Heidi: Why did “give back” and offer up pro bono work? Where did that idea stem from?
Andy: My parents mostly. My mom started a foundation that helped raise over a million dollars for a variety of causes, including children’s charities, the homeless and AIDS research. My dad was a blue collared electrician and social activist, who among other things marched with MLK in Selma, AL. On a personal note, I’ve recently begun attending church, which has been a shocker to anyone that knows me. It’s truly helped me to put things in perspective and shown me what’s important.
How did you decide who would get your time?
I posted a note on Facebook saying that I had some free time in my schedule and wanted to help out with a good pro bono cause. I got a lot of great responses but Northwestern’s Center On Wrongful Convictions really resonated with me. Over the past 18 years, they’ve helped free dozens of innocent people serving someone else’s time. After reading some of the Exonorees stories, I couldn’t believe what they had gone through and knew that I wanted to help.
Was that your idea to add the chalkboard in the background?
Yeah, me and my small crew brought the backgrounds to all of the Exoneree’s homes and set them up in their kitchens or living rooms. Besides shooting environmental portraits, I also wanted something consistent for everyone. The original idea was to have a hash mark for every day that they had spent in prison but sadly there just wasn’t enough room on the boards to allow for that.
How did the project shape you creatively?
Winning Best In Show at The Midwest Independent Film Festival was pretty amazing- and having a couple of the Exonerees with me that night was an incredible experience. It’s made me realize that I’ve been given a gift that I can use to give back with, like the new projects I’m shooting for Make A Wish and Chicago’s Homeless. Shooting for charities allows me to stretch myself creatively and has also introduced me to some incredible people.
We all agree photography is a powerful tool. That said, hearing people share their story with their own voice has incredible gravity. Tell us about the specific moment when you knew video was a must?
I’ve sort of come to video reluctantly but am warming up to it and gradually feeling more comfortable with it. Going into this I had so many questions that I wanted to ask and realized that only shooting portraits just wasn’t going to cut it.
Since this was your first video effort, what would you do differently next time?
Fortunately video is a far more collaborative effort than still photography, so having Patrick Duffy at Cutters Editing on board really saved my ass. Next time, I’ll have an actual video crew in addition to my stellar “still” team.
Do you have additional plans for this work and will it become an ongoing series.
Everyone involved, including the Exonerees wants to keep this project going, so we’re in the early stages of sussing that out. I’m also really excited to follow-up with video on the Charreada series that I recently photographed. It’s so steeped in tradition and pageantry, you feel like you are in another place and time.