photographed nearly 400 frontline workers—from nurses to teachers and librarians to caterers—for his series “Hometown Heroes.”
The setup: “Knowing some of the locations would be busy as well as tight, I needed the footprint to be small and the setup and tear down to be quick and mobile,” he explains. He settled on a white backdrop for the subjects to connect them visually and two lights: one for the background and one key light modified with a Westcott 24-inch beauty dish. He wanted strong shadows and a gritty look, so no fill light was used.
The sessions: Longieliere pre-arranged his visits with each organization and was given a health screening when he arrived. He wore a face mask during his sessions, and he set up his background and gear for physically distanced photography. Employees who wanted to participate simply signed a model release and stepped in front of the background.
“The whole process takes just a few seconds,” he says. “Yes, they are fatigued. Yes they are emotionally exhausted. But for so many of them, they still laugh and enjoy the brief respite from the new normal.”