Columns » A Photo Life

How to photograph a sensitive story subject with limited access and time

by

comment
I recently photographed Ingrid Latorre, an undocumented immigrant and mother of two, who has lived at the Mountain View Friends Meeting, a Quaker church in Denver’s University Park, since November of last year.

Latorre claimed sanctuary in the church to avoid being deported. She's living there with her youngest son Anibal. It’s an isolating and lonely experience, to live in a church without being able to leave.

I wanted to express that in my imagery of Ingrid with her son.

Latorre’s story is not unlike many undocumented immigrants today in the United States. She moved here from Peru in 2000 and worked at a nursing home using a social security number that wasn't hers. She was found out, prosecuted and convicted.

The Mountain View congregation is part of a network of churches in Denver that offer sanctuary to people like Latorre.

Even though she paid the back taxes, her conviction makes her a priority for deportation. Latorre wants to reopen her case and apply for a stay of deportation.

With limited access and time for a sensitive story subject I decided to keep things simple by creating a space to shoot and used three lighting setups in the same location.

In the first, I photographed Latorre and her son in silhouette with the window as my background.
Ingrid Latorre, an undocumented immigrant from Peru, with her son Anibal at the Mountain View Meeting House. I photographed Latorre and her son in silhouette with the window as my background.
  • Ingrid Latorre, an undocumented immigrant from Peru, with her son Anibal at the Mountain View Meeting House. I photographed Latorre and her son in silhouette with the window as my background.

Next I used the window light coming into the church to photograph Latorre holding her son.

Ingrid Latorre with her son Anibal at the Mountain View Meeting House. I used the window light coming into the church to photograph Latorre holding her Anibal. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ingrid Latorre with her son Anibal at the Mountain View Meeting House. I used the window light coming into the church to photograph Latorre holding her Anibal.

Then I photographed Latorre standing alone in the pews of the church and isolated her with an off-camera flash and a grid spot.

I photographed Latorre standing alone in the pews of the church and isolated her with an off-camera flash and a grid spot.
  • I photographed Latorre standing alone in the pews of the church and isolated her with an off-camera flash and a grid spot.

Photography is a great medium to tell a story like Latorre's, and in cases like these it helps to be able think on your feet.


Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast