Diversity is a tough theme. The definition of the word diversity has the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room. Discovering that I had the opportunity to shoot this particular panorama, inside the time window of the diversity event, I decided to take on the gorilla.
At the end of a company safety meeting I explained to the roofers what I wanted to do. I did not tell them the theme of this event, I just told them I wanted to take a group picture. About half decided that it was OK to allow someone to take their picture, so I set my tripod up in the middle of the warehouse and asked them to gather around the camera. No one was positioned or posed. The group was photographed just as they arranged themselves. This is the American working man. These people all work together every day. There is diversity here. The 800-pound gorilla is here. The less emotionally charged diversities of age and shape and size are here too. There is counter-diversity here as well; in the way the group arranged itself, in the lack of women, or the half of the workforce that declined to be photographed at all. I came to the idea for this picture very quickly as I learned that I would have the opportunity to make the shot. I ended up springing the idea for this picture on the roofers just as suddenly. No one, including me, had time to think about the implications or the emotions that might be associated with this impromptu group picture.
The diversity theme has pushed me out onto new ground, artistically speaking. As a technical photographer, I've never sought to capture the social, political or the even the journalistic character of a scene or a subject. It has always been about the information, the quality, and the accuracy of the image. The members of the WWP have begun to influence me though. I have enjoyed reading the comments from others in the WWP Yahoo group as themes are considered and chosen, as events are conducted. I appreciate the struggles others are having with this theme. I too have explored the ways I might address this theme and was not satisfied with any of the ideas that I have had. The almost random opportunity to make this shot coupled with my increasing reservations with other ideas that I had been considering led me to take this headlong lunge at the sharp, pointy end of the subject of diversity.
This photograph does not entirely satisfy my technical goals for a submission to a WWP event. It is photographically weak. The lighting is bad and the focus is soft. The composition is inconsistent and the background distracts. It is however a simple and straight forward view into a moment of American life. I don't know how successful my first endeavor at representing an emotionally and politically charged subject like diversity has been. You will have to be the judge of that. I do, however want to express my gratitude to the other members of the WWP for giving me the opportunity, no, pushing me, to step onto this new ground.