Images © Emily Shur
This is why I was in Alaska. Definitely will go down as one of the the most interesting shoot experiences of my career thus far. I went up on Saturday not having a confirmed shoot date, but Newsweek was hopeful The Palins would agree to a shoot Sunday or Tuesday…Monday was July 4th. Those days came and went (you can read about my solo Alaskan adventures here). On Tuesday I was asked to stay one more day in hopes that Wednesday would be the day. At that point I was sooooo ready to go home, but I agreed to stay because what’s the point of going if you leave empty handed? Come Wednesday morning, I decided to get in the car and drive to Wasilla and hope for the best. I had to speak with Todd Palin personally multiple times before even receiving directions to their house. Once I got to the house, there was still a long discussion to be had as to whether or not this shoot was actually going to happen. Apparently The Palins were none too happy about past Newsweek covers of Sarah and were understandably skeptical of me and the magazine’s motives in general.
Eventually Sarah came outside, and she and I talked about her concerns. That conversation took about 30 minutes. I understood where she was coming from, and in a nutshell, I told her that I had no intention of making anyone look bad, but ultimately it was her and Todd’s call as to whether or not they wanted to do the shoot. Sarah and I started to slowly walk around her property, and she pointed out some areas where she had been photographed before and some where she hadn’t. I asked her if she would be willing to do this and maybe that, and she said yes. I said great. I told her I would be ready in about 15 minutes. She said she’d meet me back outside then. Mind you, I had no assistant, no digital tech, no nothing. I haven’t done a shoot on my own, let alone a cover shoot, in I don’t even know how long. Sarah did her own hair and make up, and when I asked her what she wanted to wear, she said, “I’m wearing this!” Again, I said great. We proceeded to shoot together, just the two of us, for about an hour and a half.
This was one of those surreal moments we have as photographers where we are checking our light, composing the frame, making sure everything is right and tight, but in the back of our heads the thoughts are more along the lines of, “What the hell is happening here?!!! I am at Sarah Palin’s house in Wasilla, Alaska photographing her by myself, she’s by herself, and we’re talking about our dogs and the fact that we have the same cell phone and Alaskan wildflowers and where she grew up and all sorts of run of the mill stuff.” The main thing I had to keep a grip on was not rushing which is my natural inclination in times like these. I didn’t know how long I had with her. To be honest, the fact that the shoot was even happening was surprising to me.
As much as I disagree with Sarah Palin’s political views, I would be remiss not to mention that she was friendly, personable, easy to photograph, and comfortable in front of the camera (bonus). She was agreeable to everything I asked of her (double bonus), and she didn’t rush me or make me feel as though she couldn’t wait for the shoot to be over (much appreciated). I’ve been reading internet chatter all day about this photo shoot, and ultimately, my job is not to take a stance on her personally or politically through my photographs. I was hoping to take pictures of Sarah that hadn’t been taken before, and I was hoping that they would be good. What defines good is clearly subjective, but what I can say now that all is said and done is that I am happy with this shoot.