When shooting the project that became known as the Faces of Ground Zero, I was using the world’s only Giant Polaroid camera, an eloquently balky beast the size of a one car garage. It was an amazing instrument, which rendered its subjects with intense detail, and dignity. Because the camera generated one-of-a-kind, life-size Polaroid positives, I shot sparingly. Every “frame” was $300.
Jason Cascone was the only subject I shot four Giant Polaroids of. We couldn’t get in sync. To work the camera, I had to black the studio out, and pull a cap off the lens of the huge machine. In the darkness, my subject had to stand still, awaiting an explosion of flash power. (Somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 watt seconds. A Speedlight, by comparison, is about 60 watt seconds or so.)
So Jason, whose first day of work as a probationary firefighter was 9/11, simply, repeatedly, got taken off guard by the sudden flash of light. I even gave him a three count and fired on two, just to see if I could get a jump on a more relaxed expression. No go. We finally got a good one on the fourth try. That good frame I was able to donate to the 9/11 Memorial Museum through the generous support of Allen Murabayashi, the Co-Founder of PhotoShelter, and his colleagues there. I recently photographed Allen on his rooftop, a vantage point from which he viewed the heartbreaking destruction of that 9/11 day. PhotoShelter, for me, remains a shining example of how this industry truly works. They have the photographer’s back, and they partner the practicioners of this craft in exemplary and stand up fashion.
Jason was just promoted to battalion chief, the youngest in the history of FDNY. His promotion was just profiled on the 9/11 Memorial Museum blog. The story of his 9/11 experience, for instance, being on a bus with fellow firefighters, being transported to Ground Zero, while a priest circulated on the bus giving absolution to all present, is a simple, powerful story of courage.
My thoughts and praise go out to Jason, who is a new father, and a newly minted battalion chief. The city is a safer and better place through his courage and that of his fellow firefighters. The picture atop the blog I shot of Jason ten years after I made the original Giant Polaroid. That was when he was a lieutenant. Since then, he became a captain, and now a chief. Remarkable.
Below is another version of the recent photo session with Allen. My thanks again go out to him for his support and belief in this project. For the technically minded, it was done all with Profoto B1 units. The main light was a 3′ Octa, placed to camera right. Below, a story down, are two more B1’s, warmed with gels, and they combine to produce the tiny hint of a highlight on his jacket.
Best to all for the weekend! More tk….