JEMS Magazine 35th Anniversary Cover

Back in January I was contacted by the senior editor at JEMS magazine about my interest in shooting their 35th Anniversary issue’s cover, due out in March. Humbled by the opportunity, I of course responded right away with excitement I couldn’t hide even via email. I didn’t care what the concept was going to be, I just wanted to be a part of it.

The brief given to me was simple. I was given a copy of their first issue from 1978, then called Paramedics International, and the concept was to re-create the original cover as closely as possible. My excitement only grew when I saw the original cover and how cool it would be to see a side-by-side comparison of the same situation in 1978 vs. 2015! The JEMS editor and I went person by person in the original cover to discuss what needed to stay the same and what needed to be part of the update, such as keeping the same number of firefighters in turnouts, keeping the police officer and the girl in the background, and two paramedics on the right instead of one medic and a bystander holding the IV bag. Something that was important to include was the cultural diversity that has happened since 1978.
First issue of Paramedics International magazine,
now JEMS, from 1978.                                          

My first call was to Phoenix Fire Department. I contacted their deputy chief in charge of public affairs, whom I’ve worked with in the past, and she was as excited as I was. Phoenix FD, very graciously, committed any resources I’d need to shoot this project, even while being extremely busy with the Super Bowl XVIX preparations. My point of contact at Phoenix Fire would be an engineer on Engine 3, Kelly Lieberman, who was also a paramedic, and we began working out the details together.

I told Kelly some of what I needed to include and we talked about the resources necessary and the locations we’d scout out together. The shoot would be happening at night, so the background, for once, wasn’t the priority. What I’d be looking for in locations on this shoot would be access control and electrical power. We’d be setting up a scene that needed to pass for a parking lot or side-street, but we’d have a lot of equipment set up, fire apparatus, etc., so I didn’t want to be shooting in a public area that I couldn’t have full control over the set. With that in mind, my first choice was the Phoenix Fire Training Center in south Phoenix. It would allow full control over who can access the set, it’s the size of a small town, so plenty of space and street areas to work with, and it would give me plenty of electrical power to tap into. Unfortunately, Super Bowl preparations had every federal law enforcement agency in the country in town, all of them utilizing the Training Center. That was out. Luckily, Phoenix Fire still maintains their old training center for special operations training, and we secured permission to use that site.

Shooting tethered let me see the smaller details more clearly
and allowed me to compare the shots I was taking to the      
original 1978 cover that you see the left of the laptop.           
On the day of the shoot, I arrived at about sunset to begin setting up the scene. I used my own car, and had my simulated ‘patient’ lay in the same position as our 1978 reference. I made a pool of blood using regular Halloween fake blood that I stock up on every Nov. 1st , when it’s on clearance, where his head would be. After about an hour of setting and testing lights, setting up my laptop and camera tether, our Phoenix Police officer, the crew of Engine 3, and a Phoenix FD ambulance all arrived at the 7pm call time.

I huddled with everybody that would be in the photo to talk about what we were doing, what I’d be needing from each one of them, and how we’d go about the shoot. Once everybody was in their places and we began shooting, the entire shoot lasted maybe 20 minutes.
 From the contact sheet above, you can readily see that not a lot changed between the first frame and the last. The only thing I wanted to adjust as the shooting progressed was the location of the fire engine in the background. In the original cover there are no visible emergency vehicles, so I originally planned on keeping that consistent. When the fire engine arrived, well after dark, I didn't think it would be a problem for them to park in the background because I expected them not to be visible, however, I didn't account for the facility's lighting to reach it and actually make the truck easily recognizable.
I could have had the truck moved out of frame, but I figured if it's back there, let's just turn the truck's lights on and incorporate it. As I'm shooting, though, the location of the fire truck seemed to be a distracting detail because in a real incident the crew wouldn't park so far from the scene. At this point my thinking was simply "It's here, it's realistic, let's get the most out of it." That's when I had one of the firefighters not in the shoot move the truck forward just enough to be included in the action but not far enough forward to take away from the main focus.

The posing of the people in the shoot was varying frame to frame because I asked them to make small adjustments to their pose every time the flashes went off. When anybody tries to hold a position, or expression, for too long they begin to look more and more rigid and posed and much less natural. Keeping them moving between frames added reality to the shoot and kept them looking like they were really working a scene and not just posing for a photograph. 
Group photo of everyone on set for our cover shoot, huge thanks to Phoenix Fire and Phoenix PD for their commitment to this project.                                                                                                                                                                                 
Once I knew we had the cover shot in the bag we gathered everybody over for a quick group shot, I had the opportunity to thank everyone for their time and participation, and they all returned to the streets of Phoenix and got back to work. It was a hugely successful cover shoot, and I'm incredibly happy with what we walked away with. I'm very grateful to Phoenix FD and Phoenix PD for their involvement and support.
Maybe my favorite part of going through the final images I submitted to JEMS for the cover was actually seeing the 1978 photo and the 2015 photo side-by-side (below).
A side-by-side comparison of similar scenes in 1978 and in 2015.


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