The Daily Edit – Trails Magazine

Trails Magazine
Editor-in-Chief: Ryan Wichelns

Cover Photographer: Sarah Attar

Heidi: Now that you’re 4 issues in and poised for 8, what has been your biggest creative challenge as a team?
Ryan: We’re definitely continuously trying to innovate. I feel like a lot of corporate magazines can get a little bit stagnant. It’s more difficult for them to switch things up. I like the fact that we can take advantage of our size and nimbleness to try new things and deliver new things to our readers. So I’m definitely trying to encourage new ideas from our contributors. 

Your team is fully remote across four time zones, with a distributed workforce what are some of the benefits and challenges?
Yeah, it’s easily the most geographically diverse team I’ve ever worked on. Our photo editor is on Alaska time, I’m on Pacific time, our managing editor is on Mountain time, our designer on Central, and our marketing director on the East. Scheduling obviously has its challenges but I like that we all get out to experience different places and different mountain ranges. We all have a little bit of geographic “expertise” I think. I grew up back East and used to think the big magazines had a little bit of a Rocky Mountain bias. Having our team spread out makes it harder to focus too hard on one spot.

You were funded via Kickstarter initially, what are your plans to keep the presses humming? (I enjoyed your ASMR of the printing press)
Our Kickstarter definitely got the ball moving and funded Issue 1, but every issue since then has been funded by our subscribers. Advertising is a very small part of our business, so we really rely on our subscribers and readers to keep the ship afloat.

How would define the editorial and photo direction of the magazine?
That’s an interesting question. I try not to pigeonhole our content too much, but I do think we try to put an emphasis on bigger, more research-intensive, more immersive, and frankly more important stories. Longform stuff. So much of journalism these days is quick-hit: Listicles, short reads, etc. We’re trying to fill the magazine with the kind of journalism that takes real work.  

You’ve spent your career as an outdoor journalist, so why start your own magazine?
I loved Backpacker. It was the first magazine I ever read as a kid—It was really important to me. Before Backpacker shut down, starting a magazine frankly wasn’t on my radar at all. But once they shut it down, it felt obvious. The backpacking community really didn’t have anything else and it felt like an important hole to fill. After a long time behind the scenes, I felt pretty confident that there was a way to do it better, so here we are.

What words of advice do you have for others considering independent journalism?
Trust your readers. If you make a product for them and make it something that’s easy to like (good content, quality, etc.) they will read it. Print isn’t dead, it’s only that cheap, mass-produced brands of print not thriving. Readers are willing to support good print.

How can photographers get involved?
Anyone interested in contributing can find out more at
Subscribers can just go to
Images for the blog post:  Lauren Danilek

The Daily Edit – Patagonia Fall 23 Journal Cover: Brian Kelley

Brain Kelley
Gathering Growth

Heidi: The weather was both perfect and unforgettable for snowshoeing up nearly 5,000 vertical feet during a storm with a 4×5 camera and gear (45 lbs) on your back. What was going through your mind during the ascent?  
Brian: When I’m on a mission like the one going up the White Mountains with a specific goal in mind I sort of go into tunnel vision.  I just keep pushing even when I feel tired.  I’m used to hiking great distances with the heavy pack on but adding snow shoes, freezing temps and 3 feet of snow definitely pushed my limits.

Photos by Alex Turner.

Describe the setting and conditions that night.
We camped at 11,000 ft in -4 degree weather.
Getting to the summit in the dark during the storm was a really strange feeling… pushed to my physical limits I just wanted to crawl into a sleeping bag and crash but we had to set up camp and try to get some food into my system.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get my extra down layers on fast enough and the cold started to get to me and my body was shutting down.  But in those situations, you can’t just give up or think you’re going to wake up in a warm cozy bed.  Luckily Forrest has so much experience in these situations and got the tent set up quickly and started melting snow to fill Nalgenes with hot water to stick inside my bag, I was grateful that as a Patagonia ambassador and pro snowboarder, these conditions were familiar to him.  I felt so sick that night that I couldn’t even put food down. I went to bed that night not sure if I’d have the strength or desire to wake up at dawn to get the shot.  Luckily the -20 bag did the trick and I was able to get enough rest and core temp back to start feeling strong enough to go back out.  I definitely questioned whether any photograph is worth putting myself at that type of risk, especially since I have a family.
Forrest Shearer and the cover tree, a Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) in California’s Sierra Nevada.

Loading film in those conditions must have been a challenge, how many images did you manage to get of the majestic, twisted bristlecone?
Going into missions like this with film, I usually pre-load film in the car.  I had five film holders so ten shots total, not a lot but I felt confident. The big worry is condensation and snow getting to the film. I remember the night before shooting the tree just leaving my bag out in the elements… 20k worth of gear just chilled in a -4 snow storm shout out to Shimoda bags!  But while shooting the tree I was fumbling around on snowshoes trying to figure out angles and felt like snow was just going everywhere. Also, the storm kept going in and out during the shot.  Honestly, when I sent the film out to get developed I just thought to myself I hope at least one comes out.

What have trees taught you over the years and what other projects have grown out of your work for Gathering Growth?
 When I first started to photograph trees I was just chasing “Champion Trees” nominated as the largest of their species.  When I would go to these trees I tried to not treat them as a tourist destination or some sort of mark on a checklist.  Trees have taught me a lot about patience and respect.  In order to pay them respect and make a great image that represents the hundreds or even thousands of years they have been alive you have to spend time with them and see how the light interacts throughout the day.  After two years of photographing champion trees I started the Gathering Growth Foundation as a way to expand upon the archive and document more trees and old-growth forests, and to try to educate people about the important role trees play in our everyday lives.  I’m currently working towards Gathering Growths’ first book. The oldest and largest trees of NY state.

Photo assignments often offer new experiences, what did this present to you? 
This assignment with Patagonia put me into a world that was so foreign to me.  I had never been snowboarding or split boarding before but I knew I wanted to see these trees in the dead of winter, a time that most would never venture to see them or roads are closed down. Overall the assignment pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me a stronger more confident human.

What draws you to conservation work? 
My biggest motivation to work in the conservation world is to allow the future to know what we used to have.  I think we can save a lot and plant new trees but there’s something so depressing about knowing that wildland fires, invasive insects, and intense storms are wiping out some of our oldest and largest trees.  Some 2000-year-old trees might be irreplaceable or might not be seen in the future.

The Daily Edit – Justin Bastien


Justin Bastien Photographer and Director

Heidi: You seem to balance work and your outdoor adventure life well. What was the biggest
surprises within that balance?
Justin: Balancing work and everything else you love in life is always a challenge, especially if you are
a curious person who likes to learn, explore, and try new things. Luckily, I really enjoy my
work, and it often takes me to incredible places around the world, meeting the most
interesting people from all walks of life. I have always tried to live a passion-based life,
following my interests and trying to align those interests with my work. The great thing about
photography and filmmaking is that it’s really endless in terms of where you can go with it.
What started out as a happy accident working with Patagonia years ago with my little 35mm
Yashica T4 point-and-shoot camera has really turned into an adventure of a lifetime. I never
would have imagined that I would get to go to every continent on Earth, explore remote
places where humans have never set foot, and take in all that beauty. The best part is actually
sharing the experiences through photography and films with others, hopefully inspiring people
and maybe making a small difference in the world in the process.
The biggest surprise to me has been that you actually can live a passion-based life. It’s
certainly not an easy path. It might look glamorous on Instagram, but trust me, it is not. It’s a
ton of work, filled with complete uncertainty at every turn and a huge learning curve with
endless ups and downs, but it’s so worth it. I couldn’t live any other way.

How did you get your start, or what was your biggest break?
I would say my start in photography was my biggest break. I was climbing almost full-time and
doing a wide variety of part-time jobs—geology, construction, web design, guiding, etc.—to
fund the next climbing trip. It was all about getting back out there to climb and see new
places. Work was just a means to an end. Along the way, I was fortunate enough to meet the
Photo Editor at Patagonia, Jane Sievert. She asked me to shoot photos on my climbing and
surfing trips. It was super low-key with no expectations. I would shoot these pretty bad
photos, and she would kindly review them, give me some encouraging feedback, and tell me
to keep shooting and working on certain things. Over time, she found a few photographs that
met her needs. It was a wonderful process, and I had no idea how lucky I was at the time and
how it would change my life. I am so grateful to her and Patagonia for leading me down this
incredible path.
From there, it was a long, slow road. I wasn’t a professional photographer yet and had to work
really hard to figure out how to shoot better images and also learn about the business side of
things—all of which is a never-ending process. One thing led to another, and I started getting
some interesting jobs outside of the work with Patagonia: commercial and editorial photo
shoots, and working as a specialty operator on TV commercials, TV shows, and films. The work
was really wide in scope, with a lot of travel, which was a lot of fun. I generally got hired for
strange jobs that required special skills, such as climbing, diving, shooting in remote locations, or where they needed someone who could take on a lot of different roles, such as directing, DPing, shooting still photographs, and VR.

During your career, how many hats have you worn to get to your level? 
I feel like I have worn every hat along the way, in one form or another, and continue to do so
to this day. I like to be involved in every aspect of the production and understand how it all
works. From technical capture and workflow to the business side of things, and most
importantly, the creative process. The more you know about each aspect of the process, the
better informed your decisions will be. I started out working by myself out of a backpack in
remote locations, so I had to know how to do everything. It’s still like that on small jobs, but as
they scale up in size, I step back—way back.
On the big shoots, we have so many talented people who are really good at their specific
roles. Every person on set really elevates the quality of the work to the next level. At that
point, it’s better to focus on the big picture and bring the vision to life. That usually means I am
just focusing on directing and shooting.

Do you shoot a range of big and small jobs?
Yes, I work on a variety of projects, from solo shoots to large-scale commercial productions with extensive crews, elaborate sets, and all kinds of equipment. I enjoy the opportunity to work across this broad spectrum of production scales. On smaller projects, where it is just me and the subject, the experience is rewarding because it allows me to form a genuine bond with the subject, discover their true selves, and capture those raw, authentic moments. On the other end of the scale, large projects are exhilarating because I’m surrounded by a ton of exceptional resources and talented individuals who collectively enhance the final product. It’s incredibly satisfying to dream up concepts in the pre-production phase of the project and then see them magically come to life. Stepping onto a set and seeing a large, skilled crew in action, all dedicated to realizing the initial vision is always an awe-inspiring moment.

I value both working styles for the distinct benefits they offer. Each approach enriches my skills and informs my practice in the other context. Sometimes, going light and fast while with minimal gear, relying on my instincts, and capturing a fleeting moment is the right call. Yet, even when I have access to an array of equipment, such as lighting trucks, multiple camera units, and cranes, the true essence of my job is to capture the perfect shot. In contrast, working solo allows me to slow down, delve deeper into the craft, and prepare to capture that perfect moment.

This past spring was a prime example. I was out filming some climbing and snowboarding in the backcountry for a few days. We were camping in the snow, lugging around heavy camera equipment, trying to keep batteries warm, all while trying to find a great angle on this rock wall 3,000 feet across the snow-covered valley. It was filmmaking stripped down to the bare essentials. Immediately following that, I headed into directing a big commercial shoot for Chevy that was going to launch the Major League Baseball season. Suddenly, I found myself on a set buzzing with 125 crew members, complete with stunts, performance drivers, and two camera units with incredible DPs leading each unit—a stark contrast to the huge packs we carried in the backcountry shoot a few days ago.

For location shoots, how are you tracking weather, and do you have two treatments you prep? 
Absolutely, our primary challenge was attempting to shoot a spring/summer-themed commercial amidst an ‘atmospheric river,’ a massive rainstorm that became one of the most intense to hit California in decades. This is when our adaptability and problem-solving skills truly came into play. Thankfully, I was part of a team where everyone was not only good at what they did but also collaborated well under pressure.

We encountered a significant setback when mudslides rendered one of our key locations inaccessible. The spot was set in a picturesque valley encircled by mountains—a pivotal scene for the commercial that we had to get. During our lunch break, I had a stunt driver take me in a four-wheel-drive vehicle to survey the damage. The roads were covered in deep mud, and it was immediately obvious that we weren’t going to make it up there. However, we’re in the business of making the impossible possible. We found a ranch hand with a tractor who helped us clear a path so that a pared-down crew could make it up the road. We skipped lunch and pushed our way up the hill. In the meantime, we dispatched the second unit and assistant director to find an alternative location and worked tirelessly to clear the mud. We trimmed the crew down from 125 to only the most essential personnel, who, along with a single Art Director from the agency, barely squeezed into two 4×4 trucks. Time was tight, and we had a lot to accomplish, I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the epic lighting conditions I knew we were going to get around dusk. Luck was on our side that day, and we managed to capture some fantastic footage.

However, our luck didn’t hold the next day. The forecast warned of relentless rain throughout the day. Our location scout was on it, providing hourly weather updates, yet we had to brace ourselves for the possibility of filming in heavy rain.

That’s exactly the scenario we faced on our last day, where the boards called for a sunny homecoming scene with a BBQ, and instead, we had a river falling from the sky. We put the cast under the front porch of the house to keep them dry, lit the scene to make it look like a sunny, summer day, and constructed a 60-foot plastic tunnel for the truck to drive through to the set. We planned to use VFX to replace the background plates and simulate reflections on the body of the truck.

We adapted, hustled, and made the most of the challenging conditions. The dedication of every crew member, going the extra mile during the five-day shoot, was crucial to our success. Viewing the final broadcast spot you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was shot in a big downpour. And that is the magic of filmmaking!

Who were your inspirations and mentors then and now?
I would say I am most inspired by the natural world and storytelling. I love how every place
and every person has such an interesting, unique story to be told. You can truly find art and
magic everywhere you look in the world. I think it’s a matter of finding that inspiration all
around you.
My biggest mentor has been my mom, who was a Special Education Teacher for 35 years
and a multidisciplinary artist. She was always working on different projects from painting and
Ikebana to quilting and interior design. She really encouraged me to be creative, brave, and
free. As I mentioned earlier, Jane Sievert at Patagonia set me on this wonderful path. My
good friend Ken Merfeld, a photography instructor from the Art Center College of Design, is a
passionate artist with a wicked eye that constantly pushes me to challenge myself as an artist
and take my work to the next level. I am so grateful for all these people and many more who
have been such an important part of this never-ending journey.

The Daily Edit – Emocean


Founder + Creative Director: Thembi Hanify
Co-Founder+ Editor-in-Chief: Mariah Ernst

Heidi: You and your business partner launched Emocean in 2021, what makes this different from other surf print media?
Thembi Hanify: Emocean is different from other printed surf media because it’s one of the few that is owned and published by women: myself (creative director) and Mariah (editor in chief). It’s also one of the few surf mags that features a truly diverse range of people. There are a lot of male-dominated mags out there, and then there are a lot of women-only mags out there, so we felt the need to address this underserviced area where surfers of all different genders, backgrounds, and identities could be seen side by side. We also tend to approach the magazine through more of a human-focused or arts-tinged lens, as opposed to a super shreddy, core surf lens. I drew a lot of inspiration from fashion and culture magazines like i-D, The Gentlewoman, and Apartamento in thinking this up.

Will this themed quarterly magazine always centered around emotion? (Issue 01 Joy, 02 Rage 03 Connection 04 and 05 Fear?
The mag is published twice a year, and yes we will continue to have each issue center around an emotional theme. Spoiler alert: the theme of Issue 06 is ‘love.’

You both have full-time jobs that intersect fashion, culture, and surf.
Why this labor of love for a print project? (which is not dead BTW)

I have always loved print since I was very very young. Big beautiful coffee table books, monthly mag subscriptions, you name it. In today’s environment, we’re bombarded with so many fragments of digital information online that I find it incredibly hard to really absorb any of it. Reading things online generally makes me feel scattered and on-edge. I find that reading a physical, printed object cultivates presence and allows me to slow down and truly pay attention. You really can’t beat that feeling. Also I love the smell of print hahaha. In terms of values, Emocean encompasses the core values that are most important to me—diverse perspectives, relatability, empowerment, and creativity. It feels like these values are much needed in pushing mainstream surf culture forward, so I’m very passionate about what the magazine has to offer.

The Fear cover features a soulful tight portrait of Mario, the co-founder of The cover breaks a historical tenant of portraiture: it lacks reciprocal eye contact but rather celebrates a co-existence. Was that a specific photo direction or did it unfold naturally?
Gala Slater (creative director of the shoot): Well it was really a combination of both things, a carefully planned portrait that I had envisioned using natural debris from the beach that we would find on the day, but the idea was always to have him looking direct camera. I felt drawn to each object we placed over his face, and as he lay there with his eyes closed while we were carefully arranging them, I felt a moment of calm and peace that led us to choose that moment to capture, eyes closed.

Thembi Hanify: As soon as I saw the image I knew it would be an amazing cover. We hadn’t pre-planned that, but it was such a captivating image. The sense of ease and harmony the image gives off represents the flip-side of the coin so to speak of fear. I think with surfing, the goal sometimes is to harness the fear you feel into a harmonious kind of focus that allows you to be very present and zen-like.

I loved the intention behind the styling Un Mar De Colores, which translates to an ocean of colors. The styling team created pieces from found beach waste, thrifted items, and leftover materials from previous projects. What was the premise of the feature on Mario?
Gala Slater: The goal of the feature on Mario was not only to share the story of a person who is doing such incredible work within the surf community and to share his warm soul with the audience but to also visually represent him in a way that he hadn’t been seen before. Mario had done shoots before for some of the bigger outdoors brands and I felt like I wanted to do something less expected, something more artful that married his beautiful exterior to the earth. It felt off to dress him in traditional ‘fashion’ and so I challenged Heather and Logan (both stylists & makers) to see what they could accomplish by using found/discarded materials to make custom pieces for Mario. These materials included metals, rubber, shells, plastic, fabrics, yarn, and more. The results were beautiful and combined with the beach as a backdrop the photos turned out better than I could have imagined.  

How do photographers and writers get in touch with you?
We are always open for submissions! People can email us at to submit their work for consideration in upcoming issues.

Where can we pick up a copy?
You can order a copy of the mag and our special edition merch range on our website. We also have a bunch of stockists across America, and a few international ones in Europe, Indonesia, and Australia.

Now that you’re almost 3 years old, what surprised you the most about this project and your creative growth?
I suppose it’s not a huge surprise per se, but the thing we’ve relished the most is the incredible network of people we’ve become connected with through publishing Emocean. I really see this magazine as a vessel for telling other people’s stories, and were truly honored to be able to do that. Community is everything, and the community we’ve encountered and become a part of throughout this journey of independent publishing has been the most wonderful and invaluable thing of all.
– – – – – – 



The Daily Edit – Nick St. Oegger : The Balkans


Nick St. Oegger

Heidi: What drew you to the Western Balkans to follow the grassroots movement protecting the land from Hydro development?
Nick: I was first drawn to the Balkans about ten years ago after seeing a travel article with beautiful photos of the Croatian coast. All I knew about the region was related to the breakup of Yugoslavia and the wars that followed throughout the 90s, so I was curious to see what things were like now. I became especially interested in Albania, which at the time was completely off the tourist map, though everyone I asked warned me against going because it was “dangerous” and there was “nothing to see”. After I arrived though, I saw how wrong people were. I was completely captivated by the mountains, rivers, and welcoming people who were so eager to share their culture and history with me. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

This feeling only continued as I traveled on through Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Croatia. I couldn’t believe how beautiful nature was, it was so contrary to what I had expected to find based on my visual references from the region. It was only when I returned home and started doing some research that I discovered how much of this nature was under threat from hydropower development, deforestation, industry, and pollution. I also discovered there was a dedicated group of activists, scientists, and ordinary citizens from around Europe, who were coming together under the Save the Blue Heart campaign to try to protect the region’s waterways. I felt this was a really positive and different story that I could tell from the region.

That region has been largely defined by conflict, how are you using photography to change that narrative?
When I started showing people photos from my initial trip to the region, they also couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Their conception of places like Albania or Bosnia & Herzegovina was very dark, and I quickly realized how much of it was based on chaotic imagery of the conflicts from 20-25 years ago. Even people from the region were surprised and touched when I showed them my photos as if they were seeing the beauty of their countries for the first time through my outside perspective.

I think it’s a shame that certain countries or regions in the world become associated with conflict, and remain that way long after the fighting has stopped. Using photography to highlight more positive aspects like unique cultural practices, or the beauty of places like the Vjosa River, helps to change the visual reference points of a region. I’ve seen the positive impact this can have in places like Albania, which is finally experiencing a huge tourism boom because people are seeing such beautiful imagery of the country on Instagram or TikTok. I think this also helps local people reframe how they think about these places too when they see more and more foreigners coming to enjoy nature in their countries.

What can you tell us about this untamed river that runs from source to sea?
I remember seeing the Vjosa on my first trip to Albania and being simply awestruck by the bright blue colour, and the way the river curved through the landscape in a way that I had never seen. I didn’t know at the time that it was one of the last wild rivers in Europe, but I could tell right away that there was something unique about it, something very different from other rivers I had seen in Europe.

How long were you working on the Vjosa project?
It’s been about seven years now since I started following the story of the Vjosa. Initially, I made several trips along the course of the river during 2017, which became a project that I self-published as a photo book, Kuçedra. At the time it seemed inevitable that the river would be dammed, so I wanted to create a photographic record of the landscapes and people along the river before it would all be changed forever. That same year though, activists scored their first victory by blocking the construction of one of the large dam projects on the river, which was a huge positive turn in the story. I continued following events as they developed, joining scientists as they conducted research along the Vjosa, watching as more court rulings were in favor of local activists, and talk of declaring a national park moved closer to reality. I developed really close relationships with the people fighting for the river, and with the river itself, so it became a very personal story for me, one that I wanted to keep following up on.

Can you share a bit about what it meant to cover the moment when Albania’s 118-mile Vjosa river inched closer to being permanently protected?
It was a very emotional and important moment to cover the declaration of the Vjosa Wild River National Park. In this industry, you don’t always have the luxury of following a story for so long and don’t always get to see a positive outcome either. It was amazing to see the hard work that my friends and colleagues had put in for over a decade finally pay off, and also to feel that I had played a part in this fight by publishing and exhibiting my photographs of the Vjosa. It was a moment when you could really grasp the importance of collaboration and resilience amongst so many diverse people, who all played their part in trying to protect this really unique environment.

Congratulations on your British Journal Of Photography: Decade of Change Award, what drew you to climate change and social impact work?
Thank you! It was an honor to be recognized by the British Journal of Photography for my work around climate change, because I think it highlights just how important this topic is at the moment, and it has given me another platform to raise awareness about the unique nature in the Western Balkans, and the people fighting to protect it. This topic has always been something close to me, as I grew up spending a lot of time in nature with my grandfather, who was a climber and avid environmentalist. He taught me a lot about nature and instilled this great sense of awe and responsibility in caring for the environment. When I started my career in visual storytelling, I felt naturally drawn towards stories about the environment, and people’s complex relationship to it.

What projects are you working on now?
At the moment I’m working on a National Geographic Society-funded project about river conservation in Bosnia & Herzegovina. I’m specifically looking at how the grassroots movement to protect rivers is uniting communities around Bosnia that were previously in conflict. It’s a great opportunity to build on my previous work with the Vjosa and to share another positive story from the region. I’ll be finishing the project early next year, and am looking forward to sharing and exhibiting the work shortly after that.

The Daily Edit – Sara Hylton: National Geographic


A local carries fishing nets, made of plastic materials, which are often used only a few times and then disposed of, on May 14, 2019.
The ghats of the Ganges in Patna, Bihar on November 15th, 2019.
Vinod Sahni along with his family members and helpers prepare for an evening of fishing out along the Ganges. They spent several hours this day repairing their plastic fishing net before departing from the village of Rasalpur, Dharnipatti, Bihar on Nov. 14, 2019.
Fish for sale at a local fish market in Ayeshabag on May 16, 2019.
Sita Ram Sahni’s grandchildren play at their home in a makeshift swing in the village of Rasalpur, Dharnipatti, Bihar on Nov. 17, 2019.
Sita Ram Sahni’s grandchildren attend school in the village of Rasalpur, Dharnipatti, Bihar on Nov. 16, 2019.
Young boys play near a pond close the Meghna River on May 14, 2019.
Babu Sahni, 30, and his son Himanshu Kumar Sahni, 8, fish along a bank scattered with waste on the Punpun river, a tributary of the Ganges in Fatuha, Bihar, on Nov. 19, 2019. T
A wholesale flower market in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh on Nov. 23, 2019. The majority of these flowers are sold for religious purposes and though many vendors use cloth bags, some flowers and garlands being sold contain plastic ornamentation.
Rajan Baba, a sadhu, poses for a portrait at Manikarnika ghat, his main location of meditation in Varanasi, India on Nov. 25, 2019. Rajan Baba believes that nowadays “people are spending less time exploring god and more time chasing after things…I’ve been born and brought up in Banaras, a lot has changed…[the Ganges] used to be much wider…as the waste has increased, the water has shrunk…what else would I want but that the water becomes clean again?” he said.
Municipal employees collect waste from Manikarnika ghat, the main cremation ghat in the holy city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh on Nov. 26, 2019. The cremation site runs 24 hours a day and hundreds of bodies are cremated. The ritual of cremation relies on textiles often made of synthetic fibers and religious offerings and garlands containing plastic. Though the municipal corporation collects some of the waste, much of it still ends up in the Ganges. President Modi has committed to cleaning up Varanasi, his constituency, but many believe that the clean-up is just surface level. However, according to municipal employees, some of the solid waste collected along the ghats is taken to the Karsada waste-to-energy plant, waste that is converted to electric power.
The ghats of the Ganges river in Haridwar, Uttarkhand, India on Dec. 7, 2020.
At Maitri Sadan ashram in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India.
Swami Shivanand bathes and prays at the Ganges.
Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar, Uttarakhand at sunrise.


Photographer: Sara Hytlon
National Geographic: Visual Story Editors: Alice Gabriner and Dominique Hildebrand.

The team of scientists and researchers was led by two incredible women (and the team itself was mostly women). More information on the Ganges: Sea to Source expedition can be found here

Heidi: You were in India for 12 years, what brought you there?
Sara: I was in the middle of studying a Master’s degree when my father passed away suddenly. I knew he would have wanted me to finish my degree, so I pressed on without really having the time to grieve or process what had happened. When I completed my studies, my best friend and I decided to travel to India for a few weeks. We were both going through big transitions in our lives, and we wanted to travel somewhere that took us out of our element and gave us some space. Funny, India doesn’t have much space. The idea of going to India during a crisis is an absolute cliché and I knew that from the start, but the Western notion of India is partly true, it is a very magical and spiritual place, and I say that while also acknowledging its deep issues and biases. I had planned on spending three weeks.

Were you planning on staying that long; did you speak Hindi?
I had no idea that this initial visit would involve me meeting two loves of my life – a man and photography. I had no plan to live there or spend long in South Asia. But it was a place that understood life and death in a way that made a lot of sense to me. The way South Asians see the world is both incredibly practical and poetic all at once. I felt completely thrown into chaos, but also held. I was hooked. I slowly built my photography practice, and my network to a point where I felt I could really make it my home. I have taken intensive Hindi classes over the years and used my broken understanding of the language to delve deeper into the culture. It was always one of the things that bothered me the most though – that I could never get to a place with my Hindi where I could make jokes or get angry. Indians have such great, cinematic humor. 

What did you learn about reverence for the Ganges?
When the roots of a culture believe that everything is a manifestation of God, and even the Ganges is revered by Hindus as a Goddess, how do you begin to visualize something that is believed to be so sacred and yet practically environmentally vulnerable? And how does one reconcile their own conditioning and culture so they can really see it? 

I’ve learned that the concept of “progress” and time is completely different. In the West, we are always rushing to get to the finish point, to have something to show for our efforts so we can quickly move onto the next thing. We miss the whole process of getting there. I have felt that so often in India while working. That if I do this one thing, this other thing must happen as a result. It just does not work that way. Nothing is linear, people aren’t there when you think they’re going to be there, and everything is basically an unknown. People don’t have time for you and you are not that important. But once they start to trust you and maybe even like you, they would give you the shirts off their back. It’s honestly the most humbling place I’ve worked. You are constantly being challenged on a professional and granular level. Broken down until your ego is nothing. And that’s when you start to make the work that matters. It’s a beautiful thing. So I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that if you show your patience and your authenticity, the thing that you need will happen, but probably not when, or the way you expect it to. Also, never refuse a cup of chai or prasad, you’ve ruined it already. 

Your last project for National Geographic was three years in the making and so much terrain to cover. What were some of the adventurous moments/biggest obstacles that you encountered? India is so full of rich surprises especially with COVID and the political unrest.
Traveling across the Ganges through Bangladesh and India was one of the most memorable projects I’ve ever worked on. We went through some terribly rough waters in Bangladesh because of cyclones. At one point, the bottom of our boat started to flood with water and it was so rocky people were getting sea sick. Then there was the extreme heat waves where we could only work very early in the morning and late at night, it was actually quite dangerous if we tried to push it. Then there were the absolute moments of elation and joy where the team would dance to Punjabi music under the rain and laugh hysterically. As a freelance photographer I’m really used to working alone, but this was such a different type of project that started off with a group of female scientists that I was fairly integrated with. We traveled a lot of the time together and this made navigating the adventures and challenges a lot less daunting. My favorite moment on the trip was when I was in a small village outside of Patna, Bihar (about a four hour drive) and my film camera broke. I didn’t have a backup with me, but miraculously someone from Mumbai (where I was living at the time) was able to transport the backup to Patna, and exchange the broken camera to get fixed. I ended up with both cameras in a few days, but it was a terrifying moment.

Were there any circumstances/interactions that moved you the most while making the work? India has a way of exploding your heart.
There are way too many moments to count. That’s what I miss about India the most. When you’re feeling hardened, angry, assertive, something always happens that just blows your heart wide open and you are instantly reminded of your humanity. Oh, I remember a funny moment when I was bitten by a baby goat and everyone went out of their way to make sure I was okay and even found me a doctor to get rabies shots. Then there was the time where me and my collaborator were in a village and it became very late at night (and we had quite a drive ahead), a mere stranger who knew nothing about us offered us a bed to sleep on and gave us chai in the morning. The stories are endless. I was constantly astounded by the generosity of people and lack of pretension. India has my heart and always will.

There are both advantages and disadvantages of being a westerner in India. You certainly earned trust for your portraits, Demigods of India. How did that project develop/evolve?
I had been wanting to do something with the Hijrah community in India for many years but I think I didn’t have the courage or the understanding of the community to really do it with integrity. I had spent several months meeting with NGO’s and organizations that worked with the community across Mumbai. Two helpful friends and amazing photographers – Zishaan Latif and Anushree Fadnavis – helped me navigate the project, and it wasn’t until I had their help that I really felt it was possible to make photos with sensitivity. Anushree was particularly experienced and was so generous in her willingness to help with translating and gaining access with the first community I worked with. At first the community was fairly closed off and ambivalent about photography, so I showed up and visited often before I even began to make photos. I met one really special person, Radhika, who was the gateway to the rest of the community. Radhika trusted me, and so others trusted her. It was quite a long process, getting to the point of making portraits. But I think curiosity and showing up goes a long way.

Being a Westerner is helpful at times because folks become as curious about you as you are them. But that can only go so far. They must feel your integrity and your heart, and that can take a long time to build. The disadvantages are of course language and commonality. Being a woman is particularly tough, but in this instance, I think it helped because I could spend time just sitting in people’s homes without too many concerns.

What have you been working on recently?
I’m based in Brooklyn, New York now and continue to focus on environmental issues and vulnerable communities, especially related to water. I’m working on a multi-year project through an Explorer grant from National Geographic Society and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society on the sanctity and scarcity of water among First Nations communities in Canada. I’ll be traveling to Nepal in a couple of months to work on another grant about faith and conservation, and I’m also really excited to be working with some brands and outlets whose values really align with my own, including Patagonia and the New York Times.



The Daily Edit – Conveyor Studio

Conveyor Studio

Co-founder & Creative Director: Christina Labey

Co-founder & Production Manager: Jason Burstein

Heidi: You recently published a gorgeous book Moemoeā by Brendan George Ko, along with photography the book included unique type design, illustration, and an essay. What was the essence of creative direction as the photography honors sharing Polynesian knowledge of celestial navigation.
Christina and Jason: When we start a project, I always ask the artist to provide their inspiration as a point of departure for my research rabbit hole on the creative direction. One of Brendan’s inspirations for making this project was a book called Vikings of the Sunrise by Te Rangi Hiroa, so when we started the project I bought a beautiful hardcover copy on eBay. We used the lettering and illustrations from this as a point of departure, alongside a haul books and ephemera we’d recently bought at a used bookshop in Hawaii.

Our designer Elana Schlenker brilliantly suggested that we commission Sophy Hollington—who uses linocut, a relief printmaking process—to create the lettering and illustrations throughout. The geometric patterns on the covers of The Spell and The Story were inspired by Hawaiian tapa designs, a form of printmaking typically made from hand-carved bamboo stamps. In The Story booklet, instead of page numbers we used the phases of the moon to illustrate the passage of time through the book as a nod to celestial navigation and tracking time though natural elements. The illustrations are set in a vibrant vermilion that echoes the color of Hōkūle‘a’s sails and Hawaii’s iron-rich volcanic soil.

The book includes a wire bound and a singer sewn booklet. Why did you choose these particular binding styles for the two parts The Story and The Spell? From the start, we knew the book would have a hardcover case but wanted to something that felt unique to the project, so we chose to wire bind The Spell to give the feeling of a nautical logbook. Practically, we wanted an option that would lay flat and allow us to occasionally insert iridescent paper stock to emulate the sheen of the ocean’s surface or the night sky.

For The Story, the booklet reminds me of a small field guide or scrapbook that provides an objective and historical account after The Spell, which is more of an experiential book. The singer sewn binding allowed us to bring some color into the binding edge and the center spread, it also recalls the color and stitching of Hōkūle‘a’s sail which appear as the opening image.

Roughly, how many books do you create and print annually since you are a bespoke studio honoring craft?
We publish two or three artist books each year in addition to Mercuria, an experimental magazine that explores art and science in chapter form. We typically release one book with an artist we haven’t published before, this takes form in a more ambitious, research-based project that includes significant text and custom design elements. The other books are usually something a little more informal, little to no text, and experimental from one of the artists on our publishing roster.

We went on a bit of a hiatus during the pandemic, it was ideal for reflection and research, but not so great for connecting with our artists, editors, and designers. There is something irreplaceable about in-person design meetings, creative brainstorming, pulling out all the material swatches, and reviewing proofs and prototypes together.

In retrospect, the long pause was beneficial because I allowed myself to embrace the fact that I work slowly. I put a lot of time and thought into each project, when there are a lot of events I feel the pressure to launch new things, but once you publish something it’s forever. Our books will outlive us in libraries and collections, so it’s important that I feel happy with it, and most importantly that it represents the artist’s project in the best possible way. This was the case with Moemoeā, which slowed pace during the pandemic and ultimately took an extra two years because we wanted to commission an essay to include historical and cultural context, we also added a lot of extra production embellishments. In the end, I’m so happy we waited until it felt completely right.

Same Sum is a lovely interactive book full of surprises, what were the challenges with the unique shuffling of the sequences?
It was a really strange experience to try and sequence a book that would also be sequenced by both the reader and by chance as every shuffle and flip-though is bound to be different. It started with the initial edit, narrowing it down to 120 photographs from 400. I find that as an editor you become really familiar with a photographer’s patterns, compositions, and motifs, you start to see how they experience the world through their camera and then present that to the reader. The edit embraces the patterns I find in Peters photographs and lay the groundwork for the reader to make their own connections between images. For example, many images have a central circle or strong angles in the composition, certain pops of color that resonate, a repeated spiral theme, or very similar images made moments apart that occur several times on different panels of the book. It seems random, but it was very considered.

The challenge came when we started to print proofs and prototypes, after I finished a sequence we would immediately print and bind it because it wasn’t possible to experience it on screen, no matter how much we mocked it up to mimic the real thing. We went through five or six rounds of sequencing this way: revise, print, bind, flip, repeat. When we were on press with the final, there were still surprises that popped up from the fact that one book was bound on the left, the other on the right, which shuffled the images further and blew our mind a bit.

What inspired this type of book?
When Peter pitched this project to me, it included 400+ photographs culled from his daily life that were both mundane and magical. He’d experimented with different ways of installing them and was curious if we could make a book from the project. When we begin a new book, the artist fills out a questionnaire—brilliantly created by our long-time collaborator Liz Sales for I Write Artist Statements—so we can identify the themes at the heart of the project before putting together a design proposal. In describing the project, he said “I’ve never been able to effectively lay out the entire deck, extras are always left in small bundles on the table, so while every picture is tangibly together the contents of all pictures are not visible. In this way, the project feels like an epic deck of cards that can never be fully dealt.”

From that moment, I knew I wanted to nod to magic tricks and a card deck, there is a certain sleight of hand that goes into framing and photographing. I also liked how he described the process as a cycle of practice and playing feeding off one another, this made me think of spiral binding and the double-bound format was inspired in part by Amber Gambler by Dylan Nelson.

We published Peter’s debut monograph Half Wild, so I knew this could be a more playful sequel since our audience was already familiar with his work. I also knew that he would be open to experiment with format so long as it doesn’t distract from the heart of the project or the photographs—a principle that is important in all of our publications.

How does the digital age intersect with your work?
The digital age is what makes this all possible, from the Indigo (our digital offset press, which allows us to print books essentially on demand) to social media for sharing our projects or collaborating remotely with artists and contributors. But it does feel like the hours are spent on the screen are endless and never enough, from answering emails, designing books, researching projects, and documenting our work (studio photography and a lot of retouching). We have an amazing team, but we are also still a small studio, so we are hands-on with all aspects!
I think this affects our personal life in that we are drawn to activities that don’t revolve around the screen, our weekends or travels revolve around being immersed in nature or the studio. Our personal studio practices have also evolved away from digital; our foundation is in photography and even though we both shoot film, there is so much time spent on screen from scanning and retouching to designing books or installation ideas. We find ourselves exploring other more tactile and meditative mediums—woodworking for Jason, watercolor and natural pigments for myself—and also thinking about how they can intersect with photography, for example experimenting with custom frames, different materials, and installation ideas.

How has your own artistic background informed your practices at Conveyor Studio?
In a way, my personal practice and my Conveyor Studio practice are so interwoven that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish, they continue to constantly inform one another. When we opened the studio I was just starting the MFA Photography program at Parsons and only beginning to find the direction of my own art practice. Simultaneously, we started experimenting with publishing and started Conveyor magazine, it was my first experience with editing and curating yet it felt really natural. This idea of arranging started to trickle into my personal work which takes form in installations and artist books that mix of images and text, curated from archives and my own writing and photographs. Whenever I start a new project, I inherently think about it in book format, from scale to tactile and temporal experience.

It happens with research topics too, at some point I became very interested in both science and the metaphysical, so naturally the themes for each issue of Conveyor magazine began to reflect similar topics like Alchemy and Time Travel. This continues even further with Mercuria, which explores art and science and is mercurial in format. I wanted the ability to play with the design and format of each booklet, not fit each issue into the same mold. The next volume is going to have the theme of Botany, which is currently a main focus in my own research. I like to think that if I’m going into it with a lot of passion and excitement, it will reflect and spread to the readers.

I also find that design commissions and our publishing projects, even though they aren’t explicitly my personal work, for experimentation and collaborations that are inspiring. I’m lucky in that I get to choose both my design clients and the projects we publish, and usually there is some kind of overlap in areas of research or interest so that I both learn something from their work and can also bring a uniquely, informed element to their book.

As artists, what compelled you to have a studio that celebrates print?
Jason trained as a darkroom and digital printer at Lightwork while studying at Syracuse. He has an extensive knowledge of color management, this combined with his family’s longstanding history in book design and production in the New York City area, started to carve a clear path toward print. In addition to photography, I studied graphic design and art history, which all lend quite well to publishing.

We started Conveyor Studio in a small annex in the book printing and binding factory in Hoboken, New Jersey. Initially, we were just tapping the resources available to us and dove headfirst into printing, publishing, and even curating exhibitions in the space. In the beginning, it was as much about building a community of artists as it was a love of print, and amazingly those things have just continued to grow together over the last decade.


Audience with a Tree: Jana Cruder

Audience with a Tree

Photographer: Jana Cruder

Heidi: How did your connection to trees as a nature based solution to climate change and human connectivity begin?
Jana: I’d like to ask the reader to suspend their known idea of the concept and words “Climate Change“. That is simply too big to grasp and leaves many feeling overwhelmed.  The climate is constantly changing, it is the earth’s regulatory systems constantly seeking balance and self regulating. Rather, I want to encourage an update of terminology to “Environmental Degradation“ from multi-generational post industrialization. That way we can truly understand and start to shape the what, why and how.    

I’ve always had a special affection for trees, as a child I grew up in the forests of western Pennsylvania, running endlessly through them, watching the bears, deers, turkey and building forts. We as a family spent most of our free time in the forest surrounding the home I grew up in.   

In 2010 I went to Germany, that was the first time I witnessed a planted forest. I was on a train from Hamburg to Frankfurt and for what seemed like endless miles I could see straight down the lines of the forests swiftly passing by the window, these forests also void of other life, birds, deer, and other plants.   It was confusing and then I realized all the forests here are planted.  After that trip I did more research and learned about GMO forests and the less than 4% of old growth left in Europe at that time.

The inspiration for this project came in the summer of 2017 I was deep in a course learning about the ancient system of elemental theory Ayurveda. In this system of thought we are taught we are not separate from the earth that makes up our internal body systems.  I learned that our lungs are the forests of our bodies and the forests are the lungs of the planet.   Making this connection paved the way for the unfolding of this work. While attending the Spiritweavers Gathering, the founder Mea Woodruff had purchased and relocated the gathering to its permanent site amongst a towering collection of old growth cedars and redwoods. I had visited the Redwood forests before and always loved visiting Sequoia and never felt more alive then in the presence of those magnificent magical old growth trees. At the gathering I had the opportunity to meet and listen to Ayana Young speak about her passion for the forest and her then new podcast and project called “ For The Wild “.  I was so inspired by Ayana and her vision for the Redwoods project she planted a spark in my spirit.  The months following the gathering I listened to every episode she had at the time and dove deep into the challenges and stories of the Redwoods and Pacific Coastal first nations and forests.  Later that fall I relocated from Topanga, CA to the northern Bay Area and landed in a community outside Sebastopol.  I had pulled up in the driveway and left all my belongings, gear, and equipment in the car and went into my new room and fell asleep.  Around 4am my new house-mate was pounding on my door telling us all we had to evacuate. I drove to the nearest ridgeline to witness a wall of flames about 10 miles wide making its way towards the house I just moved into.  This fire would initiate a series of evacuations between Northern California and Southern California that spanned the next two years.  After the devastation of the Santa Rosa, and Tubbs fires of 2017 I went out into the fire scorched forests and cities to document the devastation.  I was never the same after those fires, it’s like my eyes opened for the first time to the magnitude of the threat to our forests and our old-growth forests and the important and intrinsic roles the old-growth natural forests play in the balancing of the earth’s climate.  I was overcome with grief mixed with curiosity, and that is when I was inspired to make this image. It is a self portrait of me on a stump scorched after the fires.

What was your first memory of a tree?
As a child, I grew up in the woods. In front of our home in Greensburg, PA are planted two giant Sycamore trees standing now well over 100ft tall and 10ft in diameter, they are about 80 years old.  Did you know the Sycamore tree is full of drinkable sap. If you’re ever out of water and you see a Sycamore tree you’re in luck. These two trees have stood as pillars for me, the memory of them so strong and so present in my life.   The first picture of me is 1986 in the woods near the lake behind our family home, the second was 1996. I’m sitting on a bucket holding my cat under that giant Sycamore.

Some of your work is based in spiritual practices and anthropomorphization of the tree, can you share more about this?
Nature is spiritual, for me I am at most alive in my being when I am in deep nature. Spend enough time in these places and you’ll understand the interconnectedness of it all. My spiritual fabric is a diverse mixture of philosophies and practices and part of what I bring to every aspect of my life.  In my early 20’s I met and studied with a Navajo medicine man in New Mexico. He started to open me to the realms beyond this physical fabric. He introduced me to the Beauty Way and Red Road, an unfolding of honor that might take my entire lifetime to fully embody.

I anthropomorphize most everything, even as a child.  Partially to create a window of engagement, the other to recognize all things as having life. It is centered around beliefs from Buddhist and also the Native American belief systems. To recognize all things as having life force, taking life force and that is to be respected and not wasted.  These philosophies are hard to balance in a culture where consumerism, and economic gain outweigh the value of other than humans and the health of the environment.

What is your hope with the immersive work?
My latest immersive experience Audience With A Tree, it is my hope that I can reconnect people with the vast  essence of these giant old growth forests. Bring about a moment of reflection and inspire reverence.

Have you ever known something so deeply as a truth in your heart, you just wait for the moment it unfolds into reality on this earth plane? That is how I felt as this project started to take shape, I knew I wanted to use my creative skills and talents for something bigger than me, it’s a walking prayer of mine. To be used, aligned and put into the right space and time for the elevation of these ideas to connect humans to nature at large.  I had at the time two other large experiential fine art installs under my belt and trees seemed like that was my next focus for immersive experience.  I read the book “ The Hidden Life Of Trees “, by Peter Wohlleben.  I was also deep into the realms of plant medicine at the time and kundalini yoga, all practices that open one up to other possibilities and shifting ways of thinking. It was on a medicine journey when I started hearing the root networks of the trees and seeing their interconnected being-ness,  they even started coming into my dreams off the medicine. It felt as if I was being summoned.  I listened and planned a trip to the giant old growth of Redwoods state park – visiting the Grandmother trees in the Redwood state forest all while documenting and listening deeply.   My first trip was a scouting trip, talking to rangers and locals, learning so much about the conflicting agendas for the forest industry, BLM and the state and national park systems. It was on that trip I also learned about the permits auctioned off and some given for free to private enterprise to access state and national lands to harvest resources. I left that trip amped and angry.  I then returned to go deeper into the woods  with my partner Zebu, he himself is a producer and artist. I was sure he’d understand the need to sit at the feet of the Grandmother Trees and listen. He and I took some mushrooms and sat on that beach surrounded by towering old growth Redwoods, that was where I had my Audience With A Tree. I prayed, cried and asked for forgiveness, I then asked for inspiration for what is needed. What can I do? It was quiet for a few moments when I heard loudly the word “ Reverence “ inspire reverence.

As for the mediums, and progression of my craft, I feel I outgrew the label of “ Photographer “ many years ago, when I was learning film and started directing more commercial multi media advertising shoots and branded content creation. I’m identifying now as a multimedia artist and creative director who uses photography and video to create experiences I and my  teams then document.  For my fine-art experience Audience With A Tree, I used both photography I captured in Sequoia National Forest before and after the devastating fires of 2021 as well as images from Redwood National Forest and other Redwood groves along the pacific coast highway. I also used video I captured mixed in with some stock images to create an immersive forest experience.

How have you tried to communicate scale and majesty with your art?
Scale is very important to me, when I created Natural Plasticity I remember when the idea came it was so simple, I wanted to make these pieces so big the public couldn’t ignore them.  That’s how big plastic felt to me, I wanted to create a disruption and for that project scale helped convey that.  I’m inspired by many great artists that have preceded me using scale to make bold statements. In my practice I’m not afraid of scale and I use it to convey feeling. These things are very big for me and visual scale is a way to communicate that. For Audience With A Tree scale is a poignant and impactful way to convey scale of the old-growth. For  the Berlin installation we chalked a 30ft in diameter Giant Sequoia stump print. This not only reflects the actual size of the Sequoias but also stands conceptually for the magnitude of their threat and to call attention to the honoring of the trees that once stood in these very spaces.   Being in California and spending time with these tree beings, I took for granted the opportunity to be in their presence. I assumed others around the world knew about them and how big they are.   While at the Berlin install I remember standing with someone when they made the connection to the scale of the stump print and the projections inside the exhibition.  They couldn’t believe it, they said to see them in a picture then to stand amongst the imprint of scale was monumental.  There was a moment of recognition that I think could not have been had with just an image.  In future installs I envision several of these stump prints making their ways through the city and leading up to the install sites, perhaps honoring various fallen old growth.

Your first proof of concept installation was in Berlin, an industrial concrete environment, are you always planning on installing in cities where trees once stood?
In 2016 I created my install Way Of The Modern Man, this got me recognition in the Vice Creators Project. From that article about a year later  I got an email in my in-box from NY/Berlin based architect Umberto Freddi.   He simply said, my work was brilliant and that he wanted to collaborate in the future.  Later that year when I was in Berlin on a photo assignment, Umberto and I met over coffee and he asked what I was interested in and working on next. I said Trees, I wanted to bring the vast essence of our old growth to dense urban environments to remind people they exist and that we need them.   I shared with him early ideas of what this experience could look like and he took out his sketch book and started drawing. Below is that first sketch of trees and scale.  We kept in touch moving the vision forward over the next many years, applying for funding, and fine tuning the idea.  The vision for me started so big and then finally though distillation and process it was able to be deduced to its essence. To the elements of impact. That is what I shaped and brought to life with the help of Umberto, Ufer Studios the PSR Kollective and The Foundation For Contemporary Arts in NY.    

At the moment I’m envisioning this to be installed in dense urban environments and available to the public to come and sit in Audience.  Installing into cities is ideal for the concept. The contrast of gray, urban, concrete is needed for the impact of the work.  In Berlin the contrast was incredible, we were in a very industrial and concrete part of the city. To have visitors come into a space where it was warm, smelled like the redwoods, with a towering canopy of nature and nature sounds provided a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was a welcomed reminder and reset space.

What tools did you give the audience to honor the trees?
I don’t want to beat people over the head with fear, the mainstream media and political and corporate agendas do a good job at that already. I’m also not approaching this challenge we face as humanity with fear. I’m most interested in opening a curious and contemplative space of self reflection. Opening a welcoming safe space for different points of view where people can come and touch into these conversations without guilt and fear.  This is a big conversation, it’s a topic we’re all thinking about, affected by and the elephant in the room.

My intention is simple, to inspire reverence. To do that I created a sacred and visually interesting space. I pulled upon the idea that in times past people would bring grievances to the attention of the Queen by requesting an Audience. In Audience With A Tree its almost a reversed request, the trees are asking the public to come and sit in audience with them and learn and listen for answers.  The immersive experience is layers of projections towering above with scents of redwood and cedar in the moist air coupled with the “ Voice Of The Forest “ a guided meditation from the Mother Tree, she brings people into relationship with the understanding of how important mother trees are to the balance of the forest ecosystems and their roles in the forest hierarchy.  When we take these mother trees aka old growth we can permanently alter and scar the health of the entire forest network.  I also brought into this experience an altar. I was very inspired by the great altars to the memory of loved ones at the San Francisco Day of the Dead, also known as Da de los Muertos.  I wanted to create an altar for trees, a space to bring our grievances and concerns about the environmental destruction and changes we are experiencing as a collective and listen deeply for answers.   On that altar I placed sacred items, sage, palo santo, crystals, sacred mala beads, flowers in honor amongst the news clippings about old-growth deforestation, clearcutting for lithium, how governments are selling resources to private companies and the impact of deforestation on our first nation peoples globally.   I worked with photographer Mike Graeme   to present some of his before and after images of the Giant Cedars and the devastation of Fairy Creek, Cayuse wilderness of British Columbia.  I witnessed people come to the altar, and sit in reflection, look around at the projections and then back to the altar. It was a gentle and poignant way to share the why. People wrote messages to the trees, offered a candle and some even a prayer.  It was so beautiful to provide a space for reflection and reverence.

How long is each tree portrait?
The experience is open and rather fluid, the guided meditation lasts about 17 minutes depending on which language it is presented in and the viewers are then invited to sit in the space and reflect. Some rest, on the giant bean bags on the floor listening to the forest soundtrack, some visit the altar. Overall I’d say the average visitor spends about 30 minutes to 1hr in the experience.

What calls you to a specific tree or grove?
It is an absolutely combination of heart and my eyes. Sometimes they come in dreams, or messages. I’ll see something, read something, learn about a group of trees and know I want to go visit them.  It all depends where I am and where I’m collecting images, films and sounds. Sometimes I’ll be driving and see them and immediately have to pull over to visit them. Other times I search them out talking to rangers and locals to find places not often found by everyone.  So far I’ve visited many old growth groves in California, Oregon and Pennsylvania as well as the Amazon in Peru.   It is a big vision for this work to continue and I hope to visit more pockets of old growth on the planet before they are gone, especially the Baobab old growth in Africa.


The Daily Edit – Crude Aesthetics: Kaya & Blank

Kaya & Blank

Marshall Gallery presented “Into the Uncanny Valley which featured three artists: Cody Cobb, Alex Turner and Kaya & Blank. I was confronted with a striking interpretation of something that’s all too familiar on bike rides and commutes along Highway 33 in Ventura county: Pumpjacks.
These dot the hills and neighborhoods between Ventura and Ojai. I caught up with creative duo known as Kaya and Blank about their work.

Heidi: This work revolves around the urban oil fields and refineries in Los Angeles, which image resonated the biggest contrast around consumption and boundary for you?
That might be the image showing a single pump jack in front of a massive container ship in the port of Long Beach. While the pump is stoically working, the global trade system appears in the back. Every time we look at that specific one it gives us a feeling of cause and effect. The same would be true for the frames of pumpjacks with highways or a McDonalds in the background. All of them show the extraction of a resource and the world it created. There is something very strange about these specific frames.

What drew you to nocturnal landscapes?
Işık has always been fascinated by nocturnal landscapes and all her projects are created at night, and Thomas has a background in stage performance and theatre, so both of us are drawn to dark spaces in which artificial light dominates perception. Something strange and beautiful happens with colors, and modern cameras with extreme low light performance can capture things that are beyond human perception. The sensor amplifies traces of light and the resulting images become somewhat unreal. And then the darkness of course helps to reduce visual noise, it is easier to focus on individual objects in the dark. Furthermore there is this notion that the night is the time to rest, however, capitalism is a 24/7 system. We want to emphasize that in our work.

What are your observations regarding our relationship too crude and how does that unfold in the work?
Although oil plays a massive role in the creation of every product we as humans are surrounded by today and fuels our entire contemporary culture, we never come into direct contact with the raw material itself. It is always already utilized, mediatized, transformed, or deliberately concealed. There is very little awareness in the broader public for how essential this one resource is for literally everything and therefore massively informs global politics and especially US politics. But even on a much smaller scale, the local one, it is impressive to see how little people know about Los Angeles as a place of extraction for crude oil. Showing this deep and historical connection is one of the reasons why we show the pump jacks that are basically in the backyards of residential buildings. The detachment from this resource is a huge issue, yet at the same time we as individuals enjoy the comfort that it brings and love exploring the landscape with our cars. Because our own relationship to crude is a complicated one, we wanted the work to reflect that by being haunting and beautiful at the same time.

The pump jacks take on a zoological aesthetic, how did your framing reinforce that?
Showing mostly individual pump jacks or small groups of them gives a feeling of observing actual characters. Their shape and movement has something inherently animalistic, that’s probably the reason why people also call them nodding donkeys. There is a phenomenon called pareidolia, which describes essentially what happens when we recognize a face in an electrical outlet or a human outline in a cloud. As humans we are prone to see familiar things in random shapes or patterns, which certainly helps to enhance this effect in our video.

What obstacles did you encounter photographing at night?
Working together certainly helps to feel safer at night, but it still is somewhat scary at times. At least in densely populated areas like Southern California there is no dead of night, there is always something happening, making sounds, crawling around. And that just triggers your imagination. What is out there? Is it dangerous? The biggest fear at any given moment though was that the police would come and question what we are doing, which happened a few times. Especially in residential areas we would try to be as quick as possible before we would be asked to leave.

How does your collaboration unfold in the field, are you both framing images?
Işık mostly operates the camera while Thomas scouts for different angles or pretends that the engine of our car broke down so we could film from the side of the road. We always discuss framing and decide together how or what to change in a scene, try to refine framing and check for details in the frames together. It is a very fun process and sometimes we dance or do squats while the camera is recording.

What were the determining factors for which areas to photograph?
In 2020 LA Times published an article with a map by Ryan Menezes and Mark Olalde that shows every single active and idle oil well in California. We used their map to identify clusters in greater Los Angeles that we would work our way through over the course of a night. It was clear relatively quickly that for us the most interesting frames were those that show the extreme proximity of extraction and everyday life and so we focused on clusters in populated areas. However, we did drive out to work in remote oilfields as well, closer to Bakersfield for example, but we ended up never using that material.

Tell us about the heliographs and why this was important to this body of work.
Crude Aesthetics was created as an installation that addresses the direct connections between visibility, photography, and petroleum. What is known to be the first photograph in history, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s View from the Window at Le Gras, was created using bitumen, a naturally occurring petroleum tar which hardens in proportion to its exposure to light. To recreate this historic photographic process, we used tar collected from La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles to print photographs of the USA’s cultural elements that are deeply embedded in excess oil consumption, such as suburbs, drive-throughs, interstate systems, overcrowded parking lots of shopping malls, and Carvana “vehicle vending machines”. Fixing these images with petroleum on a polished, mirror-like aluminum surface allows the viewers to see their own reflection on this raw material and the images of a culture shaped by it.

The Daily Edit – Ken Karagozian: Underground Subway Series

Ken Karagozian

Los Angeles Metro Art website showcases Ken’s work and a PDF around his body of work called Deep Connections

Heidi: Congratulations on your long and rich photo career, you had incredible mentors, what did each of them offer you that you still practice today?
Ken: Ansel Adams had an incredible impact on my interest in photography. On a high school photography field trip in the early 1970’s to visit Ansel Adams studio and darkroom it was my first experience seeing a beautiful B & W landscape print displayed on the wall at his home. I was just amazed the clarity of richness of a fine art print and then thought maybe that it something that I would like to emulate for myself in a making a beautiful print.

Another important factor that I learned in the 1980’s was when taking a workshop with the Owens Valley Photography instructors (John Sexton, Bruce Barnbaum & Ray McSavaney) that when you do a photography project that you have to always photograph in different lighting situations & seasons to really see the different changing of light upon your subject matter.

Another workshop (film & darkroom printing) was with Oliver Gagliani. I remember Oliver told me that when he was a guest instructor at the Ansel Adams Yosemite Workshops Ansel was photographing the landscape while Oliver was photographing the texture of the tents at Curry Village. For myself I enjoy photographing people in their natural environment.

From Bruce Barnbaum he would state that these three human ingredients will combine to produce success in any field of endeavor: Enthusiasm, Talent and Hard Work and that a person can be successful with only two of those attributes as long as one of two is ENTHUSIASM.

My personal photographic project has been photographing Los Angeles Underground Transportation and that has attributed to my Enthusiasm for this project and my love for Black and White film photography.

What was the focus of your photography workshop in Bishop and how did you come to photograph bridges? 
After taking the Owens Valley Workshop I became good friends with photographer Ray McSavaney since he lived in Los Angeles and would do a workshop called Urban Los Angeles where on Friday evening we would meet at his studio and meet the workshop participants and bring some prints to share with the group. On Saturday and Sunday we would then photograph in Los Angeles. Some of those locations would be Victorian Square, under the bridges of the Los Angeles river, Bradbury Building, etc. For myself the first time photographing under the bridges or freeways was this does not look interesting with all the concrete but when I went home and developed my  B&W film the concrete had a glow to it with light underneath.

How did your Underground Subway series begin?
While driving to work everyday on Hollywood Blvd I saw a carwash go out of business and thought that was strange especially with all the cars in Los Angeles. Then saw construction fences going up with a sign saying this is a Federal Funded Transportation Project that included Los Angels County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. I then wrote to the MTA Arts about obtaining permission to photograph. One year later I heard back and they told me I could come for a day and that day turned into over three decades of photographing LA Metro Underground Transportation Projects.

Why was the Huntington Library interested in collecting his work and what was your role in all of this?
I had contacted the Huntington Library about showing them my portfolio from my Underground Subway series and met with Jennifer Watts (Huntington Library Curator of Photography) where some of my artwork is now collected. I mentioned  to Jennifer about looking at Ray McSavaney’s photography and then the Huntington Library started collecting some of Ray’s photographs. Ray passed away the week after I retired in 2014 and John Sexton asked me to help with Ray’s estate where now with help Ray’s artwork, is collected at  Huntington Library, Center for Creative Photography, Portland Art Museum, Los Angeles Central Library and University of Utah Marriott Library.  Explorations is Ray’s book that he self published and is available here.

Ray McSavaney

What would you tell your younger self?
I would probably try to keep up with the digital world taking more classes to better my skills in Photoshop, Lightroom and designing a website. I wish I did more oral interviews with my subject matter. Now I look forward to publishing a book on my different construction projects that also includes the the rebuilding of the iconic 6th St Viaduct. I do have some older projects where I photographed the vendors and buyers at the Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market and Harley Davidson Riders.

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently photographing the Underground Construction along Wilshire Blvd where Metro plans to build seven new Subway Stations by the Summer Olympics in 2028

The Daily Edit – Alex Buisse


The Buisse family plays in the spray of the exceptionally heavy Yosemite Falls.

Emma Buisse, 4, slides down snow on the approach trail to the Weeping Wall, Icefield Parkways, Alberta, Canada.
Emma Buisse, 4, sleds (with and without the actual sled) in Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
Emma Buisse, 4, hikes and climbs in the woods near her Chamonix home, France.

Luca Buisse, 4 months old, heads up Sulphur Mountain in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Emma Buisse, 4, skis her first black diamond run, the Grands Montets homerun, in Chamonix, France.

Alex Buisse

Heidi: Congratulations on Mont Blanc Lines , how did this second book come about?

Alex: After I started the Mont Blanc Lines project (drawing climbing routes on high resolution photos of mountains) during the first covid lockdown, the idea of a book came quickly and felt like a natural progression. It was published in late 2021 in French and Italian, with English coming later in 2022, and was extremely well received, with strong sales during the holiday season.

The French publisher, Glénat, felt like the concept, mixing line drawings, action photography, historical overviews and famous climber interviews, could be extended to other areas than just the French Alps. They floated the idea of a world book several times, but I didn’t feel like I was in a position to say yes. Finally, around Christmas last year, with our lease in the Canadian Rockies coming up for renewal and one last year before our daughter Emma had to be enrolled in school full time, we felt like it might be the right time for a family round-the-world adventure.

Is the photo direction evolving from the first book?
The first book relied on a decade worth of photos I had shot while working as an adventure photographer in Chamonix. For this new book, however, I won’t be able to spend weeks and months gathering landscape and action shots of each location. I have made the decision to focus on getting the best possible base images to draw the lines, and will have to license some images from other local photographers to fill in some of the blanks. Thankfully, there are tons of talented people working in the adventure domain right now.

I know you originally declined, what was your hesitation?
The main hesitation revolved around finding the time to visit and photograph enough places. I didn’t want the world to be the US, Canada and the Alps. Since we decided to spend a whole year on the road, we will have time to see some of the climbing areas everywhere: Namibia, Chile, Venezuela, China, Tasmania, Madagascar, Jordan and many more places are on the list.

We also had concerns about how long it would mean being away from my family, until we realized that it was possible to do almost everything all together, perhaps going solo the last technical mile or two. The main exception would be the Himalayas, as the kids are still too young for trekking at high altitudes.

Two young children, two working parents on a world tour, what were the ingredients to say yes?
The book feels almost like an excuse to go have a grand family adventure. We have done enough traveling already to know that adding the needs of a four year old and a 10 month old, on top of our full time work (and Erin’s PhD!) and all the regular constraints of traveling, is a huge and exhausting challenge. But we also felt strongly that sharing this fast-changing world with our children and having adventurous lives was more important than ever. It’s just that what used to mean skiing to the north pole or going on Himalayan expeditions is now hiking to Lower Yosemite Falls or car camping in Moab.

We also had to find ways to make the logistics work, which means basing ourselves in a single place for weeks at a time rather than constantly be on the move. This allows us to slow down, catch our breath, catch up on work, and get to know the places better. We just have to be laser focused on the important spots, and not try to be tourists and see everything.


How has your photography evolved now that you are a parent?
Even before having children, my photography has been on a steady shift toward the more human aspects of adventure, at times turning away from the grand and wild landscapes to refocus on gazes and emotions. Having children has accelerated that process and forced me to slow down and really take in every fleeting moment. I am still a visual storyteller at heart, but with children am finding myself telling smaller and more intimate stories. I am constantly trying to capture my children just being themselves, and I think there is real beauty in that.

What are your hopes for kids during this time?
Emma loves nothing more than being outside and exploring, getting dirty and occasionally falling down from rocks and trees. We want to encourage that as much as possible, and through the red line of our book as well as our natural inclinations, gravitate to the wild places of the world. Our kids will have plenty of time to sit down in a classroom (or in front of a computer) when they are a little older, but for now we just want Emma and Luca to explore the world with us.

We also want them to meet and interact with people from all different cultures, and prioritize trying to get Emma playing with other kids, even if she has just met them.

How has being with your kids shifted how you approach making images?
To state the obvious, kids don’t take direction very well (mine certainly don’t), and I wouldn’t want them to act differently just because the camera is there anyway. It really is about being in the moment, interacting in a natural way, then noticing the little thing that give me a hint that something might be happening very soon, then managing to get a camera pointed in the right direction.

Before photographing children, I would naturally gravitate to choosing the right background,  usually some epic mountain scene, then finding a way to get my subjects in front of that. With kids, not only is that exponentially harder to achieve, but it doesn’t lead to images that make sense, as they don’t relate to the landscape in the same way as us. When we were in Yosemite last week, El Cap held Emma’s attention for all of 30 seconds, while she spent a solid hour on a 10 foot tall boulder at the trailhead.

I also love hiking has completely changed. We just don’t go very fast, or cover much ground at all, but we notice so much more than I had become used to. And I have also learned that trying to hurry because “papa is going to miss the light if we don’t keep going right now” is not a recipe for a happy family…

How has your career as an alpinist influenced your photo opportunities outside of outdoor photography?
I am always on the lookout for stories that involve the outdoors and are more than about just the adventure itself. One aspect I have been fascinated with for a long time has been mountain rescue, especially as we are lucky to have some of the best trained and most professional units in the French Alps. I started following the PGHM unit in 2015, spending four weeks embedded with them, and am doing a follow up this year. My experience as a climber gives me some legitimacy in this universe, as the rescuers don’t feel like they have to babysit me constantly, and it gives me opportunities to really follow them in the heart of the action. It feels great to flex my photojournalism muscles once in a while, and there is something special about capturing the raw emotions of a dangerous rescue.

In a totally different direction, something else I am trying to push right now is using my climbing skills and comfort working at height to do more industrial work. My ideal goal  would be to focus on the infrastructure of renewable energy, especially wind turbines, as they neatly intersect with my personal values and, indirectly, with conservation and my love of wild places.





The Daily Edit – Charlotte Drury: A Place to Land – ICP Documentary and Visual Journalism


A Place to Land

Photographer: Charlotte Drury

I had the pleasure of joining a portfolio review session for International Center of Photography’s  (ICP) Portfolio Day last week and met with a handful of students.  That day about 60 graduating students shared work with a variety of industry professionals, it’s a wonderful moment for the photo community to come together and see the future of photography, that’s how I met Charlotte. Her ICP project, “A Place to Land” skillfully documented her connection to both the gravity and nuances of sport. The work included vulnerable portraits, intimate moments and the full spectrum of those who are performative. We’re used to seeing the monumental moments, not the in-between of what it means to be involved in sport, striving for excellence.

Heidi: How did your career as former Olympic athlete in the sport of Trampoline (2020) inform this body of work?
Charlotte: This project wouldn’t exist without my past career in sport. I felt particularly drawn to tell this story because of the complex relationship I have with my career and experience in gymnastics. When I first started going to the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation I didn’t know what kind of photos I was going to create or what kind of story this would be.

At the beginning of shooting, I was almost desperate to find proof that the gym could be a good place for kids to grow up. I knew that at one point, when I was very young, I loved the sport with all my heart but through my years on the National Team I lost sight of that. When I tried to remember what it felt like to have fun with gymnastics, it felt so far away. As if some other little girl had experienced that joy. It showed in my photos too. In the beginning, I only wanted to focus on the moments of celebration or playfulness, desperate to see the “good”. As time went on and I reflected on what I was observing, I realized the magic of sports are the in-between moments. The subtler expressions of hope, friendship, focus and even disappointment and frustration started to draw me in more than before. I watched, and photographed, as the gym invited all of these experiences in and the athletes not only got to explore the full physical landscape of being a kid but the emotional one too. It was important for me to see that.

What sparked your interest in photography? What was the photo that became the turning point for you?
I must’ve been 11 when my parents got a Canon Rebel for the family. It quickly became “Charlotte’s Camera” and whenever it went “missing” my parents and siblings knew where to find it (on my bedside table). My bedroom was on the second floor and looked out over the bird feeder. I loved pulling the screen off and dangling my legs out the window, waiting for the birds to come by and snapping their photos. I’d wake up early and go shoot the morning light in the park by my house or I’d bring it to the gym and shoot my teammates during practice. When I got older, I brought it with me on my unreasonably long solo road trips and the camera became my buddy during weeks alone on the road. Ever since I was a kid the camera had a natural magnetism that I didn’t think twice about. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized not everyone felt that way and that perhaps I had found my new calling.

Why did you choose The Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation Harlem, NYC for this project?
I went to a few gyms before finding the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation but they just weren’t it. They weren’t bad gyms but I could sense unspoken tension between the athletes and coaches and the values of the program weren’t what I was searching for (even if I didn’t know exactly what that was yet). I think at the end of the day, there’s an ease to this program. Wendy has done an amazing job of lowering all barriers to entry to gymnastics. She offers tons of scholarships, organizes outreach and has the kids doing so much more than Trampoline and Tumbling (including community performances and fundraisers). The emphasis here is on doing gymnastics, not grinding out champions at all costs. It was refreshing and exactly what I was hoping for.

Was part of this project self reflection or “self portrait” discovery?
I would say this project is heavily self reflective. When I retired after the Tokyo Games in 2021, I had a lot to process and work through. My career wasn’t easy on me and it didn’t end well. By the time I retired, I lost my faith in sports as a whole and my new goal was to put as much distance between me and gymnastics as possible (hence the cross-country move from California to New York City). But part of what encouraged me to start exploring gyms in the city was that a piece of me was desperate to challenge that narrative. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life hating something I had dedicated over two decades to. As I watched the kids here play, challenge themselves and banter with each other, I started to remember the happy days I had growing up, memories I didn’t even know were stored away. I also remembered how much fun it is to just bounce on a trampoline which is a pretty big deal for me.

How did it feel to be behind the camera and not on the floor, but still striving for excellence?
Mixed. There are days when I’m so glad to be the one photographing because I genuinely just love to make pictures. Then there are days that I get filled with this deep ache and I dearly miss being the one out on the competition floor. For all the hard moments I had in my career there were some spectacular ones too and I miss those. It helps me to remember that there is a season for everything, and my season of competing in Trampoline is behind me. Photographing gives me the chance to make my subjects feel just as special as I did when I had my picture taken. It’s also an amazing way for me to invite my past into this new future I’m building. It’s nice that even though I’m retired those skills I honed over the years as an athlete are still serving me.

What would you share with any pro athlete that is turning to the arts post a successful career in sport?
Remember what you do is not who you are. The obstacles in your way, become your way. And have fun, you’re allowed.

The Daily Edit – Blind River: Alex Turner




Photographer: Alex Turner

Alex and I connected a few weeks ago after many of our circles began to overlap. We shared friends in the art, commercial and conservation spaces and I reviewed some of his images from a recent Patagonia journal project. Our conversation left me with so many questions about his interdisciplinary research and artwork. Along with making this impressive body of work, Alex’s love of the outdoors and intriguing perspective of how we see and surveil the world leaves me curious and excited for what’s next. Here’s what he had to say about his project, Blind River.

Heidi: How long have you been in the conservation field and has photography always been a part of this work for you?
Alex: I’ve always been interested in the environmental sciences and conservation, but only recently worked in a professional capacity within either of the fields. I’m currently working at an environmental nonprofit focused on forest restoration in Los Angeles, and was recently a citizen scientist with wildlife biologists at the University of Arizona. In both cases, I used these relationships to inspire my artistic practice. The collaborative work I did with wildlife biologists resulted in my most recent photographic project called Blind River, and my current role in forest restoration is informing my current body of work.

How did this idea for Blind River come about, was this the first installation of this work at Marshall Gallery?
While I was a graduate student at the University of Arizona, I was amazed to learn that jaguars occasionally migrated across the US/Mexico border. I reached out to the research team that was tracking their movements, and began to envision a photographic project related to that research. The team uses motion-triggered infrared cameras to monitor them, and then runs that footage through a customized A.I.-based facial recognition software to identify different species of animals. It became apparent to me very quickly that, based on the locations of these cameras, the team inevitably records and identifies a lot of activity outside the parameters of their research. Considering that the US government uses these same technologies in the same environments, I realized that this was a unique way to examine the surveillance tactics deployed along the border through the lens of an organization with completely different motives. I had a show of my work at the University of Arizona Museum of Art as part of my thesis, as well as a solo show in New York and various other group shows, including one recently at Marshall, and another show there this summer. LACMA recently acquired one of the pieces for their permanent collection, and it will be on display in the 2024 Pacific Standard Time exhibition. On July 15th I’ll be in a 3 person show at the Marshall Gallery, the working title is called Rendered Realities.

How long has A.I. been on your mind and what concerns do you have?
A.I. has been on my mind for a long time, and the current iterations of it are already so much more advanced and sophisticated than anything that I was working with even 3-4 years ago. But the concerns that I hoped to address with Blind River are not dissimilar from the concerns of A.I. today, namely: what happens when A.I. is wrong? And how do we operate in a world where we are more and more detached from each other, or any lived experiences for that matter?

How long are the remote sensing and recognition applications deployed?
I was monitoring dozens of cameras in several mountain ranges on the US/Mexico Border in Arizona for the better part of 3 years. Each one required me to go out and change batteries and SD cards every couple weeks, especially if they were in ‘active’ areas. Some cameras would go weeks without capturing any activity, and some were constantly capturing deer, bears, foxes, humans, mountain lions and everything in between. Many of these cameras were in very remote areas with no trails, requiring hours of bushwhacking through difficult desert mountain terrain. Often, the same environmental features that attracted wildlife also attracted human movement, including the paths of least resistance and access to water. Because each SD card could have thousands of photos, the research team collaborated with engineers to develop an A.I. software that could help identify species in each picture, potentially saving the researchers countless hours of cataloguing data. While I’m no longer a citizen scientist with the team, their research is ongoing and will continue for many years.

What data sets are you combining in order to raise questions and what surprised you about the cross overs?
All of the data I collected was in collaboration with the wildlife biology team. The infrared footage I use in my artwork is part of their research and data, as well as the A.I. recognition results. When a picture of a human is categorized as a ‘human’ by the software, it is categorized in their database as such. While the footage and data is most likely very similar to the footage and data collected by Border Patrol, we are in no way working in partnership with them, nor are we sharing data or information. I have footage of the cartel moving across the border, and Border Patrol likely has footage of jaguars moving across the border. We simply have different motivations and intentions. For me, that difference is key to the project: it allows you as the viewer to see the different ways these technologies can be used, and weigh the positive and negative outcomes and draw your own conclusions.

The fused imagery illustrates several paradoxes: human/dehumanized/intimate/loose/natural landscape and the observation of. How did this idea emerge and why was it important to you to push photographic boundaries?
One of the more jarring moments in the making of Blind River was looking at the infrared photos on a computer screen for the first time. Having just visited these places, I was surprised at how foreign and alien they felt in the photos. Part of it was the way space and subject is depicted with infrared technology, but also how little information is actually available in the photos. The sensors are very small, so the resulting images are very pixelated and blurry. The gulf between the technology and real life experience I had was stark, and I wanted to highlight that disparity. I made very high resolution panoramas of the landscapes from the same perspective as the motion sensor camera, then overlaid the subjects from the infrared cameras into these immersive landscapes. The figures are vague and not well defined in contrast to their detailed surroundings. I’m interested in showing both the possibilities and limitations of these photographic technologies. Undoubtedly these technologies will only get better, but they will never substitute reality…there will always be a level of detachment between us and the subject being depicted or captured. Photography’s tenuous relationship with truth and reality has always been interesting to me, but today it feels particularly prescient in the face of surveillance and A.I.

Did the questions iterate over time?
I wasn’t entirely sure what questions this project would pose when I first began working on it, but I found myself wondering ‘what is my role in all of this?’ quite often. As the surveillant, I have the ability to curate data and footage for the viewer, regardless of my understanding of this space or my authority or expertise. There is a lot of public rhetoric surrounding the border today, but how much can we truly claim to know about this space by looking at it through our screens, or reading about it, or studying and surveilling it from afar? I think it’s a pressing question for all of us, but particularly for those who wield considerable influence over the region.

Now that you are based in Los Angeles, what photography projects are you working on, and what do you hope to do?
Working with a forestry restoration organization in California, my current focus is on trees. But my new project is about trees the same way that Blind River was about jaguars, meaning there’s a lot more happening in the work. My tree project incorporates thermal technology, which has many different real world applications, much like infrared. I’m fascinated by the variety of imaging technologies available today, and I love repurposing those technologies for artistic projects. Troubleshooting is a huge part of the process, as I’m often trying to use these tools for something very different than their intended applications. That being said, I’m excited to put work out into the world, hopefully soon.

The Daily Edit – Cisco: Stan Evans




Photographer: Stan Evans
Agency:The Hatch
Client: Cisco
Creative Director: Rick Vargas
Producer: Connie Conway
Stylist: Kaityln Lusk, Eliza Karpel
Makeup: Valerie Harvey, Valerie Kan
Photo Assistants: Ethan Sharkey, Marcus Soto, Guillermo Ulysses
Digital Tech: Tom Mishima
Video: Marrice “Mo” Hill
Video Editor: Jeff Moustache
Casting – Eastside Studios
Location Scout: Isaac Levy
Photo Retoucher: Natalie Schwarz
Social / Digital Strategy: Austin Holt

BTS Video
How Cisco is pursing pay fairness
Their commitment to Social Justice, 2 years in the making
Change Systems, Change the world


Heidi: What made this project diverse and equitable? Those are two different pillars for a way forward.
Stan: The first part is about working with intention. We had a mix of cast and crew from different physical abilities, to gender and age, and ethnicity, and that was by design. Equitable is about paying anyone in or on the production what the job is worth rather than paying based on appearance. 

You mentioned equal pay, why would one pay one person more than another? Doesn’t that continue the divide?
I just mentioned equal pay because usually diverse creators and actors/models are paid less. You see it with Social Media Creators and in the mainstream entertainment business.  In advertising I’ve seen more disparity in the length of payment terms and the way they’re handled. Agencies and clients are drawing out payment terms. Smaller shops and creatives have to fund or string out production costs on their own credit and this makes it more difficult to build wealth and build a business. Drawn out contract demands hurt minority shops, limit talent and disrespect agencies as well as creatives. Less experience, less opportunity, and lack of legal representation often drives desperation to accept terms even though they may be unbalanced. 

Who does that help, and who does that harm?
I don’t think large corporations have had to think about it as much because they have long lines of credit and financing. Long payment terms stretch vendors and creatives who aren’t operating with large amounts of capital. Unfortunately if the goal is to empower diverse creatives and showcase different narratives that can’t be done if they are hindered financially by production costs. Someone could be perfectly capable creatively but if they don’t have the funds to front production costs they’re out of the running. 

How did your experience inform this project?
I’m part of a community that has dealt with bias and discrimination; that perspective along with empathy gives me the ability to put myself in other people’s shoes to figure out how to share their stories. I’m goal oriented so my efforts tend to focus on how to fix the situation –  I do that with photos and videos. Always try to figure out how you can expand your creativity with a client and over deliver.

Heidi: How did this project come about?
Stan: Cisco reached out about creating a collection of images that would represent their brand worldwide for their Social Justice Campaign.

The BTS video VO closed with this was more than money could buy, in the end, aren’t we all simply looking for dignity and to be seen? How did this dignify those you photographed?
Money can buy alignment for a time but to create something that will stand the test of time it takes an ideal. Something people in front of the lens, people behind the lens, and people in the audience can join in and be a part of. For this project I think we listened and used the photography to hold a mirror to our subjects and reflect who they are. The crew orchestrated images that they could see themselves in and it illuminated self worth. We made everyone part of the process. That adds value to everyone and brands across the board.  

 The casting naturally turned some people away, what was the criteria for casting?
I disagree that anyone was turned away. We actually showcased many who normally don’t get adequate representation. Native Americans, people with disabilities, and the queer community. It was actually a pretty full spectrum given time, budget, and locations. It could have easily gone kitsch and been a remake of the United Colors of Benetton but the shoot stayed grounded in realism. And to be clear, props to Benetton for being one of the first brands to promote diversity, that just wasn’t the art direction we were going for here.

Perhaps my question was unclear, did you include everyone that showed up at the casting? 
Cisco had a broad overview of communities they were hoping to include. Much of this is determined by the different regions Worldwide where their services are used. (India, Asia, Africa etc so the imagery would be used in those markets). The initial casting was digital and pretty straight forward with headshots and measurements. I had a few extra asks as I am very intentional with diverse casting.  l requested their IG handles and we asked for audition tapes (which is rare for stills) because I wanted to learn a bit about them, They included small details about themselves because instead of casting for a part we were actually asking people to come as who they are for this shoot. There weren’t any wrong answers, it was just about giving different people a spotlight to share their uniqueness.

We had a fitting day so I met most of the models before the shoot and generally had a good idea of who they were and what they were about by the time they got to set. The learning, understanding and the back and forth flow of communication between the people in the images and the crew is what made the shoot more inclusive rather than just casting people to fit X, Y, or Z imagery.

How are you mentoring the next generation?
I started the Social Studies Show in 2019 before George Floyd and the pandemic as a way to introduce diverse creatives to learn about the advertising world – giving insights and advice from experts they might be unable to connect with. At the time people didn’t really understand what I was doing and dismissed it but as the importance for advertisers and creatives to look deeper into different perspectives and how to build within diverse communities, viewers began to understand its importance. It’s a guide to anyone who wants to watch and learn about marketing and activism. There’s no gatekeeping and it’s free. Working with my team we are attempting to scale mentorship broader than 1 to 1 learning. Through diverse media we are compounding our efforts towards equity, equality and business sustainability. Here’s a recent podcast with Toby Kaufmann of Facebook and previously Refinery 29 that focuses on empowering diverse creatives. It was a powerful episode and applicable to our conversation.

What is great resource for emerging photographers?
The best resource I’ve seen for real answers is one my Mentor Monte Isom created with Fstopppers   it’s honestly the best $299 a photographer could spend because Monte really breaks it down. Photo Consultants and Amy V. Cooper as a great asset. So much of the photo industry is business oriented and artists need to focus on that end, probably more so. I have a podcast with Amy that will be dropping in a few weeks and she will be offering a discount on her Master Class on the Social Studies show.




The Daily Edit – Drew Smith: Patagonia Spring 23 Journal

Photographer: Drew Smith

I connected climber and documentarian Drew Smith about his latest project in the Andes. Jirishanca clocks in at 19,993 ft and is well known for being difficult with very few successful ascents. While Drew didn’t summit with the team, the skill needed to both photograph and keep pace with the athletes never ceases to impress me.

Heidi: You went to hell and back with your health on this one, how did that inform your images, if at all?
Drew: Yeah I was sick on and off the entire 6 weeks I was in Peru. HAPE, Pneumonia, and a couple of episodes of food poisoning really did a number on me. It was really terrible and stressful at times knowing I had a job to do. But then in a strange way it shifted my eyes and mind into just being present and taking it one day at a time. Everything slowed down and I looked at things more closely and as a result, captured the little moments that documented a more intimate story.

I know you trained for this, what tools did you employ to keep your head in the game?
At some point, we surrender control and let things unfold.
I was already in Peru and I knew that I would still have an experience even if it wasn’t the one I expected. In general, I tend to hold expectations lightly because things are always changing. I knew that I got lucky and it could have been much worse so there was a sense of gratitude that carried me through.

Considering this was another go at a first ascent, what pressure comes with this invitation?
This mountain was big and beautiful, something you would imagine in a dream or draw when you think of a mountain. I remember the first photo I saw of this mountain was in a book I was reading about Nick Bullock’s attempt. His account with Jirishanca was full on, cold, scary, difficult and something I was strangely looking forward to. Knowing I’d be with Josh and Vince, two people I’d heard of since I first started climbing, I was honored to be invited on a trip as part of the team.How did you get awarded the invite?
I had hung out with Josh Wharton at crags on and off over the years and we were always trying to make a bigger mission happen. I always appreciated his motivation and humble demeanor. One day I got a text saying he wanted to go back to Jirishanca and invited me along. I was stoked and we actually bought tickets in the summer of 2021 but had to cancel because of Covid issues in Peru. But made it happen in 2022.

How has your commitment to climbing served you over the years?
It’s brought me to some beautiful places and introduced me to some of the most amazing people in my life, including my wife.

You’re both creative and an athlete, did one take precedence over the other during this trip or how do you balance that dualism?
Usually both sides feed off of each other. A lot of my creative inspiration comes from long days in the mountains. I love attempting to tell these powerful stories through my eyes. In Peru, I was held back physically so I had to depend on my creative side to carry me through.

What humbled you about this mountain?
The mountains in general are humbling every time I’m in them. The route Josh and Vince climbed on Jirishanca is complex needing a wide range of skill. From free climbing 5.13 to hard mixed and steep snow climbing. I got a glimpse of the challenges Josh and Vince had on Jirishanca through my lens and that in itself was humbling.

What emotions were you trying to capture between Josh and Vince?
I just try to capture what’s real. Being a fly on the wall and waiting for those genuine moments to happen. Piecing together the story as it unfolds in real time.

The Daily Edit – Cosmopolitan: Cameron Davidson


Cosmopolitan Magazine

Senior Visual Editor: Emily Adar
Photographer: Cameron Davidson
Read the story here

Heidi: How has your skills as a pilot transferred to the drone?

Cameron: It has helped immensely. Understanding airspace and being able to pre-visualize a location is helpful. Knowing how the light falls from an elevated perspective has been useful. The biggest part that I enjoy about drones is the ability to loiter over a subject. To wait until a moment happens or more importantly, to get low and slow and still be safe. I enjoy being able to shoot from 30 feet as much as from 400 feet -121.92 meters (legal limit in USA and Canada).  Often times the best shot or angle is less than 200 feet – which is in deadman’s curve, for helicopters. (a risky, often non-recoverable altitude if something goes amiss in a helicopter)

How did this project come about?
Emily Adar, the Senior Visual Editor for Cosmopolitan wrote me in early December to see if I was interested in shooting this project. I was referred to her by Scott Lacey, the Deputy Visual Director for Hearst Visuals. Scott and I had worked together previously on another aerial shoot.

Were you directed to photograph this as black and white?
No, it was kinda of up in the air. We discussed shooting it as black and white and also as color.  When I sent Emily my initial set of selects she asked me to process in black and white and also in color so that the design team could make the final decision. I have a set of black and white styles that I use in Capture One that are punchy and a bit gritty. I thought that this look was perfect for the story.

Was it your idea to include the duotone to suggest fire in the drone footage?

No, I wish it was. That came as a complete surprise and I felt that it was very successful presentation style.

You have a significant body of aerial work, did you pitch footage for the online version?
Emily suggested it for the online version. I was keen on doing it. I thought it would help tell the story of these immense buildings full of chickens and prison laborers.

How did you get access to the farm if they weren’t compliant during the interview?

The interior shots are not mine – they’re pick-ups. I never accessed the farm on the ground – except from the air. The first location I went to is quite a bit south of Phoenix. It is guarded by roving security in vehicles. I drove past the site and started scouting for a place to launch my drones and not bring attention to myself. I ended up driving to a spot along the highway where I could park, keep visual contact with the drone and most importantly, not be seen. I started the overflight up fairly high, shot video first and then lowered the drone down to about 150 feet. After finishing the shoot, I flew away from my location in case I was spotted and then flew back to the launch site from a different angle. It was a bit nerve racking, given the publicity surrounding the farm and the prison labor issue.  The main location, I did the same thing, parked far enough away as to not draw attention to myself and parked on the far side of a tree line.  Normally, when shooting drone aerials, my preference is to use my Inspire 2 with a bigger chip, however, for this project, I wanted to shoot with smaller drones that were quieter and less easy to spot from the ground.

What tools did you use to earn trust for the silhouette portrait?
That is interesting. In my contract, they were specific requests to be understanding of the situation and to protect the identity of the subject.

We got along great. I showed her tests I had done before and what I wanted to do to give a sense of a person but also not identify who she was. I had built a set of screens with fabric to photograph her on the other side of. We did that, but I felt that the silhouette was the way to go – first off, it was very much in my style of shooting graphic images and I I knew I could control the contrast to keep her in the dark. When I  processed the files, I crushed the blacks so there was no detail whatsoever in her face.

I showed the subject a frame from every set-up and she approved them. I wanted her to be an active participant in the shoot, plus it is her story that is a critical part of the essay.

You’ve been in the field for decades, what are your thoughts on instagram as a tool for photographers?

IG is an interesting quandary. It is to some degree, a requirement to be seen by clients. In other ways, it feels like feeding the beast without any payback. Recently, I’ve had several images licensed from my feed and two potential clients have approached me – via the IG feed – in the last two weeks. I think at this point, it is important to be fairly active on IG. I am concentrating on a small group of potential clients and marketing direct to them – plus keeping up on other platforms including my blog.

What are you working on now?

I am continuing to work on a project that is aerial in perspective but shot lower (ie, drone) than helicopter. Much more fine art oriented than commercial and it is a continuation of my Chesapeake Bay watershed projects along with my Ghost Forest project I started shooting from the air and am now shooting from the ground/elevated tripods. Basically, Ghost Forest are forest being killed by rising salt water – intrusion of rising salt water due climate change – it is particularly bad on the East Coast of the US. So, I am documenting Ghost Forest in the Chesapeake watershed and eventually, up and  down the Eastern Seaboard from New Brunswick to Northern Florida.



Photo Editor: Donny Bajohr
Read the story here

How long have you been working with Smithsonian?
I have a long history at Smithsonian, over thirty assignments. My last shoot for them (before this one) was in 2007 and I photographed a Archeabotanist, Dr. Linda Perry,  who became my wife. After that shoot – nothing until last summer.

Were they familiar with this personal work?
Yes, Donny (and the rest of Smithsonian photo team) knew about my long-term projects photographing the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
This assignment was interesting, because, way back in the nineties, I photographed the same research project for another story. One of the people I photographed I shot for that story was also shot for this one.

How did your range in photographic style help you in this case?
Donny felt that this was a natural for me, the ability to shoot aerials plus portraits and a subject that I am fairly well-versed in and interested in climate change and rising sea waters and the impact of that change.

The Daily Edit – Ray Collins: Patagonia Journal Spring 2023


Ray Collins

Heidi: The ocean is a dynamic canvas, what made you what to create a stillness?
Ray: I want to freeze the moments that we may miss in real time. Sometimes the anticipation of a rising swell of what ‘might’ happen is more important than the finale of the crashing wave. It’s often the moment before the moment which becomes the moment. Anticipation makes you question what happens next, it provokes a response from the viewer, and that’s what art should do.

In a few sentences describe what the ocean means to you?
The one single constant in my life has been the ocean. It has given me everything I have, and the greatest lessons of my life have been learned from interacting with it. It has taught me: patience, courage, respect, going with the flow. I’ve made such a diverse pack of lifelong friends…our only common thread being saltwater. It has instilled a firsthand appreciation for nature. It’s shown me its power, beauty and purity—often all at once. It keeps no record of history; it obeys no law. It is the one ever-changing constant. I have traveled the world in pursuit of documenting it. Whenever I am near it, wherever I am, I am home.

How does being color blind inform your photography? 
My theory is that because of the deficiency of color blindness it has potentially enhanced other parts of my vision (maybe composition and textures) and that could be something that helps make my photography unique? That’s my working assumption anyway.

Photography and the ocean came into your life as a form of healing from a coal mining accident where your knee was severely damaged, the camera came first, why? and what were you photographing?
I just needed an outlet. My routine of an active life in my 20’s had come to a stand still and I had a lot of time on my hands. Learning photography and how a camera works was something I never had time for before. So I just read and re read the manual and took photos of my dog actually. Trying to understand the relationship between Shutter, Aperture and ISO and moving her (Chantic) near different windows at different times of day, she was such a loyal dog. An old soul. I have her name on my foot.

After a few weeks of knee rehabilitation my physio said I could introduce some light swimming into my routine. So I bought a waterhousing for my camera and started shooting photos of my friends surfing. Within a few weeks I had my first published image, within a few months I had my first international cover.

When did you understand this is what you were meant to do?
There were so many gentle course corrections and life affirming milestones that kept me on course and reinforced to me that I was on the right path

In the Patagonia film, Fish People, you mentioned planning a single shot for 6 weeks. In that planning are you returning to same spot to study the light movement?
Sometimes! Fortunately I’ve found some good sun tracking apps that help with light source positioning. Another important detail is the tide, sometimes I need an absolute high tide (studying the moon phase helps) otherwise the reef might be sticking out of the water at a lower tide and the wave won’t have a clean curve. Then of course, the right swell direction and period – keeping my eyes on how distant storms are tracking. Oh, and wind. Come to think of it, sometimes many variables need to line up all at once. Pushing the shutter button down is towards the end of the creative cycle.
Not all images have that level of planning though. Sometimes just waking up with no plan but meeting the sun as it rises over the horizon is all it takes too.

What would you tell your younger, creative self now?
The best advice I got early in my career was shoot what you want to see, not what you think others want to see. It’s kept me on my own path and I would retell my younger self the same thing.  I’d love to tell young Ray  ‘you’re enough’ and you will have all of the desires of your heart.

How has your eye changed over the years?
I try and do as much as possible in camera, it makes everything easier down the track with editing. I’m always aware of divine proportions while composing and cropping and I always try and highlight points of interest within the image for people to discover as they peruse each piece.

How are you staying buoyant in the water to get those waves, flippers and swimming like hell?
Most of the time I’m swimming and a lot of the time it’s at sunrise or sunset. The golden hour. That means swimming out in the dark and waiting for it to rise most mornings. A lot of the waves I document aren’t your typical user friendly beaches, often I have to scale down cliffs or swim way out in the middle of nowhere to find these weird and angry lumps of water breaking. What I search for are shallow reefs that are surrounded by deepwater, that way the wave traveling stands up suddenly in reaction to the shallow reef and that’s where I try to position myself. It’s the line between order and chaos.

Imagine swimming in a washing machine with a bag of concrete and lifting that bag up to your face so you can focus, compose the shot, getting all of your shutter settings, aperture iso right, getting no water droplets on the front element while the ocean is pushing, pulling, gurgling and crashing all around you. It can be physically exhausting at times. Your ‘studio’ can kill you, but it offers up some of the most precious moments of life in between.

I fail more than I succeed in overcoming it, but it makes the successes even sweeter.  It’s always risk versus reward.

What drew you to being a professional lifeguard?
There were a few things actually. After running my photography business for the past decade it became apparent that I had no real structure in my life. Kind of always dependent on nature. There would be patterns of swell chasing, constant travel, shooting and being go-go-go for weeks or months on end… Then the pendulum would swing to the extreme other end and i’d have too much time to fill (in my mind anyway) and it’s easy to spiral when you have idle hands.

Working for yourself and by yourself can be a pretty selfish ride in a lot of ways and I needed to pursue a noble cause. Lifeguarding is truly a dream job. You’re being of service to your local community, being paid to stay in peak physical fitness and you get to work with an incredible team of likeminded folks. You get to help educate the public on the dangers of the ocean while being a caretaker and custodian of your local area.

What can you tell us about the making of Convergence and Mowhawk, two images in Patagonia’s journal and 50th Campaign?
I’m so proud to have amazing clients such as Patagonia. They’re the benchmark of everything that every other company should strive for!

Journal cover – Convergence: I’ve always appreciated the birds’ eye view of the ocean, it feels like a forbidden vantage, one that humans were’t meant to see. Drones are pretty cool, but nothing beats hovering over the top of a large and powerful swell and isolating the ‘roof’ of the wave from above. It offers a whole new world of compositions to work with. It is not cheap however so you have to choose your days and make them count.

Billboard – Mowhawk: This reef is a 7hr drive from my house. to get into the water you have to scale down a huge cliff and swim around the back of the wave. It is on a corner of the coastline that sticks out and makes the migrating whales come close to shore to turn the corner. It’s a wild, wild place. I had driven down on two previous attempts to shoot it and driven home on the same day, a 14hr round trip empty-handed. The third time was a charm!


The Daily Edit – Walter Smith AI experimental portraits and questioning authenticity

Older fella

Walter Smith Photographer + Director

I am fortunate to describe my friendship with Walter Smith as timeless. We worked together at Philadelphia Magazine, my first job, decades ago. I remember Walter coming into the office, a camera slung around his shoulder, with a box full of contact sheets for us to loupe.  He was hustling on “front-of-the-book” assignments, perfect for his photojournalistic eye. Years pass, conversations get deeper and image making evolves. We connected in 2015 about his self published promo, recently we caught up about his experiments with AI.

Heidi: How long have you been making images via AI?
Walter: I really only started playing around with the technology and ChatGPT about a month ago. It’s a rabbit hole and you can most definitely make some great things from it. 

How many hours and prompts went into the older fella portrait?
Those portraits were made, kid you not, in about 15 minutes. For me, it’s about the prompts you use and how the technology interprets them. I wanted to make something that looked like something I would actually take. I did not add in my photographs to build them, all were created from the prompts in Midjourney.

Did you draw from your own archive of portraits for this?
All my ideas around AI come from my past and what my thinking is in the present. I never created “fantasy” images. I was never that person.  There always has to be some type of connection for me. I love what some folks are doing around the otherworldly images they’re creating. It’s just not where my head is.

What type of camera look and feel were you trying to create with this portrait?
I took a portrait of a woman named Jennifer over 20 years ago on polaroid 665. It’s beautiful and lives in the files somewhere. When I created that image I thought of some of her features and characteristics and used them as prompts along with camera type…lens…etc. The produced image was great but too clean so into photoshop I went to add grain and lens corrections. Again that was a 15 minute endeavor. I was getting messages on Linkedin from folks asking about the photograph. Is it a photograph? Where did I meet her…agency name…etc. The photograph of the old man, a friend asked if the one on the left was an old photograph of mine. There is the conflict for me. I like capturing stories, real stories from real people.  Things that make you feel a little something. I did not set out to fool anyone and it brings me to the question of honesty and authenticity. We live so close to dishonesty on a daily basis with social media, not all but a great deal is curated to show us the best of something.

Are you selling cameras in the hopes of focusing on this genre?
I’m never selling my film cameras. That was more of a joke between a few of us. I dropped film off yesterday…me and all the hipsters from Brooklyn. 

What platform(s) are you using?
Midjourney and some Dall-e

How would you bill for one of these and have you done any commissioned work?
Very good question and I do not have an answer yet. I spoke with a couple clients that are already over AI.

What is the current language around crediting AI work, to call it a photograph would be a disservice.
I would think it’s in the photo illustration realm.

Fashion treatment 1

Fashion treatment 2

All I had to do was remove a 6th finger for this AI image

Where do you see AI generated images having a place in the industry?
In a treatment or a brief, sure, it would work perfectly to show clients what I want something to look like. It went into photoshop for a little image correction to get it close to something.


Photographic self portrait, my true self and original smile

AI self portrait 1

AI self portrait 2

Have you done a self portrait?
I did a mash-up of a portrait of myself and a portrait of Salvador Dali from Irving Penn. It looked very little like a Penn portrait but I see part of my face in the results.

In making these test images how would you describe the moments of making that AI image vs moments making a photograph developed in a human exchange?

Doing an AI portrait takes up a different type of brain space. So much of my work is about human interactions: the conversations in the room, how you feel being with another person, their energy, and honesty.
AI does not hold any of that for me. Of course, it’s creative and the stuff people are doing is beautiful and special but what does their breathing sound like? How do they carry themselves in a room? These AI figures, they’re fun to create and I certainly see their value but I can’t touch them, I can’t trust them. I know it sounds crazy but the more I see of it the more I just want to keep having conversations with real people about real things.

Are you drifting back to a human experience of an interaction, and those are creating the prompts?
I try to keep the descriptions in the prompts to very real-life things.  Specific camera and lenses, tone and color, feelings, ethnicity and expression. It’s wild that these images come back to me with some of those elements included. Do I get more connected to the “subjects.” Nope. I think I can see these AI figures in treatments to sell an idea. Suppose there was a project in Ethiopia that I was pitching to a client and they needed visuals to get the idea across. I can spend a couple of hours creating visuals ….people…landscapes…feelings and then, hopefully, get them to send me there to create the actual work. I can also see a client with a very tight budget who just needs the AI work over actual photography. It’s a slippery slope.