The images of Randal Ford, a 31-year-old editorial and commercial photographer from Austin, Texas, more often than not features archetypes of classic Americana culture. While working as a photographer at Texas A&M's student newspaper, he began exploring portraiture as an outlet for his creative interests. Studying the work of impressionist painters, he observed the light, composition and color palettes chosen by the masters. Says Ford: "I fell in love with the idea of creating a narrative in one image: the portrait. It took a while to find my vision and style, but once I did, I really tried to bring it to multiple genres of work."
That's exactly why TIME turned to Ford for our cover this week, to illustrate our story by Lauren Sandler on the growing trend of childless couples in America.
"My goal for the cover was to show two people as a family unit," Ford told TIME. "I wanted to create connectivity between this couple that didn't have kids."
Ford and his crew awoke at 3:45am to catch the sunrise on the beach in Long Island, N.Y. Over several hours, Ford shot three scenes for TIME: a bird's eye view looking at a couple from above, another of a couple lounging on a beach with their backs to the camera, and a third with a family lugging the accoutrements of a family's day at the beach — rafts, towels, umbrellas and coolers — in an overflowing wagon.
"My goal is always to tell a story in one image," he explains, "and to make someone stop and be caught up in all the elements of the photograph."
Since then, Ford has spent the last decade shooting commercial and editorial work for a diverse range of clients — L.L. Bean, Huggies, and Field & Stream Magazine, to name a few — but whatever the genre, the images he creates feel incredibly consistent.
Nostalgia and Americana, so it seems, still manage to turn heads in the hands of the right photographer.
Randal Ford is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Austin, Texas.
Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.