September 5, 2017
40 Under Forty: Behind the scenes

40u40: Michelle Cote's bright smile

Erika Sidor
At the Grid District in Worcester are 40 Under Forty winners (from left) John T. Pitcavage, Michelle L. Cote, Esq., Jay Merrill and Brendan Aylward.

This is the sixth in a series of 11 stories describing the photos behind this year's 40 Under Forty awards, where rather than shooting all the images in one location, WBJ took the winners to 11 properties around Worcester, showcasing the new developments of a city on the rise. Check out the first four parts: Burns Bridge, public murals, deadhorse hill, The Edge at Union Station, Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center.

The photo shoot at The Grid District was not going well, at all.

We had chosen the location of the former Bancroft Building almost entirely for its novelty: upscale housing in Downtown Worcester, the start of a movement to repopulate the once downtrodden neighborhood. The problem we overlooked is it would be extremely difficult to convey the concept of downtown living in a single photo with four people who didn't live downtown and hadn't met in person before that day.

Erika Sidor
Cote's smile lit up this entire photo -- making this photo the best for all four winner's facial expressions -- but it didn't fit well with the theme for the 40 Under Forty issue of a new Worcester.

Compounding the problem, this was the fifth photo shoot at the end of a long summer day, and photographer Erika Sidor and I were tired. Plus, it was hot outside and even hotter inside the lobby of the Grid District. The natural cohesion between the four winners that happened at the other locations as I and Sidor asked other winners to do fun, strange poses wasn't happening here. Team Grid District (John Pitcavage, Michelle Cote, Jay Merrill and Brendan Aylward) was giving it the full faith effort, but the photos just weren't falling into place.

Our initial plan to have the winners play the games available in the Grid District lobby was immediately scrapped, as the only game was chess, and creating a photo of four people playing chess wouldn't make sense. We took some photos on the rather unique furniture in the lobby, with the windows overlooking Worcester Common and The Brew on The Grid coffee shop in the background, but I was worried those photos would look forced.

So, we decided to go outside and get photos in Worcester Common. Sidor had the winners stand in the grass with City Hall in the background. Sidor immediately got excited over the photos she was getting, but I was concerned. Although we were taking pictures of good-looking people smiling against a nice background, the move outside undermined our narrative of getting photos at the developments bolstering Worcester's economic revitalization.

This problem plagued me after Sidor sent me the final results. The photos inside the Grid District lobby actually came out much better than I anticipated, but of the photos outside, one really stood out in the bunch: a closely cropped photo of the four winners with Cote at the center, and this amazing bright smile on her face.

Erika Sidor
Aylward was initially uncomfortable being the center of attention in the photo, but he settled into the role nicely after a few minutes.

I knew this photo wouldn't fit with the other 10 groups we were putting together for the 40 Under Forty issue, but on Cote's face was this amazing expression exuding the sheer joy of being an award winner. Although the photo could have been any four people in any random location, the image – because of Cote – was very uplifting.

Ultimately, I decided not to use that photo, although it was the hardest call of all 11 photo shoots. One of the photos inside The Grid District had the four winners playfully sitting on this indoor picnic table, with round lamps hanging from the ceiling and the coffee shop in the background.

That is the photo we went with for the publication, because even though I felt in the moment like the shoot wasn't going well, the results did not reflect my feelings.

- Brad Kane, editor

Meet the entire WBJ 40 Under Forty Class of 2017

Asmar N. Akman – Akman Enterprises Inc.

Brendan Aylward – Unified Health and Performance

Greta Bajrami Campoverde – Golden Group Construction Corp.

Kathryn Behan – UMass Memorial Healthcare

Heather Belair – Bay State Savings Bank

Neil Callahan – R.H. White Construction

Michelle L. Cote, Esq. – Law Offices of Richard S. Ravosa

Julianne Dahrooge – Chan & Dahrooge Financial Group, LLC

Patrick J. DiGregorio – Veterans Inc.

Justin Dufresne – VHB, Inc.

Courtney Ross Escobar – Doucette & LaRose, LLC

Robert Fecteau – BirchTree Bread Co.

Hilary Gardner – The Davis Cos.

Ashleigh C. Gelinas, Esq. – Gelinas & Ward, LLP

Avra Hoffman – BirchTree Bread Co.

Maryann C. Johnson – Oak Hill CDC

Kevin G. Johnson – O'Connor, Maloney & Company, P.C.

Heather Mangione – United Way of Central Massachusetts

Jay Merrill – Clifford & Rano Associates

Meghan E. Montaner – The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

Edward Murphy – Baystate Investment Fund

Joy Rachelle Murrieta – Main IDEA

Dr. Milka Njoroge, PharmD – Century Homecare, LLC

Jim Notaro – Fidelity Bank

Andrew B. Palumbo – Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Kevin Peterssen – United Bank

John T. Pitcavage – Endless Energy

Julia Randall, M.D. – Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center

Keith Reardon – Commonwealth Consulting Group, LLC

Giselle Rivera-Flores – The Learning Hub & IgWorcesterMA

Patrick T. Royce – UniBank

Jamie Salois – Atlas Distributing

Lindiana Semidei – Raices Latin Dance

Jody Staruk – Consigli Construction Co., Inc.

Francisco Torres – Town of Westborough

Abel Travis – Hanover Insurance Group

Elizabeth Tripp – Hanover Insurance Group

Alexis G. Vallejos – Columbia Tech

David Viens – Bowditch & Dewey, LLP

Ryan A. Wagner – Robert Fine & Associates

Meet this year's judges

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