Over the last year, I’ve heard more comments about one photo more than any other. The shot depicts a Central Ogden neighborhood reflected in the outline of a man’s head as he’s standing on his porch. Most of the questions about the image come from people wondering how I created the photograph and whether or not it is “real.”
Yes, this image is a photo of the “real world” and wasn’t created in Photoshop or in a photo studio.
First, a little background. The picture comes from a year long story documenting Doug “Boy Scout” Harding as he transitioned from homelessness to life in a new apartment. On the day that I shot this photo, I was at Harding’s apartment while he was hanging out with friends. I had already documented similar situations on multiple occasions and I was looking for ways to visually tell Harding’s story in more abstract ways.
Harding was on the second story balcony outside of his apartment’s front door, working on his bicycle near the open storm door. While working on some straightforward photos of Harding leaning over his bicycle, I noticed the strange reflections that were showing up in the windows on the door.
It was a very bright, sunny day, but the balcony area was dark and in the shade. The high contrast caused the reflections in the window to stand out when there was something dark (like a person in the shadows) behind the glass. At the same time, there was a large white garage in the sun nearby and the bright light bouncing off the garage washed out any other reflections.
In order to capture the best photo, I had to get into a spot where the door, Harding and the garage where all lined up. This took multiple attempts since Harding was moving around and the door was swinging back and forth.
As I shot, I tried several different exposures. This was technically an unusual photo, so I experimented with both overexposed and underexposed images as well as with both shallow and deep depths of field.
As the door and Harding moved around, the section of the neighborhood in the reflection was constantly changing. If there were large expanses of white (like a neighbor’s white roof or Harding’s white shirt) in the reflection, that broke up the image.
In the end, I shot several dozen photos as I tried to capture this image. I usually don’t shoot that many frames of one subject, but there were so many strange factors at play in this situation.