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Rich-Joseph Facun April 8, 2008

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Ohio University, United States.
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Dads Return Home from Deployment, Virginia Beach

Rich-Joseph Facun is a photographer based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Originally a student of philosophy and religious studies, Facun shifted gears and studied photography at the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University, receiving his degree in 2001. Facun’s work has won awards in the Best of Photojournalism, the Annual Unity Awards in Media, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation Journalism Awards Program, and a nomination in PDN’s 30 New and Emerging Photographers. Currently, he is shooting a book project entitled “Rollin’ Revival,” a documentary that explores the resurgence of roller derby in the United States. His work has been published both nationally and internationally in various news and journalism mediums ranging from The New York Times to The FADER magazine.

About the Photograph:

Evan Burgoon, 5, watches his father Lt Cmdr. Ian Burgoon of the VFA 211 land at the Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, VA, Tuesday, December 18, 2007. The squadrons returned home to Hampton Roads following a six-month deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. The strike group has spent 13 of the last 20 months at sea supporting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I strongly encourage you to read Facun’s account of what transpired before he made the photograph.

It was a regular day at the office of The Virginain-Pilot. I arrived, checked my assignments and settled in at my desk. This particular day I had the opportunity to shoot my first homecoming. I was excited and a little anxious. Our staff is extremely talented and they have all had their swing at covering a homecoming. They are very common in our community considering the area boasts the largest Naval Shipyard in the world.

Growing up in Hampton Roads I have witnessed the many astounding images that current and former staffers had shot. Some of my coworkers teased me about not having covered a homecoming yet – I’m the most recent hire. We laughed and reminisced about the most memorable images from homecomings over the years. To say the least, I was excited and up for the challenge.

I arrived at Oceana Naval Air Station a little over an hour before the scheduled time of the troops return from deployment. At this point everything felt like deja vu to me.

Let me explain, I grew up in a military home, my father was in the Navy and we were stationed in Hampton Roads on two separate occasions. I remember standing out in the cold waiting for my father to return from deployment – every six months my dad seemed to come and go. I remember how eager I was to have him home. I remember how much I missed him when he was gone. I remember how handsome he looked in his uniform as he walked off the industrial gray Naval ship. I remember feeling a thousand different ways as I waited for him to set foot on dry land.

Reflecting on my own experiences as a young boy I scanned the crowd of mothers, wives and children. I was looking for my photograph – the one that would reflect to our community what it feels like to have a loved one return home from war.

Immediately I saw Evan. His hat, his jacket and his old soulful eyes. I knew there was a picture to be made. He looked timeless. Everything about him.

I didn’t shoot right away. In fact, I waited a while to approach him. I wanted to observe him. I wanted to read his body language and learn a little more about him from a distance.

In the interim I shot the crowd. I shot other children, their friends and family and the planes that had already landed. I spent some time chatting with everyone while I kept an eye on Evan.

When I finally started to photograph Evan, it was from the hip. I wanted to see how he was going to react to my presence. He didn’t make things very easy for me. Immediately he started clowning at the camera. Then he started touching my lens with his fingers.

I tried to work through this as most kids eventually get bored with me and my camera and eventually get back to being themselves. Not Evan. He also started playing peek-a-boo with a sign that he had made to greet his dad. I popped a few more frames off and showed him what he looked like – this seemed to calm him down for a second but then he was right back at it.

I decided to back off for a few minutes. In a lot of situations I might have just written the subject off and moved on. However, I knew there was a beautiful picture there I just had to wait it out. I’m a very impatient person but in this situation I challenged myself to persevere.

As I started to shoot again, Evan went right back to his previous tactics. At this point his mom seemed to be a little embarrassed by his hyperactivity and asked him to stop playing so that I could “get my shot.”

I didn’t want to get into preaching the ethics of photojournalism so I laughed and asked her not to worry. I explained to her that I was once Evan’s age and understood that he was excited to see his dad, his behavior was expected.

Shortly after, his mom shouted and pointed toward the horizon.

“Look there’s your dad’s plane!”

I had anticipated this moment seen in the photograph – I knew (or at least hoped) that once his dad was in eyesight that he would forget about me. I already had my camera prefocused, knew how I was going to frame the image, I knew where I needed to stand and what level my camera had to be at in order to get the image I wanted.

I fired off two frames the moment his dad landed. This was one of two.


1. m - April 8, 2008


you’ve got eyes.

2. Liz - April 8, 2008

Little brother,
You have always been an inspiration to me. I am always in awe of that to which you open my eyes…I will never be blind as long as I know you.

3. Rey - April 8, 2008

it’s awesome..keep up the good work.

4. Ebony - April 9, 2008

Rich … fabulous shot! Your vision allows the rest of us to see such a different world.

5. Tyrone - April 24, 2008

You the man!! Vivid expressions. Keep up the great work

6. Paula Burgoon - June 14, 2008

fabulous to read your perspective! What a great day. :-)

7. Kathy - June 18, 2008

Your photos stop me in my tracks. You’ve got a special eye, thanks for sharing it!

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