The Improper Bostonian
Design Consultant: Heroun + Co
Editorial Designer: Mallory Scyphers
Photo Editor: Nicole Popma
Photographer: John Huet
Heidi: How did this story idea come about and what made you choose John?
Nicole: The Boston Marathon Bombing was something that affected all of us here at The Improper Bostonian– it happened just a few blocks away from our offices. We knew right away that we wanted to pay tribute to the event but it took us some time to figure out exactly how we would do it. We chose to honor the first responders from that day and hoped that by doing so, we would be able to recognize all of the people who went above and beyond the call of duty the entire week.
It just seemed to make perfect sense to create this cover story for our Boston’s Best issue. It’s our biggest of the year, and out for four weeks instead of two. Who better to embody “Boston’s Best” than a group that represented how well Bostonians banded together in the face of a massive crisis.
We worked with John for the first time back in December and he’s shot four covers (including this one) for us since then. He shot Wendy Williams for the cover of our May 8th issue the Thursday before the Marathon and we had a scheduled call for Tuesday, April 16th, to discuss the shoot. That quick chat turned into a recap of where we both were on Monday and our days, how he’d photographed the marathon in the past and all the “almosts.” As soon as we had the green light for the project, I reached out to John.
He has this calming energy and astounding professionalism about him that I knew he’d bring to the shoot. By far the most amazing part of the day was getting to watch him shoot the individual portraits. He was able to engage his subjects in the most magical way. Very few of them had ever sat for a formal portrait before, but there was no timidity in any of the photographs- he made each and everyone of them feel completely comfortable sharing their stories and showing their raw emotions.
I am very familiar with John Huet’s work, editing his work is virtually impossible, as you could simply publish any image he turns in. How difficult was this to edit and what tools did you use when editing something so emotionally charged? Was there a process you had that was different from your other shoots?
That is a total fact. We had hundreds of shots to choose from, each of them better than the one before. Our Editorial Designer and I went through four or five rounds of edits on the computer before printing off our favorites (I think around 50) and piecing them together. We wanted to ensure that the pacing felt appropriate and each image complimented the one sitting next to it, while maintaining a consistent mood.
After making our final round of selections we called in the rest of the editorial staff to weigh in. We were so emotionally attached to each of the images, that it was important to gauge outside reaction. And their overwhelming support of those particular photos cemented our final grouping.
What specifically were you looking for in the portraits?
We had to tread a fine line with the mood of these portraits. We certainly didn’t want them to be joyful, but neither did we want them to be too somber. We were going for proud more than anything else.
John was able to get each first responder to share the story of where they were that day- stories that they had politely dodged in our brief interviews with them. I think feeling comfortable with John, and in a way, reliving their actions that day, it would have been impossible to capture anything other than pride.
We had originally intended to run the portraits over six pages, our usual feature length, but these images were so spot on, so moving, that we were able to get an additional four pages. They are the kind of images that need room to breathe and are worth every bit of real estate that they take up.
Are photo essays something the magazine has the luxury of doing on a regular basis?
Unfortunately, they aren’t. But there are occasionally cases, like this one, where everything that needs to be said can be done so with photos. Our vision for this piece was to create a visually driven feature that made readers as proud of Bostonians as we are. John more than delivered.
What’s the best way for photographers to reach out to you?
E-mail and promo cards are the best way to get my attention. I keep all the cards I get sent in a big pile and hang my favorites up. I try to go through every few weeks and write back to all the inquiries, just so they know I’ve received them and they are on my radar. We hire per assignment so sometimes it’s a while before we actually call for a job, but we do know you’re out there!