There are some assignments that make me love my job. This one, about Postpartum Depression for the New York Times, was one of those. It was a project that really stayed with me, mostly because of my subject. Jeanne Marie Johnson was so open with me and the writer about something so incredibly personal and difficult. And I clearly wasn't the only one that she moved with her bravery, BuzzFeed listed it as one of their top 9 stories of the week, and the NYT Opinion Page for the NYT was hopping. One of those days when I feel like I may have made a tiny bit of difference in this great big world.
Photographed an amazing story about early onset Schizophrenia that ended up on the cover of the Washington Post. Basically the Behavior Health Services at the PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center are trying to figure out ways to help teens with signs of Schizophrenia way before they ever have a psychotic episode. The program involves a two-year course of socialization, family therapy, job and school assistance, and sometimes medication. Now some of this may sound super fancy, but what it actually, literally can turn out to be is taking a kid to the music store and talking to him about his day. Crazy, right? The counselor I photographed used his love of music and comic books to connect with his teenage male patients, and as a way to get them out of house and interacting with the world around them. As someone with a psychology degree, I was pretty blown away by the simplistic brilliance of this. It made me realize two things. One, that you can never underestimate the power of human connection, and two, that so many of us just aren't getting enough of it.
The Wall Street Journal asked me to photograph local business owner and motorcycle enthusiast Tom Daly for a series called Faces of the Affordable Care Act. Tom represents The 'Young Invincible,' who is interested in health insurance, but decided it was too expensive. However, his new motorcycle habit, impending marriage and recent status as homeowner have made him rethink this opinion. Adulthood will do that to you I guess.
Joan Rideout Ayala has a dual diagnosis of mental illness and addiction. Now an addiction counselor herself, has learned coping skills to help end her addiction and cope with her mental illness. We spent some time with Joan at home and at work for an editorial video and photo assignment for a USA Today for a project called The Cost of Not CarIng, a series that explores the human and financial costs the country pays for not caring more about the nearly 10 million Americans with serious mental illness. Powerful stuff.
You can find just about anything you would want and nothing you would need on Mississippi Street in Portland. But New York Times writer Julie Lasky says it so much better than we ever could, "North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried."
Thanks to all the businesses that contributed their design sensibilities: Sunlan (who was ironic before it was cool), Mr. Green Beans, Land Gallery, Flutter, Gravy, Paxton Gate, Mississippi Avenue Lofts, Silver Moon Creperie, The Big Egg, Prost!, and The John Palmer House. One thing's for certain, it's not easy being hip, but you do it with aplomb. And a beard.
Spent the day with Todd Bedrick and the fam for a New York Times Story about Paternity Leave. Todd works at Ernst & Young LLP, so got to spend a little time in the 9 to 5 (though no suit and tie- this is Portland, after all). Then home for some adorable father and daughterness. Todd and his wife Sarah, who is a teacher, were a pretty picture perfect family; there was dinner, playtime, bath time, then a little purple-polka-dot-story-time and finally bed. After that he washed his wife's breast pump accouterment and showed me his engagement photo album. What a champ. In the article Todd mentions how much his time at home with his new baby really helped him bond with her. Which only makes sense. Sweden has figured it out. Close to 90% of Swedish fathers take paternity leave. Why does it take us so long?
Spent a fabulous day filled with gorgeous light at the Portland home of Hisham Mayet for Brownbook Magazine, which they call "An Urban Guide to the Middle East." Mayet is the co-founder of the cult record label, Sublime Frequencies, and is responsible for unleashing Iraqi Choubi, Palestinian psyche-rock and Omar Souleyman on the world. He spends several months of every year traveling the globe (when we met he had just gotten back from Burkina Faso and Niger) recording music, documenting, looking for bands. Not a bad gig. As a result his home is filled with treasures; books, art, records, you name it. I had a blast playing show-and-tell with Mayet, listening to music as we went through his book collection or he showed me paintings hidden in his basement before taking smoke breaks in the backyard. The print version is below, but the super photo charged online story is here.
Travelled to the wilds of Vancouver, Washington to photograph Recreational Marijuana Mecca New Vansterdam for a Wall Street Journal story about Pot Taxes. At at New Vansterdam, an eighth of an ounce (3.5 grams) of marijuana was going for $87 to $128, two or three times what it costs on the black market! Still, there was a steady stream of customers coming through the store, many who were tourists or who liked the convenience. Located in a strip mall alongside Safeway, RadioShack and Weight Watchers, the space used to be a check cashing spot and felt like it, though the art and the ipad displays helped. It will be interesting to see how taxes play out in Oregon now that weed has been legalized, with Oregon's Economic and Revenue Forecast Council estimating $637 million in taxes and fees for the first five years. That's a lot of overpriced joints.
I first met wild food expert John Kallas through a friend several years ago. That is how I found myself up at 6am on a Saturday morning at the Oregon coast, digging for steamer clams. John has a year-long calendar of events that pit you against nature and have you come out the well-fed victor. Classes with titles like, "Wild Foods From Dirt to Plate," "Sea Vegetables of the Pacific Coast," and most recently, "Acorn Pudding." So with adventures like that, you can understand why I've been dying to do a story on him. Now just needed to find a wordsmith and well, a publication. Ah, technicalities. Luckily the plucky Deena Prichep was able to supply both and got National Public Radio's The Salt to come along for the ride. We spent the day watching, shooting and interviewing as John took a group of folks from Acorns to Pudding. Apparently this involves lots of grinding, lots of leaching and lots of sugar. The result was warm, sweet, and porridge-like.
Those squirrels had no idea.
Check out my story about kung fu live on Buzzfeed. Eight-year-old ChengWu ShuQin is among the youngest of the girls training at the Shaolin Exquisite Kung Fu School in the Central Eastern Chinese Province of Henan. Newly arrived, she’s fighting to find her place among the crowd and against homesickness.
Had the opportunity to photograph for The Trust for Public Land this year. TPL is a U.S. national, nonprofit organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, natural areas and open space. And who doesn't think that is pretty awesome? We were tasked with documenting Colwood Park, a golf course that it reinventing itself, and Nadaka Nature Park, a former Camp Fire Girl spot. So we gathered a group of intrepid volunteers and let them run free, literally.
Man I love my job. In what universe is it your job to hang out with a 15-year-old boy in his bedroom at night while he makes beats on his laptop? Mine. Thank you Owen Lanahan, for letting me invade your haven of teenage mystery. For whom else but teenagers could come up with the term #Vamping? And who else but the New York Times would cover it? Well them and TeenVogue. As Owen so eloquently put it, "“Sometimes I look up and it’s 3 a.m. and I'm watching a video of a giraffe eating a steak,” he said. “And I wonder, ‘How did I get here?’ This my friends, is Vamping. Teens up to all hours of the night on social media. I remember in college calling it, "Riding the Vampire Express," where you would stay up working or partying all night and sleep all day, never seeing the sun. But Vamping is just so much better. And just in case you're thinking this blog contains zero informational material, here is a recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. Look, I just made you smarter. You are welcome.
The New York Times and moi recently did a story about how for the first time ever jails and prisons around the country are beginning to sign up inmates for health insurance under the law, taking advantage of the expansion of Medicaid. This sent me over to Inverness Jail to chat with inmate Devon Campbell-Williams. Photographing in prison is always a bit nerve wracking, trying to establish rapport, trying not to break any rules, trying to act cool when you are freaking out. Being a woman at a men's prison can help, for just the reasons you think it would. Devon was charming and sweet and in our allotted five minutes we talked about his plans to open a food cart based on carnival fair food and the fact that, due to the Affordable Care Act we both had health insurance for the first time that either of us could remember. All this while I danced around him, my finger remaining steadily on the shutter release. Devon is one of more than 1,200 inmates in the Portland area alone that have been enrolled through the infamous state exchange, Cover Oregon. The biggest benefit of this is that enrolled inmates have coverage after they get out. People coming out of jail or prison have disproportionately high rates of chronic diseases, especially mental illness and addictive disorders but few have insurance. Oh, irony. As most things dealing with health insurance are, it is a tricky story. It comes down to who is going to pay the bill and whether more money could be saved over the long term if connecting newly released inmates to services helps to keep them out of jail and reduces visits to the ER, the most expensive form of care.
Love the bounty of good eating that is Portland. Roe, Catagna, Ava Gene's are all vying for most buzz in the city these days (case in point, I have photographed all of them at least twice). But there are a plethora of others out there for those of us that hate waiting in line. So many choices in fact that it is nice that Willamette Week's Restaurant Guide helps narrow things down (or maybe simply make you aware of all the possibilities). Now go forth and chew.
Did a fascinating and crazy story awhile back for the Wall Street Journal about the Oregon Zoo. In seems the zoo anesthetizes its tigers every few years to do check ups. Well someone had the idea to add a bunch of visually impaired children to this scenario. I can just imagine the conversation where someone pitches this idea. But somebody pitched and somebody agreed and the result was both amazing and surreal. Swarms of people touching the paws, whiskers, even the tongue, of a 235-pound Siberian named Nikki. Meanwhile the big cat is being shaved, having blood drawn, getting its temperature taken (and yes, you are correct about where the thermometer was placed). Really a once in a lifetime experience not only for the children, but for myself. Oh, and the tiger.
A funny sort of twist of fate that I ended up on two section fronts for the Sunday New York Times last week. One was the Travel Cover, which ran a story I shot last year about backcountry skiing in Oregon. This involved me learning to backcountry on the job, while attempting not to kill my cameras (this is a mission I failed). Huge thanks to Three Sisters Backcountry for ensuring I didn't die. The second was for Sunday Business, a profile of intel's director of user experience research, Dr. Genevieve Bell. Not everyday you get to a bond with a robot and roam the halls of Intel.
Two very different projects, both ones that pushed me as a photographer. Which is what I love about working for The Grey Lady. Plus, I'm not gonna lie, seeing your pictures printed huge is kinda cool too.
Spent a full 12 hours at the Legacy Emanuel ED (because it's a whole department of emergency, not just a room) for Portland Monthly's Photo Essay: Trauma Night. Having grown up on Eugene Richard's Knife and Gun Club, I had visions of what awaited me and so approached the assignment with a mix of anticipation and fear. His days of roaming the hospitals are long gone because of HIPPA, but the access I did get was almost unprecedented and a deal-with-the-devil was made that no one but the staff could be recognizable in the images. From 3pm to 3am on an atmospheric Friday evening I follow around the very pregnant and badass trauma nurse, Jennifer Parker. I scribble notes as she says things like, "Her leg might never be the same," during a three-hour surgery of a gunshot-wound victim. I stand in the corner documenting as more than 10 hospital staff dash around a patient unfortunate enough to have shot herself. "Do you want to see the bullet?" asks one of the many players, "How about a piece of her small intestine we had to remove?" I agree to both, always unsqueamish when in photographer mode.
That is just a taste of what I see over the course of the evening, which also includes car crashes, stitches, vomit, cat scans, and full ensembles of blue. Jennifer is hardly phased, for her this is a typical night, and a relatively uneventful one at that. At one point she has to restrain a woman who is clearly intoxicated “NOW STOP THAT. Stop acting like a child. You want this to look pretty don’t you?” Intermediately gruff and soothing, Parker contends with the female patient who requires stitches after suffering a facial laceration from being hit by a car. “It took three of us to do a repair a 3-year-old should have been able to handle,” Parker says. In one year the hospital’s emergency department treats about 40,000 patients—around 110 per day. Only two Oregon hospitals, Emanuel and OHSU, are designated Level 1 trauma centers, equipped and staffed to provide the highest level of care to acutely sick and badly injured people. These two hospitals take in patients from across the state via ambulance and helicopter.
After 3am, I remove my scrubs and ask Jenn if I can walk to her car to document the end of her evening. She demurs, having a few more things to make right and a few more people to tend to, unable just yet to let go.
Ah The Finder. Willamette Week's annual guide to all that is irreverent in Portland. Free in the warmer months, you can now get them for 5 bucks at Powell's. In it you can find tourist-worthy things like, best drinkable dirt, best gypsy cemetery, best survival kit, and best Tarantino set. I love assignments where my shot list includes things like tire swings, and urban goats. If you look really closely you can see my better half, Christopher Onstott, making a cameo in two of the images. It's like a post-modern Where's Waldo.
I spent a sunny day chasing down bikes and brews in Portland for Travel Oregon. Not sure which this town is more obsessed about. But while contemplating this I managed to hit three breweries before the sun went down....Coalition Brewing Co., Hair of the Dog, and Apex Bar with more than 50 beers on tap. Hey, it's a tough job but someone has to do it.
Back in May I got a call from Mandala Magazine requesting I photograph the Dalai Lama during his visit to Portland. My response was, "Dalai Who?" No, of course not. My response was pretty much the response I give when any amazing, awesome, and life altering assignment comes my way, which is, "That sounds cool. When do I start?" My job was to photograph His Holiness, who for those in the know is referred to as HHDL, as he visited the Mandala offices and gave a talk after. He reminds me a bit of Yoda; incredibly wise, a bit cheeky, very curious, and incredibly fast. I basically felt like I was chasing him around the office, climbing on furniture and stalking him as he blessed things and people. He has such a way about him, full of joy and compassion, people are overwhelmed just to be in his presence. Plus, you've got to admire someone who laughs with their whole being. No wonder thousands turned out to hear him speak the next day.