Assignment: Arlington Free Clinic

I'm thrilled to be shooting photos for the Arlington Free Clinic's annual report, gala, and 20th anniversary. I have many friends at the Clinic and they provide an indispensable service: free medical care to Arlington's low-income and uninsured. They rely on generous donations and countless hours volunteered by doctors, therapists, nurses, and translators. The need is great: every month, several hundred people apply through a lottery for only a dozen or so new-patient spots.

It's always a challenge to photograph in an environment where people are busy and their work is far more important than yours. Luckily, the Clinic has pretty good lighting. A typical office's fluorescent lights cast an appalling green color; the Clinic has daylight-balanced lights, which actually photographed a little bit warm. I only had to use a 1/4 CTO gel on my speedlight for an occasional fill. Otherwise, most of the photos were shot with available light.

It's doubly difficult when you're working with patients. You have to be sensitive to their situation. The best strategy is to be quiet and blend into the background; you cannot be the "big-time" photographer, setting up lights and directing people. In this instance, the subject matter trumps all technical considerations. I'm grateful to the people who allowed me to photograph them during their medical consultations.