In March 2013, I was commissioned to shoot the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for a fledgling magazine that was set to launch in Houston called "Houstonia." They knew ahead of time they needed images and stories from the 2013 rodeo for their first rodeo issue in 2014. Needless to say, I was very happy to discover a year later that one of my images from the saddle bronc competition was used for the cover. Yee-haw!
Last month, I photographed Houston resident Johnny Burchett for The Wall Street Journal for a story on outplacement services, which are sometimes offered to former employees after they're laid off. According to the story, outplacement services are now "under pressure". I was asked to photograph Mr. Burchett in his home office. Once that was finished, I noticed a very comfy bird's nest chair by a window. I'm very happy the WSJ chose a more non-literal image to run with the story.
A shoot I recently completed for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Grad students at the University of Houston had a sit-in in the president's office last April. Ashley Wurzbacher, Kay Cosgrove and Jameelah Lang, PhD students in creative writing, were some of the participants who organized a sit-in at the University of Houston last April that led to a big increase – 55 percent – in PhD stipend amounts in the English department. Being anxious and wanting to employ a bit of stealth during the sit-in, the students used the stairwell, where they are posing, to get to the president's office rather than use the elevator. Link to story here.
A couple of months ago, I was fortunate to complete my first assignment for Fortune Magazine. The assignment was to photograph Tom Bastian, who manages the Invesco Equity and Income Fund.
I had great backend support from a photo editor at Fortune, Michele Taylor. We discussed options and even location snaps I made before the shoot. It was great knowing that at least the background environments were approved before I even began. We shot in what is probably the biggest boardroom I've ever seen but in the end, went with a couch on the periphery that had a nice, mirrored grid as a background, courtesy of the building next door.
Last Friday, I was at Los Angeles International airport to fly back to Houston after a two-week dream assignment following and photographing an internationally popular rock band (blog post TBD). The show the prior night was insanely good, plus it was Halloween. With two weeks of travel and shooting behind me and three hours of sleep the night before, I was looking forward to chilling out, reading and dozing on my way back home. As I waited at my gate, a group of TSA agents walked into the area, calmly, and announced we were to evacuate the terminal.
My first thought was that there must have been a fire alarm somewhere. However, I didn't hear or see any alarms. Once on the tarmac, I noticed three news helicopters hovering above the airport and knew that something bad had probably gone down. I later discovered a man, Paul Anthony Ciancia, had shot a TSA officer and wounded many others. He was eventually shot and transported to a hospital.
Meanwhile, myself and my fellow passengers were escorted onto the tarmac and eventually moved to an international terminal to wait until the airport was cleared. I moved a couple of photos to twitter, not really expecting the deluge that followed - lots of retweeting and requests from news organizations for licensing permission. One of my panoramic images was used on Fox News and countless other websites.
Although my professional gear was packed away, I knew it was only a matter of time that I would be compelled to break it out and put on my photojournalist hat. I ended up shooting some exclusive photos for one of my best clients, the Houston Chronicle.
We stayed in the international terminal for what felt like forever, but in actuality was only a few hours. I eventually made it home at 1am the following morning.
A longer edit of the images can be seen here.
In the United States' fourth largest city, emergency management is crucial. Emergency Management magazine recently published a profile on Francisco Sanchez, the liaison for Harris County Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Having shot at the TranStar facility before, I already knew what the interior looked like and what to expect. Wanting to do something different, I suggested we go to the roof of the building. I saw a nice bank of clouds from an approaching cold front I knew would make a good foreboding background, and my gut was telling me the roof was likely filled with antennas, which it was. Having been photographed many times before, Francisco told me this was the first time anyone had suggested photographing on the roof. Once I knew I had a decent shot, I showed him the back of the camera and he was as pleased as I was.
I don't typically post protest photos, simply because often times, it's just people standing around holding signs - not exactly exciting stuff. Yesterday, however, offered something I've never experienced in my career: a crowd of hundreds, expressing their frustration at the Trayvon Martin verdict, marched and then shut down a major Houston freeway for about 15 minutes or so. Interestingly, the police never really showed up en masse. A couple of squad cars arrived and parked on the overpass, but in the end, a rainstorm blew in and with it, the demonstration was over.
I had the recent pleasure of photographing self-made millionaire Carla Lane, who started and operates her own staffing agency in Houston, for Ebony magazine. The idea put forth by the photo editor (Dudley Brooks, formerly of the Washington Post, no less) was to show the subject with whatever it happened to be the subject's favorite thing to spend their money on. In Carla's case, it was a massive designer shoe collection. She was very accommodating, allowing me to take a large portion of her shoe collection, arrange it in her foyer, and then have her lie down on the floor.
For a story about mental health in African-American communities, I was assigned by the Washington Post to photograph Jinneh Dyson. Dyson, currently a senior manager for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, used to suffer from depression. You can read the story in the Post here.
Billboards started popping up around Houston about a month or so ago proclaiming 9 acres of guns and related paraphernalia would be at the George R. Brown Center courtesy of the National Rifle Association's annual shindig. I contacted a few regular clients to see how they were set for coverage and I had a positive response from The New York Times for three days of coverage, Thursday through Saturday.
It was an enchanting experience to say the least. Every kind of configuration of gun was to be had - big guns, little guns, short and long. There was also a litany of conservative speakers that required coverage for most of Friday touting the threat of gun seizure and a constant barrage of demonizing the media. The paradox, of course, is that they were more than happy and accommodating to have us there to cover their events and speakers. If they hate us so much, why invite us in the first place? I suppose a party just isn't festive unless someone brings the piñata.
The coup de grace was during my coverage of the protest across the street. A man walked quickly past, took one look at my credential, pointed his finger at me and stated "You're the enemy!" I suppose in his eyes I was, even though he was more interested in name-calling than in actual dialogue. As I tried to engage him, he just kept double-timing it back to his car, evil media insulted, mission accomplished.
The New York Times story is here.
A cute shot from this past weekend for the Houston Chronicle: Tyler Reed, 11, pantomimes playing saxophone along with the University of Houston's Spirit of Houston Marching Band as they play April 20, 2013 in Houston at Discovery Green. The University of Houston's Spirit of Houston Marching Band played a four-hour performance. They performed a work titled "En Masse" by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, who is doing a two-year residency at UH's Mitchell Center for the Arts. Saturday's concert featured about 150 members of the band as well as Roumain, who plays the violin.[gallery link="file"]
My most recent shoot for The Wall Street Journal was for a story about a Houston endocrinologist who specializes in helping athletes optimize their hormone levels. The story behind this shoot is at first harrowing. I typically arrive early to very early for shoots. I like to be prepared by having time to scout and figure out a strategy for making the best images. I remember the weather was absolutely beautiful and I was to meet Dr. Brown at his office at 4:15pm. Unfortunately, Houston traffic can be quite capricious. Even after leaving for the assignment early, I sat in traffic for almost an hour and a half, arriving at the shoot almost 45 minutes behind schedule. Thankfully, Dr. Brown was a very gracious host and a very giving subject. Things actually worked out for the best - there were no patients in the office to work around and Dr. Brown was willing to go anywhere or do anything. Conversation was lively and he even shared a delicious piece of his chocolate covered matzo from a recent Passover Sedar. Another happy accident about being tardy to the assignment was that the angle of the sun started to get low enough to pull off the first photo, my favorite of the take. There's no artificial light, just a gold reflector on a stand. Sometimes things work out for the best. The Journal ended up using the second photo, likely because it illustrates most succinctly Dr. Brown's relationship with Olympic track star Carl Lewis.
Last month I had the opportunity to shoot for a trade magazine, Golf Business magazine. The art director told me they consider the book more of a business magazine than a golf magazine and that I should treat the shoot as such. I photographed the general manager of Moody Gardens Golf Course Bill Pushak. We tried a few different locations around the course, but finally settled on a grey and black runway strip of tile in the banquet hall. It had a nice pattern, offered plenty of room to work with and would make an interesting background (not to mention winds were gusting up to 30 mph on the course, making things really tricky for outdoor lighting). I'm really impressed with how they incorporated the tiles into the headline of the article – "Blurred Lines: In Pricing, Nothing's Simply Black or White".
Beginning in October of 2012, I started shooting a story for The New York Times of a woman who needed a lung transplant. The only caveat was that as a Jehovah's Witness, she was not allowed to receive transfused blood products as part of the procedure. While "bloodless" transplants are common enough, the first one being done in the mid-1990's, they can actually be considered a better bet for the patient since there can be less complications in recovery since it's one less factor to worry about before, during and after surgery. The first two assignments were easy enough as far as meeting and photographing the subject, Georgia resident Rebecca Tomczak, as she went through a complete diagnostic battery of tests and also a through a day in her life as she stayed with a host Jehovah's Witness family and a brief visit to a potential apartment complex she was thinking about moving into. The last part of the assignment, being ready when a donor organ was available, was more of a challenge. The call finally came January 30, 2013 from the reporter, Kevin Sack, to tell me an organ had been found and would be delivered to Houston as soon as possible. After speaking with the public affairs person at Methodist Hospital, it was decided it would be best if I got to the hospital at 4am to be ready for surgery. Once things were in place, the surgery seemed to move along quicker than I expected, less than half a day. Meanwhile, I was able to witness the miracle of organ transplantation from a front row seat in the operating room. [gallery ids="2158,2153,2155,2154,2157,2159,2160,2156,2162,2161,2164,2165,2166"]
I had to opportunity to tour a prison recently for The Wall Street Journal. I went to the Central Unit, a prison farm complex in Sugar Land, Texas that has been decommissioned. You can check out the slideshow here. A couple of my favorite photos are below. Even after being gutted, the place still had a menace to it. It wasn't any place I'd want to spend any part of my life in. Texas prisons don't have air conditioning and the place was infested with mold. With crime dropping, fewer tough-on-drugs laws that incarcerate non-violent offenders and less harsh sentences, the prison boom has begun to fizzle out.
Needed to find a feature yesterday for the Houston Chronicle so I found a cheerleading competition at the Reliant Center. Here's a few of my favorites:[gallery ids="2132,2133,2134,2135"]
Last month I had the opportunity to photograph Dr. Jeffrey Starke, a researcher at the Baylor College of Medicine for an interesting article about unnecessary cancer screening tests. The reproduction looks great, as it usually does in magazines.
A foggy morning in Houston last Sunday helped me produce the couple of images below[gallery ids="2109,2110"]
One of the scariest, most horrifying experiences I can think of - being incarcerated for a crime I did not commit - is explored by Houston Chronicle photojournalist Billy Smith in a project he worked on for over a year with the help of editor Smiley Pool and director of photography Steve Gonzales. If you live in Houston, be sure to grab a copy of today's paper to see the presentation in a advertisement-free 16-page tabloid with written story by Tony Freemantle. Click on the link here to see the online presentation.