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.
With just 10 stools and a rented kitchen, Will Preisch presents a pop-up vision of high-end eating: casual, personal, and thrilling. Want to make it to one of these amazing feasts? Called holdfast dinners, Will describes them as such, "holdfast is a “pop-up” restaurant operating out of kitchencru, a commissary kitchen and culinary incubator in nw portland. holdfast is a refined dining concept - not refinement in the sense of luxury - just pared down to what we consider to be the essentials of a wonderful meal; great food and drink, with excellent and unobtrusive service in a casual atmosphere. this is our opportunity to cook and feed people outside of the trappings of a traditional restaurant. clean. thoughtful. primitive. modern." Looked pretty delightful to me, and Portland Monthly.
Spend a rainy day a few months back chasing down steelhead in the Deschutes River. My partners were fly fishing devotees, Chris Santella, author of 50 Places to Fly Fish Before you Die (guess I can cross one of them off my list) and environmental lawyer Dave Moskowitz, the Executive Director for the Deschutes River Alliance. These gentlemen spend 40 to 50 days on the river each season, knee deep in the rushing water, waiting for the fish to get irritated enough to make their move. For steelhead rarely feed once they are in the river, rather they seem to take a fly as an act of aggression. Even if they are present where you are fishing, they have to be in the mood (presumably, a bad mood) to bite. For these reasons days will sometimes pass with not a single acknowledgement of even their presence, making their elusivity all the more attractive to those that seek a challenge. This was much of the case on our day in the water, broken up by beer and a variety of fish tales from both men. As the sky grew dark, and I grew cold, Chris got the solitary respite of the day, a sharp tug on his line. He lifted his rod, exactly the wrong thing to do, and the fish was gone, never even seen. As we headed home, both men planned their next trip out. For myself, thwarted from even a single glimpse during an assignment where that was the only goal, I declined, and tried not to curse the fish. You can read the full story of our adventures, here in the New York Times.
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.
Photographed the charming Jack Falk for the New York Times for a story on traveling cantors. Congregations that are too small to have their own will bring him in for the High Holidays. Jack kept me entertained with jokes and even sang for me a bit. I was basically loving life until I was dive bombed by wasps. Clearly camera shy, they were not interested in having their picture taken. My hand blew up to about hulk size. Fortunately, Jack's wife was nice enough to give me a poultice to take the swelling down and I was able to carry on. It's rough out their sometimes, even for God's chosen people.
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.
Perfect weather, perfect subjects, not so well-behaved piglets. Well, two out of three ain't bad. I spent the day at Worden Hill Farm with the uber photogenic Ortloff Family, Susan and Wolfgang, and their three bewitching daughters; Kate, Hadley and Mia for the cover of 1859 Magazine. They bought the land from Susan's parents back in 2007 and left an urban lifestyle in Germany for mud-splattered days in Dundee, OR. I was wooed by the multitude of pig sizes, varying from holdable to rideable. I was also wooed by the family, who shared some of their cured pork and promised to invite me to their next bonfire. After a day of mucking around, dodging porkers who thought my feet looked like apples (note to self: do not wear red boots when photographing pigs) Susan waved good-bye and said cheerfully, "You don't think you smell, but you do."
Joe Sacco let me invade his home for a recent portrait for the NYTimes.com. Pretty amazing to say that your job is a cartoonist, I mean, who actually has that job besides him and maybe Charles Schulz. Love that light cutting across his face from the blinds and it is always tickles me how many different images you can take from the same room. Joe just smiled indulgently and told me stories of his father while I circled him. Joe started in journalism, which, as a recovering newspaper photographer, is near and dear to my heart. Just recently crashed his house again for a holiday party, where Joe was DJing and making a mean hot toddy. What a renaissance man.
Every August for the past 15 years a magical event called Pickathon takes place just outside of Portland. Four days of music, camping, beer drinking and general good times spill out onto Pendarvis farm. Not only is there amazing music at 6 stages tucked all over the woods but it is also the only large outdoor music festival in the United States to eliminate single use dish ware, cups (thanks to Klean Kanteen) and utensils. Plastic free since 2010 they also compost and use renewable energy. I was given the official job of photographic 'roamer' which basically means wander around and shoot whatever makes the event cool. See ya there in 2014.
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.
So a couple of years ago I photographed the Jicks for Rolling Stone. This led to band photo session number one back in 2011 with their release of 'Mirror Traffic.' And now with 'Wig Out at Jagbags' (side note: Where do musician come up with their album names?) about ready to hit, the label decided it was time for round number two. I will just go on the record saying that band photos are tricky and can easily veer off into the land of awkward. Luckily, matching navy turtlenecks saved us from that fate. Yes, I realize the irony of that statement.
Not that I'm biased or anything, but I love the Hollywood Theatre. A non-profit theatre from the 1920's that now serves beer. Sign me up. Yes, they show indie films and have great film festivals and movie marathons. But really I got hooked on some of their more wacky offerings, like Hecklevision, where you get to be a smart ass via text message and your witticisms appear like magic on the screen. Or B-Movie Bingo where you get a bingo card with squares like "Male Ponytail" or "Long Boring Scene" and fill them in while watching movie classics like Stone Cold with Brian Bosworth or Night Beast. Portland Monthly sent me out to capture the scene which included a peek backstage where they house the really cool stuff like Dolemite movie reels and the original movie seats. It was during this assignment that I also got a taste of Kung Fu Theater, which shows rare 35mm prints of Hong Kong action films of the 70's and 80's and inspired me to karate chop each people for the rest of the day. Viva la Portland.
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You never exactly know how it is going to go with celebrities. Perhaps spending your life with people that never tell you no can have a warping effect. Thankfully this diva mentality was delightfully absent from Fred Armisen, of Portlandia fame. I can never decide if that show is funny or not and if audiences from Mid-Western states would want to hug me or shoot if we were ever to meet. Fred showed up as his alter ego, 70s-era punk rocker Ian Rubbish, for the shoot. At first I was afraid that he was going to talk in a British accent for the duration. In which case I'm afraid I would have had a hard time keeping it together, persistent giggles making it difficult to push the shutter. But no, though dressed as Ian, Fred played himself, a very sweet, laid back guy, who was game for whatever wacky things I could think of.
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.
Willamette Week asked me to shoot not one, but two covers for their 2013 Bar Guide issue, and several billion bars around town (ok, I exaggerate...). Needless to say, it was a blurry week. Victory Bar was the place to beat this year, christened Bar of the Year. I dig Victory, and their laid back, easy drinking feel, but runner up, Hale Pele has a special place in my heart (and the cover). Maybe it is the thunder, rain and smoke that randoms emits from the walls, or that fact that it is located in a strip mall next to a nail salon. However, if you are looking for a place to take your Dad (if your Dad had his Kerouac phase) then I recommend runner up #2, the Blue Diamond, where folks from age 22 to 72 can be found shaking what their momma gave 'em.
Other bars to add to your list of places to get tastefully drunk at are: Barwares, Moonshine, Bar Dobre (booze and kielbasa!), Free House, The Tannery, The Rookery, Sauvage and Velo (get your bike fixed while drinking beer, brilliant). It is an amazing thing, this town's propensity to birth bars like Kate Gosselin.
So many people I have talked to rave about surfing the Oregon Coast. Not too crowded, nice waves, quaint little towns. All I can think about is the cold. Even dipping my toes in that icy water makes me dream about senior beach week in Ocean City, Maryland. But I digress.
I appear to be the only one who has those issues though, as the go-to-spot, Short Sands, is littered with very hip looking crowds, swathed in neoprene. And I was more than game when long time friend and writer Lucy Burningham told me she needed a picture taker for her very first adventure into the waves.
As typical of the coast, we were blessed with perpetually changing weather, but after a lesson with Lexie Hallahan of Northwest Women’s Surf Camps we witnessed Ms. Burningham ride her very first wave. Almost made me want to jump in. I said almost.
If you are feeling like you may want to take a dip and a trip yourself, read the article.
Lucy and I first worked together for Imbibe Magazine in Croatia, where we found ourselves racing around the country chasing down truffle hunters and infused liquors. If that doesn't make for permanent bonding, I don't know what does. Check out another one of our adventures involving sauerkraut here. And if you are someone who like to bike and drink beer (this perhaps maybe everyone I know), then be sure to grab Lucy's fab book, Hop in the Saddle.