Sparks fly as Loren Minnis, 48, uses a grinder on a piece of metal while working in the Ozarks Barge & Dock Service workshop on April 7, 2014 in Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. Minnis was part owner of Menace Bar & Grill in Lake Elsinore but had to close down in part because of a lawsuit against the bar in 2010. He now works as a welder in Missouri. (David Welker/For the Times)
Last week, I had one of the coolest assignments of my life. Not only was I working for a client who I have always wanted to do some work for, but I was also shooting something I had very little experience with. Now, before I get started, let me say how grateful I am for having great photo editors who have pushed me to be a better photojournalist. Every now and then, I get a call from other editors who ask me if I could do work for them simply because one of my current clients gave them my name. I am thankful that each and every opportunity I get from current clients. I hope I never underestimate the power of my relationships.
Now onto this assignment. The Los Angeles Times called and asked if I would be willing to photograph a subject in the middle of Missouri for them. I agreed, all while wondering what they would want of someone in Southwest Missouri. After receiving the background information for the shoot, I called and got a date and time set up for me to make the drive to Lake of the Ozarks to create a few frames of Loren M., my subject. Loren is one of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure to meet. The guy just bleeds passion for life, and he was awesome to work with. After discussing my plans for the assignment, he agreed that I could follow him around for the day. Loren works as a welder in the machining shop of a dock building business. I was assigned to get two main shots of Loren, but he allowed me to just follow him around for a few hours while he worked. While the majority of my frames are of him working, I found myself always looking for something new in similar situations. New framing, new light, new action. Each time the shutter opened and closed, I knew I had to find another way to shoot the scene in front of me. I spent about three hours of watching Loren and a co-worker weld and grind metal for a new piece of a dock. Every now and again, they would stop and tell me what was happening.
When the shop’s thirty minute lunch break rolled around, all the workers filed into a small room in the corner of the building. Even the owner of the Ozark dock building service came in and sat down. Loren was nice enough to introduce me to those in the room, and they all joked about why the Times would want to do a story on him. A co-worker joked that his new nickname would be “Hollywood”. But then there was a moment of honesty. Loren began to tell them why I was there. He didn’t necessarily always dive into the details, but he began to tell them about his passion for motorcycles and for the bar he owned in Los Angeles. I have not heard someone speak so passionately about something in a long time. He began showing photos to those in the room. Photos of his old bar, and some of the bikes he built, including one for the San Diego Chargers. And there I was. This is why I got into photojournalism. I had no idea that my day would turn into this moment of honesty and passionate talk about what a grown man cares about. But, I was there to document it, and am thankful that they were either oblivious to me at that moment or, at the very least, willing to let me shoot a few frames.
After lunch, they all left the room, and I spent only about fifteen minutes more with Loren. I made four final frames of him before I left that I was extremely pleased with. I leave you with one of those. While this may not be where he thought he might end up, Loren is making the best of it, and he continues to be passionate about the things that he loves.
A big thanks goes out to the staff at the Times who contacted me to photograph Loren. It was a great pleasure to meet someone new, and to have the opportunity to tell their story visually. If you want to know more about Loren’s story, click this link.
All Images © 2014 David Welker/For the Los Angeles Times