If you include internships and college experience, I’ve been in this business for only a few years. But I learned early on about the strange cocktail of emotions that floods your brain as you leave what you thought was going to be a less-than-average assignment with better-than-average-assignment pictures.
The first time I experienced this was in Atlanta. It was for a story about unemployment, and the reporter wrote in the assignment that I should just hang out with this unemployed man at his family’s home and see what happened. Expectations were low.
But it was the first time I was a fly-on-the-wall in someone else’s home at an important time in his/her life. It was the first time I spent substantial time with anyone in a “nothing’s really happening” setting. And it was the first time that — as I was driving out of the neighborhood and phoning the reporter that it had actually gone well and I’d made good pictures — I heard someone (the reporter) say, “Wow. Sounds like you made chicken salad out of chicken shit.”
It might seem callous to think of an assignment as “chicken shit.” But as any journalist knows, there are assignments that seem completely awesome on paper, and others that seem just ehh. The key is to have an open mind and make the best pictures you possibly can, no matter the circumstances. Still, when a recent assignment in a Gettysburg-area nursing home seemed very ehh on paper, I was surprised by the pictures I was able to make and humbled by the openness of a man despite his less-than-ideal situation.
© 2012 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. Raymond Hernandez, 55, breaks down into tears after talking on Thursday, July 5, 2012, about how he misses his five dogs and several cats that were sent to the ASPCA after he was carjacked in Oct. 2011. Originally of York, Hernandez now lives in a Transitions Healthcare nursing home outside of Gettysburg after he was carjacked and shot in the back, resulting in paralysis from the waist down, in Oct. 2011. Hernandez, who had been waiting to pick up his housemate’s grandson from school, was initially suspected of being involved in a drug crime because he was sitting in his car in daylight. Hernandez has since been cleared of any charges and is also cleared for at-home care, but his York house is too small to accommodate his wheelchair.
A carjacking. Paralysis from the waist down. Drug charges that were later dropped. Transferal to a nursing home far from home. Separation from loved ones. The disposal of beloved pets. Illiteracy.
© 2012 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. Back in his room, which he shares with another Transitions Healthcare nursing home resident, Raymond Hernandez, 55, offers bubble gum to his medical power of attorney, Genevieve Ray, on Thursday, July 5, 2012.
Reporter Emily did a fantastic job reporting and writing Raymond Hernandez’s story, which is so complicated and strange that, when I tried to describe it to my boyfriend, he incredulously said it sounded like something out of a movie. Emily and I returned the next week, when Raymond’s housemate and her grandson came to visit.
© 2012 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. Gladys Alicea and her grandson Taurean Christie, 6, stand in Raymond Hernandez’s room in the Transitions Healthcare nursing home outside Gettysburg on Saturday, July 14, 2012. Alicea shared a York home with Hernandez, who was waiting to pick up Christie from school when he became the victim of a carjacking in Oct. 2011.
© 2012 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. Taurean Christie, 6, sits on the lap of Raymond Hernandez, 55, as they watch TV together in Hernandez’s room in the Transitions Healthcare nursing home outside of Gettysburg on Saturday, July 14, 2012. Hernandez is in a wheelchair due to paralysis from the waist down after he was carjacked while waiting to pick up Christie from school in Oct. 2011.
And this is the photo that ran main on the front page of the Sunday paper:
© 2012 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. His attention momentarily broken from the television in Raymond Hernandez’s Transitions Healthcare nursing home room, Taurean Christie, 6, shares a moment with Hernandez, 55, who used to live with Christie and his grandmother Gladys Alicea in York. Hernandez had been waiting to pick up Christie from school in Oct. 2011 when he was carjacked and shot in the back.
Be sure to read Emily’s article for much more information about Hernandez’s story.
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