It took photographer Marcus Yam less than 10 days to shoot his award-winning piece entitled “The Home Front,” which he produced with a team of three. The story follows a single father, Sergeant First Class Brian Eisch, and his two sons Isaac and Joey. When Eisch is deployed to Afghanistan, the two boys are forced to leave their home in upstate NY to live with their uncle in Wisconsin.
A few weeks ago, we chatted with Yam about how he was able to capture intimate moments between Eisch and his sons.
CV: Building trust is important when telling an intimate story. How do you you start building a relationship where you can go in and capture these moments?
MY: I think being honest is the best way you can gain trust. I would always tell [my subjects] what I’m trying to do. I lucked out, [the Eischs] were naturals. They let me do my thing. I would always tell my subjects — to let me be your best friend.
CV: At any time did you feel like your presence was altering reality?
MY: There are times I wonder about that. I think if you just do a good job at blending in and being a fly on the wall, you really don’t alter reality. It helps that we’re not a TV crew. We’re not a big production crew where it’s visually obvious that we’re there. I think it’s good to remember we’re not there to change the story.
CV: What advice would you give to young visual journalists?
MY: I’m a pretty shy person. I think the first thing you need to do is get past that shyness. I know a lot of photographers are shy. Photo students are, that’s why they are photo students. And I see it. There is that initial shyness of wanting to approach somebody and not being sure if you should. You have to be genuinely curious as a storyteller to figure out what’s going on other peoples’ lives. The most important lesson is be curious; be humble; be honest, and doors will open.
CV: What makes documentary photography different from other forms of storytelling?
MY: It’s very emotionally intense. As journalists we are suppose to be objective, we can’t affect the story, but you have to. As photographers, you have to get emotionally charged, and you have to put yourself in their shoes, and you have to emotionally connect with them and invest in them.