Throughout my career I have met and photographed so many remarkable, interesting and controversial people from all walks of life. It is never my intention to judge or force my beliefs on those that are in front of my camera, nor do I want them to do the same. My goal is always to create the best image possible, without judgment.
Reading about someone in the media and meeting them in person are two different things. You can never be sure if the writer had their own bias in their written words. Even though I research my subjects before I meet them, it can only scratch the surface of who someone really is. The only person you can truly know is yourself.
A fantastic opportunity arose when HBO contacted me to take still images to go along with their documentary on the medical pathologist, Dr. Jack Kevorkian titled "Calling Dr. Kevorkian: A Date With Dr. Death". This was before Al Pacino won his Emmy for playing Dr. Kevorkian in the HBO movie "You Don't Know Jack" in 2010. I photographed Dr. Jack only a couple of years before he was sentenced in 1999, to 10 to 25 years for his participation in assisted suicides. He only served 8 of those years after being convicted of second-degree murder in the death of 130 patients.
There is much information about his life and his practice of assisting people in ending their lives, and this is not one of those blog posts. That information can be found just by searching his name, but I will say that he was born in Michigan and lived to be 83 years old, dying of kidney and respiratory problems in 2011 and was one of the most controversial people I have ever met. The emotions he sparked, with his actions, in people were very strong. I'm not sure what I would do if faced with the same terminal illnesses the 130 patients had that made them want to want to end their lives. I do not even want to speculate for it is a frightening thought. This pandemic has brought to the forefront my own mortality and of those I love.
From our conversations I knew he believed that he was helping people alleviate their pain and suffering, even though many people vehemently disagreed with him. The media gave him the nickname of "Dr. Death". Again, I cannot judge but what I can say is that the soft-spoken Dr. Kevorkian was a fascinating, intelligent individual, who loved Bach and was pleasantly fun to photograph. Dr. Jack was receptive to my ideas and gave me all the time I needed to take the photos. I loved the blood red shirt he wore to the shoot. Not only did I create images of him for the HBO special, but I also photographed him for his limited-release jazz CD called "The Kevorkian Suite: A Very Still Life". These photographs are part of that assignment. I must admit, that to this day he is one of the most memorable people that I have photographed.
All images taken with a Mamiya RZ 6x7 camera and Fuji slide film.
Also, while I was taking photographs of Dr. Kevorkian for the HBO special, I was filmed and used in the documentary! My five seconds of fleeting fame!!!
Detroit People & Commercial Photographer