A quiet moment of truth

To capture images of people as they really are, photographers keep clicking their cameras through uneasy moments of silence.

I'm always surprised at how people react to being photographed, to what happens when a photographer lingers in a quiet moment, past the point of comfort, and keeps clicking through the silence, asking through the lens, "What is it like to be you?"

I had been shooting the inmates all day as they worked on a watermelon farm in Arizona, but this situation was different. We were alone on the bus. Now there was jeering.

As a woman photographer, I've dealt with this many times, usually by making a joke. But this time, I kept quiet. Click. Silence. Click. I wanted this photo to answer the question: "What is it like to have made a big mistake in your life that cost you your freedom?"

Earlier, I had gotten to know Manuel, on the left, whose Mexican immigrant father does farm labor. He got entrapped in gangs at a young age. Now he was doing the same work as his father.

After the jeers, one guy yelled out, "Hey, thanks for making us feel important." Taken aback by his sincerity, I answered, "You are important; this farm wouldn't run without you."

I walked away thinking that the camera had chiseled away at the men's hardened exteriors to peer into their lives, at least for a moment.

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