Blog

Recent Assignments: Portraiture for TakePart.com

This week I completed an assignment for TakePart.com, an online news organization based in Los Angeles. The story deals with the difficulty of reversing drug convictions later found to be based on faulty evidence in Harris County (Houston), Texas.

Harris County has a high rate of these drug exonerations because of the actions of Inger Chandler, chief of the Conviction Review Section at the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Along with Harris County Assistant Public Defender Nicolas Hughes, both are working to get a backlog of drug tests resolved and up-to-date, along with helping to speed up the process of reversing convictions.

 

The story is a great read. Check it out here.

Inger Chandler, chief of the Conviction Review Section at the Harris County District Attorney's Office

Harris County Assistant Public Defender Nicolas Hughes

Not arguing, just chatting.

Dr. William "Billy" Cohn, Cardiothoracic surgeon and medical device innovator

The first time I met Dr. William Cohn was on an assignment for the local newspaper. Jovial and charming, I was amazed not only by his curriculum vitae (Professor of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine plus five other prestigious directorships) but his genius for medical innovation as well. One of the last proteges of cardiology pioneer Dr. Denton Cooley, Dr. Cohn has 80 active or pending patents for his inventions and is the founder or co-founder of five venture-backed life science startups. Did I mention he also plays trombone in a blues band? That one of his inventions is an artificial heart that is pulseless and runs on turbines?

Dr. Cohn works out his ideas by building models in his garage and in a basement lab space at the Texas Heart Institute, where the below portrait was made. He uses expired medical devices, wood, and plastic to build models of his ideas.

I thought making of portrait of Dr. Cohn in the room where much of these expired medical devices are stored would be cool. In hindsight, I might have gone with a cleaner background, especially for viewers (usually outside of Houston) who may not be familiar with Dr. Cohn and his techniques.

The heart in the photo is real. The veins and arteries were filled with a plasticizer and then the organ was placed in a tub of sodium hydroxide to dissolve any surrounding flesh.

I was originally going to have Dr. Cohn hold the heart, but, genius that he is, Dr. Cohn suggested hanging it from the ceiling using surgical thread (easy enough to get rid of in post-production). With the help of my sturdy assistant Michael Klein and a very open schedule by Dr. Cohn, we were able to pull off an image that I hope conveys some of Dr. Cohn's fun-loving spirit.


Cover shoot: Conquest Magazine for MD Anderson Cancer Center

I'm jazzed to have the cover of the beautifully designed Conquest Magazine for MD Anderson Cancer Center. The magazine is sent to major donors to encourage giving to the institution.

 

The cover shoot didn't go as planned, but in a delightful way. The original idea was to have the subject by herself in the image. Sometime during the shoot, the subject asked if she could have a few pictures of her with her son. I gladly obliged. The designer ended up liking those photos so much, he put one of them on the cover instead of going with our original plan.

 

I remember recently finishing an arduous five day shoot that was heavily scheduled and that it was nice to photograph inside someone's home with virtually no time limit. It was refreshing to be able to squeeze in something spontaneous with about the best result possible.

Documented: Huge quench tower bottom vessel move for a Baytown, Texas petrochemical facility

One of my favorite activities is to shoot for oil and gas companies because the projects are usually large-scale. In this case, literally.

I was hired by a local petrochemical facility to document the move of a huge quench tower, used for cracking ethane into ethylene, a chemical building block for too many consumer and commercial products to list here. There are many moves like this in the building of a petrochemical facility, but this quench tower segment was the biggest move of the project.

The entire process took all night. Two drivers, one at the front and one at the rear, steered the giant, multi-wheeled vehicle that carried the tower, moving at about two miles per hour.

After three rain delays, a small army of people and the logistics and engineering of a space launch, the massive land barge rolled it's way through the night to it's final destination at the construction site.

Photojournalism: Jade Helm 15 for The Boston Globe

A story I worked on for The Boston Globe about the recent Jade Helm 15 controversy in Bastrop published today. Check out the story at the above link and tearsheets and outtakes below.

Photojournalism: Rockport Apartments Roof Collapse for the Houston Chronicle

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 for The Boston Globe

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.


Spring 2015 Conquest Magazine for MD Anderson

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.

TransCanada Keystone XL Terminal facility for the National Post

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.


Mark Stefanik for The Wall Street Journal

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. 

2014 M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Annual Report

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.

We had to ditch the beauty dish shortly after the shoot began since the Alien Bees vagabond battery decided to give out at that very moment. We used a backup Quantum Flash instead.

Our brave subject and cancer survivor.

American Photography 31 selected winner

I'm honored to announce one of my images from my Keystone XL project has been selected for inclusion in the prestigious American Photo 31 annual award book, to be published in November 2015.

From 9,376 pictures entered by 904 photographers, magazines, agencies, publishers and schools, the jury selected, by a majority vote or better, only 328 images to appear in the book and represent the best pictures from 2014. - AI/AP

Rosemary Kilmurry, 93, in her living room near Atkinson, NE. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would cut through her property.

Hospital Discharges Rise at Lucrative Times for The Wall Street Journal

"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.

Barbara Beard by a stack of paperwork connected to her dispute with medical providers Feb. 5, 2014 in Katy, TX. Beard's husband was discharged from a long-term hospital after a 23 day stay to rehab following a botched knee surgery, and later died.

 

Arcade Fire tearsheet from January 2014 issue of Q Magazine

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.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Reflektors!

Win serenades the crowd.

Arcade Fire for Metro

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.

One of me by the band during the shoot.

Mo' Muscle Cars for The Wall Street Journal

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. 

Conquest Magazine for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

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. 

Giulio Draettta, Ph.D, M.D

Andy Futreal, Ph.D.