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!



Babe Didrikson Zaharias (deceased) for recently published a feature on deceased sports heroes and how they still get visitors. I think my assignment was the control group, since I didn't see much evidence that the gravesite of Babe Didrikson Zaharias saw many visitors. And this is a shame. One of the first pro women golfers and 1932 Olympic gold-medal track star, the woman was a legend in her own time. She broke the gender barrier as well as world-records that still stand today. Read more about it here and check out a few images from the shoot below.

Tom Wood, Shrimp Net Repairman

I had a recent photo assignment that sent me down to Freeport, Texas, about an hour south of Houston, where I live. While the story I shot for is an important one (and will subsequently will be published this Friday), being back in Freeport brought back memories from ten years ago, when I was a staff photographer at The (Brazosport) Facts. At the time, most of what I shot was newspaper fare: car wrecks, parades, high school athlete portraits. I could sense there was a deeper narrative to the place, basically built from the ground up around World War II to help process magnesium for the war effort. From that industry sprouted dozens of chemical refineries throughout the area. This evolved side by side with the shrimping industry. While photographing the chemical refineries is something that is typically done from the side of the road (and even then, a photographer will be asked questions and have his license plate recorded by a plant security guard), the shrimp dock in Freeport is much more accessible. According to Tom Wood, of Tom's Net Shop, the canal where the shrimp boats dock used to overflow with hundreds of ships. The one shrimp processing facility, I was told, started making drastic cuts for the price it paid for shrimp, and a great deal of the shrimpers eventually started docking elsewhere. Now that there is new ownership at the processing facility, it's thought by Wood that the docks may someday revive to their former glory. I photographed Tom Wood at his net repair shop as well as a few other areas that looked compelling. I used a Hasselblad to force me to slow down and take a closer look at the area. I look forward to returning to the area soon to explore the dock and Freeport soon.






Tea Party - Better Late Than Never

During a massive cleaning of my office, I rediscovered some negatives from a self-assigned shoot to photograph a Tea Party rally in the summer of 2009 (I think) at a race track in Bay Town, Texas. Wanting to try something different, I rented a Hasselblad medium format camera and made the trek out to the rally. I seem to be attracted to the overt patriotism: flags and people dressed up as figures from American history, as well as a sense of the paranoia of a dystopian, socialist future that seems to drive much of the conversation at these events. Also to note: I shot a couple of different film stocks. One is chrome and the other was an expired batch of porta left over from grad school.[gallery]

"Scenes from the Suburbs" - Day 1

In April, 2010, I had the opportunity to shoot the behind the scenes still images for the Arcade Fire/Spike Jonze production of the short film "Scenes from the Suburbs." The movie, screen-written by Arcade Fire, illustrates themes explored in their Grammy-winning album of the year, "The Suburbs."  

For five days, I shot a mix of Illford HP5 and Kodak Tri-X film using two Nikon F5 cameras to shoot the images that eventually were included in a booklet released with the DVD of the movie. The grain you see in the film is a result of "pushing" the film three stops in some cases. It effectively raises the ISO (sensitivity) of the film. The trade off is increased grain in the film. For this assignment, it seems to work well.


To view images from the first day of shooting, check out the link to my website here.

Artist Jordan Sullivan at Peel Gallery

I recently had the pleasure of photographing artist Jordan Sullivan at Peel Gallery for Gloss, a fashion and lifestyle publication produced by the Houston Chronicle. Sullivan was a little shy in front of the camera, but I think it's this sensitivity that is a part of what makes him a successful artist. [gallery orderby="rand"]

It's Not Like Work

I spent the last five days attending the 2011 Multimedia Immersion at Syracuse University. During the week-long program, we learned the basics of creating and producing a short video using Canon 5D Mark ii cameras and various microphones. The experience opened up a new world for me. Situations that traditionally might not make for a very good photo package of stills now have the potential to become rich narratives through the additional elements of sound and motion.

Our stories were chosen literally out of a box. I chose a character story about Ed Patterson. He owns and operates a custom golf store in Syracuse, New York. I thank him and all the great teachers and new friends I made at the workshop for making the experience so memorable.

April portraits

Hi folks,  

I have some portraits I made in the month of April, more or less, for your perusal. Thanks for looking and I hope you're enjoying the spring weather, especially in Houston.





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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

A few weeks ago, I had the honor to photograph Chitra Divakaruni for the Houston Chronicle. She is an award-winning author and poet who writes about women, immigration, the South Asian experience, history, myth, magic and diversity. She writes for adults and children, and her books have been translated into 20 languages. Born and raised in Calcutta, India, Divakaruni, 54, teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and lives in Sugar Land with her family.  


Basketball hotshot Jenzel Nash

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Jenzel Nash, the nation's leading scorer at 39.9 points a game. She was great to work with and needed very little direction. As a senior, she is sure to be rocking it in the NCAA very soon. The photos were made with a single 580EX strobe and a STS transmitter. The Pocket Wizards are in the shop, so it's been a good push to try and keep things simple.[gallery orderby="rand"]

Toni Hickman - Overcoming Obstacles

Toni Hickman, an Atlanta native, overcame two aneurisms to become an aspiring hip-hop artist. Doctors originally told her she would be in a wheelchair the rest of her life. Through her own efforts and the efforts of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, she was able to beat the odds. We wanted a hip-hop feel, so we used the east-facing wall at Java Java Cafe in the Heights neighborhood of Houston. The owner was very accommodating and even let me use his AC outlet for my lights. Also, we had to shoot on what was probably the coldest day of the year, another testament to Toni's grit and determination underlying her beauty.


Natural light versus lit

Last month I had a couple of portrait assignments that contrasts how I work in different situations. In the first, the assignment was to photograph a long-haul trucker who was having trouble with his CDL license. Initially, I was told his truck would be at his residence. In fact, it was out at a yard that happened to be on federal property. For the moment, my lights are strictly AC powered although that is supposed to change soon. Instead, I had the blessing of a day with full sun, although clouds were slowly creeping in (at one point, we had to wait 45 minutes at a railroad crossing because his truck was just on the other side. Sometimes I really LOVE Houston...). I had him point his truck into the north so the grill would be in the shade. I then used a simple reflector to point the sun back into the shadow and photographed him with a 35mm/f1.4 lens. The next image was more controlled, but alas, the weather was crappy. I think it was Sam Abell who said bad weather makes good pictures. Because the sky was dark, it was a Saturday assignment and I had time and because I had a willing subject who was proud of his home, I was able to pull out some stops and practice my lighting. I lit the subject with a medium softbox from camera left and used a flood camera right to put a hard light on the side of his face and to also light up the house. Because I lit the scene, I was also able to create a more dramatic sky.

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