Behind The Image: Will Harris

7/19/2012 6 Comments A+ a-

This week on the blog we're running a new mini-series from a few chosen photographers that will be explaining the "behind the scenes" experience of creating one of their images.

Imagine for a second that when you step outside the only thing that crosses your mind is that your skin is on fire. Followed by your body's feeble attempt to cool it’s self down, you feel drops of sweat pouring down your face. Now if that were not enough, you’re also stressing about the moisture that is building up in your camera, potently damaging you film. Lifting the camera to your eye, you manually focus on the subject, press the shutter, and pray that you got the shot. This is my typical thought process most days as I photograph the soldiers in my unit. About 50% of the photos of them are shots of them working, but occasionally I do get to pull them aside and photograph them in a more artistic manner.

My two main cameras of choice are a Mamiya 645 1000s, and my Rolleiflex F2.8 (a gift from a fellow NCO). As for film, I use anything I can get ahold of. Being deployed, I am limited to whoever ships out to where I am stationed. Most of the time, the film that I use is bought with donations, mainly from the families of the soldiers I’m deployed with, or sometimes random people that come across my photos on Flickr. As far as developing goes, I use a changing bag to get my film into a canister, and develop it in our restroom sinks. From there, the negatives get air dried in my room.

The following photographs are from a personal series, “Stuck on Deployment.” The idea stemmed from the fact that being deployed isn't easy for most of these men and women. Most have spouses and children that they have left behind to serve their country. Being away from home always introduces the feeling of isolation. That longing to be home almost feels like if you were prisoner to your own situation. In addition to the main overall theme, I always love trying to get my subjects to express more specific emotions, such as desperation, longing, and distant memories to name a few.

Shooting at night and using the ambient light provided from our guard tower, I metered off of their faces and set my camera according to those settings, 1/30th of a sec at F2.8 for most shots. I used a Rolleiflex F2.8 loaded with Kodak’s Ektar 100. The film was metered at 400 and pushed during development using Tetenal’s C41 developing kit.

Occasionally to get a point across, I may put one of the soldiers into a situation that may be hard to explain if someone were to walk up on the photo session. As a sergeant, it would have been difficult to explain to higher as to why I had a soldier stuck in constantine wire, such as for this photo (top image) of Private First Class Edmonson. I’m pretty sure that "for the sake of photography" would not have made the cut (no pun intended).

This image (below) is of Staff Sergeant Bradley. It was supposed to be a shot of him behind a barrier also, but his response to the idea was that 'he was a grown man, and men don't hide behind barriers'. So instead, we compromised and he rested his back against one. I feel that the photograph still expresses the theme of the series, while also retaining his personality.

Bio: Will Harris is an Air Defender in the United States Army. Currently he serves with Delta Battery, 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.


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