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Sentence at Bernie’s

Judge Denny Chin, who I photographed in February, is back in the news – featured in a New York Times article examining the sentencing of Bernie Madoff.

It is interesting to see Todd Heisler’s portrait of the judge. We both found interest in the same corner of the judge’s courtroom and we both posed him within a few feet of each other. The results are very different, a reflection of the way each of us sees as a photographer but also of the purpose of each photo. Todd’s photo fits the NYT article perfectly. His use of dark space emblematic of the judge’s path toward a sentencing decision, the weight of that decision, and his sole responsibility for it.

My image is for a university magazine’s feature, a bio celebrating the judge and not tied to Madoff or any one case. The image had to be vertical to fit the layout and given its use heroicize him to a certain extent. On the day I shot available light was not an option (too much glare would have blown out the back window) but also not compatible with the piece. Instead I took my cues from the ambient light (the natural daylight and the artificial room lighting) and built my portrait from there.

Here’s another image from my session with Judge Chin:

Judge Denny Chin in his courtroom. Feb. 23, 2011. Click image to enlarge.

Earlier post – Chin Up at the Bar.