like to go down and get it,’” says
Henson Scales. “He didn’t know
exactly what he was going to get.
You have to be open to following
the leads when you get there.”
He adds, “We just like his
work, and I knew it would look
different from [news photos]
our national desk was shooting.”
Henson Scales declines to say
what he paid Rodríguez, other
than to say, “We don’t have a lot of
money, but I like to give at least a
few days’ rate. It depends on who
the photographer is, [and] how
much confidence I have. And it
helps if they come with [funding],
as long as it’s from a legitimate
funding organization that I can
vet.” EHRP meets the criteria,
and has provided funding for a
number of stories published in
the past by The Times.
Rodríguez took a low-tech
approach to shooting because
“there was no fucking power.
None. Everyone had to run to
the convention center to charge
batteries, or use cars or solar
generators.” He shot 35mm
and 120 film with a Leica and
a Rolleiflex, respectively.
After two weeks, he’d shot
40 rolls of film. He delivered
low-res scans to Henson Scales
for the editing. “I’m looking for
strong individual images and
working with photographers to
create essays of 14 to 20 images,”
Henson Scales explains. With
Rodríguez’s take, he was drawn
to the portraits in particular.
Among his favorites were one
of a boy in the doorway of an
abandoned house, and another
of 86-year-old Felix Rafael
Cordero, sitting in the wreckage
of his former home. “It’s a lovely
portrait of him in his yard,”
Henson Scales says of the latter
portrait. In addition to the
portraits, Henson Scales selected
images that underscored the
damage and privations, such as
a downed power pole blocking a
street, and residents collecting
water and standing in lines at
banks and supermarkets.
“I mark the shots I like, and
send [my selections] back to
Joe. We do that once or twice,”
Henson Scales explains.
“He asks me if anything is
missing,” Rodríguez says. “At this
point, I just want to get the story
out. It’s not my edit, it’s theirs.
For stories, I leave it to editors.
I’m not talking about books.”
Rodríguez says Visura and
powerHouse will partner to
publish a book of his Puerto
Rico work, including the stories
dating back to 2015. For the book
edit, Rodríguez says he’ll scan
every image, make 5x7 prints,
and then tack them up on a
wall where he can study them,
move them around, and winnow
them down over a period of time.
“I can’t edit on a plasma screen.
Narrowing it down on a laptop,
you miss things,” he says.
The publisher powerHouse
hasn’t announced a release date.
“It’s a long-term project that
we just started talking about,”
says publisher Daniel Power.
ABOVE: Rodríguez’s photo essay about how Puerto Ricans were getting by after Hurricane Maria appeared in the
“Exposures” column of The New York Times Sunday Review. Photo editor Jeffrey Henson Scales didn’t know what to
expect when he gave Rodríguez the assignment, but says, “We just like his work, and I knew it would look different
from [news photos] our national desk was shooting.” BELOW: Artist and veteran Felix Rafael Cordero, 86, sitting amid
the wreckage of his house. His life’s work was also destroyed by the hurricane.