Besides commercial photography, I still have a taste for photojournalism, where my roots are. Sunday, I took a day rate for the Houston Chronicle to get rain features. It turned into covering a roof collapse at a southwest Houston apartment complex that morning. Here's what I saw:
Craig and Margaret Agnew, a defensive coordinator for the football team and a teacher, respectively, helped raise New England Patriot's first-round draft pick defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Brown grew up in Brenham and attended high school there, but originally lived 20 miles away until the Agnew family took him under their wing.
A Globe photo editor asked if I could photograph the couple who were mentors to Brown. I was also asked to photograph the school's head coach Glen West. On the logistical side, it was definitely good to have called the Agnew's ahead of time and schedule outside the confines of the photo assignment. Unbeknownst to myself or the photo editor, the reporter was having everyone meet at a restaurant - not really the most relevant environment for a portrait. Both coaches and Margaret were able to meet me at the school and stadium where I was able to make some portraits I was happy with.
Technical portraits, documentary photojournalism, illustration - the latest issue of Conquest Magazine put me to the test.
I met Meisha Brown, who was treated at the center as a child and is now a cancer advocate pursuing a Ph.D. in health education, studying chronic disease and health disparites research at Texas A&M University. She hopes one day to be an MD Anderson scientist working with other cancer patients who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I did an on-location shoot with a patient who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at 21, a much younger age than the usual age range for diagnosis.
I lit up Dr. Sam Hanash who has made it his mission to find a way to detect lung cancer in its earliest stage, when it’s still curable.
My favorite by far, though, had to be the Little Yogis, a program for young cancer patients to practice stretching and breathing techniques.
The excellent design is by Blue C Studios. Editing by Andy Olin.
It was dumb luck that I was able to pick up an assignment recently that fit in with an ongoing project I'm shooting on the Keystone XL pipeline. The National Post of Canada asked me to tag along with a reporter to visit TransCanada's Keystone XL terminal facility they are building 30 minutes east of Houston in an area brimming with petrochemical refineries.
I was really happy with the photo play. This is the biggest I've seen my photos play in print in a while and is most likely my first ever broadsheet double-truck. Sweet stuff, indeed.
Shooting a portrait about cybersecurity for The Wall Street Journal, I had spontaneous inspiration to purchase a chain and pad lock 15 minutes before the shoot and to have the subject stand behind a chain-wrapped computer monitor. Of course I also shot the portrait without the chain, which is what eventually ran in today's Wall Street Journal. Nonetheless, my computer monitor in bondage lives on here, at my blog. Enjoy.
Mark Stefanik of Advantage Benefit Solutions was hit by ransomware when his computer files were locked by a cybercriminal. Stefanik paid $400 ransom to unencrypt his data.
I'm proud to share some tear sheets from the 2014 M. D. Anderson Cancer Center annual report. It's been a great experience working with them and I continue to shoot for the research institution for their quarterly publication, Conquest Magazine.
Rosemary Kilmurry, 93, in her living room near Atkinson, NE. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would cut through her property.
"A Kindred Healthcare Inc. hospital in Houston discharged 79-year-old Ronald Beard to a nursing home after 23 days of treatment for complications of knee surgery.
The timing of his release didn’t appear to correspond with any improvement in his condition, according to family members. But it did boost how much money the hospital got." - WSJ
I photographed the widow of Ronald Beard, Barbara, with a sizable stack of paperwork related to her husband's hospitalization and resulting conflict with Medicare. The story can be read here.
I was pretty happy with a photo I made of Dominican nun Sister Anna Nguyen for the Houston Chronicle. It ran on this morning's Sunday front page.
The discovery of tearsheets of my work with Arcade Fire continues with this double truck photo of their first performance for Reflektor in October 2013 in Bushwick (aka East Williamsburg, don't get me started), Brooklyn, New York in the January 2014 issue of Q Magazine, a British music publication.
They began the evening in jest on a side stage with giant paper maché heads, and continued with a surprise performance by the full band on the main stage, which was hidden behind a heavy black curtain held with velcro.
For two weeks in October 2013, I was living the dream as a photographer for the band Arcade Fire as they played a series of warm-up shows for their Reflektor tour in New York City, Miami and Los Angeles. During our time in Miami, we produced a portrait shoot at a Haitian restaurant called Tap Tap, which has lovely paintings inside and great natural light. The images below made it into print in Metro, a British newspaper based in London. The shoot was produced on 800 ASA Porta 35mm film using natural light.
I had a last minute assignment for The Wall Street Journal yesterday - a story about how small business owners are dropping their insurance as more of their employees choose plans provided by the Affordable Care Act. Owner Blake Meaux had a lot of beautiful cars to choose from, but with the overcast sky, this gray 1957 Chevy Bell-Air seemed like the perfect choice. A cropped version of the first photo ran on page B5 of today's WSJ.
Recently I shot a couple of portraits for a new client that I'm happy to share. Giulio Draettta, Ph.D, M.D., a professor in molecular and cellular oncology and Andy Futreal, Ph.D., professor in genomic medicine, are both part of the Moon Shots program at M. D. Anderson. The goal of the program is to accelerate both research and practical application of the most current cancer treatments possible. The program researchers are targeting eight cancers: acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), melanoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and triple-negative breast and ovarian cancers.
By a fluke of circumstance, I happened to be in St. Louis during some of the protests happening in Ferguson, Missouri. My family had been on vacation for the prior two weeks with my in-laws. My father-in-law wanted a nice family portrait that I was to be included in. Normally when I go on vacation, I travel very light camera-wise, usually taking only a body and lens and a laptop. This time, however, I decided to bring my whole kit since it would be easier to have all the necessary equipment on-hand and not piecemeal and potentially forget something crucial.
My wife, a health and science reporter, was to attend a fellowship in Columbia, Missouri immediately following our vacation. She's a St. Louis native, so the plan was for her to go to Mizzou while I stayed behind with our daughter so she could get extra time for a week with her grandparents.
While we were on vacation, I could see that things were really heating up 20 minutes from my in-laws home in St. Louis. I thought to myself that surely things will have cooled down by the time I got there. When we eventually arrived in St. Louis, my wife took off for Columbia and I called a family friend to come by and watch our daughter (my in-laws weren't back yet) while I went to explore the situation in Ferguson. I naively told the family friend that I expected to be back in an hour or so and that at this point, it was probably just going to be people marching up and down W. Florissant Avenue, holding signs and marching. I even opted to only bring a little film camera I own. I figured I'll experiment and then go home.
What I didn't realize was that things were far from calm. While things were peaceful enough when I got there, they deteriorated within about an hour and a half. The word on the street was that some people had decided to march toward the police command center about a half-mile from where many protestors and media were stationed. The next thing I knew, canisters of tear gas, smoke bombs, flash-bang grenades and lastly, rubber bullets, came flying down the street.
I found a gaggle of other photojournalists to group up with, most of them decked out in gear that I didn't have - tactical helmets, gas masks and flak jackets. I was standing on the curb trying to frame up a shot when I felt something hit my arm and it hurt like a thousand expletives. I instantly recoiled and ran back, zig-zagging, into a parking lot. I thought to myself "Holy sh*t! What the hell was THAT?" My arm started swelling up immediately. I was full of adrenaline and kept trying to make pictures, armed with a film camera with 400 speed film pushed to 3200 and one 35mm prime lens. It felt like futility. The cops kept pushing everyone back and their approach was overwhelming. As I came within about 500 yards from my car, I heard shattering glass. Groups of men were starting to loot a Papa John's Pizza on one side of the road and a pharmacy on the side of the road I was on. I looked around and noticed I was the only media left at this point and that things were getting very, very hairy. I made it back to my car, but only after being faced down by an approaching armored vehicle surrounded by soldier-y looking men with flashlights on their rifles, approaching my general vicinity. Hands up, I crab-walked away from them, made it to my car and then headed out when there was a break in the rush of people running by.
The next day, I made phone calls around town to find out about purchasing at the very least, a tactical helmet and hopefully a gas mask. The first place I called said they had sold out of helmets after last night's melee. Another place said they only had four helmets and were holding them for CNN. After what could be a whole other blog post just about getting last minute protective riot gear, I came away with a very used kevlar helmet and a Serbian gas mask with a dried out filter element. Still not on assignment for anyone, I went out the next night to try again, this time with my digital gear. The night was intense, but not as intense as the prior night. There was some tear gas used (hence discovering that the filter element in my Serbian gas mask was compromised) but by the time I got to where some shooting at the police had taken place, things had calmed down, at least by the strange standards of the protests.
The next day, I was contacted by friend and NPR supervising editor Kainaz Amaria asking if I'd like to shoot a two-day assignment for Gene Demby, who runs the Code Switch blog at NPR. The interesting element is that she was looking for photos that showed a sense of place and not so interested in protest pictures, images of which had already saturated the media. I was very game and spent the next two days with Gene going off the beaten path throughout Ferguson, not just the scenes of the protest but neighborhoods and the downtown area.
It was good to get away from the protests and explore Ferguson from another perspective. It was definitely work that was in my wheel-house and Kainaz's great editing helped focus my efforts. You can check out the final product at Code Switch here. Some of my favorite images from the assignment are below.
I enjoyed a recent last minute assignment from Texas Monthly to shoot for the September 2014 issue dining guide. It's the most real estate I've had in the magazine to date. Below is the page and one of my favorite images from the outtakes.
Not everyone has big dreams of going to college. Some cut to the chase and learn practical skills to get started earning as soon as possible. One example is welder Anthony Solis, 19, who is a welder working in Houston. I was assigned by the Wall Street Journal to photograph Solis against a grey background. The example page the editor sent was shot by extraordinary photographer Spencer Heyfron and was told to match the style as closely as possible. Heyfron's images are pretty spectacular so I knew I had my work cut out for me. An issue I've been trying to work out recently has been catchlights in the eyes. After some online research, I decided to use a gridded beauty dish on a boom directly over and above Solis, and pop a shoot-through umbrella to his left just to add a tiny bit of fill and put a nice light in his eyes. I was happy with the result and am especially excited about the huge photo play on the front of the WSJ's weekend Review section.
Below are a few of my favorite outtakes as well as the image that ran and the tear sheet.
Rising country musician Mary Sarah joined me on the roof of the Houston Chronicle parking garage, as well as the paper's decommissioned loading dock, to make some portraits for a feature about her new release. Sarah has joined forces with the likes of Dolly Parton and the Oak Ridge Boys recently and her new album appears to be building a lot of steam. She was great to work with and was game to break away from the photography studio at the paper and shoot outdoors, even in the heat of mid-summer Houston. Yee-haw!
A shoot for Monitor on Psychology introduced me to Sharon A. Croisant, PhD, a researcher studying the epidemiology of fishermen affected by the mental health effects of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, among others.
From the cleanhouston.org website: "Croisant is a specialist in translational research. She describes this approach as “taking science from the lab to the bedside, and to the curbside”: The information gained in the research lab enhances patient care, and is used to understand and prevent disease in the community. Croisant currently is working with a consortium of researchers from four universities and community groups on the GC-HARMS study to understand the impact of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill on the safety of Gulf seafood and the health effects for those who consume it."
The editor wanted something "gritty." Thankfully, a retired oil rig sits near a dock two minutes from her office, and she agreed to meet me just before dusk. Using a Quantum flash with a soft box attachment, I was able to use the small light source to illuminate only her face and let the background take care of itself.
I love photographing musicians because they're open to just about anything. It's not that this shoot was so wild and crazy, but Patrice was happy to share in a moment of innocent mischeviousness when I asked her to get on top of the bar. Below are a couple of my favorite shots from the session.