ELKVIEW, W.Va. — The moment came on the final home visit of the day as independent and documentary photographer Rebecca Kiger traveled with Kanawha County officials around clinics and homes during COVID-19 vaccination efforts in June.
Kiger snapped a photograph of Elkview resident Dana Campbell at his home on June 4 before he received a vaccine. Now that photograph has received international attention as TIME Magazine has included the shot in the publication’s Top 100 Photos of 2021.
The West Virginia native told MetroNews she is proud of the photo for multiple reasons including how it honors the late Campbell. He died July 25 at the age of 94 surrounded by his family at his Elkview home.
“I was thrilled because I hope this helps further getting folks vaccinated in West Virginia. With Mr. Campbell passing away this year, I feel it’s a great way to honor him,” Kiger said.
The photo was captioned in TIME as ‘Dana Campbell plays “You Are My Sunshine” on the harmonica before being vaccinated in his home in Elkview, W.Va., on June 4.’ Kiger said Campbell had been bedridden but his family made sure he was protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kiger said she knew that moment was special before the shot and the capture solidified what she was able to witness. She said being a photographer she is able to witness events that you otherwise may not be able to see.
“Even in his bed and suffering, he gave us that warm West Virginia welcome. He played the harmonica for us. Just showing, even in that state, what a joyful and giving person he is,” Kiger said.
Kiger had been taking photos that week for a TIME piece by Jamie Ducharme titled “What the U.S. Can Learn About Health Care From This West Virginia County’s Successful Vaccine Rollout,” featuring Kanawha County. The photo of Campbell was featured in it.
She said as soon as she took the shot, she sent it to Paul Moakley, an editor at TIME. Moakley would later let her know that the photograph had a good chance to be featured elsewhere. Kiger said she received a text from Moakley Wednesday morning when TIME released its Top 100 photos feature.
Kiger added that the Campbell family had a positive reaction to the photograph being shown in the publication. The photo is included among events such as the Summer Olympics, Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, President Joe Biden being sworn in, international tragedies, and racial unrest in the United States.
“This is a real honor because I look at the list of the photographers and there are folks on there that I just admire so much. It feels overwhelming to be included,” Kiger said.
Kiger, who also teaches photography at a high school in Bellaire, Ohio, said her work has been in the TIME’s Top 100 Portraits before and a 10-page TIME piece that shed light on homeless in Wheeling and across the country during the pandemic.
Kiger’s work will also be featured in an upcoming 12-page piece in the Washington Post magazine, another West Virginia story. She said she is grateful when national publications look inside West Virginia to publish work about the state.
“I hope that this lets everybody know in West Virginia and Appalachia that we all have talent and it’s important to use our voices to tell the story of the region,” Kiger said.
Kiger made a point to honor her late photography teacher in college, Benita Keller. Kiger said Keller died less than a month ago from breakthrough COVID but said what she learned in Keller’s courses at Shepherd University helped her get to this point in her career.