We frequently photograph doctors in their work environments—private practices, offices, on the grounds of medical schools, and even sometimes in their own homes. However, some of the most striking photography has been shot in our own studio in Austin, Texas.
One particularly satisfying shoot was for the January 2020 issue of Texas Medicine. Working closely with the editorial team, we decided to illustrate the cover story’s subject, the Quality Payment Program—and it’s increasingly complicated, stacked-against-doctors rules—by shooting a doctor interviewed for the story, and creating a fake Monopoly board that had “QPP” inserted into the name of the game. This would illustrate doctors’ struggles to deal with the risks and disadvantages of the program, but also show that the doctors are capable of being determined, playing that game and coming out stronger.
Shelley created a Monopoly-esque board, which we printed several copies of at full-size, and mounted on thick card stock to replicate the real game’s board. Torquil and photographer Phil Kline decided to shoot on a black background, with a spotlight above the doctor and fake game board, creating an ominous but graphic, compelling tone. We also had hair and makeup artist Jennifer Curtright on set to make the doctor look his best, and our graphic designer Zack on hand to help us build sets, switch between setups, and keep everyone entertained between shots.
We planned our shots ahead of time, sketching out page layout ideas. This also allowed us to plan for a specific cover shot, a specific opening spread shot, and so on, creating a shot list and not wasting time trying to shoot every single setup possible. Timing was especially important given the doctor’s busy schedule, so the actual shoot time from start to finish, including set build, hair and makeup, shooting, and set tear-down, was five hours.
Of particular note, we asked the doctor to toss the two dice we included into the air, while looking into the camera. Like Jules Winfield witnessing a miracle, the doctor (and photographer) nailed the dice toss the very first time we asked him—and got the shot used on the cover.