Awhile back, I hosted a “Role Models” contest/giveaway. The winner, by a landslide, was Richard. He was nominated by his friend (and the mother of one of the grooms whose wedding I photographed this summer), Annette Kramer. She had this to say about Richard:
“To know Richard is to love him. Upon meeting him you would assume he doesn’t have a care in the world. You would have no idea that he often stays with friends for extended periods of time because his home is in a crime-ridden section of town, where drug deals are happening all around. He lost his mom this spring and relies on the generosity of others for his needs – he never asks for anything! He makes so many people smile – I would love to be able to share his smile with others through this portrait session.”
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Richard. It was not difficult at all to understand why he was nominated — and why he won. When Annette said that he makes people smile, what she really means is that he makes you laugh. And laugh. And laugh. And I didn’t get the sense that it was simply for my benefit — or simply a coping mechanism, like one might expect from a young man who has faced real tragedy. I think that Richard simply presents his true self to the world. It’s up to the rest of us to see him. I think this is true of so most teenagers, in fact — which is one of the many reasons that I enjoy photographing them.
From downtown Springfield to one of Richard’s favorite basketball courts on the East side, we froze our butts off. Nonetheless, I think we succeeded in creating an array of fun, honest, and interesting images. Here are a few of his favorites, as well as mine.