Each week we feature one photographer from the PhotoShelter community, and share his or her story behind the shots that caught our eye.
Creating this series and multimedia piece, “Long After I’m Gone,” was what photographer Andrew Propp calls “a formative moment” in his young career. While studying at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, Andrew paired up with radio producer Georgia Moodie who knew the then 95 year-old apple farmer, Francis Fenton, pictured below.
Francis, who is somewhat of a hometown celebrity in Mercer, Maine, was at the time managing a family farm largely on his own. After their first visit in September of 2010, both Andrew and Georgia knew they had a good story on their hands.
For three months, Andrew visited Francis in between his classes. “We spent time in his orchards, shared applesauce and apple ice cream in his home, and watched many hours of television together,” he says. Andrew believes that it was Francis’s generosity and undeniable charisma that gave strength to the photographs and project as a whole.
As Andrew grew to know Francis, his life began to unfold and reveal itself. “It’s difficult to condense Francis’ life story (and his many, many years),” says Andrew. The farmer had incredible stories from surviving WWII, raising a family and settling in San Diego, and moving back to his hometown of Mercer to take care of the family farm.
While creating the series, Andrew says he learned the valuable lesson of taking transition shots, which help carry the viewer between different scenes and moods. “These transition shots were vital in stitching together the story and are something that I always look for now in my assignments and personal work.”
Andrew also learned to listen to his gut, and to never second guess himself when taking a photograph. He says about the above image: “At the time, I was unsure whether I should click the shutter because it felt invasive and Francis seemed so vulnerable sleeping. In hindsight, though, it was an important photograph. A nap was an important part of Francis’ ritual, and to me the photograph became a record of the trust that Francis and I forged.”
Andrew also realized the beauty of collaboration in working with radio producer Georgia Moodie on the multimedia piece. “There were moments I had to resist taking a photograph so as not to ruin Georgia’s audio,” he says. “Likewise, there were instances where she stayed out of the frame and let me visually document the moment. Georgia was a brilliant collaborator and part of the strength of the multimedia piece lies in the compelling audio she collected.”
Hear Francis’ story below:
Andrew is currently freelancing in Washington, D.C. and in January joined Washingtonian Magazine as a staff photographer. He shoots with Nikon.
What caught our eye:
It’s apparent from the work that a strong bond of trust was built between Andrew and Francis during the time of shooting. Andrew’s detail shots fill the story with small moments that give the viewer a bigger picture of who Francis is, and what his life is like. This humble story is surprisingly photogenic – and that’s due to Francis’s demeanor, and Andrew’s special relationship and respect to the subject.
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