Life Goes On

If you’ve explored this blog a bit, you already know that my crew and I get to do some really cool stuff for our job. So, it’s just an added bonus when a shoot is not just cool, but also inspiring.

This past spring we did a shoot for a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Depuy, who makes hardware for hip and knee replacements. Traveling all over the continent, we recorded the post-surgery lives of some amazing people who had experienced either double hip or double knee replacements.


Shooting alongside us was a film crew, helmed by Academy Award-nominated documentary director, Hubert Davis. Davis and his team were very gracious in letting my team (which consisted of my longtime assistant, Chris and tech guru, Ben, plus me) shoot stills during the midst of their motion shoot.



How’s this for a crazy travel itinerary: Salt Lake City to Paducah, Kentucky. Kentucky to Toronto. Toronto to San Francisco. San Francisco to Vermont. Vermont to Salt Lake City. Pretty insane, right? Just getting to our first shoot location was an adventure. After a tornado closed the St. Louis airport, we were rerouted to Memphis, arriving with just enough time for an Easter morning detour to Graceland.


That visual espresso shot (shag carpet on the floors, walls and ceiling?!) got us pumped up to drive through a severe storm over flooded roads to the Paducah dairy farm run by Lisa and her family. The lingering storm made for some very interesting mud (dairy farm mud is unique stuff, as slippery as glass.) But, the weather held long enough us to capture a full day in the life of Lisa, who handled the complete takeover of her farm with no fuss. I guess after two knee replacements, a pesky camera crew in your space seems like nothing.

From there we were off to Toronto, where letters of recommendation and an iron clad carnet allowed us to lug our mountain of equipment through Canadian customs. In Toronto we shot in an old hospital that is now only used as a location for film and photography shoots. With no patients, the abandoned hospital gave off a creepy vibe, but our cheery patient, Rebecca, put us all at ease. After her two hip replacements, Rebecca returned to her job as a nurse and for this shoot, worked with a team of actors who played additional hospital staff. I was so amazed that Rebecca, who had no experience modeling or acting, could be so comfortable and easy in front not just one, but two cameras.


After the hospital shoot, it was back through customs to San Francisco, California to photograph John, a double hip and knee replacement patient. Even though he’s now retired, John is super energetic and leads a very active life, including working as a volunteer crossing guard, attending regular ballroom dance sessions, and recently completing a fundraising bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles! John does not let his surgeries slow him down at all. In fact, he made us feel kind of lazy.


The last leg of the trip took us to the complete opposite side of the country, to the tiny town of Newfane, Vermont, where we met up with Bill, a forest ranger in the impossibly dense, primeval-feeling Green Mountains. A recent double-knee replacement had enabled Bill to continue in his physically taxing job, which includes felling and clearly trees in very rugged terrain. Bill is a masterful storyteller who did not shy away from the more dangerous or gruesome details of his work. Several of his yarns ended with the ominous line “…right to the head, dead instantly.” Needless to say, he had our full attention while we photographed him felling a 70-foot tree.

From Kentucky to Toronto, and from San Francisco to Vermont, the spirit of joyful perseverance and love of life exhibited by the people we met was totally contagious. Plus, it gave us something to think about during all those long hours in the air.