• Mark White

Portrait Outtakes from My July 1 Real Change Session

Lisa Sawyer, Real Change vendor. July 1, 2020.

On the morning of July 1, as the police were clearing out the remaining occupants from CHOP, I was with several Real Change vendors at the newspaper's office in Pioneer Square taking their portraits for the July 8 issue that would celebrate their return to selling papers in the streets. They hadn't had a paper to sell, or the income from selling papers, since the last week of March when the paper went digital due to city shutdown.

No businesses + no pedestrians = no Real Change customers. It's been a very tough three months for the vendors, so this was a big day for the paper.

These portrait "outtakes" from my session with them that day either didn't make the cut for publication, or they're images that I held back from submission because I knew they wouldn't fit the celebratory tone that the occasion called for. But they're images nonetheless that I appreciate for many reasons.

Lisa Sawyer

I initially met Lisa in the fall of 2019 on one of my Pioneer Square walkabouts. She was outside the Real Change offices with Daniel Long, a vendor who would be killed a few months later in a domestic dispute. (Bridget Mountain contributed a lovely memoriam to Daniel in the June 24 digital edition of the paper.)

Lisa's image that was used on the cover of the July 8 Real Change edition.

My portrait of Lisa, masked-up and raising a celebratory and victorious fist in front of a whimsical Pioneer Square mural by artist Sam Day, a frequent contributor to the paper, made the July 8 Real Change cover. Of all the shots I took that day, this was definitely the one that captured the mood of the edition best and deserved the cover.

But a series of images that I captured of her in front of an empty storefront glass are the the ones that for me best captured Lisa's spirit that morning.

There's always a tension between the subject and the photographer. Who has the right of representation? I won't try to solve that issue here and will take the criticism if I'm in the wrong with these pics. And Lisa may disagree with my taste, but I love these portraits of her.

She shared a bit about her life during Covid, and the demands of the job she had just taken on. So her backstory definitely contributes to my interpretation of these images. But aside from what I knew about Lisa going into the shooting, I like the images here for the edge to her persona and the depth of concern to her gaze that they convey. I can look at these pictures all day long. They have a hugely cinematic feel to them. They could be stills from one of the films she starred in.

Lisa Sawyer, July 1, 2020.

Rose Gascon

There was a quiet and melancholic cadence to Rose's conversation with me. She was overjoyed to be finally returning to the streets. Staying home and not interacting with her customers, and not being involved in the world was hard on her. I thought she might tear up as she spoke of her days in isolation. But she maintained her composure and smile throughout my shots.

I love the expressiveness of her face in this image. In most of the other portraits I took of her, it was her eyes that did most of the talking. Here it's her smile, along with the contours and rich tones of her face. I find this to be an elegant image of a serene and thoughtful woman.

Malachi Lightfoot

I don't have much to say here. This pose feels classic to me. It could be Malachi's album shot, or a pose for a line of clothing he endorses. I was told by everyone that Malachi had one of the most upbeat personalities of any vendor. From what I experienced in that short time, I have no reason to doubt it.

This is the only image I have from my time with him where his face wasn't cheek-to-cheek in a smile. Not that I didn't like his smile, but I'm always a sucker for the thoughtful, inward, contemplative look. And I especially like how the layers that Seattle's weather requires of us to wear most of the year fall so nicely over his shoulders and blend in with the brick backdrop.

© 2016-2020 MARK WHITE  |  mark@mjwhitephotos.com I 206.409.1247

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