By Elliot Haney, National Staff Photographer and City Year Boston alumnus ’10, ’11
My job is to capture fractions of a second in time and to help show them to the world, spreading the work of City Year in the most beautiful way I know how. I view my surroundings in 3:2 frames, and usually have a camera in whatever bag I am carrying, trying to be ready for “that moment.” That moment that only a still photograph can capture. That sliver of time, or that expression on a child’s face as the light bulb clicks, or that casual, impromptu fist bump in the hall, or just the simple laughter of a morning greeting … those moments are what I live for. Those are moments that I hope City Year alumni can look at and place themselves into and relive their service.
I’m lucky that my professional career has been recorded nearly every step of the way. I can look back to any year, month, day, and even minute and know exactly where I was-- geographically speaking of course, but also where I was on my journey to get better and more skilled at my craft. I take my responsibility as City Year’s National Staff Photographer seriously. I see myself not as a day-to-day worker, trying to build the photobank for use in collateral pieces, website and social media needs, but as a historian of City Year, recording our stories for the next generation of crazy idealists. Years down the line, these images will be viewed as the record of what City Year was in the 2010s.
I have the incredible privilege to travel around this country (24 sites so far!), meeting everyone from Presidents, Senators, Governors and Mayors, our incredibly generous donors and business leaders that support us, our wonderful staff and AmeriCorps members at sites down to the students that make our work necessary. For all of the excitement and glamour that a site’s annual fundraising dinner provides, the real passion for me is visiting schools around the country and getting to meet the people who are serving every day like I did in Boston a few years ago. I’m so incredibly excited when I see “that moment” happen through my lens. When I am prepared enough to capture the light, the room and the faces perfectly, I know that image will someday be on an office’s wall or on our website or an Instagram post. I get to turn the camera around, show my subject and see the smile light up on their face–that’s what it’s all about. That’s what keeps me inspired.
For all of my fellow camera nerds out there (and I will never mean that disparagingly, I am the biggest nerd I know, and am proud of it!) I shoot with full frame Canon cameras (a 5d Mark III and a 6d) and a collection of f/2.8 or faster glass; zooms for events and primes for service and headshots. My favorite lens of all time is the finicky and cheap 50mm f/1.4, but the incredibly dependable and expensive 70-200 f/2.8 IS II is in a very close second place. I generally shoot with a shallow depth of field, concentrating the viewer’s eye to a certain spot, and I prefer to use mostly natural light whenever possible. I post-process predominantly in Lightroom, and use Photoshop sparingly, usually when I have to remove identifying marks or descriptions for student safety and anonymity, or whenever a red jacket needs to quickly become yellow … If I’m doing my job properly, you’d be surprised how many photos were actually shot in the opposite jacket color! I love to connect with you -- e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @elliothaney on Instagram!