rico or michael?

My modus operandi for story-telling is pretty straight forward.

When I do a story, whether it be a homeless soccer team, a family farm or a high school volleyball team, my approach is very similar.

Each story begins with me documenting what someone does and then moves into who they are. My entree into their lives is their public side and then I slowly gain access to their private side- their life behind the mask.

With my recent story on Michael Jackson impersonator Rico Hampton, my plan was to do what I always do. Photograph Rico as Michael and then uncover Rico as Rico.

Halfway through the story though, I decided that I really wasn’t interested in Rico as Rico. I became fascinated with people’s reaction to Rico as Michael. The magnetic power that celebrity has on people.

While walking the two mile Bud Billiken Parade route with Rico in early August, I was amazed by the reaction that he as Rico Michael Jackson elicited from the crowd. Some people were so excited they were reduced to tears, others were totally freaked out, kids were either thrilled or frightened. 

I shared almost 30 of my images (12 of which are two blog posts back) with the members of a APhotoADay and many commented that they wanted to see Rico as Rico to better understand Rico as Michael. I see their point but I contended that that wasn’t my story.

I have photographed Rico as Rico but none of the images were particularly telling to me. However, Rico hasn’t really given me access to his private life so maybe that fact had something to do with my leaning towards the way I told the story.

The multimedia piece on the Chicago Tribune website offers insight on Rico as Rico but as a pure photo story, I prefer Rico as Michael.

©2009 Chicago Tribune/ Scott Strazzante

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