I shot two covers for Parade Magazine in 2012. This is the first one to run and it’s my first national cover. When I did my Secretary Clinton story for the magazine in 2009, I was supposed to have shot that cover as well, but Clinton didn’t have 5 minutes in her schedule for a portrait and they had Nigel Parry shoot it instead while she was in NYC.
Anyway, Parade asked me to shoot portraits of veteran and author Kevin Powers while he was in DC promoting his first novel, ‘The Yellow Birds.” Thomas Wolfe hailed it as a sort of contemporary American “All Quiet on the Western Front” and it’s been garnering considerable attention in the literary world. The magazine wanted an environmental that reverently said “veteran” and since the National Mall is full of war memorials, we decided that it would be a good place to start. We started at the WWII Memorial, moved on to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, then the Korean War Memorial, then the Second Division Memorial, which I didn’t even know existed, but was particularly fitting because it had been Powers’ division while he was serving. I hired two fabulous assistants to help me on this shoot and ensure no sticks would go on the ground. Without a permit, lightstands, tripods, etc. are a violation of national park rules. I’ve shot a LOT of portraits on the National Mall and have always hewed carefully to the rules to avoid the wrath of the rangers. Until this shoot, it had never been a problem. Particularly because my photographic duties are editorial and not commercial, interference with photography that does not impede public access to the park or violates any rules is a clear-cut abridgment of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, the rangers were awfully bored and in need of some power trips on the day of the shoot, so we spent a lot of time evading their ignorant attempts to shut us down. A permit would have technically prevented this, but the shoot was last-minute and permits take several days to go through. Also, again, not required for the type of photography we were doing and the way we were going about it. We kept moving until we got to the Korean War Memorial, which is my favorite in DC. It’s not as popular as the others, but I find it to be visually striking and almost eerie in a way. It is a memorial of ghosts, which is appropriate, I think. We were not hassled there and I was able to make the image that became the cover. Kevin spoke and signed his novel at the DC bookstore Politics and Prose. He read a passage, and I made sure to buy a copy for both myself and my father.