Photojournalist Martin Lehmann Leaves Viewers Broken Hearted

It’s a story within a story, a powerful piece photographed by photojournalist Martin Lehmann and written by Rena Silverman not only about the photo essay, but about Lehmann’s experience shooting such an emotionally charged story.

“A Broken Heart, a Child’s Life” takes the viewer though the short childhood of 5 year-old Rose – from the day of her birth until the day of her death – and all the pinnacle moments in between. Rose’s mother, Birgitte, was also Lehmann’s babysitter. She asked Lehmann to document her daughter’s life upon finding that Rose would be born with a severe defect – leading the family to embark down an inevitably long and painful road. Lehmann agreed to join them in this journey, and as a result, he birthed a breathtakingly honest depiction of life and its natural consequence. This is true photojournalism – it is not only ceaseless commitment to telling a story that must be told, but it is telling the story accurately, regardless of how heartbreaking or unjust.

BROKEM HEART 5
MARTIN LEHMANN / NEW YORK TIMES

What makes Lehmann’s work particularly compelling is his disregard for creating an entirely “accurate” composition by technical standards. He doesn’t always obey the rule of thirds and some of the images are not strong enough to stand alone as an independent piece (though an overwhelming amount can). Yet their presence within the collection is necessary to propelling the essay forward – it resonates with the audience, allowing them to relate to the family, and thus allowing them to relate to the family’s pain. One of Lehmann’s images is a drawing of Birgitte’s – center composition – attempting to explain to Rose, Rose’s sickness. The picture is not one that is necessarily considered a “masterful” demonstration of professional photography, but that’s not the point. The point is simplicity. The point is to highlight the purity and innocence of a parent-child connection, and it does just that.

BROKEN HEART 1

Another is the portrait of Rose – though not a traditional portrait by technical standards – but one that demands the viewer look not only at her, but at the representation of youth: Rose’s dark eyes, her bright red cheeks, her quirky smile despite the prominent scar extending down her torso.

BROKEN HEART 2

Lehmann also produced several “masterful” demonstrations of photographic skill throughout the essay, ones that were flawless by all standards (rule of thirds, accurate use of light, capturing emotionally moving moments, etc), and these particular images helped to punctuate those pinnacle moments in Rose’s life.

BROKEN HEART 3
MARTIN LEHMANN / NEW YORK TIMES
BROKEN HEART 4
MARTIN LEHMANN / NEW YORK TIMES

As far as I can tell, Lehmann does not have a Twitter account, nor does he have a Facebook page, so obviously there wasn’t much in the way of self-promoting his work. Luckily, Rena Silverman and the NYT Photo Twitter account took care of that for him by tweeting the story link multiple times to encourage viewership, web traffic, and reader outreach.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s