I shot my first assignment for TIME Magazine back in July. They asked me to shoot a portrait of Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) in the morning and then follow him around for a few hours. To me, this is the best kind of assignment. You get to know your subject a little bit and engage one-another for the duration of the portrait session and then for the documentary part, everybody is more relaxed and you’re more likely to catch genuine moments.
I showed up to Congressman Rangel’s office bright and early and then waited with my assistant for 3 hours as his scheduled was continuously pushed back. This turned out to be a good thing as it gave us plenty of time to determine location and lighting. When the Congressman did show up, he was generous with his time, giving me half an hour for the shoot and he was amenable to all suggestions. Thirty minutes may not sound like a lot of time, but for people with important jobs and places to be, it’s an eternity. I’m lucky to get 5 minutes with some of my subjects. Because of all the time we had to set up, I was able to shoot him in six or seven different places around his very interesting office.
It’s my understanding that this picture was the front runner for the article for a while.
But it lost out to this one in the end. They only had a vertical space to work with, so they ended up cropping out some of my favorite elements of the picture, but such is life. I work for them, not vice versa. Whatever makes the mag happy makes me ecstatic.
This was another one of the setups. I was a fan of the blue carpet and the sailboat.
We moved to the couch for a little window-light action. I’m always drawn to natural light and windows usually provide the best in any given space. The Congressman eased himself down onto the couch and then for a split second, let a little weariness show. Given his role in congress and in the healthcare reform debate, I’m surprised he’s not completely wiped out. No, no, he was as energetic and lively as a 76-year-old man could be. I bet he could beat my time in a mile run, too.
Being from New York, he was visited by both the Governor and the State Comptroller. I got to tag along and watch him engage with both of them. There was a little side-meeting with the governor and I snuck into the room to take a few shots. They were talking politics behind closed doors and it was a wonder to be in the room. Photographers are usually not privy to such things. When the governor (who is blind) heard me move around, he gave the Congressman a quizzical look. Rangel then says to him, “Don’t worry, that’s just Melissa from Time. She’s deaf.”
That I am, Congressman, that I am.
(Post originally appeared 9-29-09)