Full Frame

An occasional blog about news photography from Manuel Martinez, a visual journalist at WBEZ. Follow him @DenverManuel.

Building Trust

Photo of Loraine Woods-Lewis
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

The assignment: For a story about how difficult it is for Black Chicagoans to secure vaccination appointments, I was assigned to shoot a portrait of Loraine Woods-Lewis, 72, who lives with her husband in the Chatham neighborhood. She hadn’t allowed anyone outside her family circle into her home for almost a year before I came to photograph her on Feb. 15.

When shooting a portrait, I have the flexibility to bring in lights and pose the subject. But for this one I wanted people to see Loraine in her home in a relaxed, natural moment. I was interested in showing the struggle of being locked in your home and the longing to return to normal life. Most people I photograph do their best to be hospitable and act like they’re not nervous. But being photographed can be stressful, especially during a pandemic, and the coronavirus has made being a photojournalist extremely challenging.

On this day, like so many others, I made it a point to show up early before the assignment began and spent some time talking with Loraine. After chatting a bit, I casually started to shoot her just looking out her window while we were talking. The setup provided enough light and a compositional frame.

After more than 15 years of making photographs and thousands of assignments, I’m still surprised that people are so willing to open their homes, lives and experiences to me as a complete stranger. I never take that aspect of my job for granted. Creating trust and vulnerability is an important aspect of taking great photographs. You’re not going to make compelling images until the person you’re photographing lets down their guard.

Read the story: Black Chicagoans Struggle To Get Access To The COVID-19 Vaccine