BTS: Time Magazine's Protesters

Seldom do we get such a long-form look at the production of what is quickly becoming an iconic group of photos. The BTS video below is of Peter Hapak's assignment to cover the world-wide protester phenomenon in 2011, for the Time cover story in which they were collectively named Person of the Year.

I have watched it several times now -- as a journalist, a photographer, a lighting guy and certainly as a human.

There's a lot to learn.

First off, this is a great example of how a photographer who can recreate light and environment on demand can bring continuity to a wide range of subject in many different places. He is visually aggregating the protestors in the same way Time did this conceptually to make them one honored person.

The video gives enough pullbacks to get a feel for his consistent-but-tweaked lighting setups. Shot mostly on white, he is backing his large source up and above the camera.

Why not travel with a smaller source and push it in closer? Because the throw allows him to push the illumination back to the white backdrop, which he also appeared to sometimes light with other sources.

Differences in ethical frameworks are always interesting to a journalist. As a former newspaper photographer, I was a little squishy with the idea of having a subject recreate the throwing of a Molotov cocktail on white for a portrait. I thought about that a lot, and decided it is probably a little more gray in this context and presentation than the absolute it would have been at The Sun. It is hard for me to expand beyond the rigid framework imposed by my former DOPs.

But oddly, I am somehow fine with a little Jimmy Dean checkbook journalism when it comes to dogs. I thought the sausage was a great idea, as was dropping the stretched black in behind him. Go figure.

Photographer Peter Hapak, BTW, has just been added to the inspiration folder in my browser. Also, the cover illustration was done by Shepherd Fairey, of Hope Poster and Exit Through the Gift Shop fame. If you haven't seen the latter, I highly recommend the quasi-doc as a visual and psychological playground. (Netflix streamers in the US can watch it for free, here.)

So, I'm curious. What did you learn from this BTS? And what kind of questions does it raise?

(But please, keep it civil if the 99% vs. 1% thing gets you hot under the collar…)


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