Herriman , Utah

Suburban Polygamy – The Access Process

There was a lot of talking to do before I started photographing the family we covered in our story on suburban polygamy. We had to work out some access issues, especially regarding the family’s privacy. We agreed to not use their last name and that we wouldn’t reveal the city they live in. Then there were photo issues.

For example, who could I photograph? Two of the three wives agreed to be photographed, one did not. The husband was out of the question. It was essential to the family that his identity not be revealed. But he did agree to have unidentifiable parts of his body photographed. This little bit of access allowed me to incorporate the father of this family into the coverage, even if only as a symbol.

Before I started shooting, I needed to know how to handle photographing the children. The father gathered all of the children who were 12 or older. He explained what we were doing and let each of them decide whether or not they could be photographed. He went around the table, asking each one. I crossed my fingers, hoping for the best.

First teenager: “No.”

Okay, one down, I thought. Maybe the next one.

Next teenager: “No.”

OK, let’s hope this turns around.

Next teenager: “No.”

As the no’s continued, I realized I was watching dominoes fall. In the end, only one of the teenagers agreed to be photographed.

I assured the kids I would respect their decisions and keep their privacy, but from that point on the teenagers avoided me.

Herriman , Utah

Suburban Polygamy

Our recent package on suburban polygamists was widely read. A polygamist family (three wives, 21 children) living in the Salt Lake Valley agreed to let us into their home to get a view of how families like this live.

The story first appeared online as a multimedia presentation that has recorded thousands and thousands of hits. Then the story was posted and the comments started pouring in. Right now, there are 120 comments about the story on our Web site and a handful of letters to the editor have been published.

While we did receive positive feedback, the published letters to the editor were all negative.

Some of those letters complained that the package was a pro-polygamy piece, that we were glorifying a practice that most of society disapproves of. They pointed out that polygamy is an illegal lifestyle and wondered why the Tribune was giving it “publicity.”

My feeling is that our package was fair and objective. We were providing our readers with an exclusive look into a society that lives in secret. We showed you what we saw in that home, and reported the subjects explaining their lifestyle in their own words.

Did this specific piece report on polygamist men facing jail time for various crimes? Or did it report on polygamist men who have served jail time for sexual crimes? Did it mention accusations of child abuse or welfare fraud?

No.

Have we done stories on all of those topics?

Yes. Repeatedly. And we will continue to do so. We cover all facets of polygamy. This was just one story, one piece of the puzzle.

If you read our polygamy coverage day in and day out, you’ll find stories about crime, sex offenders, and shady characters. But you’ll also read about what polygamists believe and how they live in today’s modern world.

The Salt Lake Tribune is probably the only place you will find these stories being told.

The Suburban Polygamist story is just one part of the giant polygamy puzzle. It provides a look into a very unique home. These are the people who could be living on your street, and you’d probably have no idea.

The multimedia piece is here: http://166.70.44.68/multimedia/pluralfamily/

The story is here: http://www.sltrib.com/ci_6276887

Brooke Adams’ Plurallife blog: http://blogs.sltrib.com/plurallife/