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Monroeville, AL
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In some cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.
Photograph by Mark Thiessen

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On Assignment
Monroeville, AL



    When I wasn't photographing the play, I would spend time with Walter "Johnny D" McMillan, who was convicted in 1987 for murdering an 18-year-old white woman and later exonerated. He would sit and tell me stories, and one day we finally talked about his case. I saw the pain of sitting on death row for six years on his face. He knows that nobody can give him back those years, but I was happy we published a picture of him on the last page of the article to bring a hard reality to a fictional story.
       My mission was to photograph To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, and I couldn't even come close to it. I even went to church for the first time in about 30 years to show my face around town. To Kill a Mockingbird brought so much publicity to Monroeville in the 1960s that people are really press shy, which makes it difficult to photograph without invading their privacy.
    While I was on the phone Sunday night, someone stole the only digital camera I brought with me. By Monday word spread, and everyone in town knew the National Geographic photographer's camera had been stolen. On Friday I received a call to go to the police station where I found my camera and tripod sitting underneath a spotlight on the interrogation table. The officer told me that the person who turned it in said, "I found this, and it doesn't belong to me." This could only happen in a small town.

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