A short portrait series made at FORM: Arcosanti in Mayer, Arizona. I am so grateful to the wonderful people I met and those who allowed me their time for photos.
This past weekend, E and I returned to Indiana for the first time since moving out west together to Arizona. We had a few big events to hit—my sister, Lizzy, turned 21 so we wanted to celebrate with her and my family in Zionsville. Eric’s family had also planned a big reunion in Sullivan, Ind. where I met extended family and we got to pour through old family photos. It was a quick trip, but it was really good.
I needed to see some familiar faces and feel some rain and smell some green grass. I guess I didn’t realize I was homesick until I was home.
It’s wonderful when kind people see an opportunity to use their platform for meaningful social change. Eireann (pronounced like Erin) and Sean are definitely those kind of people. Through their affiliation with the Oakland Athletics (he pitches, she broadcasts for California’s All A’s program, they’ve helped bring social change to their communities in Oakland, Chicago and Scottsdale. When they spearheaded a Pride night for the A’s and there was backlash—people requested to sell their tickets so they wouldn’t have to endure the inclusive, joyful event *eye-roll*—Eireann quickly responded by blogging that she and Sean would gladly buy them (AND match the ticket sales) to benefit Our Space, a program center for at risk LGBT youth, and then donated the tickets to the center so the kids could come and enjoy the game.
They held Thanksgiving for 17 refugee families from Syria and sponsor Operation Finally Home, which provides homes for wounded veterans.
If more folks had their passion for helping people, we’d be in a much better world.
On the 9th, I went up to Prescott, Ariz. to make pictures at the Arizona Wildfire & Incident Management Academy for The New York Times Science desk. The non-profit Academy is in it’s 14th year and is held at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. As it’s predicted to be a long, hot fire season in the Southwest and along the West Coast of the United States, it was impressive and humbling to see so many women and men who were training to keep us safe from out of control fires in our dry part of the country. There were also non-firefighters there to learn how to better cover fires as a journalist, and PIOs and logistics teams in training, among others. I learned a lot! Here’s what I saw:
It’s been a busy and interesting year so far. Here’s some recent assignment work from January and the beginning of February. Thank you so much for looking!
First, a rally at the Arizona State Capitol by the One PHX initiative opposing anti-immigration bills for The New York Times.
An essay about Dave Henderson Fantasy Camp for ESPN.go
Portraits and a sit-down video interview with Kendra Stabler Moyes, the eldest daughter of the late Ken Stabler, who was found to have advanced C.T.E. following his death in July for The New York Times.
Coverage of a Friday night prayer following attacks on the Islamic Center of Tuscon, Ariz. by University of Arizona students living in the neighboring high-rise apartments for The New York Times.
Tombstone Vigilante Days return following an actor being shot with a live round during a reenactment in October for The New York Times.
And a portrait of Mike Zielinski with his 1957 Chevrolet Belair and 1959 Airstream camper trailer at his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz. for The Wall Street Journal
It’s taken me about a week to work up the courage to write this post. At first I was embarrassed that I didn’t meet my goals for 2015. This time last year, I thought that I’d be photographing full time. I would be pitching stories at a community newspaper or shooting assignments for many freelance clients.
I didn’t imagine that many hours of my year would be spent working double shifts in restaurants. And I didn’t want to admit how many times I found myself overwhelmed, crawling under my covers, wracked with too much anxiety to work on projects dear to my heart. I didn’t want to admit that instead of focusing on making pictures and growing relationships, I worried about money and work and doubted whether I was good enough.
I began the year hopefully in Jasper, Indiana, where I finished up a six-month-long internship that changed my heart and eye for the better. Surrounded by mentors and learning to shoot events that had been shot by more talented photographers before me in new, stylish and storytelling ways was an adventure I couldn’t have anticipated.
Halfway through January I traveled to South Korea (where I studied abroad in 2013) to work on a story about the young North Korean refugee community in Seoul through the generosity of the IU School of Journalism’s Hazeltine Travel Scholarship. I was terrified.
I love Seoul so much and I believe I did good work while I was there. But I psyched myself out about the project so much that when I wasn’t photographing Kyung-ok, I could barely bring myself to do anything but lay in my room. I forced myself to walk the streets and make pictures.
While I was there I collected still images and footage a short documentary. I haven’t been able to share the project yet, because I haven’t finished subtitling and editing the video. This is the thing that fills me with the most dread. The girls I photographed let me into their lives and told me their most treasured stories and I let my anxieties keep their story from being shared.
I promise it will be soon.
When I returned, I tried to keep up the momentum, but there was absolutely so much to go through.
About a week after returning, I knew I needed to start making money again so I picked up a job at La Margarita, a lovely restaurant in Fountain Square, the neighborhood in Indy where Eric and Andrew lived.
While living downtime, I managed to find some freelance work with the Indianapolis Star and a few other local publications.
In March I began shooting senior portraits of family friends and I shot my first wedding, that of Evan and Kenzie Hoopfer, who I met in Bloomington. I was so happy to be making pictures.
I continued to apply for photo work, and eventually landed an internship. I relaxed a little. I had my next thing planned.
But it fell through because the paper couldn’t afford to keep the program up and running. It was another awakening to the business-side of journalism that I hadn’t given a lot of thought to.
Around the same time, things in our neighborhood in Indy were getting more dangerous. There were shootings on our street and our house was broken into. A couple weeks later, some kids set an abandoned house next to ours aflame, and our garage burned to the ground.
Eric, Andrew and I decided to move to Phoenix, Arizona.
Almost immediately after arriving, I panicked and picked up a restaurant job again. It would just be a stop-gap, I told myself, my parents, my friends. But five months later I’m still working 40~ hours a week and freelancing whenever I can. It’s not bad, though. The owners are Korean and I get to practice speaking with them every day. I’ve learned a lot about the community from regular customers and my co-workers. And it’s helped me to generate a lot of story ideas.
While I complain too much about the boring work or rude customers, it’s a good place to work and the owner lets me take days off on short notice if I get a call from an editor. Her daughter is a videographer in New York City, so she really does get it.
In October, I attended the Eddie Adams Workshop, for which I had applied many times before unsuccessfully. It was completely surreal to be invited for a weekend of photo family and incredible lessons.
After I returned from New York, I was able to freelance more and learn more about the culture here in Arizona.
I’ve continued shooting weddings and family shoots whenever I get the opportunity.
While I’m not where I want to be, I have to admit that I am probably in a better place than I give myself credit for. I’m about to enter my 24th year, and I have gotten to photograph for two of my all-time favorite newspapers. Additionally, the personal project Eric and I have been working on was published in Midwest-based Driftless Magazine.
Through it all, my loved ones have been my guiding light. Moving westward to the fifth biggest U.S. city from small-town Indiana roots has been tough. I’ve learned to be more flexible and kind with myself and my goals while still keeping my eye on the prize. I’ve learned to live a more balanced life and to combat my anxiety every day. I’ve made an effort to not get too wrapped-up in how well my peers are shooting and I am no longer embarrassed to tell people I’m a food counter cashier.
As I look through my photos from the year I have to say it’s been an incredible 2015. Thank you all for your support, it means so much more than I can adequately express.
It went about how you would expect. The Donald arrived on his private jet, and spoke about how he will build a wall to keep out immigrants and vowed to “never eat Oreos again” after Nabisco moved a plant to Mexico.
I have seen my version of paradise. Fresh air, passionate storytellers, uplifting community, autumn light, helpful critique, great food, bonfires and even a couple of wonderful dogs.
Much has been written about the Eddie Adams Workshop, a long weekend where professional storytellers from all over the world gather on a farm in Jeffersonville, NY to share their vision with 100 eager young photographers, and the experience holds true to the hype. It’s a truly inspiring, magical (and yes, tiring!) few days where you could be crawling through mud at 8a.m. and sharing dinner with your photographic idols at 6p.m.
It can also be a point of stress with students of visual journalism. The admission is famously selective, but not meant to be exclusionary. To that end, I would like to point out that I applied multiple times before receiving word that I would be a student, and I encourage my peers to keep applying! It may not make or break your career, but you may meet a best friend or a future colleague and return home refreshed, inspired and ready to get to work.
The community surrounding this special event is what makes it so special. I found myself surprised at the lack of competitiveness between the students and surprised at how willing the seasoned journalists were to talk to us newbies. There was no ill will, only the desire to lift up young storytellers and encourage open and honest mentorship and friendship. I’m so thankful for this spirit in the photojournalism community, and look forward to (hopefully) passing it on to another generation some day.
And now to share some photographs. Below is the story I was assigned for the workshop. Our Green Team (fearlessly lead by Carolyn Cole, produced by Alicia Hansen, edited by Nancy Andrews and tech support provided by Gabriel Biderman) had the theme of change. My assignment was to document Shannon and Andy’s wedding day and how this ritual would or wouldn’t affect change in their life. Our collaborative edit is below.
We also collected audio for the final presentation, which wasn’t required but gave our sources more agency in their story which I loved.
In addition to the assignment, I also photographed some new friends and some of the events happening on the farm.
And the last image I’ll leave you with my favorite outtake from our assignment shoot. Thanks for visiting.
I’m really missing having furry friends around, but it’s just not the right time in my life to adopt a pet. To get my fix I’ve teamed up with The Pet Knot in Phoenix to help them get some pictures up on their social media sites to attract potential homes for their adorable pups. If you notice that most of the dogs are black, that’s not a coincidence. Black dogs are far less likely to be adopted, and a part of that is because it’s more difficult to get pictures of them where you can see their friendly features than with light-colored animals. But really, who could resist these wonderful dogs? If you’re around the north Phoenix area, stop by the Petsmart at the Promenade in Scottsdale on Saturdays and Sundays to take one home.
Tonight I contributed to The New York Times’ live coverage of the Republican Presidential Debate. I wasn’t at the debate, but at a movie theater/restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. It was a lot of fun to see folks’ reactions to some of the candidates and questions. I hope you enjoy, too.