CD: I first discovered your work through a link to your blog post “Looking Forward.” http://maddiemcgarvey.com/2013-08-02 In this post you describe how you were laid off from the Burlington Free Press the day before along with over 200 fellow employees of Gannett. What drew me to your work was how clear-headed and even-keeled you were about what had happened and also your commitment to journalism. Your blog post was widely circulated in the photo community.
What was the immediate response to the post? As a follow on, did any new clients or connections come from the post?
Maddie McGarvey: I wrote the post in an attempt to sort out what I was feeling in the moment. A lot of thoughts were swirling in my head, and I found writing them all down helped me process the situation better. When I posted it on Facebook, I was pretty shocked by the outpouring of support from both friends and strangers. It was incredible to see how many people were there for me, and could also relate to what I was writing about. I think it was important for me to remember in that moment that even though I was losing my job at the newspaper, I wasn’t going to stop being a photographer. There’s a reason so many of us are drawn to this field, even with the lack of stability. And it’s because of the amazing people we get to meet and the things we see everyday.
So many people offered their help and support and that really helped me get through it. It’s good to know that this community of photographers is more like a family.
CD: Your “Generation Lost” story touches me. I love how you capture the moments of innocence between the children. How did this project come about and are you continuing to shoot it.
Maddie McGarvey: I started this project when I was a student at Ohio University and interested in the topic of grandparents raising their grandchildren. This family dynamic is an increasing trend in America and I really admired the grandparents who stepped up to give their grandkids a better home. The main family I met, The Castos, were wonderful and let me into their lives throughout my remaining years of college. They taught me a lot about love and commitment. They sacrificed their “golden years” to raise their grandkids and give them a loving and stable home. This is a project I hope to continue throughout the years and I’m thankful to be closer to this family now that I’m back in Ohio. I’d eventually like to continue the project with more families as well to show a range of reasons why grandparents are stepping in as parents.
CD: In your 802 project, I noticed this quiet sense of place in your images. That you are part of what you are photographing and you capture the moment without announcing to the subjects that you are there. Many of the images have a medium format feel to them almost like everything is shot with a normal lens and little depth-of-field. http://maddiemcgarvey.com/802
CD: Describe your mental checklist and preparation for the funeral shoot and how you dealt with your own emotions from that shoot.
Maddie McGarvey: The vigil for the teenager actually caught me by surprise. I didn’t find out I was shooting it until about an hour before it started. It took place in a smaller town in Vermont, and most of the community showed up to pay their respect to this boy and his family. It was very emotional to photograph for many reasons. He died suddenly while waiting for his car to warm up after snowboarding all day. Two leaks caused the car to fill with carbon monoxide, and he died inside from the toxic fumes. At one point, his friend who was with him all day and dropped him off at his car laid flowers down on the table for him and I could just see the pain on his face. Later he spoke about how he feels like he could have done something different to save his friend. I lost a close friend in high school around the same age and could really relate to this pain. And just seeing loved ones grieving for a boy lost too soon really got to me. I couldn’t help but tear up during the vigil and I cried the entire way home. I felt like I was being a weak journalist at the time but I think it’s okay to have and show emotions when things are sad.
CD: The multi-media project, The Castos video is an unflinching look at the harsh reality of abuse, a broken family and your Lost Generation still images. How did you shoot and edit this piece? http://maddiemcgarvey.com/pages/the-castos
Maddie McGarvey: Shooting video on this family was pretty natural for me since I had established a relationship with them and they were comfortable around me. I just asked Sonya and her grandmother questions that they felt comfortable answering. I used a Canon 7D to shoot the video and a Zoom H4 to record the audio. When it came to the editing, I sat in a computer lab and moved around the pieces in finalcut until I felt like it flowed well and represented their story the best.
CD: You left Vermont and are now back in Ohio. Are you working on any personal projects or assignments? Anything you can share?
Maddie McGarvey: I am back in Ohio working as a freelance photographer. I’m continuing to photograph the Castos and also have a few new projects I’m planning. Other than that, I’ve been shooting assignments for The New York Times, AARP and The Wall Street Journal.
CD: What drew you to photojournalism and to documenting social conditions? Follow on: Were there/Are there photographers or film makers who inspired you and why?
Maddie McGarvey: I think just being curious about the things and people around me got me interested in photojournalism. I love being able to meet new people everyday and am so inspired by the people I get to know while shooting. I’ve learned so much about life from these people and can say without a doubt they’ve made me a better person.
I’m constantly inspired by other photographers. I think there are too many to actually list.
CD: What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer or director about to enter this business?
Maddie McGarvey: I think persistence and compassion are the most important things you can have in this profession. Persistence because this career will throw you a lot of curveballs and you have to learn how to keep going even when it would be easier just to give up. And compassion because I believe you have to truly care about what and who you are photographing. It’s a big responsibility to tell someone’s story and it’s important to take that seriously.