A Midwestern Holiday

Photography: Road trip photos of Missouri

I married into a family that has many more traditions than my family. We go to my wife's hometown of St. Louis at least three times a year, and every time I go, I add to an ongoing photo essay of St. Louis and the region. St. Louis is different in a way that is hard for an outsider like myself to describe, so I do it with images.

As some of my other personal work is about the environment and our impact on it, some of the pictures I make relate to this theme. However, I also make pictures of my in-laws and their home. It's a quiet house on a quiet street, with a quiet dignity to the area that is different than the suburbs of San Antonio I grew up in, hewed out of South Texas caliche and live oak scrub.

As we become more alike in the Age of Information, I still try to celebrate the regional differences in America that give each place it's own particular flavor.

Northern California fire coverage for The Wall Street Journal

Last week, I was called by The Wall Street Journal to shoot video and still photographs of the aftermath of the historic wildfire in Sonoma and Mendocino counties in northern California. The devastation was unlike anything I had ever witnessed.

My assignments allowed me to interact with the Monroes, whose family property in Redwood Valley, California was completely destroyed. You can read the harrowing story here.

Right-wing rally at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park

It was a busy weekend here in the Bay Area, ending with a sometimes violent rally held at at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. The event began quietly and then quickly ramped up into violence. I avoided the main scrum and stayed around the edges. However, quite a bit of activity happened where I was stationed near Allston and MLK, where I made the photos below. 13 people were arrested, but thankfully nothing happened as tragic as what took place in Charlottesville a few weeks ago. 

On Commission: Non-profit photography for Plant It Forward Farms

A recent commission to create fresh imagery for a Houston-based non-profit organization allowed me to see first-hand how refugees are being helped to establish themselves in their new country. Plant It Forward serves mainly Congolese refugees by allowing them to farm unused land in urban areas while letting participants keep all their profit. Farmers sell their fresh veggies at local farmers markets as well as farm-to-table based restaurants.

The images were used to build a new website, create print collateral and for social media publication. 

From the archives: Bull Riding School Student Portraits

I recently took time to reorganize some of my negative archives when I came across some portraits I took at a bull riding school in 2014. I remember my goal was to make a portrait of the students immediately following their first-ever ride on a bull. The students, to my surprise and initial disappointment, looked nonplussed. I wanted to see a modicum of vulnerability in their faces, but instead only saw pictures of teenagers in cowboy clothing. I scrapped the idea and moved on.

A second look this month, at least three years later, revealed there is an underlying tension in the images, for me at least. Whom of us as adolescents couldn't wait to grow up to be the archetype we most admired? In some of these images, I see some who easily slide into the role, and others have a long trail ahead of them.

In case you're interested, the images were shot with a Hasselblad 553ex and Tri-X film. Let me know what you think!



Protest coverage for the San Francisco Chronicle

Last week was busy in the Bay Area with multiple rallies and protests connected to the presidential inauguration. I was sent to cover two protests, both at or near Oakland City Hall on two separate days, for the San Francisco Chronicle.

As this was the same area that was exposed to rioting following the 2016 election, it was all-hands-on-deck. For the protest following the inauguration, photojournalists, myself included, would work in overlapping shifts that began at 7am in the morning and didn't end until 15 hours later. For those who've never experienced it, covering a large, all-day protest with the threat of possible violence in the evening required a bit of planning and mental preparation. Having covered the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, where I was shot in the arm with a "non-lethal" projectile and sucked up plenty of CS gas, I made sure my ducks were in a row: putting the flak vest and helmet into my car, as well as making sure I had a fresh respirator cartridge in my gas mask.

While covering Ferguson, I learned an important lesson. I had bought a gas mask from local Army surplus store the day after my first night of coverage where I found out just how nasty CS gas is. Like clockwork, gas came again the next night. It was only then I learned that filter cartridges have expiration dates. Whoopsy! Luckily, things didn't progress in that direction in Oakland this time around. After all was said and done, I think only three people were arrested out of a march of thousands, which I've learned is apparently very tame by Oakland standards.

By the way,  I'm totally great with tame protests. Imagine looking for moments to photograph while simultaneously keeping an eye open for anarchists looking to punch me, or grab my camera, while carrying about 30 pounds of gear following four hours of marching. It's a lot to think about.

The images I've included in this post aren't necessarily the most storytelling or dramatic, just my favorites from the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!

"The Suburbs" wins a Grammy for best recording package

Most excellent designer Caroline Roberts won tonight's Grammy awards for her design of the recording package for Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" deluxe package released in 2011. Kudos to Caroline and I thank her for her kind acknowledgment. Thanks also to the band and their associates for the opportunity to work with them. I look forward to the next time!  


New work from my Karen refugee project

I spent a few hours today working on my project on Karen refugees. I couldn't have done it without the help of a member of the Karen community who took time out of his day to introduce me to families and translate for me for the time I was there. I'm not sure how cool he is about putting his name on my blog, so for now, he'll be anonymous. I will say he's been in the United States for almost three years and besides English, knows Burmese, Karen, and some Thai. He's a pretty impressive guy. That being said, I think I made some progress as far as getting a little deeper into the community. So far everyone has been great.





Karen refugees project begins

I started on a project today on the Karen refugee community where I hope to tell the story of their daily lives here in Houston. The Karen, to my knowledge, have been emigrating to the United States in large numbers since 2008 and are repressed by the government regime in Burma/Myanmar with genocide frequently used to describe their situation. The Karen, however, are a strong, resilient people who have been in active conflict with the Burmese military government since the end of World War II. I hope to find a number of stories in this community over the following weeks and months. It's so interesting to me what stories we can find in our own backyards.  

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