More than 50 photos of Connecticut politicians are scheduled to be on display at the Legislative Office Building starting Wednesday morning.
The photos by Stamford photographer Tim Coffey capture these public servants — former and present — in settings of their choice. The collection is known as “Connecticut’s Political Landscape” and is Coffey’s second exhibition at the LOB.
CTMirror.org asked him about his work:
Q: Most of your work is for private clients and deals with special events, promotions, etc. Why the focus on politics now?
“I love politics and it’s wonderful to be able to step out and do this type of work. I get to be my own client, and I get to photograph something I’m passionate about and enjoy.”
Q: Do these photos tell you something the press releases and public statements don’t?
“The politicians get to talk about their craft in a way that they don’t ever get asked about. That’s kind of interesting as a viewer to just take it all in. I’m not looking to change the political system or influence anybody one side or the other. I hope I’ve represented both sides fairly.”
Q: How hard were the photo shoots? Was it difficult to get politicians in these settings?
“These people are used to being photographed, so you did have to sort of break through and make them relax and say, ‘OK, don’t give me your politician’s smile. They know, being in front of the camera, even tricks like ‘How do I know if I blink for a photo? Ok, take a breath, and hold it.’ So you really tried to break through and say, OK, I want to see past what you normally give me for the public.’”
Q: How did you get them to relax?
“You give them something to lean on, inspiration. You say something off color or something to break them out.”
Q: What would you say?
“Well, I’m not covering them as a journalist so I have permission to talk a little bit directly to them and say, OK, show me you’re sexy. And they’re like ‘huh?” and it just breaks them up and you get a different moment.”
Q: You actually said that?
“Well, we might have done something of that nature, but you know, you just have fun with people.”
Q: Who was born for the camera in these photo shoots?
“So many of them. Tom Foley takes an amazing picture. Chris Shays was super into it, photo-wise.”
Q: Talk about some of these photos.
Art Ward, mayor of Bristol:
“Bristol’s known for ESPN and Lake Compounce, but he picked this children’s museum that I didn’t know about, so we went there. And there was this really cool tin man kind of art project, sculpture that was inside the building. I was like, you know, if this guy had the wherewithal to pick a children’s museum, he’s going to be fine with me playing with this. So he pulled out the arts sculpture, and he was totally game to being on the game with it, and it’s a really fun photo.
Chris Beckett, Glastonbury Town Council
“This is his family’s farm, Beckett Farms, in Glastonbury. He was totally game to do whatever we wanted. He’s sitting on a John Deere tractor and he looks like he belongs there.”
Gary Holder-Winfield, State Representative, New Haven
“He lives right near the park so he’s very proud of the transformation that’s happening, and it is really kind of cool to see old warehousing come back to life and be put into use. He’s not a smiler. He said, you know, I’m not going to smile.”
Ryan Bingham, Mayor of Torrington
“We took photographs of him at Fuessenich Park, a baseball field in Torringon. He’s leaning on a bat, we had the lights on — bad weather was coming in so it looks like it was at night. You know, he just looks so comfortable. What I love about that photo is it’s not some grandiose background. That’s what a lot of Connecticut is, it’s just small towns or small cities. There’s pride in that.”