Paul’s Photos || ATTICUS


When I walked in, he still had his t-shirt on and was talking with Brett, his back to the door. Before I even saw his face I had Pony light him like this and I snapped this shot. As I’ve mentioned before, straight men often put their hand like this automatically.

He’s 23, coming out of a disastrous marriage that ended horribly.  Based on a five-minute chat on the telephone, Pony insisted that we fly him to San Francisco from the small town in Wisconsin where he’s lived most of his life.

I said almost nothing for the first part of the shoot, except to ask Pony and Brett to move the lights here and there. As with the last several shoots I felt “off”, disconnected, bitter. I can’t explain why. Several times I snapped at Brett and Pony. “If you’re not going to work with me, I’m done.” I walked out.

When I came back, ashamed of my behavior, Pony and Brett were clearly wary. Atticus was sitting calmly, waiting patiently. I had him move his legs apart, further apart, further.

It took me this long before I could actually simply face him. The words that immediately came to mind: guileless, innocent, lost and utterly trusting.

I had Pony come over and put his hand on Atticus’ chest. I kept positioning and repositioning Pony’s hand, showing him what I wanted. What I was actually doing was watching the young man’s face to see how he reacted to our touching him.


When I talked to Pony later about this, we agreed that we’d never experienced such a complete and innocent trust before.

“Atticus” isn’t his real name, of course. He chose it, he told me, because it’s the name of his favorite character in his favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I was astonished to learn (much later) that he’d been in prison. At the end of the shoot I asked what he was doing with his life. “I don’t know yet,” he responded. “I’ve learned a lot of things not to do.” I asked what he enjoyed doing. “I love making people happy.” – Paul Morris


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