Join Paul Taggart for an in-depth discussion in this video Documenting a volunteer job, part of Photo Essay: Telling a Family Story.
So I come up here this morning to the observatory just outside Tulsa with my brother. He's been doing volunteer work here for just over a year. And when I talked to him on the phone, he's always talking about this observatory and some of the stuff that he does up here with Scout. So I knew when I came here to do a photo essay on my brother, this had to be part of it. I'd never seen it, and so I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and I gotta say, as far as locations go, this is ideal. There's so much cool stuff going on here that it's going to be hard to take a bad picture. So this is it. >> This is the observatory. >> How long many years have you been doing this? >> Member for two years and actually mowing the yard for a year.
>> Huh. I feel like you should taken me out here before now. >> LAUGH I should have. >> It's pretty cool. So I want to actually shoot you. You know it seems funny, but I want to shoot you mowing the yard. >> Okay, this is good. >> Cause this is like totally a part on what you do all the time now. So I want to do that, and then maybe we'll come back up here at night and shoot inside like do a portion or something just to show the interior, and check it out, this is pretty rod >> Yeah, common we will go. >> Go. Well, James has pointed the lawn mover out of the observatory, the thing that stuck me initially, with just the size of it. It's a tiny little lawn mower, which is going to make for some really humorous pictures, I think.
Especially with this great observatory in the background. Another thing that just sort of happened naturally is my brother, being a NASA freak, has got a NASA shirt on, which is going to add another whole element to this shoot. Hopefully in the pictures, I'm going to be able to show the NASA logo in there, which will add a little bit so people that maybe don't know James Willokey's pictures, they're going to get a little sense of his character. One thing that happened while he was mowing the yard here, is I needed to actually direct him both because of the light, and then also because I knew I wanted him in the foreground in a very specific way, so I could still have the observatory in the background.
With mowing, you're usually going back and forth in lines. Unfortunately, he was going in the wrong direction of the lines for the photograph. So, it was a really simple fix. All I had to do was go over to James and say, hey, can you mow the yard in this direction, so your lines are running parallel to the structure, instead of going away from it. This way, I can make the pictures where I can actually see his face, instead of just his profile. This is what I needed for the pictures, and I think it's going to work out. While James is mowing the yard, I did have to give him some extra direction every once in a while. He was really good and really receptive to being part of this process, and at one point I actually wanted him to come directly at me.
So I just had him set up the mower about 10, 20 feet away from me and then I directed him to actually come dir, straight at my camera so I could get some shots looking directly at his face. I think it worked out. So, I got plenty of pictures of James face on the lawnmower, but I also wanted something with a little bit more action. So, later on, what I actually had him do was I had him riding a lawnmower away from me at a little bit slower speed and what I could do then is actually track him by running next to him and taking some shots. It gave me a little bit of action inside my frame, which I like. Of course, when you do something like this, it's always a good idea to do it two or three times because there's so many different moving elements, you're not always sure if you got that focus nice and tight.
So it's good to do it a couple times and make sure you got it in the can. I love that you're wearing your NASA shirt. I feel pretty confident about the images that I made of my brother on the lawnmower this morning. But since I'm not here to make one image. I'm actually here to make a collection of images. That way, tonight, when I'm editing my work, I can have a variety of different types of pictures for this photo essay. So part of that is, I want to get my brother up in that observatory to make some more formal portraits of him. So we're going to go do that now.
For a photographic storyteller, family members are great but challenging subjects, often more challenging than strangers to capture objectively. In this course, photojournalist Paul Taggart explores the unique challenges of documenting family as he shoots a photo essay about his brother, an amateur astronomer, avid ham radio operator, off-roading enthusiast, and dedicated father in rural Oklahoma.