Michael Wichita of AARP Media Chooses Jared Soares for Portraiture of Hard Working People

December 2, 2013

By Michael Wichita

© Jared Soares

Rosemary McGill of Cocoa Beach, Florida, who participated in the March on Washington in 1963 and traveled with her daughters back to Washington, D.C.

Jared Soares and I first met at a portfolio review during FotoWeek DC and had a great conversation. I knew we would work together after seeing Soares’ images of a hip-hop scene in a small town, and the people of a factory town dealing with a depressed economy. His images of people living their lives, working hard to get somewhere, photographed in a beautiful way would work well for many of the stories we work on at AARP.

  © Jared Soares/Joe Ray and family in Martinsville, Virginia, 2011

Jared worked on small stories for the publication but I was looking for a larger project for him. I hire photographers for their vision, their brain behind the camera. In doing so I work to connect a photographer’s long term project or passion to the stories and assignments that I am working on. This is done in the hopes that he or  she may get more access to a subject, is able to continue a story, and maybe a little exposure. When this works out the assignment is kind of like a grant.

 © Jared Soares/ Virginia State News: A little Hopperesque.

The AARP Bulletin began working on an oral history story about the men and women who were at the National Mall during the March on Washington in 1963. Originally this project was thought of as a formal portrait series. Thanks to a nudge by Design Director Cathy Kelly who reminded us that this story is about the people and the place, we quickly changed direction and flew five people to D.C. instead of one portrait photographer and team to five people.

 © Jared Soares/  Edith Lee Payne of the March on Washington who was photographed as a young girl by Roland Sherman .

  © Jared Soares/ Photographer, Roland Sherman, who fired us several times during our time with him.

A story looking back on an historic event, place, and people in images, deserved thoughtful open images. I was looking for images that would reference the heat, the energy, the crowds, the unknown, the place, that were created by Leonard Freed, Roland Sherman, Stanley Tretick, and Francis Miller. Use the same medium, use the landscape, use the crowds of tourists, let things happen, as they did that day in 1963 when history unfolded and a nation was moved forward. After a few chaotic starts, getting permits and arranging travel, we were off.

 © Jared Soares/ Retired, NPS Ranger, Gordon “Gunnie” Gundrum behind MLK on the monument.

With subjects Jared is calm and in full command of the scene despite the tourists and school children soaking up history in their matching neon colored field trip t-shirts. While we were working with each subject, passersby would ask, “who is that? A congresswoman? A newscaster? What did they do?” On the last day a guide stopped his tour of young people and yelled out the subject’s name. “Do you all know who this is,” he asked them. He went on to tell us that he would not be here today without the work of the subject we were photographing in a place that was crowded with people moving towards the future over 50 years ago. Tears were shared. This is the kind of experience and story you don’t get from working in a studio. Mix with the people, meet them, listen to them, ask if you can share their story as photographer Jared Soares does.

 © Jared Soares/ Antonio Logan at the Goodman League in Southeast Washington, D.C., 2013.

 The March on Washington assignment inspired Soares to use film for his current project. See more of the projects and  commissions of Jared Soares at his website.

Michael Wichita is Director of Photography for AARP Media in Washington, DC.