Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sherron Watkins, 14 years later

Last month I had the opportunity to photograph Sherron Watkins speak at George Mason University.  Sherron Watkins is known as the whistelblower of the Enron Scandal, which happened 14 years ago this month.  I don't suppose corporate malfeasance started with Enron, but it sure feels like it.  Since then we've had the recession, and countless numbers of corporate shenanigans.

Knowing I had a chance to photograph someone who participated in something so historic, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to shoot a portrait.  We all worked out the particulars, and I assured Sherron that I'd be ready for her and we'd take 10-15 minutes of her time.

For a larger selection of portraits, visit my photoshelter gallery, here.

Watkins has been touring and giving speeches for years, now.  I thought the most interesting observation she made was comparing the leadership of Enron to the fable, The Emperor's New Clothes. Those that did speak up, Watkins admits that there were several people who raised red flags, were quickly brushed aside.  So up and up the ladder the buck is passed.  Eventually you're left with a scandal.

It was an interesting talk, that I felt priveleged to listen to.  But even better, I could make some portraits of someone who was at the center of a defining moment in Corporate US History.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Lessons in Holding on to Your Pictures

I recently received an email request from New York Magazine regarding a portrait I took of Dan Backer.  It was a little surprising, if only because the picture they were thinking of was one I did of Dan 4 years ago.  He and his wife are personal friends of ours.  In 2011, I was a staff photographer at the News & Messenger and working on getting better at portraits and specifically business-style portraits.  So we agreed to meet up.  He needed professional portraits, I needed to practice, so we met up and spent a little time doing some portraits.  He's still using those portraits.  Which is how NYMag found me.
Shot in Dan's apartment, 2011.  NYMag eventually selected this one for their article.
I contacted Dan and we met up quickly on a Saturday morning before one of his meetings and we did a little refresher session.  NYMag ended up going with the one I did 4 years ago, but that's ok.  I have more portraits.  And so does Dan.  It's a good lesson in hanging on to your work, because you don't know who will come looking for you.


On the mean streets of Old Town Alexandria, VA.  2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Save Oak Flat

I don't usually use this blog to talk about causes, but two days ago I became aware of one of the more perplexing land swaps in U.S. history.  Perhaps for the first time ever, the U.S. Government is attempting to transfer sacred Native American land into the hands of a private foreign interest.  How?  Why?  Maybe we should follow the money.

The pictures are from the demonstrations held on the U.S. Capitol lawn yesterday.  These are the San Carlos Apache and their supporters. To see a full edit, check my gallery here:


Carrie Sage Curley, San Carlos Apache, dances to music played by fellow members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

In December of 2014, as we drew near another shutdown, the Defense Authorization Act was passed in Congress and at the last minute, a rider was slipped in...


Buried on page 1,105 is a land transfer of 2,400 acres of Tonto National Forest in AZ which includes Apache ancestral medicinal, ceremonial and burial grounds to Resolution Copper.  This land transfer was tried twice before in the House and failed.  Naturally, with any bad legislation that makes a few people very rich, there's no reason not to sneak it in by any other means possible.  They found that way by doing it at the 11th hour on the back of a must-pass defense authorization bill.  We should thank Arizona Sens. McCain and Flake.


The argument they make is about jobs, naturally.  And technically, this land is "Public Land".  Oak Flat is just beyond the reservation line in Tonto National Forest.  But the agreement has always been about "allowing" Apaches to return to their ancestral land to conduct ceremonies and rituals.  Let's forget for the moment the actual concept of Apache land not being in their possession to begin with.  At what point is it even relevant to talk about jobs when the way to get there is to destroy land that is culturally significant to indigenous people?  And by destroying this land you are, by proxy, destroying a people.  This is their sacred land.  They have coming-of-age-ceremonies here for women.  No one would ever consider selling off the Mt. Sinai if there were some metal to be dug up from underneath.  No one would consider demolishing Mecca, if they thought they could get some more oil out of the ground.  Why does it make any sense to steal the land from people?  The only answer, of course, is that these are Native Americans.  They are impoverished and small in number.  It's too easy.  Hell, we've been doing it for 400 years, why stop now?
Sandra Rambler, makes her way to the Protect Oak Flat demonstrations at the U.S. Capitol.

Aside from the disputable jobs/money figures Resolution Copper puts forth, the better question is to ask what right they have to take land that the Apache's would never had any intention of selling for the right to completely decimate the landscape and line their pockets?  In case you aren't sure, the particular brand of mining would hollow out the land, allowing erosion to leave a 2 mile wide crater.


Baase Pike, 10, Apache, awaits the demonstrations.

It's hard to understand why anyone would think this is a good idea...unless you realize that a few people would probably stand to get very wealthy off of this deal.  It's the only way to make sense of it.

Wendsler Nosie, Sr, tribal councilman, speaks to fellow members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and their supporters in front of the United States Capitol to protest the transfer of Apache land to a private Australian-British mining corporation


Either way, the Apache naturally didn't stand pat.  Aside from starting their own form of "Occupy Oak Flat" movement, they came to Washington to protest the land grab.  Another AZ representative, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3), introduced H.R. 2811, which would repeal the land grab.


Carrie Sage Curley, San Carlos Apache, watches Wendsler Nosie, Sr, tribal councilman, speak to fellow members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and their supporters in front of the United States Capitol.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Shooting as a Generalist

I am a "generalist", as they say.  In some circles this might be the kiss of death.  Often the advice is to specialize and market the heck out that one thing you do really well. 

But as someone who cut their teeth as a photojournalist at community newspapers, I rapidly found  that I enjoy doing different things.  The mix helps keep me fresh, and engaged alowing me to always be thinking about how to do something better.

Even though I consider myself a generalist, I do tilt toward the editorial and portrait world.  So when I shoot other things like events, conferences, often I think about how I would shoot this if it were an assignment instead of a commissioned job for a corporate client.  The dilemma as a generalist is keeping my portfolio up to date.  So I'm always looking out for the moments that might work for the client and for my portfolio.

Here are some of the best of those from the past couple months:
...during a video shoot.  Just checking light and looking for a good angle for this Benedictine Sister in Bristow, VA

...on vacation in Puerto Rico.  We sat down for lunch and mojitos.  I decided I had to take her picture after seeing the beautiful light in front of the restaurant in Old San Juan.
...I covered a few events for Rodney Choice and I saw these moments.  Here is the Mayor of Memphis just chatting with some nice window light.  Thanks Rodney!

...What's better than a mechanical bull?  Being able to shoot from above a mechanical bull...

...shooting inside Senator Chuck Grassley's (R-IA) office in the US Capitol...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Photographing Jess and Patrick in the Aftermath of the Boston Bombings

I had the distinct honor of photographing Jessica and Patrick for The Boston Globe in December for a story that ran in late January (see the story here), who happened to be victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Both had lost their left legs as they watched the marathon.  Jessica, at the time of the assignment, had been considering amputating her right foot, due to the pain and continued rehabilitation/recovery. 

Ran with story, here
Initially, the idea was that I would accompany her on a visit to the doctors and therapists at Walter Reed.  When that idea fell through (permissions, especially when it's close to the holidays are especially difficult to come by).  So the best we could do was meet in front of the NIH metro stop and shoot for about 30 mins. 

The initial story (a year after the bombings) is here, and you should read this one and the one that ran in January, because Eric did a great job following this story over the years.

When the job is to capture the essence of a complicated story, both tragic and amazing, it's pretty tough to succeed on any deep level as a photographer.  Essentially, I regarded this story as a love story.  After 20 minutes, we all laughed together, because it almost felt like an engagement shoot.  And maybe it was in the sense that they were starting their lives anew.  They were perfectly pleasant and wonderful people to meet.  You'd never know what they had to go through. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Outtakes from a portrait assignment

A few weeks ago I applied for a staff position at the Boston Globe.  I did not get it.  Staff jobs, especially ones at greatly respected papers that win Pulitzers, are very hard to come by.  However, they contacted me about freelancing for them in DC, which is the next best thing.  You never know who is going to see your work and find a reason to get in touch.

Then on Halloween I received a call from one of their photo editors (Yes, they have more than one!) about a portrait they needed that day in Washington. They were doing a story on millennials and their impact (or lack thereof) on the upcoming elections.  The subject was a pleasant 18 year old intern at the Hart Senate Office bldg who happened to be from the Boston area.  The assignment was fairly open ended.  They had interviewed the student and had quotes to use, like this one:

“If you ask any number of my friends, they don’t even know how to apply for an absentee ballot or that you even could,” said Suren Nannapaneni, an 18-year-old sophomore at GWU.

This is what ran with the story:

The outtakes:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Miss Rodeo Virginia at the County Fair

I really had a plan to attend the Prince William County Fair for a few days and get some good pictures.  August often is a slow month so I thought it'd be perfect to spend some open days shooting on my own.  Then I lost my phone.  Then my car broke down, then I got busy with work. 
I did, however spend 1 morning (with Catherine and Lawrence Deeds of Skyline Farm in Orange, VA) and one evening (roaming) there.  Here are some of my favorites.

 One of the first things I did, when I had a free night was go to the rodeo.  Then I saw Missy.  So we talked and I figured I had to get a picture of her, and she was very cooperative.  So was the light.
Melissa McMullan, Miss Rodeo Virginia 2014, of Ft. Valley, VA, stands with her horse, Sarah, during the Dave Martin Rodeo.  McMullan represents Virginia regionally and nationally, while promoting "rodeos and the western lifestyle" in Virginia. 

A child shooting bubbles, next to a food booth with nice light and a ferris wheel background.  You have to stop and take a picture at this point...

This is Catherine and Lawrence Deeds unloading their goats for the Fair.  They were very nice, and didn't mind at all that I followed them around for a couple hours.  I would've been annoyed by me at that point.

There is a surprising amount of paperwork that goes into registering your goats for contests.