Heat bellows as the sound of sirens ring closer. Outside stands a family distraught and dumbfounded as they watch their family home consumed by flames. Firemen and first responders arrive in time to salvage a portion of the home, but the true damage is already done. Memories shattered, possessions lost, a family disrupted. Approaching the children slowly is a fireman with a red, drawstring backpack, out of which he pulls a book. At that moment, the three of them rest in the grass facing away from the smoldering debris and the fireman offers a timely distraction through the simple act of reading them a book. What would have been imprinted memories of fear and sadness now, forever, share the feelings of empathy and compassion all because this fireman was able to offer a brief distraction from their terrible reality.
This fictional scene is one based on the reality that many families face every day. Thanks to organizations and non-profits like REACH-A-Child who put books and backpacks into the hands of first responders, it’s possible to make a difference for those children experiencing crisis in their developmental years. A question I had to ask myself when establishing the creative behind this image was, how do you show in one single image what kind of impact an organization like this actually has, and how do you connect those efforts to real-life situations that resonate with people? The idea of a visual “assembly line” came forward, showing the current staff of REACH-A-Child disassembling their “Reach Bags” and passing a book along to the fireman reading to the affected youth. Through compositing methods, we lit and photographed each person, group, and vehicle individually, then brought them together in post. The addition of a more dramatic and colorful sky helped to increase visual interest, and incorporating smoke and light-bleed helped sell the effect of an actual fire happening out of frame.
I would like to give my deepest gratitude to the Middleton Fire Department and the members of REACH-A-Child for making the production of this shoot come together. Through their willingness to donate time and effort, we made an image that will hopefully impact viewers in a tangible way and help to grow the efforts of this non-profit organization. If you would like to donate to REACH-A-Child, please visit their website here: www.reachachild.org