Earlier this year, Detroit-based photographer Chuk Nowak pitched local magazine and repeat client Hour Detroit with the idea of featuring Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and his work collecting local data on the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lieutenant Governor had recently been appointed the head of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. As the magazine was looking to cover more COVID-19 content, they accepted the pitch.
I first met the Lieutenant Governor during his time at the City of Detroit as the Director of Innovation and Emerging technology, and I’ve followed his work ever since.
Chuk worked with Hour Detroit’s creative director, Allison Kahler, in setting up the shoot in mid-April. Due to the stay-at-home order in effect in Michigan, having several people in an enclosed room for a shoot was out of the question.
Since Gilchrist’s work with the COVID-19 task force was to focus on the community, the creative director and I decided photographing him with his Detroit neighborhood as a backdrop would be a great visual connection.
The photographer had just 40 minutes out of the Lieutenant Governor’s busy schedule to shoot. Since the shoot was outdoors, the weather was an unpredictable challenge.
On the morning we planned to shoot, things went from blizzard-like snow conditions to patchy harsh sun. It just so happened that the brief time I had to make the portraits the weather gave a us calm with just the right amount of cloud cover to look appropriate for the June publication date.
With time constraints from the weather and the Lieutenant Governor’s hectic schedule, Chuk had to work quickly. The photographer packed just one strobe and a small softbox for lighting to be able to set up and break down at different locations with speed and ease.
Given the limitations and precautions necessary in producing this shoot, I realized that all the years of learning to work solo and efficiently has prepared me for experiences like this.
Fortunately, the Lieutenant Governor understood the need for efficiency as well. Though many politicians at his level may have come to the shoot with staffers or assistants, Gilchrist came alone, making for an engaged and focused shoot.
Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist was affable and super gracious with the time we did have. He remained present and open to direction throughout our shoot.
Chuk’s photos can be found in the June issue of Hour Detroit, as an accompaniment for a Q&A-style article by Steve Friess.
Creative Director: Allison Kahler
Check out more of Chuk’s work at chuknowak.com.
Check out our other great photographers on our Find Photographers page!