Photos tell their own stories, but photos are also a portal to the written word. In our 12-part special project From Away, six reporters generated a landslide of material on the immigrant experience, detailing the many different pathways into the United States and telling the personal stories of the people who took those paths. My job was to meet the subjects of the stories and make portraits of them standing in front of a neutral background. It was by far the most stressful project of my career. First, it isn’t always easy to find a neutral background at each location. Often I had to make my own background with a fabric backdrop on a stand, setting it up in a restaurant entryway a few minutes before the lunch rush, for instance, or in the middle of an apple orchard during high winds. Second, to make a portrait truthful and to complement the article, I sometimes had to ask my subjects to ponder painful experiences – to meditate on the torture they suffered or sacrifices they made, and I could only hope I could make an image that was worth the ordeal. But the most stressful aspect was knowing that six reporters dedicated months of effort to this project and they were relying on me to deliver something that would bring all the parts together – giving cohesion to 12 vastly different perspectives – and entice readers to delve into their efforts and digest the important stories they told. I’m proud and thankful they had faith in me to do that. I hope I succeeded.
— BEN McCANNA