The whole thing looks like a set to me, not like someone's home. The more I look at the scene the more artificial it seems. The uniform, the folded flag and the discharge certificate on the side table, the picture of JFK, the Airborne banner on the wall, the pictures of soldiers on the table in front of him. And then there's the way he's looking blankly off camera. It all looks staged to make a "statement" and IMO it's laying it on a bit thick.
As far as the lights, I'm not sure what I'd do. But it looks stagey and overly dramatic to me and the way he's sitting is odd. He looks like he's in an underground bunker planning a battle campaign. I think I'd connect to the guy and his story better if the scene and lighting were more naturalistic. Having him looking at the camera might help too.
Doug thansk for your reply! Wow I guess this is the case where reality exceeds filmaking, I am sure a production designer would have a tough time recreating these guys place. To be honest with you I missed the discharge certificate and I still don't see it. Actually this was the second location we chose to do the interview; the first one was Fabian's room, another vet, but his was plastered with airborne photos and a few were ripped. My reporter thought it was self serving and the torn photos too much of a dramatic statement. You have to realize this is a 2 bedroom place were 5 guys live, 5 histories crammed in there. The JFK photo belongs to Barrios the oldest one, the flag belongs to Jerry but to the right, Fabian had a photo of president Obama, to me that would create a totally different discussion, so instead of moving it which is a capital sin in the eyes of the field producer I framed it out. Now the stare had two elements both technical and subjective; technical because even though I was shooting 1600 ASA, during the interview he was gesturing and I kept on getting him blurred. I do not mind blurred hands but his face was blurred, so I waited until he paused for a bit, this came not when he talked about the deportation but when he talked about the mother of his children, the who told him about the consequences of the drugs, the one who told him to marry her and he never did.The subjective aspect was that in thelong interview he also told us funny stories from the army and in my mind, having him smiling and laughing did not go with the essence of the story. We did not tell him ok, now be sad, look ahead, I rather waited and snapped the photos when in my eye they were right. I have few including one he dropped his head but that one looked too much to me. Talking about the uniforms, they have them in the bathroom hanging there and I love my video shot of the doorway framing the uniforms, the news director thouhgt they looked staged, we explained him that they used the steam to get the wrinkle out, that shot was edited out. The place was full of things I wanted to shoot, like the big branch they used as a Christmas tree with all the dog tags hanging, we shooted in January so those were edited out. The lighting is all my call, it was at dusk and I used the bare bulbs in the kitchen, lamp and bathroom with one low wattage tungsten light with a rungun diffusion. That was it. I had plenty of lights in the truck but again, this was documentary style and a hair light or a background light with a pattern would habe been out of place. This was as naturalistic and less intrusive as I could.
I hope I managed to explain my choices understanding that no 2 photogs would shot something the same way