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Images from January 2017

January was a whirlwind. It was a very busy month for me, covering a wide variety of assignments.

The month started off with a few very sad assignments. At the end of 2016, our community experienced a lot of loss. On Christmas eve, a house fire killed three kids. There were also two separate shootings that took the lives of teenagers. Their funerals were held at the beginning of 2017.

First was the funeral for Lavontay Allen who was shot and killed while riding in the back of his mother’s car.

Family members surround Jaton Watts, mother of the late Lavontay Allen, on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, during Allen’s funeral service at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Rockford. Allen was shot and killed in the back of his mother’s car on Dec. 27, 2016. He was 15. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

Darius Foster (right) supports Jamone Blaylock, a friend of the late Lavontay Allen, as he speaks Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, during Allen’s funeral service at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Rockford. Allen was shot and killed in the back of his mother’s car on Dec. 27, 2016. He was 15. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

The very next day, I covered the funeral for the three children that died in the Christmas eve house fire.

Sherri Bonilla hugs Alex Ezidore, 15, as he speaks Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, during a funeral service for Michael Bonilla, Star Bonilla and Damion Kruger at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Rockford. The three died in a house fire on Christmas eve. Ezidore said he was Star Bonilla’s best friend and lived across the street from the family. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

Occasionally I am sent out to the city of Freeport to cover stories for our sister paper, the Freeport Journal-Standard. Last month I was asked to go to a hotel that was operating as an apartment. The city decided to condemn the building, giving tenants a matter of days to move out.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to see when I got there. My bosses thought the building might already be empty and I’d just see the city posting the notice of condemnation on the door. But as I pulled up before the scheduled time for the city to condemn the property, I was able to connect with tenants still moving out. When city officials arrived, things got tense for a bit. But the city did work with everyone to make sure they had a place to stay.

Clif Reed (left) and Clemente Flowers load furniture into a box truck Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at the Grand Victoria Hotel in Freeport. Reed and Flowers both work and live at the hotel. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM & THE JOURNAL-STANDARD ©2017

Kevin Winters sits with his son, Jaylin Smith, 2, in the lobby Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at the Grand Victoria Hotel in Freeport. Winters had been living at the hotel with his fiancee and three children. The hotel was condemned Wednesday afternoon.MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM & THE JOURNAL-STANDARD ©2017

More photos from that assignment can be seen on The Journal-Standard’s website.

My paper hasn’t covered too many performances in recent years. So I was surprised when I was sent to cover “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy” at our theater. I had about 15-20 minutes to shoot. Here are a few of my frames from the assignment.

Performers balance on one hand Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, during a production of “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy” at the Coronado Performing Arts Center in Rockford. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

A performer spins a cube Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, during a production of “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy” at the Coronado Performing Arts Center in Rockford. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

A performer spins in a suspended ring Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, during a production of “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy” at the Coronado Performing Arts Center in Rockford. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

More photos from the performance can be seen on the Rockford Register Star’s website.

One of the happiest people I met this month was a two-year-old boy, Isaac Yundt, who was receiving physical therapy for his spina bifida. It was a challenge to get a photo without him grinning straight at the camera!

Pediatric physical therapist Renee Voltz places weights and stabilizers on the legs of Isaac Yundt, 2, on Tuesday in the pediatric aquatic therapy pool at Mercyhealth Hospital in Rockford. Isaac has spina bifida, a birth defect that affects development in the spinal cord and surrounding bones. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

And yes, I covered sports in January as well. Some was normal game coverage.

Orangeville’s Braden O’Haver (31) goes up to block Aquin’s Jonah Diemer (12) on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, during a game at Orangeville High School. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM & THE JOURNAL-STANDARD ©2017

Lombard Montini’s Aaliyah Patty (32) and Claudia Kunzer (1) fight for a loose ball with Byron’s Paige Holloway (11) on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, during a game at Byron High School. Lombard Montini went on to win 56-52. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

Winnebago’s Ty Waller (43) is fouled by Lutheran’s Caleb Ziehr (3) on his way to the basket Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, during a game at Rockford Lutheran High School. Winnebago went on to win the game 58-46. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

Then there were some more unusual sports assignments. Like the Hononegah High School girls track team practice taking place in the school’s hallways after their athletic dome which contained an indoor track collapsed in 2015.

Abby Bukowski, 17, runs a timed sprint Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, during a voluntary captain’s practice at Hononegah High School in Rockton. The track team has been using hall space to practice since the dome collapsed in 2015. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

Assistant track coach Paul Meyers supervises as girls run in the hallways Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, during a voluntary captain’s practice at Hononegah High School in Rockton. The track team has been using hall space to practice since the dome collapsed in 2015. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

And I’ll cap off the month with a portrait of a swimmer that proved to be a little bit challenging.

I was sent to get a portrait of Rockford Christian’s Brett Keefe during a swim practice. However, the team practices at another school, Harlem High School. Rockford Christian’s colors are blue and gold. The black and orange that is everywhere at Harlem didn’t work well for me.

You can see even the lane dividers are black and orange.

Rockford Christian’s Brett Keefe swims Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, during practice at Harlem High School’s pool in Machesney Park. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

So I decided to use the water as the blue background. I had him kneel at the edge of the pool so I could shoot downward. I then had a light with a snoot to my left aimed at the water behind him, and another light with an umbrella to might right and very close to his face. I cranked up the lights and dialed down the ISO to do my best to overpower the ambient light and lose the orange from anything that happened to be in the frame but unlit.

Rockford Christian’s Brett Keefe aims to become the school’s second-ever state qualifier. Keefe swims the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter individual medley. Photographed Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, before practice at Harlem High School’s pool in Machesney Park. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM ©2017

There was plenty more that I shot this month including some frames I’m pretty excited about that won’t publish in the paper until the end of March. Stay tuned for more.

In the mean time, if you want to see more of my recent work, be sure to follow me on Instagram at @gershphoto.

February 2017: SO MUCH SPORTS
Best of 2016
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