As summer comes to a close and the new school year begins, the landscape across the country begins to shift with the familiar scene of children waiting at the end of their driveways for the school bus to pick them up.
When Greg Miller and his family moved to Connecticut in 2007, he took note of the lonely, often sleepy figures and thought about how quickly they are transported to a world separate from his own. The idea of photographing them for a series that focused on their vulnerability began to take shape.
“I thought it was so beautiful, maybe after living in New York for so many years, seeing children waiting out there all by themselves, tapped into a vulnerable place,” Miller said.
When, a few years later, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown—about an hour away from where Miller lives—happened, Miller’s thoughts about the children and their vulnerability once again entered into his consciousness, although this time for a different reason.
“My oldest daughter at the time of the shooting was 6 years old, the same age of many of the victims,” Miller recalled. “So the shooting had a particular resonance for me.”
After the shootings, Miller traveled to Newtown on assignment, but said once he arrived he quickly felt like an intruder. What the town really needed was for him—and all media—to leave so they could properly mourn. He returned to his town shaken up, and, a few months later, began to work on the series “The Bus Stop Between Two Worlds.”
“It’s really not about guns or the event itself, it is about really appreciating ourselves, appreciating our children,” Miller said. “This is where we come from and if we can’t depend on our kids being able to go safely into an elementary school classroom, if we can’t depend on our society feeling that too, then we really are lost; that's why I really felt lost after that.”
For the series, Miller wanted to emphasize the children’s aloneness so he intentionally stepped back when framing the shot.
“I want them to be set in a place, I want them to seem alone and I want that to trigger a sense of vulnerability in us as human beings,” he said.
Miller works with an 8-by-10 view camera and while nothing is set up, one of the biggest challenges he faces is a time crunch, since many children don’t understand what it takes to make a photograph; they also want to spend as little time as possible waiting for the bus.
“These kids have it down,” Miller said about the children’s routine. “My daughter walks out about a millisecond before the bus arrives, she has some sense, almost like she knows how many paces from the front door to the bus as it’s coming up the hill.”
As a result, Miller said he often returns more than once to make sure he makes the best photograph. He said as is the case of most of his projects, the series is ongoing, one for which he still feels a connection, especially in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.