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You might remember – it was big news at the time – that in January 2010, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the United States Supreme Court found that the First Amendment protects unlimited corporate spending on political speech. What you almost certainly will not remember is the lawyer who represented Citizens United, James Bopp, Jr. From his office in Terre Haute, Indiana, Bopp has made a career of challenging campaign finance law. And he wins, a lot. Mother Jones sent me to Terre Haute to photograph him for the May 2011 issue.

This was the editor’s pick for the opening spread (click to enlarge):

Attorney James Bopp, Jr., March 2011

The opening spread

After setting up the lights, I had Bopp in front of the camera for about 10 minutes and I was working like blazes to get him to crack even the slightest bit of emotion. I think there was one smirk, but I might have imagined it. Pretty stoic character. When I said that I was surprised he would allow such a lefty mag to profile him and give us time to do a portrait, he said that Mother Jones has always been fair to him in the past and if they hadn’t, he wouldn’t. And that was that. I don’t think he said 25 words to me the whole afternoon.

We were there primarily to capture the studio-on-location lit scenario, but while my assistant (thanks Doug) was setting that up in the conference room, I was doing available-light shots of Bopp actually working in his office. And he was really working. Barely seemed to notice me, except to say that I damn well better not show any of the email on his computer screen. You never know how stupid a photographer might be, seriously. He was very polite though, not like I’m making it sound.

Not really what the magazine was after, but just in case, or maybe just for my own edification, I made some photographs of Terre Haute outside the office. So Midwestern. So empty. I never found out why, but Terre Haute boasts an unusual number of law offices. There was literally a lawyer on almost every corner downtown. Perhaps some reader can explain it to me.

Front window of James Bopp's law practice, Terre Haute, Indiana

Facing across the street

Postscript: After I submit final files for an assignment, I almost never hear from the client until the next job. I don’t receive samples. Everyone’s too busy. So this handwritten note from the photo editor was a refreshing surprise. Thanks, Mark.