The most ubiquitous type of photo published in community papers has got to be the crowd-pleasing kid photo.
I wish I could say this was due to some profound reason; that their role as our future lent them more gravitas, but really it comes down to their generally unabashed demeanor and penchant for playfulness.
Short attention spans also lead to quicker boredom of the camera guy and an expedited path to something more candid.
At least most of the time...
Last Saturday, I met with the Mendozas of Pasco, who lost their home in a fire on Jan. 26. Thanks to donations from the community, they had been motel hopping.
I went about 20 minutes early hoping I could photograph a real slice of crowded motel life, but was pretty sure my presence would be a big disruption to any attempt along those lines.
As soon as J.D. Palomino showed up, that much was clear.
He was a bundle of energy from the start:
And he loved the camera:
It didn't help that J.D., 2, hadn’t been living in the burned home, and was mostly there because his mom Connie was there to meet with us for the story.
Still, his exuberance was infectious and it didn't take long for his uncle Oscar, 3, to join in the fun, which did result in some pretty nice moments.
The chase, along with this pre-J.D.-arrival photo were close candidates:
But the kiss felt forced when I shot it, as though they were doing it for my sake, so I ruled it out, and the chase photo would have had a needlessly complicated cutline since Noemi, wearing black and white, and her daughter, Valery, in yellow, also weren’t staying in the motel. A stronger moment or composition would have justified its selection, but I felt it was an almost.
I ended up picking a safe group shot with some of the donated clothing, toys and other supplies in the background.
It's nothing special, though as I look at it now, it almost looks like matriarch Martina is flipping me off, which would make sense since I told her 9-year-old son Salvador to put his arm on his grandma’s shoulder.
However, the chuckles I elicited from that faux pas couldn’t compete with the laughter brought on by J.D.'s shenanigans, visible even when incredibly out of focus.
It was wishful thinking to believe I could cram myself into the room with the family shortly before our scheduled appointment and come away with a realistic slice of what their current day-to-day was. In a perfect world, or at least one slightly less imperfect, I would have spent more time with them when they weren’t bracing for an interview.
Though I left the shoot unsatisfied as a photojournalist, I felt pretty good about how it had gone. My visit had indirectly caused a good deal of laughter during a tough time. If I can’t make a shoot productive, I at least try to make it fun, and for that, nothing puts smiles on faces quite like kids.
Except maybe puppies.