For Atlanta, Georgia-based Gregory Miller, one of the best aspects of working as a photographer is getting to meet people from all walks of life. In his own words:
Every person I frame up with my camera gives me a little more insight and a broader understanding of what it means to be a person living on this planet.
When the COVID-19 pandemic spread, it began a global conversation about access to medicine and life-giving care. This led to an assignment for CoverMyMeds where Gregory found himself covering more profound stories about individuals who struggle to afford their medications.
They have come to me for several medical lifestyle shoots, but this is the first time they’ve asked me to shoot real people’s testimonial stories.
Gregory drove to two different locations to photograph individuals whose lives changed drastically in 2020. One subject, Ashley, had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, but when she lost her job as a result of the pandemic her health insurance was also taken away — specifically her medication needed to combat depression. These elements of her story were utilized to portray her real-life struggle with getting out of bed.
The shoot’s scaled-down nature created a comfortable environment that helped put the subjects at ease. When documenting an individual’s suffering, it takes a skilled hand to capture their experience authentically while balancing the commercial aspect of the shoot. Gregory acted as a medium through which Ashley could bring attention to the issues she and many other Americans are facing.
Due to Covid precautions, the client asked me to work alone, without any assistants or crew to support me. I happily agreed, as this helped to create a more relaxed climate for me to work in.
On these ‘real people’ shoots, there’s always a back and forth between making pictures and giving direction to chatting and listening, getting to know each person.
For the second shoot, Gregory connected with a mother, Tonia, and her 14-year-old son who has a chronic condition. Often, when parents are confronted with the news that their child needs special care, it’s followed by an avalanche of paperwork, insurance calls, and exorbitant fees.
In one portrait, Gregory shoots Tonia from the staircase while she is on the phone discussing her son’s health. The shot suggests that this view is from the perspective of a child peeking through the rails. It offers the onlooker an insight into the plight of Tonia’s family, and how her son witnesses the lengths taken to ensure his health.
Through this project, I learned firsthand that lots of people struggle trying to get access to necessary medication.
While it was imperative that Gregory portray the difficulties that these families have faced in 2020 and beyond, he also wanted to provide the client with images that demonstrate their personality and their resilience.
After each shoot, Gregory sought to find a way to give back to both subjects, who had graciously hosted him in their homes and bravely shared their experiences. He treated them to a lunch in which everyone relaxed and casually enjoyed each other’s company.
I appreciate spending time with and getting to know each of the people I photographed. It’s really the greatest joy in my work.