PRINCETON, IL (October 1, 2014) — The cover story this month on the life and ministry of John Weborg includes beautiful photos taken by Bjorn Amundsen during an all-day photo shoot in Princeton, where John and Lois Weborg live. The daylong photography session was a first for the magazine. Stan Friedman, who wrote the article, was there and spoke with Amundsen about the process of getting the images.
Stan: How did you choose the multiple locations you used?
Bjorn: We got there just as the sun was coming up on a Saturday morning. We drove around town looking for locations with character, something that would be able to tell John’s story visually. We found a few beautiful locations, including a field, a train station, a church, and a local children’s ministry he works with. The local donut shop was too interesting to pass up but didn’t end up working out as a location.
Stan: What did you hope your photos would capture?
Bjorn: I was trying to capture something beautiful, something that would speak to who John is in a way that feels connected to him, but at the same time portrays him in a way that people haven’t seen before. He was wise and kind and sweet, and I think that really comes through in the images.
Stan: It took about six hours to get all the shots, and John really hung in there.
Bjorn: John was a great subject. It was clear he wasn’t feeling well, and we did our best to be kind and allow him to rest between setups. This is part of photography that isn’t frequently discussed, but the best way to get great photos is to make your subjects feel cared for and safe, so they can really be themselves in front of the camera. We didn’t get as many setups as we’d originally hoped, but the photos we did get were stronger because we were forced to slow down. We ended up with some really special images of a person who has meant a lot to so many people.
Stan: My favorite is the one of him watching the train. We wanted to highlight John’s lifelong fascination with trains and the fact that he sometimes drives an hour to Rochelle to watch the hundred or so trains that come through that community. But we had to do the shoot in Princeton, and there was a very brief window to get this shot. Could you talk about that?
Bjorn: There was a moment at the train station where I was disappointed because I had envisioned a shot of John looking off into the distance at the approaching train. As its scheduled arrival time neared, he realized he wasn’t comfortable where we had originally asked him to sit. We of course let him sit where he’d feel safe, but this ruined my “perfect” shot. As the train approached I scrambled to find something else, and instinctively set the camera to a slower shutter speed, and capture the movement of the train as John stayed still. It turned out great.