With a Canon EOS 6D, Garza photographed Flint residents such as LeeAnne Walters, who showed samples of dirty bottled water from her house in January 2015 to Jerry Ambrose, one of the city’s state-appointed managers. And Lisa Gaines, who suffered from a skin rash while caring for her bedridden mother and severely sick brother, also suffering from a skin rash. And Ivory Gipson, who washed her toddler daughter in the sink with bottled water and had to tell her that if she played in the city water she could die. And Timothy Fenoir, who, despite the warnings, allowed his sons to play in a plastic kiddie pool filled with city water. “What am I supposed to do, really? I can’t keep them out of the water,” Fenoir told Garza.
Garza amassed about 200 gigabytes of RAW still images that formed a visual essay of a community harmed by its most natural resource. However, he had no video.
Garza said he’s done a decent amount of video since he’s been at the Free Press, “but with Flint I didn’t want to get watered down by shooting both at the same time.”
We worked with the blessings of his editors, concentrating on still photos. Then Brian Kaufman, executive video producer at the Free Press, saw the project. He talked with Kieliszewski, and she said she thought they should be doing video too, especially after the Free Film Festival featuring documentaries.
“That’s when she said, ‘Let’s revisit this. Let’s see what we can do. Let’s get some documentary out of this,’ ” Kaufman said.
They batted around ideas, and originally, it was going to be more video-oriented. After looking at Garza’s photos, Kaufman felt they could use his photos as a visual base for the video and build a narrative around that.
“I realized it would be pretty foolish to try and spend months or a year recapturing everything he had already captured in still photography,” Kaufman said.
“In my opinion, there’s no great distinction between still photography and video in terms of visuals. It has everything to do with the narrative of the film,” Kaufman said.
After an initial edit of Garza’s work, it was time to collect the interviews. So together, Garza and Kaufman traveled back to Flint and spent a few weeks interviewing a diverse group of nine people.
“We showed up at people’s houses and just tried to work with whatever they had. A lot of the houses in Flint are pretty small, tight, cramped quarters, but the idea was to get people in their homes, and in an environment that sort of reflected where they lived,” Kaufman explained.
While Garza conducted most of the interviews, Kaufman handled the technical aspects. He used two Canon Cinema EOS C100 cameras, one fitted with a 50mm lens, the other with a 200mm lens, and a set of light panels with dimmers and spot control. They wanted to light it well to make the subjects look dignified in their humble surroundings.
From there, Kaufman began editing.