How Melissa Lyttle made the picture that ran with Floridian's latest Dispatches
PINE ISLAND — He squatted between a bleeding air mattress and a coffeemaker perched on a blue cooler. It was still dark in his new home, around 7 a.m. A lamp cast a web of shadows over the creases around his tired green eyes. Fred Bellet stood, and at 5 feet 6, his head nearly touched the ceiling. Behind him, two dry cleaner tickets were pinned to the lampshade. They told him that soon everything would work out. Fred then peeled open the Velcro flap and, on his 10th day living in a tent, he stepped out into the dawn.
Now more from Melissa:
The first time I went to visit Fred was at sunrise. The light was gorgeous as I watched him emerge from the tent. I photographed everything I could in that light. Him shaving. Him feeding the ducks. Him drinking coffee. The light made everything bright and beautiful, warm and wonderful, but what got lost in that light was the emphasis on the tent itself. That context was crucial to Fred's story. So the next night I went back at sunset. As twilight overtook the day, Fred turned a lamp on in his tent, fired up his laptop, and kicked back in a chair just outside to watch episodes of The Daily Show. The tent lit up with a warm glow. I borrowed a tripod from Fred, and set up nearby for a 20-second exposure of the entire scene, so I could get just enough ambient from the night sky, and just enough light on Fred, while keeping the tent exposed properly. It just felt right. It felt slightly solemn, with the cool blues from the night sky. Yet slightly hopeful with the warm orange glow of the tent. It was moody, without being explicit. It was genuine, and to me, it so perfectly encapsulated the feeling he has about his situation.
By design, we only get one photo and about 500 words for the Dispatches from Next Door column, so as our editor Bill Duryea says, we practice "essentialism." Rather than duplicating anything from John's story on Fred, it complemented it perfectly. Picking up where he left off -- adding to a scene, and allowing it to continue off the page and in the mind.