It’s no exaggeration to call the current state of education in the United States abysmal.  Legislative hierarchy, standardization, common core, overworked/undercompensated staff, and a general ‘pass the buck’ mentality have taken this once institution and spun it into an environment of entitlement – marred by red tape, money laundering and more BS that you could shake a stick at.  …and this is putting it lightly.  A recent cover shoot for POST Rochester Magazine put myself and my lens in front of one of the men fighting this battle from the front lines.

Dr. Shaun Nelms, the newly elected Superintendent of East Upper & Lower Schools – an affiliation of the University or Rochester – knows exactly what he is up against.  No illusions here.  ‘Neighborhood centers don’t exist anymore – no churches, no schools, no parks or playgrounds.  Nowhere for kids to feel a part of something.  Without affiliation, it’s every man for himself and in this case, the streets become the community.  The dangers that follow are inevitable.’

I digress as I wasn’t brought in to write the Cover Story article in the March/April issue of POST Magazine.  That task fell at the pen of Paul Gangarossa…and was brilliantly articulated if you ask me. If you live in the Rochester, NY area please pick up a copy at local Wegman’s, Barnes and Noble and Hart’s Local Grocers.   It’s a powerful piece in print.  If you are outside of the ROC, click here to read the online version.

My job was to take the copy and interpret it visually.  A portrait to encompass the gravity of this man and the task that he is facing.  Oh…and the person.  Shaun is affable, relatable, a great listener, funny, articulate and when need be – one bad ass dude.

So here’s what I dreamt up after reading a preview of the article:

An emerging from the shadows – of his own past and the darkness that embodies the current state of East High AND the education system at large.  He now finds himself in the harsh spotlight.  He’s confident, strong…carries big shoulders.  Yet his hands are somewhat tied…or at least being held tight.  His expression isn’t cocky…but enough to say ‘bring it’.

In the end, the editors decided that a more approachable portrait of Shaun was best.  I am happy that they did as it illustrates the power of every person playing THEIR part in the collaborative process.  My job was to make an interesting portrait of an interesting person.  The lighting utilized here was as intricate and subtle as any I have performed.  …and Dr. Nelms was patient as I worked through the scenario.  If you would like to know more about this lighting technique(s), I am an open book.  Just send an email and we can talk about it.  As for right now, on with the show.  Illustrated below are a few key out-takes followed by a digital mock-up of the final cover.

POST : This is Rochester

Superintendent Dr. Shaun Nelms : Cover Photo Shoot