Friday, October 9, 2009

Garbage Dump Challenge and an Old Promise

Last week I was tasked with creating interesting environmental portraits and progress photographs at a garbage dump for new client Brenda Westhorp, owner of Westhorp & Associates , a firm of civil and environmental engineers and scientists.

My challenge was to place Brenda in the context of the landfill, make it graphically pleasing, avoid
any messy details entailing garbage, and have her look great and in charge. We picked a quiet spot on
the far Eastern edge up against a filtering wetland near Biscayne Bay, she climbed up on a manhole covering a leaching water sump, leaving in the weeds and wildflowers to say the facility is "green".

I then cued the turkey buzzards, asking them to fly around in the background as local color.

Letting the existing sunlight back light her and popping in flash from the front to balance, I laid on my back in the dirt while Brenda posed patiently in the 95 degree sun. Many thanks to the Department of Solid Waste garbage truck drivers who patiently maneuvered around us on the narrow access dike.

Her company is completing a complex multimillion dollar project to cap off a section of the Miami-Dade County Land Fill that is full to the brim with our garbage, and to keep all the leaching water and escaping gasses away from us for eternity. They are laying plastic liner, then sand and a permeable fabric to hold topsoil, and a new grassy field will crown the 150 foot structure.

Around South Florida the land fill near Homestead has been called" Mount Trashmore ",
and folk lore designates it as the the tallest point in Florida south of Tallahassee.

Creative people such as photographers hope they are chosen for their jobs because of some special insight they may impart, good people skills or specialized training. Like possibly I was hired for this shoot by an engineering firm because I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering ?

Sorry, but no, that degree is my secret and the promises I made to earn it I keep to this day. I was in my Senior year at Gonzaga University back in the 1970s, and was failing a required mechanical engineering course called Dynamics. Fulcrums and levers, forces and counter forces. So I went to my professor, told him how I did not want to be an engineer but a photographer, though I still needed
to earn my degree. What could he do ?

He thought a minute, opened his desk drawer and pulled out a Bible ( it being a Catholic school ), and told me that if I swore on that Bible that I would never practice as an engineer, he would give me a barely passing grade.

So there I was 30 years later, standing on top of the tallest mountain south of Tallahassee, practicing as a photographer and not as an engineer.

Here's a link to more Miami corporate photography and portraits.

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