Roca Rocks with John Soares Photography

June 2, 2012

By Barbara Goldman

© John Soares

 Roca Annual Report

 For the past two decades, Boston-based photographer John Soares has been capturing the essence of real people in their real environments.  Some people might categorize his work as environmental portraiture but Soares is much more than that. He is a photographer who loves and uses natural light, has refreshing composition and delivers content with a sense of honesty and visual economy in every shot.   He is able to transition seamlessly between the digital and the analog worlds.  He has shot editorial and advertising for major publications and tops advertising clients some of which include Starbucks, Staples, Rounder Records, Fidelity Investments, Scientific American, The Scientist, Tufts University, Technology Review and Harvard University.

In the last few years, Soares has been photographing his real people for the Roca annual reports with client, Christine Antonellis Design, also based out of Boston.  Roca is Spanish and stands for rock-solid foundation. It is a non-profit outcome-driven organization in Chelsea, Massachusetts that has created a successful intervention model that seeks out and helps the most difficult, troubled youth in communities.  Roca works with young people and young parents who are in gangs, in and out of state systems, use drugs and alcohol and are poor and often homeless.  It intervenes with its High-Risk Intervention Model that provides intensive services to young people at risk with programs for optimal health, growth and development for infancy and early childhood, education, job readiness and life skills to help reinforce values and principles. Roca has been praised for its best practices by many local and international governments and advocates and service providers. They know that given the right tools, these young people can not only survive, but can thrive.

On the most recent annual report, Soares had to visually translate Roca’s mission: A world where young people are no longer lost to violence and poverty.  There is a future where young people have real opportunities to leave the streets, get jobs and take responsibility for their lives.  Antonellis and Soares have worked together for about 10 years on various projects. Prior to Antonellis starting her own design business in 2009, the two worked on the 2009 RFK Children’s Action Corp annual report and images for Avatar Pharmaceutical Services and Combinatorx. The Roca Annual reports have been the most complex projects by far but also the most rewarding.

Soares’ commitment to honesty in his subjects has been a perfect fit for the past and present assignments but there are challenges.  He photographed the actual young people in the community in such a way  as to bring out a part of them  that went beyond the tough facade but also showed respect for who they are and their struggles.  Soares shot with a Canon 5D camera with  24-70mm 2.8 and  70-200mm 2.8 lenses.  He had natural lighting available most of the time and used a disc reflector and at times had a Dynalite set up and 1000wi pack and heads.
Initially, Soares’ images were shot for the 2010 and 2011 Annual Reports, but because they were so effective at capturing the spirit of the organization, Roca has used them throughout many of their marketing materials both for print and online, helping to extend the brand.  The annual report shows the organization’s success and that disengaged and disenfranchised young people who are often left out of the system can be reengaged and can make positive impacts on their own lives and on their communities.  
Soares treats his subjects with respect, dignity and an easy going touch that is always helpful in tough situations, all of which is reflected in his work.  “John is the best to work with because he is incredibly creative, reliable and patient. Not to mention a great guy, very friendly and down to earth which is always a plus during stressful client situations,” says Antonellis.  His honest photography has only strengthened Roca’s mission statement for a better future — a future in which young people leave the streets and take responsibility for their lives and actions.
You can see more of the vision and talent of John Soares at his site,