Three weeks ago when I was in Missoula for our photo shoot with Paolo Marchesi, I had an amazing conversation with a woman who lived close by to where we took some of our last pictures of Joe. How this conversation happened and the fact that it did happen seemed almost ‘providential’ to me, and it also demonstrated how powerful An Ironman’s Journey can be for others.
Seeing Paolo Marchesi work is an amazing thing, and I’m especially grateful to have seen how Paolo works with natural light to capture his signature photographs. Because lighting is such a crucial element for Paolo’s photography, we scouted locations around Missoula for great sunrise and sunset lighting options. Our morning locations were easy to find and were perfect for what we wanted, but our team had a difficult time finding where we would shoot our sunset shots. We needed a Western-facing road, one that was paved so Joe could ride his handcycle on it, with a beautiful Montana backdrop. Doesn’t sound too hard, right? Wrong.
After driving around Missoula for several hours in the afternoon, racing against time and the sun, we did not find what we were looking for. Paolo offered to shoot Joe in Bozeman the next day, he knew of a perfect sunset shot location there, if Joe and Amy were able to drive there the next day. Our team considered this option, but still hoped to finish the shoot that day. Paolo came up with another idea- he would start driving home to Bozeman, and if he found a spot that was no more than an hour away from Missoula, he would take the pictures.
Drummond and Danielle
Forty five minutes out from Missoula, tucked in the mountains, we found our location for the shots in Drummond, MT, and it was perfect. I’m talking ideal- we had found a valley with a stunningly gorgeous view, and it also had a Western-facing paved road. It was time to start the shoot!
During the shoot, a few cars stopped by to ask us what was going on (‘Is there a celebrity in town? Who is that guy?’) which is when I met a woman named Danielle. After explaining the project to her and how Joe is training for an Ironman, it was clear that this story struck a chord with her.
It turns out that Danielle’s good friend, a Drummond football coach who lived a street away from where we were, had recently gotten into a motorcycle accident, leaving him paralyzed. She shared how this tragic accident has deeply affected her community, in addition to changing her friend’s life forever. Everything was so new and unknown to everyone at the moment, she said. Not only did seeing Joe on her way home catch her by surprise, but it gave her hope for her friend.
Danielle and Joe chatted after the shoot, and it was amazing to watch Joe explain basics about his life to someone trying to navigate a new reality alongside her friend. Danielle asked Joe basics like how he gets around on a daily basis or where he got his equipment, and Joe shared some of his experiences of his early stages in physical rehabilitation.
What would have happened if we never made it out to Drummond, MT? Would Danielle or her friend ever heard of Joe’s story? These are the moments that make this project so special, and we hope that this journey continues to spread hope and knowledge to friends around us!