A photo that doesn’t tell THE story

I was in Long Grove, Ill. yesterday to work on a story about the Gertz family, who had to give up custody of their adopted daughter Ellie because of complications from fetal alcohol syndrome. The family didn’t know Ellie had the disease when they adopted her and it gradually became obvious it wasn’t going to be possible to properly care for her. I planned to hang out with the family and try to photograph them in the most natural of settings. Their home.

Of all the photos I shot, this is the one I liked most, but I’m not sure it tells the story of this family’s sorrow and the challenge they face of moving past a very difficult time. Talia, 5, the Gertz’s other daughter, decided she would jump on her adopted sister’s bed while I was getting a tour of their home from her mother Lori. It was a natural, fun moment and one that showed the absence of Ellie but does it really convey much for this specific story? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s the challenge photojournalists face every assignment. Good photos might not be good enough for the story itself.

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