Like a reporter who maintains a list of sources for stories, I cultivate my own contacts for information and access to the locations I photograph. I call a USDA public affairs specialist when I need a shot of a farmer tilling fields. I call a PR person when I need entry to an electronics store to photograph buyers of the latest high-tech toys.
Last fall, I was asked to crisscross Vermont to document the quirky culture and politics of this small state. I wanted to capture a small-town setting. I recalled that, a few years before, I had photographed a town meeting at a historic meetinghouse in Strafford. So I called my contacts there and arranged to go up into the bell tower - the highest vantage point in town. I crouched by the old bell and snapped a vista that became the lead photo of the story. I descended the winding stairs, bathed in the wonderful history-laden scent of creaky wood. Sunlight glowed into the darkness, tracing edges of the stairs and stopping me in my tracks.