Isaac Bailey in the Sheriff's Car

“I fought the law, and the law won!”  – The Clash

My good friend Isaac Bailey came with me on assignment to photograph Sheriff Paul Babeu, Sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona.  Sheriff Babeu has received a lot of publicity over the last year in his efforts to fight the drug and human trafficking in southern Arizona.  Of course, Isaac needed to be put in his place, so he took a ride in the BACK of the Sheriff’s truck.  I thought the photo above would be good for his wall.

An hour or so south of my home is a little town called Florence, which is the county seat of Pinal County.  It is smack dab in the middle of the desert.  So when the Sheriff needed portraits that said “Arizona,” there was no better place than his back yard.  Just southeast of Florence is some of the most spectacular desert I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of desert.  I found the location for these shots on a full day scouting trip specifically for this shoot.  If you want to find the right location, you just have to get in a car, and drive… with an iPhone and google maps, of course.

Portrait of Sheriff Paul Babue Jared Platt

I prefer the serious versions.  I like to think of the Sheriff as the tough law man of the west, but I suppose it is nice to see that the Sheriff has a human side as well.  And Sheriff Babeu is quite a nice man.  I have known him for a while now and I have always enjoyed knowing him.  But I still like seeing the Sheriff with a serious face.

My hat is off to Sheriff Babeu and his team.  They have a difficult job to do.  The Sheriff has Mexican Drug Cartel hits taking place in his county.  But, he is taking the fight to the cartels, coyotes and bandits that operate in Pinal county as they traffic drugs and humans north.  Its a tough job and he gets a lot of negative press from people who don’t understand what is happening out here in the desert and even death threats from the Mexican Drug Cartel.  You have heard of the rancher who was murdered in his home in southern Arizona… this problem is very real.  People are afraid out there.

Portrait of Sheriff Paul Babue

This last shot was a last minute deal.  We thought the light was gone, due to a serious bank of clouds, but then the clouds showed a break and we could expect some beautiful colors, so we made ready very quickly and took the photo.  The sunset and the police lights required a higher ISO with a slower shutter speed of 1/50, but without a flash, the Sheriff and his truck would be fairly dark, so we have a set of White Lightning mono-lights powered by batteries, and Isaac holding a reflector off to the right to soften the shadow on the Sheriff’s face.  I think it turned out nicely.

Portrait of Sheriff Paul Babue

You know, while I was speaking to him, he also expressed a lot of concern for the Mexican citizens being used, endangered and even left to die by the cartels and the coyotes in the desert.  He told me of several instances where the Sheriff’s office rescued Mexican citizens who had been left to die in the desert because they were too slow or couldn’t carry the drugs anymore.  His office rescues these poor people and saves their lives in an inhospitable place that will kill someone very quickly.  It’s a rough place out there in the desert, add some drug cartels, some armed bandits and a few cyotees and it gets a lot more rough.  I was floored by the stories he told us.  It was like a mob movie and a western, mixed with a little Blood Simple by the Coen Brothers.  It is bizarre to know what is happening just an hour south of my home.

He’s a good man, and he’s doing a tough job and taking a lot of flack for it.  I don’t live in Pinal County, so I can’t vote for him, but he’s got my vote.

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Subject: Sheriff Paul Babeu

Location: The Desert Southeast of Florence, Arizona