The Daily Edit – Lindsey Ross


Lindsey Ross

Heidi: Who pours your plates?
Lindsey: My mentor told me he was the only one who had the “wingspan” to pour and develop a plate that size.  And people sometimes ask me if an assistant pours the plates for me.  No, I pour and develop the plates. Actually, I look forward to the day when someone pours my plates and I can focus more on directing the shoot.  But for now, yes, as a 5 foot 4 inch woman I pour the 32x24in plates.I mention this to underscore that physical stature is not an absolute for pouring plates.  I think it is more about balance than it is about wingspan.  Furthermore, I don’t think just because you pour your own plate by yourself it makes your work more legitimate than those who do not.  Perhaps, I won’t always pour my own plates and it won’t make me less of a collodion artist for it.

add the credit here

Photo by Andrew Schoenberger/Bimarian Films

Lindsey Ross, the Alchemistress, using a mammoth camera in Grand Teton National Park. the mammoth camera is a custom built 32x24in Chamonix view camera. It is sixty pounds (an upgrade from her 20×24 inch levy process camera from the 1920’s which was 200 lbs). Photo courtesy of  Bradly J. Boner/Jackson Hole News & Guide

Photo courtesy of  Bradly J. Boner/Jackson Hole News & Guide

When did you start the landscapes of the mining ruins?
In June 2016 I had started taking 20x24in landscapes of mining ruins in Telluride, CO.  This particular photo was taken up at the Tomboy Mine.  This mining ghost town was bustling in the 1880’s with a population of about 1,000 people. The town sits at 11,500 feet high above Telluride.  I started photographing the mining ruins because the landscape and mountains are so dramatic and grand and I was drawn to the mining ruins. They were shiny, like jewels adorning the mountainside. And despite being 140 year old and existing in a harsh environment, the ruins were really well-preserved.

This was all a part of a body of work of high altitude mining ruins for an exhibition with my friend and artist R. Nelson Parrish in September in Santa Barbara.  After shooting mining ruins near Telluride I wanted to shoot some mining ruins in California.  The highest altitude mining ghost town I could find was Cerro Gordo which sits at 7,000 ft above Death Valley.

How are you getting all your gear to these high altitude locations?
I was given permission to shoot at Cerro Gordo, which is several miles up a steep, windy canyon road with sharp cliffy drop offs.  I was driving my 1992 F-250 truck with all of my equipment in the bed, scouting locations to take ambrotypes at Cerro Gordo.  On my way down the canyon I started gaining speed and tried to slow down.  I realized my breaks stopped working.  I pulled the emergency break and that was not working either.  I gained more speed and realized I didn’t have my seatbelt on as I barrelled over rocks and lifted off the drivers seat.  Careening down the road I realized that I might have to bail out of my vehicle if I could not stop since the road was winding so much.  I came around a tight turn and saw a gravel pile and drove right into it.  The gravel pile stopped my truck.

Tell us about the perfect diagonal crack.
I was safe but shaken.  Some pieces of my equipment had fallen out of my truck, several sheets of glass stashed behind the passenger seat had shattered.  The plate from Tomboy Mine which was behind the passenger seat was broken in a perfect diagonal.

How did you get the gear to the location after you totalled your truck?
My friend who was assisting me, Macy Pryor and Telluride local, came to pick me up.  I had totalled my truck.  We still shot up at the mine with the help of some locals who hauled my equipment.
Nymph images in the trees (ongoing)
This body of work started with an accidental photo when I was on a weekend trip with some of my friends.  Coincidentally I brought my photo equipment on the trip and set it up.  And the shot just happened.  A big part of my work is about my physical labor and struggle to make it.  I have always felt struggle was necessary for me to make work.  And the first Nymph photo happened kind of effortlessly – a feeling that was new for me in my work and something I felt I should follow.   It also marks a point in my career (Spring 2017) when I was ready to depart reality due to the overt racism and sexism that was revealing itself in our culture and politics.
How did your Budapest residency come about?
This work was made as a part of my artist residency with Budapest Art Factory in April and May 2019.  I learned about the residency when I went to one of John Chiara’s exhibitions at Yossi Milo in September 2018.  I inquired with the Art Factory about the residency, applied and was accepted.

The Daily Edit – The New York Times: Erinn Springer


The New York Times: How to Survive Winter

Photographer: Erinn Springer
Producers: Produced by Gray Beltran, Clinton Cargill, and Heather Casey

Heidi: Did the images for this come from your archive or from your Dormant Seasons?
Erinn: All of the images were shot specifically for this article. It was very exciting to get this assignment because I’ve been shooting winter in Wisconsin for the last few years (which is how my series Dormant Seasons came about) so, How We Survive Winter felt like a natural progression.


If they were photographed for the text, what was the direction?
The brief was very poetic and open. The editor and I had spoken on the phone about the feeling of winter and the solstice being the longest night of the year in a year that has been metaphorically darker than most. I wanted the result to be representative of my home and my experience growing up in such a cold place like northern Wisconsin, that in actuality is filled with so much life.

Did you travel home to Wisconsin to photograph any of these images?
Luckily, I was already in Wisconsin for some other projects, so I just extended my stay. The timing couldn’t have been better! I generally split my time between Wisconsin and Brooklyn and I’m usually on the road quite a bit, but the pandemic has allowed me to spend more time at home. I’ve been able to focus on (and actually start) projects I’ve twirled around for a long time. The people and landscape here haven’t changed a whole lot since I was a kid, so I feel like I’m playing catch-up for all the years I didn’t have a camera in my hands growing up. These projects are an investigation of my origins and archive of what will eventually be the memories of where I was raised.

How much time passed in making these images? Were they all shot on the solstice?
I shot for a couple hours ~almost~ everyday for about two weeks. I tried to think of all the places and situations I could put myself in to get the best photos for the narrative I was building. There was an element of surprise because I was working in tandem with photographer Devin Yalkin, but hadn’t seen any of his images until the story was published. I was so curious to see how our images would be edited together. The pairings of our work really made the story come to life.

“Look for the smallest bit of beauty around you,” Dr. Safi explained. “That very much resonates today, at a time where it seems like the mega-systems are all broken or falling apart, to return your gaze to the small.”

The simplest solutions are always the most magical. And all the magic you need is ~probably~ in your backyard. That’s sort of the case for me and realizing rural Wisconsin is my most rewarding subject.

During these times what has kept your creative seeds ready for spring?
I’ve always been a planner and daydreamer for all the seasons. This year, of course, I hope that spring brings the renewed life we’ve all been waiting for, but I think it’s helpful to focus on the present. I tend to feel that acting in the ‘now,’ while setting the pieces and daydreaming of tomorrow (of spring), is the most advantageous. I honestly find so much joy in every season and look forward to each for various reasons. I think growing up in Wisconsin has something to do with that :).

*For more images, please see this carousel of outtakes.

The Daily Edit – Mel D. Cole: Washington D.C. January 6, 2021

Hip Hop Work

Badu 6.20.13 Drake & Trey Songz London 2017Drake Sade London 2017Kanye at Fools Gold Anniversary Party BK Bowl 10.24.10

Mel D. Cole

Photography + Directing and Collaborations

Charcoal Pitch F.C.  Mel D. Cole founded the first Black owned sports photography agency dedicated to creatively exploring soccer/football.

Heidi: In the forward to GREAT, Questlove symbolizes you with THE ROOTS.  “I’ve heard music compared to many things. Some say it’s a game. Some say it’s hell. I say it’s a war. Photographers are correspondents in this war documenting every battle. Every step of the way.  The invading Beatles had Harry Benson. Jenny’s Lens was the West Coast Punk scene’s eye. Run DMC & The Beastie Boys had Ricky Powell and the Roots had Mel D. Cole— or should I say Mel D. Cole had us?” – Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

Mel: Yeah that obviously is HUGE! Questlove has been a big part of the reason I am where I am in my career. Without him I might be in a different place.

You have a history of documenting culture. This past week you documented a battle, what made this instance different for you?
It felt more like a war, an invasion. It was hostile, people died. That’s the major difference. That day was more life or death than any other day for me. 

You covered the BLM protests, obviously topics were very different this time. Describe any differences you experienced in terms of the crowds, the energies, your safety, etc..
As always most of my safety issues come from the cops. I have not had any major issues with members of BLM or pro Trump supporters. The major difference is what each side is fighting for. Both side passionately want their side to win!

How did you prepare for your own safety, was it adequate?
I came with goggles and a helmet. I left the helmet at the Trump rally. So to be honest I was not very prepared. But that won’t happen again. I ordered a gas mask and other items to make sure that I am ready for the next time.

Did you formulate your interview questions in advance? I noticed in all instances you were extremely polite using, please and sir. Was it difficult to stay calm in the chaos?
No I kinda wing it. I go with the flow. I know having good manners will take you places and using a calm tone in my voice lets the person know I mean them no harm at all.

Did you ever feel threatened?
Yes. It was very scary at times.

What would you like your peers and viewers to know about this experience?
That there’s a human behind every photo that I captured that day and they all have stories to tell. Right or wrong, there’s a story and it’s important for history’s sake to continue to tell those stories.

The Daily Edit – Athul Prasad

Athul Prasad

Heidi: What were you trying to express with this series?
Athul: I remember one morning listening to “On the Nature of Daylight” in the shower and feeling utterly broken and moved by that piece of music. This was in March 2020 and my mind was transporting itself into a series of what if’s – What if Achan (father) contracts Covid, What if Achan is no more, What if all this were to end soon, what if.. ? 

This series beyond anything for me is to remember Achan healthy, all smiles, in the midst of the century’s biggest human tragedy. His face, his routines, his day to day objects and relive our time in nostalgic excellence for a future time. 

How did this photo project inform your relationship with your father?
We were never close. There is a lot of gratitude and unspoken love, but we weren’t close. That is until the lockdown and what initially was planned as a two week escapade from the madness of Mumbai to my hometown of Trivandrum, Kerala turned out to be a six month lesson of living out of a bag and negotiating life and the relationship with my father. 

Over that time period, the photo project broke the ice between us, inspired him to start sharing his life story, being more loving on the outside – all new in our 24 year old relationship. What started as documentation stretched to long conversations and a deep level of comfort between us. We became close over the course of 2020. 

My biggest fear is of losing my parents. It’s a weird thing, two people that give birth, nurture you, teach you everything you know have to let go of their creation — who wants to fly away to pursue his/her own dreams. It’s a fine balance I have been trying to maintain since the last couple of years – managing my own ambitions as a travel photographer and the physical time I spend with my family. The lockdown came as a huge boon in some way. 

How long did it take for him to become engaged in the project?
The very first time, he was very annoyed and complained how this “thing” I was doing was wasting his time and that the food on the stove was getting burnt. I realised my mistake and decided to pick a more peaceful time in the afternoon, distant from all the morning chores to do another round of pictures. From then onwards, he’s been a sport! I don’t think he still knows why I do this – that all this stems from a fear of losing him. It’s hard to put it in words, not sure I can ever put it to him.

What did you look for in each moment?
To sum it up in one line – document daily elements that make up my father’s routine in a beautiful manner. I have always wanted to shoot film and thought this would be the perfect time to have a go at it- not let the screen come in between us and disrupt that moment. So I taped my camera with a huge block of paper – a DYI attempt to mimic film and also pay homage to Achan who took all our family pictures in a similar fashion. 

Where was the best light?
Noon, when the sun was right up! My favourite spot at home is close to the stairs which has a glass ceiling with slits that create beautiful shadows. Close to 12PM the light would just dance on this spot. Apart from that, the best time of the day was any time I saw a photo op and made the dash for it. Being a travel photographer, I am open to working with any kind of light that the sun gods are kind to provide. 

Why did you refrain from taking images of your family until now?
I’m not sure why exactly. The camera has always been associated with work and I try to disassociate from work consciously in my personal time. I don’t even pack my camera when I come back home to Kerala to be with my parents. The focus has always been to spend time with them, be in the present moment. That approach is definitely changing internally after this project. I am planning to do a short documentary of both my parents, when Amma (mother) comes back home after a year of being stranded in Australia amidst lockdown. 

You were formerly on staff at Conde Nast Traveler in India, how did that editorial experience shape your eye?
Massively! My visual vocabulary originated from the photo desks of Conde Nast Traveler India,and in particular heavily influenced by the former Art Director at the magazine – Himanshu Lakhwani who put so much time and effort into informing me the difference between what looks good and bad and taught me how to piece images together to tell a story. I have so much gratitude for my time at CNT and to the whole team. 

Is it difficult to edit your own work?
Not really! Being a photo editor in the past, I quite enjoy the process. But it always helps to have time on your side. The more time you spend with the work, the more it makes sense, and you see connections. I would love to try somebody else edit my work, to see how that would look like. It could bring a new dimension in the narrative for sure. 

What was the direction from Masque for this forage project?
Open brief! They gave me complete freedom to photography like an editorial travel feature. Documenting the location, the food, interaction between the head chef Pratek Sadhu and the locals, the roadtrip amongst the mountains — whatever I could weave in to tell the beautiful story of these chefs travelling to the farthest mountains in this country to source ingredients to prepare in their tasting menu restaurant back in Mumbai. 

Do you have a process you relay for longer narrative arc travel stories?
I think when it comes to travel stories – it’s important to show variety. Not just show how pretty the place looks in terms of the landscape but also to show the life of it in terms of people, the food, the architecture, any wonderful moments that inspire somebody else to visit the place. If the reaction to a travel story is, damn I want to go here and experience this – then that would be a success. The words create such a huge impact in addition to the images – always helps to have a fabulous writer to flesh out the words. Otherwise the photographs just tend to exist in vacuum without context. 

Where does your love of photographing food come from?
The love of photographing food comes from the love of food, which comes from all the lovely meals Amma made while I was growing up. More than anything, the passion that chefs put in to create gorgeous plates of food that pack not only copious amounts of flavour, but also look like art, inspires me to photograph food and specifically restaurants. I love shooting restaurants and the life in it. 

 

The Daily Edit – Drew Smith

Robbie Phillips working out the moves on “The Corner” 5.14+ (8c/+?) – Pitch 15 with Ian Cooper belaying.
Ivar Van Der Stijl killing time in the rain while waiting for the wall to dry, Helvetestind. Norway
Pete Whittaker leading pitch 18, 5.10c, on the South Face of Mount Watkins VI 5.13b, 19 pitches. Yosemite, CA.
robbie phillips does some bench pressing to stay fit while in cochamo and ian cooper gives him a spot. la junta camping, cochamo valley, chile.
Rainy rest day with Ivar Van Der Stijl relaxing at the climbers hut at the base of baugen, norway.
Eric Bissell and Jane Jackson hang out on long ledge a few pitches short of topping out the Salathe Wall 5.13 b/c on El Capitan.

Drew Smith photographed by Dylan Gordon

Photograph by Dylan Gordon

Drew Smith

Heidi: You’ve been able to align with brands that celebrate your truth and core values, how did that develop?
Drew: Working with brands that align with my core values started from friendships first. Those friendships eventually led to various opportunities and work relationships. Knowing who stands behind the brand is a good sign of what the company values. It’s just as much about the people involved as it is about the brand and I will always put that first when it comes to companies that I choose to work with.
What would you have told your younger self about brand work?
I would tell myself to align with brands that appreciate me as much as I do them. The journey to success might take longer but will be more of an enriched path.
How did your work with Patagonia shape you?
Over the years, Patagonia has given me the opportunity to continue to live my life and simply document it along the way. They value authenticity and encourage photographers to capture those real moments, so if anything, working with Patagonia has encouraged me to hold on to what feels honest and true to myself. I’ve also built a lot of confidence working with the editors who I’ve built relationships with. Those relationships have provided a path where I constantly grow as a photographer due to genuine conversations and feedback about my work.

How have you been navigating life interrupted this year?
Usually, I travel internationally for expeditions and shoots throughout the year, but this year I’ve shifted to keeping things closer to home. I’ve been spending more time shooting product and doing more commercial photography: taking advantage of this time to invest in different realms of this art form. In a lot of ways, shooting on expeditions is easy for me – it’s what I’m comfortable with and the inspiration comes easily. I know this time, strengthening other skills, will only help me to become more well-rounded and a better photographer overall. I’ve also been spending more time exploring closer to home. I’ve spent the past year around Montana, Wyoming, and Utah, going to places off the beaten path in my own backyard. It amazes me how fast humans adapt and how the new norm can shift with the blink of an eye.

Covid left us all wanting to help those in need, how did that manifest for you?
When Covid first hit, I felt a mix of depression and helplessness with a conviction to do something. People were getting laid off left and right. Families and businesses were suffering and still are. In many ways, I was largely unaffected and covid enlightened the disparity of people’s experiences living in the same country. Right away there was a high demand for masks for people in the healthcare industry. I felt that making masks was one small thing I could do to help. My girlfriend and I learned how to sew and made masks from scrap fabric I had at the house. We donated the masks through a program where they got distributed to local organizations in need. It wasn’t much, but I could see how the cumulative effect of small actions could be a powerful force for support and change.

Rhiannon Klee sewing mask. Salt Lake City. Lock Down.

This year has been pretty awful, share some stoke about your close to home adventures.
I spent most of the summer in my home state of Montana exploring new areas with my girlfriend. We did a ton of adventure climbing, where no other climbers were venturing, and enjoyed the solitude. We also spent time finding hot springs and waterfalls on rest days. It was a meaningful experience to reconnect with the place I grew up in.

You’ve been on the road for 15 years, 3 best lessons from that experience?
1. The most valuable part of being on the road is getting to interact with a wide range of people because it’s an opportunity to have a better understanding of those that differ from you. My experience on the road has not been limited to climbing trips. I’ve worked in construction, wilderness therapy, search and rescue (just to name a few). I’m grateful for all I’ve absorbed from those different experiences. You carry that stuff with you and it becomes a part of who you are.
2. In a weird way, not having security has made me feel secure. being less rooted, I’m more comfortable not having a plan and more comfortable with change.
3. In our world of consumerism, people are constantly buying stuff. Being on the road, you really can’t have much and so you realize that you don’t need much. For years I only owned what I could fit in my vehicle and it’s been a good reminder throughout my life.

I know you’re committed to creating meaningful and honest images, what’s the key ingredient?
Connecting with authenticity. Finding those moments that feel real, when people are being themselves. When people are comfortable and doing what they love, that’s when you’ll catch genuine moments. I also think the more genuine and honest I am as the photographer, the more people give back that same level of authenticity: real gets real.

You’re living life fully and your parents support you with the power of love, how do you balance risk and love?
I factor the people that I love into my decision making when it comes to risk. In all of my years of climbing, I’ve developed an understanding of my abilities and I try to approach risk that is in line with my skill level. I think my parents have taught me a lot about the relationship between love and risk. They not only support me out of love, but they support me because they want me to be who I am, which to me is the greatest form of love.

You were recently featured in Firestone Walker, how did that inform your creative process after that project? You were in front of the lens this time.
I think being behind the lens, as well and in front of it, is an important part of any creative process. After seeing what was captured and chosen with the angels and compositions, it made me even more aware of the differences in perspectives. How I see myself might be different than how others see me since they are bringing their own narratives into it. It’s more collaborative than you might realize. My family said the film captured who I was and that made me proud because that’s how I want people to see me, (in a genuine way)

Tell us about Kyrgyzstan.
Last winter, two friends and I traveled around Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We drove 3,000 miles around remote areas in search of new ice lines. It was a personal trip with no professional agenda and it connected me to the origin of why I started taking photos in the first place. I felt fully immersed in the experience without pressure and found myself wanting to capture it all: from the people we met, to the broke down van that barely got us around, and of course the remote ice lines. I was taking photos constantly. It was a good reminder that you don’t need a big mountain or a solid plan to have a good adventure.

The Daily Edit – Sports Illustrated: Jeffery Salter

Sports Illustrated

Director of Photography: Marguerite Schropp Lucarelii
Photo Editor: Abby Nicolas
Photographer: Jeffery Salter

Heidi: You’ve been a long time contributor to SI, what made this project different?
Jeffery: I have always received commissions from Sports Illustrated for assignments which involved trust.  That’s creative images that require me to establish that trust very quickly with the professional athlete. When I was on staff at the magazine my beat was hang out with the athlete at home, in the barbershop or even in the nightclub to capture their life off the field.  Now I do covers for the magazine which involve a concept, mood and energy.

What type of direction did you get from the magazine?
This feature “Total Athlete” also was about trust.  The players were willing to discard the uniform and gear to display their physiques.  They trusted that I would make them look powerful.  It was an honor and a challenge. Normally I bring in a lot of lights, modifiers, effects and even a haze machine to help bring on the drama.  I was asked to keep the images poetic and strong.  I still used a lot of gear….tho!  But controlled them so they simply built layers of shadow and highlights to create texture and drama.  More Chiaroscuro and less snap, crackle pop!It was a rare opportunity to show what’s the force or engine underneath the athletes uniform.  A snapshot to capture the strength in a frozen moment.

How did covid affect your production or creative process?
Having a COVID safe production was and is top of mind when working on set with an top athlete or even being commissioned to do a small portrait of mom and pop business owner.   For this set – it was mainly one trusted photo assistant who also is strict about maintaining social distance – off the set and on set.  I used a longish lens to do the portraits to keep my distance – which wasn’t problem because the athletes – Derrick Henry and Caeleb Dressel are huge. Since it was more of a collaboration being me and the athlete I did let them take a look at the laptop – I would stand six feet away – so they could spot check their form

Why black and white?
We wanted to keep the focus on the muscles – sinewy and powerful – combined with perfect form.   Black and white combined with light and shadow allowed us to create images which helped us achieve both of those goals.

 

 

 

The Daily Edit – The Free Republic of California: Cole Sternberg

untied, 2020, acrylic and pigment print on etching paper, an amendment to the El Segundo beachfront.

the ratification of the paris agreement, 2020, ink and pigment print on etching paper
a glorious marriage, 2020, acrylic and watercolor print on paper.
the brightest, crispiest, roughest looking clouds, 2020, pigment print on etching paper.
a grand ramble, 2019, mixed media on linen.
the douglas is nearly allied to the red squirrel, 2019, mixed media on linen.
into the recess of the echoing mountains, where they seem to be welcomed home, 2019, mixed media on linen.

The Free Republic of California 

Artist: Cole Sternberg


Heidi: When did your complex relationship with nature present itself?
Cole: I’m not sure there’s a clear moment that it presented itself. At some point the gaze to the sea, to the sky and to the trees merged with my creative desires and pragmatism. I wanted to make pieces that subtly referenced humankind’s erasure of our environment, as well as, the ethereal patterning of nature itself. That subtlety remains today, but there are also louder statements emerging as I see the time to rescue ourselves slipping away.

How do you find hope considering CA has had a consistently difficult water and fire season?
Hope is simply a necessity in continuing forward, continuing to fight. I see the fires as a reason to work harder, which helps in avoiding the despair of such horrific destruction.

Nature of Breathing in Salt: That was a study in marco/micro experiences, marco of the sea, mirco of the shipping vessel; how did that isolation of the vessel impact your creative process?
Existing on this floating island, surrounded by the infinite sea, greatly impacted my practice. Being stuck on a rocking ship unable to communicate with the outside world for weeks was stressful but also freeing. As a storm would pass and we would walk on the deck at sunrise, the feeling of the crisp wind and the sight of the bent horizon were incomparable. The paintings, photography and film I made on this journey took on that feeling not just conceptually, but also physically. For example, I left paintings out in the wind and rain, dragged them in the sea and dried them in the sun.

Had you worked with the elements before?
My practice had addressed the elements in the past, but never had the environment literally become the artist or controller of the work’s destiny.

Was each piece a creative surprise to you, did you find freedom your lack of control?
Each piece certainly had elements of surprise. I never knew exactly how a mix of colors and layers would respond to a sixty-foot drop into ice cold waters, or how it would crack being whipped by the wind for days. I wouldn’t call it freedom, more simply excitement; an anticipatory joy in seeing the patterns of the earth emerge in different manners each time around.

How did you actually drag the work through the sea?
Just a rope, grommets and carabiners.

What did you discover about yourself as an artist?
I discovered that losing control can lead to the most amazing breakthroughs and that isolation can be the most productive of places for creative thought to blossom.

Did you find returning to the studio less dynamic, was it a hard transition?
Yes, I didn’t think I could ever reach that far again, nor paint anything as interesting. It took me nine months to start painting again.

How long had you been working on the vision for the Free Republic of California?
I think the vision for the Free Republic of California started when I was three-years-old and living in Richmond, Virginia. My parents sold me on a move to California by the mention of Disneyland and the singing of Diane Warwick’s song ‘Do you know the way to San Jose?’ which I repeated in nauseam. I had no idea that Disneyland was quite a drive from San Jose.

In adulthood, the idea percolated over the last two decades via interest, research and writing in the fields of law, sociology and political science, and solidified in the last two years as I prepared for the museum exhibition Freestate at ESMoA. During these two years, and especially in the isolation of the COVID times, I’ve been able to fine tune the concept, design the visuals, draft the constitution and budget, and build the surrounding conceptual infrastructure.

’their sounds never cease


How does photography come to life in your work?

I used a vintage photo of yosemite from the 1800s layered with a painting of mine. It is one of the works in my re-visualization of John Muir’s first book about California ‘My First Summer in the Sierra’

How do you free your mind from the real trappings of life to envision a new life?
I don’t think they can be separated, I find it necessary to analyze today to make it to tomorrow. The Free Republic is about these real trappings of life and how we can improve those situations.

Once you come back to reality, is it difficult to cope?
Reality is always there and yes it is difficult to cope with. It is hard to see the destruction and the ignorance, the lack of humanity, the yells of cowardly trolls and flat-earthers, the content overload diluting our minds into a collective haze of nothingness; all of it is hard to cope with, but we have to keep walking up the hill.

Exhibitions: exhibitions: Freestate: The Free Republic of California, ESMoA, El Segundo, ongoing until September 2021, Year One, Ojai Institute, Ojai, ongoing public and educational programming through October 2021, and Threads and Tensions: The Interconnected World, Yeo Workshop, Singapore, January-February 2021.

The Daily Edit – Texas Monthly: Shayan Asgharnia


Texas Monthly


Art Director: Victoria Milner
Photographer:
Shayan Asgharnia
Online Story here

Heidi: What type of direction did you get from the magazine?
Shayan: It had been a dream of mine to shoot for my home state and legendary publication, Texas Monthly. Victoria Millner, their art director, emailed me to shoot this assignment, my first for TM. The references she sent from my own work were my portraits of David Crosby, Ed Harris, Billy Dee Williams and my father smoking a cigar and giving two fingers.

Victoria wanted detailed closeups of his iconic face with all the history and weathered grit that comes with it, but she also wanted environmental shots that truly displayed the vast spectrum of the man’s humanity. I love working with Victoria and Claire Hogan, Texas Monthly’s photo editor. They’re so clear with their vision and their understanding of the artist’s vision. Not a modicum of uncertainty to be found in working with them, and they’re kind Texans to boot.

He’s both intense and joyful, how did you bring both of the emotions out?
Danny is intense, but even before I started seeing him in photos with rescue dogs or his smiling face next to donuts and tacos, I knew he had a gentle, fun side thanks to his role as Uncle Machete in Spy Kids. In person, the man is joy and empathy personified; the scowl is more a part of the brand.

Knowing Danny’s love of dogs and prison reform, I arrived with a framed 17×22 print of one of my photos from my personal project, Rescued, a story on a program where rescue dogs live with and are trained by incarcerated men.


While shooting, we spoke at length about rescuing dogs, prison reform, his car collection and the Great State of Texas. He told me one of the funniest stories I’ve heard from one of his recent trips to Texas pre-COVID: while walking around 6th St. with a few of his assistants who also did time in the past, his assistants were getting heated up and wanting to fight with people flashing what they thought were gang signs. Danny laughed out loud and made the sign himself: the good ol’ University of Texas “Hook ’em.” As a Longhorn, I love seeing that image in my head.

After we wrapped the portraits of him, we went into his personal gym and photographed each of his dogs against seamless just for him to have, to immortalize them in a way. Photographing animals is my happy place, and the smile that comes across their humans’ faces makes it that much more wonderful. You want a moment of true happiness? Listen to Danny Trejo babytalk his pups and see the smile on his face as they’re being photographed.

Danny lived a colorful life, how much prep did you do prior to the job?
I don’t prep too much beyond a bit of research on subjects to find some common ground I share with the subject instead of just talking about their work. With Danny, this was simple. We’re both dog rescue people who also share a passion for prison and criminal justice reform. I’ve never been incarcerated, but I spent a few months documenting the Pawsitive Change program at California City Correctional Facility. I didn’t need much of an icebreaker beyond that.

In terms of technicality, I’m not the most technical photographer. I shoot a lot of studio work with strobes, but goddamn, I love working with natural light and merely shaping it with reflectors and negative fill when need be. I wanted the shoot to feel as little like a production as possible. When a shoot feels like a conversation between myself and the subject and we just happen to have a camera nearby, that’s the best.

What did you imagine his demeanor to be, and did that live up to your expectations?
I have a number of friends who have worked with Danny in some capacity throughout the years, and not a single one of them had anything but praise for the man. They were all right; the man is a true gem. As someone who’s been told many times that I look unapproachable and unfriendly until people actually meet me, I get it. I love breaking the barrier between my genetics and my personality.

Danny and myself at the end of our shoot

 

Describe the vibe on set.
The vibe on set was truly jovial and comfortable. This is one of the perks of being at the home of your subject, especially when your subject keeps it so damn real and lives deep in the Valley. Add cute, friendly dogs running around, and you’re solid. Every shoot should have dogs on hand. While we didn’t take more time than we needed, it felt like we could have continued to hang out beyond the shoot. Danny invited us to come watch fights in his backyard in the future, so let’s hope that offer stands.

Did you direct him or was he naturally falling into form in front of the camera?
My approach to directing a subject is fairly loose. I know the general idea of where I want them to be and how I want them to be, but beyond that, I like subjects to fall into themselves. I’m not trying to create a fantastical scene. I did ask him to bring out some of his cars, I did ask him to pose with his pups and have them all jump into the vehicle, and I did ask him to take off his shirt and bare those tattoos, but beyond that, we go with the flow. I’m more of a people person and a documentarian in my approach as a photographer, so when I’m trying to get something out of someone, I meet them where they are with their energy and emotions on the day. I pick up on these things quickly and adjust subtly enough so I don’t push a subject too far, or worse yet, not push far enough that I lose them. It’s all collaborative.

The Daily Edit – Manjari Sharma

Manjari Sharma

Heidi: How has your relationship with the work changed if at all since moving to the United States?
Manjari: It’s been an incredible journey, and one I wouldn’t change anything about. I came here to the USA at 21 and looking back I knew very little about the “history” of America. What I did know was I was going to make a lot of pictures, meet a lot of new people and ask a lot of questions. I wanted to grow and that curiosity led me across the globe. My relationship with my work over the years has become more intimate. I am more transparent with my practice and I think it’s because simplicity and complexity in equal parts are inextricably tied to aging. Time is certainly the best teacher. When I was younger things were more black and white and now I know there are multiple realities to most all stories. When I was younger I was honing my craft, and then I started telling my own stories. This is where my path changed, where the story became so important that it had to be told at any and all costs. It didn’t matter who was publishing the work or inviting it for a show. The work had its own preordained path and it had to be born.

As you gain distance, is it reinforcing something for you?
Gaining distance from that which we love is a double-edged sword. At twenty one I knew or cared very little about the duality of stepping away from my home and my family. The sense of adventure and the draw to pursue and carve my own unknown path was so strong, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am fortunate that my family supported my unbridled wishes. Over the years I have both learned and unlearned a great deal about both my Indian descent and my adopted American culture and they are bittersweet truths. What this distance or as Pico Iyer calls it the “Gift of exile” is that it has allowed me to do is make up a culture of my own; A hybrid identity that draws from both these incredible countries that I am fortunate to straddle.

What marked a pivotal time in your career here in the US?
2008-2013 I photographed a series titled The Shower Series. I invited people I didn’t know very well to take a shower in my shower as I photograph them. The premise was risque and clothes were optional. I photographed a plethora of people showering and ended up having these unexpectedly disarming conversations with them. The water became a conduit and almost every single time I photographed someone, I felt entrusted with a really personal story. I made audio recordings of the protagonists’ short stories with their consent of course, and they were so honest and beautiful. A shower is such a sacred space that our intimacy and the cleansing aspect of water turned the experience into a really meaningful connection. I won’t lie I felt like I fell in love with every one of my subjects. I also found myself quite consumed by the process of making this work. I was addicted to hearing these raw and vulnerable stories because they turned my subjects into these complex, powerful characters that had so much depth. Somewhere during these sessions, several portraits were taken; My lens got fogged, my toes got wet and the photograph became a reason to connect to something beyond. This series was a pivotal point in my practice because I realized the camera had become an extension of my personality. Meeting a new human being, learning who they are, what takes them down, what makes them tick, is was what brought me to another country. So much of that series was a discovery that the lesson I learned here was to pay attention and follow the lure of my unconscious mind.

Now that you have lived almost half of your life in India and half in the US when you created this work, which part of you did you relate to the most?
When I look at my work I see a pluralistic lens. I am guided by American inquiry but I assess my work from an inner core that is rooted in Indian culture. Many of these experiences of growing up in India I am present with on a daily basis, and then there are others that time has made opaque, yet, I know they are deeply embedded in my inner landscape. The best example of this might be like the lyrics of a Hindi song that I forgot I knew verbatim. As an artist never losing sight of this unknown murky middle ground that lies between the known and the unknown is probably my most challenging yet rewarding part. Mining that cerebral interlude for answers is what I derive my greatest satisfaction from.

Are you talking about the lyrics to a particular song, why do you think it resonated?
Recently I was at my friend’s house Sarita, and she played a Hindi song I hadn’t listened to for a really long time, maybe even decades, but I found myself knowing it word for word. My palette for music was a gift from my mother. I specifically remember moments when she shook her head and wiped her tears because the melody and lyrics of a song could move her so much. The songs that had meaning to her were played and overplayed in my home. I listened to Indian music on my mom’s Panasonic cassette player and she exposed me to such terrific names RD Burman, Naushad, Mohammed Rafi to name a few. Anyway, I’m digressing I am using this as an analogy to share that formative experiences from 21 years in Bombay are burned and embedded into my psyche. I’m shaped by these and so is my art.

How did the sari impact you as a young woman, and how does it impact you as an adult? What life lessons can be drawn from this complex piece of fabric, once properly tied? or not tied?
Fabric in general holds a lot of meaning for me. Indian customs, rituals, and relationships are symbolically represented by color, textiles, and knots in an immense way. The act of tying and untying has great relevance in Indian culture. A knot represents a promise. The act of who ties a knot between the bride and the groom at an Indian wedding for example has ancestral significance. As a young woman, the Saree to me was regarded as a garment that commanded respect. I remember staring at my mother when she draped herself in one. Wearing a saree was an occasion in itself and from that perspective, as a young woman, I romanticized it. Walking gracefully in a saree took practice and poise and an improperly tied saree was not only sloppy but dysfunctional. In that sense spending time with folding, pleating, and draping nine-yards of fabric was a meditation in its own right. As an adult, I look at it a bit more microscopically because as life would have had it my mother (a dementia patient) can no longer drape herself in a saree. Also as I examine India from a sexist lens, I look at the saree not just as a delicate decorative but also as a symbol of patriarchal control. I have a deep and spiritual admiration for this garment, but I also critique it as a modern Indian woman. I had a teacher in a college in Bombay and her name was Putul Sathe she was a counter-culture spitfire who imbued me with radical liberal thought. The saree is incredible and incredibly limiting and I wanted to address both those aspects in my series “How to wear a saree

What was the tipping point for your recent letter titled “Love Letter to America?”
George Floyd’s death in particular shook me to the bone. “Love letter to America” as you know weaves my own experiences into the fold but what began with “Talking Pictures” came to more honest fruition with Love Letter to America. You can read it here


“Talking Pictures” was influenced by the 2016 elections, so here we are 4 years later, how has this current landscape informed your work?
Talking Pictures was an assignment through The Metropolitan Museum of Art and a big subject of that commission became the growing life inside my body as I discovered that I was pregnant during the course of the assignment. However, the outcome of the election, and particularly Donald Trump’s win was something I had to address as part of my work. Trump’s win was the first time I found myself traveling to DC on a bus at 4 am to exercise my rights and protest against the disturbing political landscape of America. I understand that we are bipartisan as a country but I have known, befriended, and even loved many republican leaning Americans. However, Donald Trump represented an America that was at odds with everything I understood and respected about this country. I am brown, grew up in India, and over the years my understanding of racism and white supremacy has grown steadily but Trump’s America permitted behaviors I didn’t realize this country was capable of. This speaks to my privilege of course, but my art practice could no longer ignore that I needed to headlong address certain racist inequities that I now found myself shielding.

There is so much expression of life in the streets of India, are you drawn to mural work?
Yes public art was vivid in Mumbai and I certainly have a sense of belonging to it. With galleries and museums being shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Public Art and the vitality it brings to communities is more important than ever. This mural, A cacophony of human hands rising like a wave, is also an extension of a recent piece I wrote “Love Letter to America”

What does it mean?
Sometimes we don’t see people for what they are, we see them for who “we think” they are. Are we programmed to misunderstand each other? Can we fight this programming? The purpose of the mural is to invite the viewer to examine and self-reflect on our racial lens and actions as a community.

I know you’re on the board of the organization Art Bridge, an initiative that helps early-career artists have a brilliant platform. Tell us about this piece “Simultaneous Contrast” pictured above, in a sketch and a comp.
Simultaneous contrast is a new body of work I’m only just beginning work on. Much like my series Darshan it is currently a sketch and is yet to be constructed. It is based on a phenomenon rooted in color theory. Simultaneous contrast is a term that refers to the influence of one color when in close proximity to another. The theory is that when placed side by side, one color can change how we perceive the tone and hue of another. In reality, the colors themselves never change, but in our recognition, we see them as altered. No normal eye, not even the most trained one can see color independently. This series is an exercise in challenging the framework of our consciousness. What does the color of our skin represent in society? What is our role in shaping the perception of colors around us? Simultaneous Contrast invites the viewer to examine the illusion of stereotypes, and question our role in altering the perceptions of implicit bias.

Artbridge has an auction up for about a week and people have the opportunity to grab amazing art. You can buy this piece from my series “Surface Tension” to support this incredible organization or browse some amazing other artists here. 

The Daily Edit – Ostroy NYC: Alex Ostroy

Ostroy NYC

Photographer + Illustrator: Alex Ostry

Heidi: How did this business come about, were you disappointed in the available products?
Alex: Cycling design has a beautiful tradition to draw on, but I always thought it lacked the wit, creativity, and subversive visual power of the D.I.Y. American art forms I grew with like Punk, Rap, and the East Village art scene. I think that’s what the people who respond to our brand like as well.

Unlike in the fashion world, most cycling sportswear companies are not started by designers, so design is often an afterthought. It’s just not integral to the process and consequently, it’s often hard to tell one company from the other. The norm in cycling is to talk about what factory made a kit. We are trying to change that and lead with design.

How did the name come about?
The Ostroy brand name is a bit misleading as a name because it was really Aaron Vecchio who came to me with the vision to make my cycling design work into a real company, so most of the success the business side has had is due to his tireless work. We have been lucky to work with many other talented, devoted people. I was just the one with a six-letter URL and a small following online so I get all the glory.

How does your love of cycling come through in the design, culture, and fabrics?
The brand started as a passion project, not just with the surface design but the cuts and fabrics. A cycling jersey is a very technical garment, much more than a baseball or soccer jersey. The tighter fit is very complicated and the modern hi-tech fabrics are amazing when they are used correctly. This process took years for us to develop and we really benefited from the tutelage of our Italian partners who have been designing, cutting, and sewing jerseys and bibs for generations.

How does your 3-D illustration work transcend into this project?
I’d like to think like any artist, all of my work and personal history are woven into what I’m doing now. I’d say the biggest difference is the work I do now is far more personal than the work I did for magazines and corporate clients years ago, and of course, it has lots more bikes.

Are you also shooting the images for the brand?
As the creative department I write the copy, take photos, design packing labels, posts, etc.

Are you doing daily sketches as a daily creative exercise?
I start everyday drawing, a bit like stretching or meditation, as a way to limber up my mind. Once and a while those drawings find their way to becoming jersey design, other times, event posters or and sometimes just a drawing I’ll post on our IG: OstroyNYC. We are a small company, so as the creative department I write the copy, take photos, design packing labels, posts, etc. I think our customers appreciate the handmade attention to detail in our brand.  One day I may miss that when we are a heartless giant sportswear conglomerate, and Im spending all day yelling at subordinates and signing my name to younger more talented designer’s work.

 

 

The Daily Edit – Patagonia Fall Journal 2020: Drew Smith


Patagonia Fall Journal 2020

Photographer: Drew Smith

Why is it important for you to vote for wild places?
Voting for wild places is imperative to protect the earth itself, our home. Wild places are not sustainable without our protection and preservation. I want future generations to be able to enjoy and admire open spaces with clean air and water. We need to work together to ensure the health of our ecosystems and the most effective way to do so is through voting. We need to protect our right to be wild.

With the roll back of the roadless rule, what concerns you the most?
The fact that it will be legal for logging companies to build roads and destroy National Forest land is disheartening, especially since native tribes rely on this land to fish and hunt as they have been for generations. Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist with the Earth Island Institute’s Wild Heritage project said “While tropical rainforests are the lungs of the planet, the Tongass is the lungs of North America”. I find it troubling that not only the findings of scientists but also the public consensus and native tribe’s opinions about the Roadless Rule were not taken into consideration. If anything, we should be vastly expanding protected land, not taking it away.

Thoughts on the future of our planet?
What concerns me most is that if we continue to undo our work of protecting these vital ecosystems, climate change will continue more rapidly, and our quality of life will be affected. At 19 years old, I had the opportunity to spend time in the Tongass. I returned for three more summers and that time affected me immensely. I wouldn’t be who I am today without experiencing the forest in its pristine state. I want that for future generations.

Where was this cover shot?
This shot was while climbing Zeitgeist IV+ M7- WI5R on the northwest face of Mount Ball in Banff National Park, Canada.

You’re always multitasking: enjoy the moment, take the image or focus on the climb; does that ever get hard?
For the most part, I find so much joy in capturing moments throughout the day and at this point, photography has become part of the climbing. Sometimes when it’s cold or when I’m exhausted it’s really hard to get the camera out, but I force myself to because that’s when you get the best shots. I feel fortunate to have these amazing experiences and also the images to reminisce on and relive those days.

What made you stop and capture this moment?
I always climb with a small camera attached to my harness or in a backpack, it’s just become a habit while out in the mountains. After finishing a pitch and at the belay, the first thing I do is take my camera out not knowing when I’ll see a good shot. Michelle Pratt and I were just getting ready to follow Quentin Roberts up an ice pitch he had just climbed, when spindrift from above started pounding us. I huddled against the rock and looked down, taking a few shots before we cast off.

How many days were you out?
This was just a long day in the mountains which is the norm while climbing in the Rockies. We awoke in Canmore around 3 am, drove an hour, then started a freezing 3-hour hike arriving at the base of the climb early morning. We bailed off of the climb not far from the summit, knowing it would be getting dark soon. I’m not sure how long the day was but we returned to the car safely with smiles, well after dark.

Climb partners: Michelle Pratt and Quentin Roberts who both live in Canmore, Canada.

 

The Daily Edit – Snowboarder: Stan Evans


Snowboarder The Magazine


Photographer:
Stan Evans
Editorial Director: Pat Bridges
Editor: Stan Leveille
Photo Editor: Mark Clavin
Art Director: Dwayne Carter
Photo Assistant / BTS Cinematographer: Alex Kavanagh
BTS CInematographer: Myles Messinetti
BTS Editor: Jeff Moustache
Publisher: Micah Abrams
Snow Location Cinematographer: Connor WInton

Heidi: Has this issue been healing or a reckoning for your relationship with the snowboard industry?
Stan: I’ll be frank. I love snowboarding. The freedom to explore, to  be in nature to take pictures as capturing unique moments in time with some amazing people but….  As a Black photographer I’d had a bit of a contentious relationship with the snowboard industry as it was very subversively racist.  In the way they marketed the sport and some of the things that happened to me throughout my career. No matter how many amazing photos I’d shoot there was always somebody there that thought because of the color of my skin I shouldn’t be here. People loved the photos but people didn’t want to hear my opinion so everyday was starting from zero and proving myself all over again. Besides being a middle class black kid I didn’t have family money to fall back on so it was  I think it’s important to view this issue and its creation through that lens.  Ironically that became the theme of the “Black experience” of snowboarding throughout the magazine –  we needed to show both sides of the coin, good and bad.  

What do you hope to share for those in your tracks?
The most difficult part of being first was not having a path. It’s a lot of trial and error and failure to be honest. There’s potholes out there and I probably hit everyone figuring it out but the tough part is the mental game of picking myself up and trying again. I had some good white mentors in high school and college but they can’t help you in navigating racists in a small mountain towns, other competitors talking behind your back about your photos. Marketing managers or team managers low balling you because they only think you are worth this much. Company employees leaving you on the side of a mountain because they don’t want to give you a ride back to the lodge. You have to develop a mental and physical toughness that nothing is going to phase you and you are going to get right back out there the next day and give %110. I want to share anything I can but the biggest thing I can give is perspective because I lived it.  For black people getting into outdoor marketing and for brands trying to earnestly help having my experience is a huge roadmap. Let’s miss those potholes this time around. Smooth the road for the next generation. 

I know you had some reservations, what tipped the scales to say yes?
To be honest It took about 3 weeks of talking before I said yes. To his credit the editor Pat Bridges called and emailed me several times. I revealed several slights I’d had from their editorial staff and in turn their publication in the past which made me adverse to getting involved. In those moments Pat gained some perspective of what it was like being the “only” –  I gave him an earful and he listened. We made a pact to try and right some wrongs with this issue.  Their publisher Micah Abrams also stepped up as I’d worked with him several times over the years and he’s always been amazing to work with. The biggest reservation I had was that David Pecker (the man who buried Trump’s Stormy Daniels story) owns ASC and it troubled me that me working on this issue potentially was putting more money in that guy’s pocket. But if I put my heart and soul into it, would it have a bigger impact than just him profiting? I tend to play the long game these days but on this one I wasn’t sure if I was winning the battle or the war? I had to roll the dice.  

What boundaries and qualifiers did you set in order to move forward?
Snowboarder called first about having my portfolio included as I was the only Black Snowboard photographer but I pressed them as to who was overseeing production, we all saw a glaring hole in credibility. They had Dwayne Carter who is black as Art Director in editorial staff but his background is mainly skateboarding really no one to guide the ship to the black “snowboard” experience with a print production background. After some discussion they hired me to consult in the capacity of Contributing Editor.   Within that I shifted the narrative from just showcasing “Black Professional Snowboarders” to how “Black Culture” has contributed to snowboarding? Once we turned that corner we were off to the races.  I helped develop the well, posed the idea of creating a timeline of Black history within Snowboarding similar to Fast Company infographics, we made a selection of creators that contributed to the industry, (team managers, designers, reps, shop employees)  I advised some of the creators on their messaging and I layed out my portfolio. I delivered the basic template to Dwayne via  Indesign and he made it prettier with room for my extended captions.  Once most of those wheels were set in motion it became fairly obvious that I should write the opening oped as well. Stan (their editor) suggested it as a way to pass the mic and as he usually opens the issue with his Column “Stan’s World”  It was an ironically fitting swap. Specifically they paid Cover Shoot expenses, word rate, portfolio and consult time. My mantra is hire Black, let us create, pay us what we are worth. Snowboarder Mag followed through on that promise. It empowered ALL the contributors black, white, male, female, straight or gay and instead of anyone holding back for fear of judgement, everyone gave their all.  That’s why the issue was so profound.  

How did the pre-production of this issue help authentic stories come alive and how did you develop trust and community?
I think all of the riders had a personal relationship with the editor Stan Leveille. They all trusted him to give them a safe space to express themselves. Their staff is talented and I’m a huge believer in if you have talented people let them do their jobs. I gave them this analogy. “ You guys are driving the car, I’m just riding along to navigate and help keep you out of the ditch” One thing I did before agreeing to the magazine was have a zoom call with most of the professional riders featured. Most knew me and my history and felt more comfortable with the issue and  telling their stories if I was actually in the building making sure there were no missteps.

How did they editorially make space?
Snowboarder pooled the advertising to the front of the book (the first 4 pages) with simply a logo from each advertiser freeing up room for more Black voices to speak within the volume. It showed a deep commitment from Pat to get each of the advertisers to set aside their products for an issue to tell stories that needed to be told. It allowed for so many voices that don’t get a chance to share their story for a moment in the spotlight. 

How will this issue help move things forward in an actionable way?
At the end of the issue they also showcased several nonprofits that work with marginalized communities to get them involved in snowboarding which I found highly important as they highlighted resources for people to get involved in continuing the work. 

How did the issue come together, how many years of work did you look through?
The editor and photo editor went through archives of my past work which ranged past 20 years and I went to the office to shoot the cover, sit in on production,  review copy and art direction with the editorial staff. Originally the mag was going to  be in 2nd issue with an October release but they moved to the first issue which sped up my timeline line. I had 3 weeks to complete my work while working on 3 other photo / video shoots simultaneously. So it was a push. I didn’t sleep much that month. 

What was the biggest hurdle to overcome in creating this issue?
There was a lot of reconciliation, sharing of responsibility and effort to get things right. Beyond being proud of the mag I was proud of how the staff approached it.  They insured and created a safe space for me to do my thing (not to say there weren’t a few head butting moments) but for the most part, everyone came together to make something great. 

What are some emotions that come up when you think about the title of “Only Black Man in Alaska?”
The “Only Black Man In Alaska” is a play on stereotypes. Whenever I tell someone I grew up in Alaska inevitably they go for the (drumroll please) “You must be the only Black Man in Alaska?” joke. I figure at this point I might as well own it. I loved growing up in Alaska. Moving there as a young child literally changed my life. So I felt it was an appropriate title for BTS on the shoot and my past.  For the cover shoot I suggested we have a BTS video team just covering the shoot process. This was a once in lifetime moment  having the first black professional snowboarder shot by the first black professional snowboard photographer. We should have it on video for posterity. The interview came  about spur of the moment.   Their editor Stan Leveille actually came through with some poignant questions for me and we shot it one take.  

The Daily Edit – Photographers Without Borders

Photographers Without Borders

CEO + Founder: Danielle Da Silva
Photographer: Keri Oberly

Photographers Without Borders will be talking with photographer Keri Oberly about standing in solidarity with the Gwich’in, her work with Patagonia, activism, and why she believes investing in people, relationships, and grassroots movements are going to save us. Tune in Tuesday, October 20th 10:00 am EST for the chat with Keri and CEO/photographer Danielle Da Silva.

Tickets are ‘pay what you can’ upon purchase, and all funds will go directly to support accessibility for our Storytelling School: Online program, specifically sponsoring BIPOC, Disabled, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Storytelling School: Online is an interactive online workshop to provide photographers with the tools and strategies to harness the power of storytelling and pivot their work online.

Photographers Without Borders is a collective of storytellers comprised of creatives coming together to support their community partners on volunteer assignments and inspire new generations of storytellers through PWB School and  other initiatives and resources.

Their mission is to make storytelling more accessible for communities around the world who are contributing to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and UNDRIP.  Classes are taught by CEO & Founder, Danielle Da Silva, photographers will learn how to use the power of storytelling to shift online – a critical skill in today’s uncertain times.

Bob Gilbert stands with his grandson, Victor, while looking for moose along the Junjik River outside Vashrąįį K’ǫǫ. The Gwich’in fear for the future of their children and grandchildren, if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is opened to oil and gas development, they believe it will threaten the very existence and identity of their people. To the Gwich’in, wilderness is not luxury; it is a way of life.
In late summer, the Porcupine Caribou Herd migrates toward Northwest Canada for the winter. The herd has the longest land migration route of any land mammal on Earth, migrating over 1,500 miles a year between their winter range and the calving grounds on the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Gwich’in call the coastal plains “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins). They treat the animals and land with reverence, because without them, they would not survive.

Kelly Fields hangs strips of caribou for dry meat in her cache in Gwichyaa Zheh (Fort Yukon), Alaska. The caribou was sent down by a family member in Vashrąįį K’ǫǫ. Today, the Porcupine Caribou Herd only migrates through two of the fifteen Gwich’in villages. Many families will send caribou to family and friends in villages that don’t see caribou anymore.
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, an 800-mile pipeline that transports oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. The third richest state in the country, Alaska depends on one industry to fund its state spending, oil and gas. Since the price of oil has fallen considerably in recent years, the state is currently facing a $2.5 billion deficit. Republicans have been proposing to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development for decades. Each time it has come close it was denied by Democrats or vetoed by President Clinton. With a Republican held House and Senate, Senator Lisa Murkowski snuck into the tax bill, that President Trump signed into law, the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for industrial development. Aggressive steps have since been taken to fast track development; seismic testing is scheduled to start this winter. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the proposed drilling area contains 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, an amount that will not have a large impact on world oil prices.
Portraits of Gwich’in and their allies by photographer Keri Oberly.

 

The Daily Edit – Modern Huntsman: Field Outrider

Wild PlacesMystery Ranch: To the ends of the earth and back, there are some amazing places out there, and we want to see them. Whether hunting, hiking, climbing, fishing, or just exploring with your dog, it’s often about being in the right place at the right time. Show us those moments in some of the wild places you’ve found.

Wildlife – Vortex – Fur, feathers, fins or fangs, we constantly draw inspiration from the wildlife around us, and leave us with unforgettable memories and lessons learned. Show us the moments of your closest encounters, narrow misses, or moments of connection.

The Pursuit the process of hunting – First Lite – Hunting is a process that sometimes yields a result, but it is the act of pursuing wild game that takes us to amazing places, tests our limits, and teaches us lessons. Show us your process of pursuing game, whether on land, sea or otherwise. The journey is the destination.

Harvest Hunting, fishing, agricultural – EPIC: Food gathered from the land. This could be wild game, fish, foraging, agricultural, or even viticultural. Food brings us together, and we want to see your interpretation of this.

Western Tecovas: Many have a fascination with the idea of “The West,” and while much of it lives in tall tales, legends, or days gone, some still live it everyday. Show us your version of what western means, whether past, present, or uncertain future.

Emerging – Less than 2 years of professional experience: Whether you’re a student or just getting started with less than two years of experience, we want to see your best work. While it doesn’t have to be one of the above categories, it would certainly be relevant to stick to them.

 

Art (paintings, illustration, mixed media, etc) – There are so many talented artists out there, but we’d like to see more of them. Whether painting, illustration, mixed media, digital art, or something else, we’d like to see it. While you don’t have to stick to the other category prompts, it certainly helps to keep it relevant to an outdoors theme.

Portraiture: Whether stranger from a faraway land, or a neighbor with an interesting past, we want to see the most interesting characters you’ve come across in your ventures. There is so much emotion and story that can be conveyed in a single portrait, and it’s an interesting exercise to try and read their emotions, intentions, and even their story. We want to see some storied faces and individuals here.

Audience Choice – our judges will pick 5 finalists from the entire pool, and we’ll give our audience/followers a chance to vote on who they want to win. We’ll be awarding the top 3 picks.

Modern Huntsman

Field Outrider
CEO + Editor in Chief: Tyler Sharp
Creative Director: Tito West

People often raise their eyebrows at photo contests, this one is different, this one is worth entering. You can submit your archival or current work in more than one of these unique categories. Field Outrider is offering more than acknowledgement, it’s an opportunity to also win paid assignments, have your work published in their beautifully printed magazine along with one on one portfolio reviews. In terms of judging contests there is nothing more exciting then to be surprised by an emerging photographer or someone who has a passion for the craft. Most professionals have every waking moment occupied with calls and screen time, work, child care; realize this is an opportunity to get your work in front of a broad range of people wanting to give back to the photo/creative community they believe in.

The Daily Edit – Modern Huntsmen: Field Outrider

Photographed by Jenn Judge
Photographed by Jenn Judge Photographed by Justin Moore

Photographed by Tito West

Modern Huntsman

Field Outrider
Creative Director: Tito West

Heidi: Why the contest? What are the benefits to the photo/art community and why now?
Tito: Since its inception, Modern Huntsman has always strived to give voice to those who have struggled to be heard. Most of our team comes from a long past of freelancing and we are all too familiar with the incredible difficulty that arises when trying to break into the world of professional photography, whether that’s commercial or editorial work or even a more artistic approach such as galleries or long form projects. More often than not, it boils down to luck or to a fortunate meeting of happenstance. This is all good and well except for the fact that there are more people than ever who are making truly original work; work that deserves to be seen, but through the cards of chance, they have remained unseen and their voices unheard. All of that being said, I’m not entirely opposed to the difficult path that photographers face at the outset of their careers. This is one of a few fields in which the difficulty of achieving success serves as a sort of weeding out process. It separates those who truly want to be here from the ones who only think they want to be here. As frustrating as that can be, it has served me well. In times of desperation or hopelessness I found renewed strength in the history of the medium and the legacy that has been passed down from the legends who came before us for our careers are made possible by the photographers who preceded us. I think this is what Umberto Eco meant when he wrote, “We are dwarfs, but dwarfs who stand on the shoulders of those giants, and small though we are, we sometimes manage to see farther on the horizon than they.”  However, there comes a point in the development of your artistic vision where the groundwork has been laid, the foundation is set and now it is time to venture out into the world and for your work to be seen. That venturing out is the most difficult step. So many photographers, artists, etc feel that they’re ready. They know they are, but the question remains…”How do I take that first step?” This is where “Field Outrider hopes to comes in.

What are your hopes and what do you want the community to know about you or this project?
This is not a competition in which our aim is to obtain an endless stream of “content”. In fact, that’s a word we are wholeheartedly uncomfortable with. Our primary focus is and always has been STORY. This is the heart and soul of Modern Huntsman. We have a goal here with this publication and that is to bring respect back to the printed editorial world; to reinstall print as an outlet for photographers who are making meaningful work. We cannot do this without a reliable and core roster of contributors; in short, we cannot do it without the people who are out in the world exploring the issues and the places that are the core focus of the stories we publish. However, Modern Huntsman is bigger than the stories we print in our publication. The PEOPLE who tell these stories are the lifeblood we depend upon and as such it is the people to whom we must provide support and access. Furthermore, “Field Outrider” is NOT a means of making money. Yes, we are charging a submission fee of $15, however, that money will go towards commissioning stories for the publication with the winners of each category. We have assembled an incredible team of judges, all of whom are donating their time and expertise out of a desire to give back to the photo community, a community that has given them so much. This is their way of paying it forward. Some are photographers themselves yes, but largely the judges are made up of individuals who actually have the power to put you to work, because as much as we all value feedback, what we really need is a chance, an opportunity to test ourselves in the arena. That is where careers are made. That is where photographers are born.

This competition serves a stepping stone in the larger, long-term mission of Modern Huntsman. What began in the spring of this year as an Instagram competition has evolved into this, a digital competition in which the winner’s photograph(s) will not only be published in print, but will result directly in a commission that we’ll publish, and drive attention to. Again, this is a stepping stone. It starts online, but ultimately our goal is to work towards in person seminars, workshops and portfolio reviews. But another big component of that is doing what we can to get more folks from different backgrounds involved in these discussions, and increase diversity amongst the perspectives we’re pulling from. While we’ve always sought this out, we’re taking larger steps here to get this opportunity out to more communities, as we think the future of conservation, land management, hunting and food sourcing will depend on having new voices involved in the conversation.

How did you come to this job?
I came onboard with Modern Huntsman as the Creative Director back in February of this year. I have known Tyler Sharp (the Editor and CEO) for about 6 years now and we have very similar career paths, from starting out in Texas to working in East Africa both as filmmakers and photographers. We’ve always stayed in touch and I was a part of the conversation regarding Modern Huntsman from the beginning, but I was still traveling extensively overseas at the time and very much involved in several ongoing projects. So we kind of tabled the conversation for a bit, all the while knowing that there would come a time when things would align and we’d be working together on this incredible thing he has built. That time finally came, and it was lucky to be right before lock down, as we were all able to focus on putting out great work with Volume Five, and trying to find ways to help other freelancers.

I am still very much a dedicated photographer myself and that is really my vocation, but this role as Creative Director allows me to work with other incredibly talented people from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds and it keeps me involved in the photo community which is really important to me. Once you’re bitten by this photography bug, you really don’t stand a chance. It will consume you in the best way possible and so to be able to work with these individuals, some of whom I have looked up to my entire career, really helps keep me fresh and informs my own work. It pushes me to be better and I can’t really ask for much more than that. It’s truly a privilege that I feel very fortunate to be a part of.

How does this all braid together for you (photography, design and storytelling)
Well for me, books are where the heart of the medium lies. I have a deep and abiding love for books – for all books, not just photography books and that’s exactly what we do at Modern Huntsman. It would be really hard to call what we make, a magazine, even though in essence that’s what it is. However, the quality of the work, the printing, the writing and design – they all make it more than this idea of what we imagine when we say magazine. It really is a softcover book. Over the years, I’ve learned to present my work differently and more intentionally and that requires an understanding of and an appreciation for design. While I am not a designer myself, I do study it and I try to pay attention to what the design is saying. I think as photographers we really have a responsibility to learn aspects of design that can help show the work in the way we want it to be received. I believe this is more important than it’s ever been. In fact, I really see the design as being the final component in putting these stories together, the previous two obviously being the writing and the photography. Each story warrants its own unique design approach in the exact same way that each story warrants a unique photographic vision. Again, I’m not a designer myself, but I do believe in being design literate. Ultimately, however, the design of each story and the publication as a whole falls to our incredibly talented Design Director, Elias Carlson, whom I met three years ago at the Collective Quarterly Portfolio Review in Chico Hot Springs, Montana hosted by Jesse Lenz of Charcoal Book Club. Elias and I have stayed in touch over the years and so it’s been really incredible to see how these early relationships, at the outset of my career, have informed the later stages of my working life and how our paths seem to converge when the timing is right.

Lastly, from a storytelling standpoint I think editorial outlets are historically, with the exception of maybe books, a photographer’s preferred outlet. Unfortunately, these have largely disappeared over the years and of the few that do remain, it can be incredibly difficult for a photographer to begin a working relationship. The goal for Modern Huntsman is to bring that back to the forefront of possible outlets for working professional photographers as well as to open that door to talented young photographers who are just beginning their careers.

How does this model of guaranteed work serve as a benefit and community builder?
I have participated in a number of photo workshops, portfolio reviews and competitions and many of them have been great experiences, while others were not. Some of them have been free as a result of corporate sponsorships and others have required a significant out of pocket expense, something most aspiring photographers cannot afford. At the end of the day, what photographers need is work. Critiques are important, and feedback can be inspiring or informative, but work is the lifeblood of the photographer and it’s the work that we need in order to survive. That’s our goal with all of this, to put talented photographers and creatives to work, while at the same time expanding the diversity of voices in the conversations surrounding the hunting, angling, and outdoors communities. Being that we were all freelancers before and know how hard it is, we created this to try and be something that is meaningful, beneficial and supportive of photographers and artists. We tried to think about what opportunities we would’ve loved to have back then, and think this does that justice. It’s been a hard year for a lot of people, and while we certainly wish we could do more, this is our effort to really step up and try to create some positive momentum and paid work for photographers who need it. Again, we can’t thank you enough for being a part of this and helping share more about what we’re trying to do here. We truly hope that we’ll get lots of work sent in and be able to create some incredible stories with the winners!

The Daily Edit – Max Whittaker

BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 9, 2020: The small town of Berry Creek, California which was destroyed by the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 9, 2020. The North Complex Fire has burned 254,000 acres. 
FEATHER FALLS, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 9, 2020: A tree burns in the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 9, 2020 in Feather Falls, California. The North Complex Fire has burned 254,000 acres. 
BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10, 2020: National Guard soldiers cut a fire line on the West Zone fire, formerly the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 10, 2020 near Feather Falls, California. The North Complex Fire has burned 244,000 acres and killed ten people. 
BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10, 2020: National Guard soldiers cut a fire line on the West Zone fire, formerly the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 10, 2020 near Feather Falls, California. The North Complex Fire has burned 244,000 acres and killed ten people. 
VACAVILLE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: Justin Haan wipes his face while putting out spot fires ahead of a wildfire to save his in law’s home in Vacaville, California on August 19, 2020. The LNC Lightning Complex fire has burned over 32,000 acres. 
HEALDSBURG, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 22, 2020: The Delta Conservation Crew, made up of inmate firefighters, takes a break from clearing a fire line on the Walbridge Fire, part of the LNU Lightning Complex, in Healdsburg, California on August 23, 2020. The LNU Lightning Complex fire has burned 341,243 acres and destroyed at least 560 structures. 
HEALDSBURG, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 22, 2020: The Delta Conservation Crew, made up of inmate firefighters, takes a break while hiking out from clearing a fire line on the Walbridge Fire, part of the LNU Lightning Complex, in Healdsburg, California on August 23, 2020. The LNU Lightning Complex fire has burned 341,243 acres and destroyed at least 560 structures. 
FAIRFIELD, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: Fairfield firefighter Rex Dorrough burns a hillside to protect a neighborhood from the LNU Lightning Complex as deer flee the flames in Fairfield, California on August 19, 2020. The LNU Lightning Complex fire has burned over 125,000 acres. 
POPE VALLEY, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 20, 2020: Neighbors help protect a home from the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Pope Valley, California on August 20, 2020. The LNU Lightning Complex fire has burned 215,000 acres and destroyed at least 480 structures. 
SPANISH FLAT, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 25, 2020: Andrea Shumate comforts her husband, Josh Shumate, as he sifts through the remains of his grandmother’s home at the Spanish Flat Mobile Villa, which was destroyed by the Hennessy Fire, part of the LNU Lightning Complex, in Spanish Flat, California on August 25, 2020. 
NYTWILDFIRES BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10, 2020: A forest burned by the West Zone Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 12, 2020 near Berry Creek, California. The North Complex Fire has burned 254,000 acres. 
VACAVILLE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: Dan Frank calls 911 as his garage and neighbor’s home burns in Vacaville, California on August 19, 2020. The LNC Lightning Complex fire has burned over 32,000 acres. 
VACAVILLE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: Deer flee a wildfire in Vacaville, California on August 19, 2020. The LNC Lightning Complex fire has burned over 32,000 acres. 
VACAVILLE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: A firefighter tries to burn out some weeds ahead of a wildfire in Vacaville, California on August 19, 2020. The LNC Lightning Complex fire has burned over 32,000 acres. 


Max Whittaker

instagram

Heidi: You’ve been covering wildfires for the past 19 years, what made this season different?
Max: This season is different because we’ve had so many large, destructive fires so early in the season. We’re just entering the meat of the fire season, which typically only gets going in Southern California in the fall with the Santa Ana winds. California has already had more acres burn in 2020 than any other year, and the fire season isn’t close to being over.

Looking back over those years, what were some pitval moments?
However, I think it’s important to look back a bit further. When I first started covering wildfires in the early 2000s, they were primarily in forests, away from population centers. Isolated homes and small, rural communities would be threatened, but it was still primarily something that happened deep in the forest, typically on public land. Gradually, the fires began to move more quickly and explosively, driven by high winds, high temperatures and dry fuel, and threaten more and larger communities more frequently. The real eye-opener was the Tubbs Fire in 2017. Driven by high winds, the fire jumped six lanes of Highway 101 and burned the very suburban neighborhood of Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, destroying 2,900 homes. Since then, the Carr Fire in Redding and the Camp Fire in Paradise in 2018, continue this trend of wildfires increasingly burning into residential neighborhoods.

How did your love of National Parks influence your work?
I grew up camping, backpacking, climbing and skiing. I still remember the first time I saw the Tetons and later on the same trip, taking my first photo of a buffalo charging, blurred by my mom yanking me back into the car. Our family still spends two weeks every summer exploring National Parks and public lands. I think my love for wild places colors everything about my photography. It’s so inextricably part of me, that I’m not sure it can be separated from me and how I view the world. I feel most comfortable in wild places and more empathetic to those who live and work on the land. I hope that shows in my work.

What type of “training” do you do to stay ready in the off chance you’re out all night?
Honestly, I don’t think there’s much training that helps with sleep deprivation other than get a good night’s rest when you can. That said, I’ve gotten assignments on very short notice that involve a decent amount of physical fitness (in 2019 I climbed Aconcagua for an assignment with two weeks notice), so I do my best to stay in shape despite my ever-varying work schedule and life demands. I’m a firm believer that being in decent shape helps out in all kinds of ways – even if it is just a week or two of sitting in planes and cars, like many assignments.

What drove you to break the rule of staying close to your car for this assignment?
I left my car behind for the day I spent documenting the effects of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire on Big Basin Redwoods State Park mainly because the active fire had passed and the area was just smoldering. Since the area had already burned, it was in many ways safer than areas that hadn’t. Nothing is without risk, but this seemed like a reasonable risk to document the damage to the park and that was the only way to do it with the downed trees blocking the road. In hindsight, I’d underestimated the danger of falling limbs and trees. That’s something I’ll consider more carefully in similar situations in the future.

What type of respect for nature comes from doing this work?
With people there’s negotiation, with nature it’s more observation and keen awareness of the moment, situational awareness….

Fire is natural. It’s a natural part of our ecosystem that’s gone haywire from man’s effect on the landscape and climate. To see fire eat and charge its way through brush, trees and homes is to engender massive respect for the power of nature. You need to be always watching, looking behind you and making sure your escape path is still clear and your vehicle isn’t endangered. But over the years it’s gradually had another effect on me: to view forests as ever-changing organisms, not as a museum exhibit frozen in place for our viewing pleasure. Typically, as humans we can only see a forest or landscape change over a lifetime of observation, a wildfire changes things in minutes or hours. It’s always cool to go back to a burned area the next spring, and see just a few months later how much green growth there is after the winter rains.

I’m no firefighter or scientist, but I have learned to distinguish between the creeping fire that burns brush, deadfall and the understory; and the cataclysmic infernos we’ve seen more of recently, that completely nuke the landscape and leave nothing alive.

How much do you interact with the firefighters and what kind of earned trust is developed?
It’s rare for me to spend more than a few hours with a firefighting crew. I always show respect by asking permission to photograph them, and they’re almost always friendly and very accomodating. If it’s slow, they’re often hungry to chat with someone outside of their crew as they’re often out for weeks at a time, going from one fire to the next. I’m wearing the same PPE they are, do my best to stay out of their way and not become a liability. I think they appreciate that.

Above all, I’ve gained massive respect for firefighters. Being a wildland firefighter is incredibly demanding, physical work. Hand crews hike miles through rugged terrain during the hottest months, lugging hand tools, chainsaws and fuel, all while wearing thick, fireproof nomex clothing. Then they carve a fire line through impenetrable brush and trees, officially working 24 hours straight, but often much longer. They’ll often do this for months at a time, away from their families, who are often living in the very wildland urban interface they’re working to protect.

Do you show your daughter your images?
My eight-year-old daughter has seen my wildfire images in passing. I don’t make a big deal about them and she rarely asks about them. She’s usually just excited I’m home and wants me to play dolls or Legos with her. But my experiences do lead to a more informed discussion when we do come across a burn scar while out hiking.

What are the lessons that these fires teach you, or what is it a reminder of?
I’ve learned lots during my years covering wildfires, but most importantly, I’ve learned how much of an effect man is having on our environment. Although well-intentioned, our decades of fire suppression has only increased the number of catastrophic fires. With one record-breaking fire season after another, the effects of climate change transcends statistics and is plainly evident in the ashes of our forests and communities.

The Daily Edit – The Portrait Project: Priscilla Gragg

The Portrait Project

Photographer: Priscilla Gragg
Instagram
Project Instagram

Heidi: You started this in 2016, how has it evolved over the years?
Priscilla: Yes, it has evolved a lot! From lighting to color palette to the creatives that get involved, each year it gets better and better! It is always so fun to see the project come to life. Our first year was just me, hair and make-up and wardrobe stylist. Last year, aside from the crew that works on the photo shoot and get the kids ready, we had vendors coming in and collaborating with goodies for a tote bag for families. Other vendors brought in fun toys, books, accessories that families could shop around while kiddos were having their photos taken. I love supporting local businesses so bringing them in to be a part of our photo shoot was a no brainer! This year due to Covid the experience will be a bit different as we will be minimizing time on set and number of people.

Aside from your love of photography, what other emotions come from a project like this?
I believe that when people get together to do something for the good, there is a certain energy that happens and it is hard to explain. It is like magic. Usually when I am on a photo shoot, I have certain goals to achieve in order to help communicate my client’s message. There are lots of meetings, talks and planning about mood, feel, crops, spacing for type, etc. For The Portrait Project my only goal is to get the very essence of my little subjects. It is honest, organic, it is the simple action of capture who they are. Then the profits from the sessions go directly to purchasing children in need toys during the holidays. The idea of using my photography skills to give back to the community is overwhelming. To me, it is a simple thing to do, to the parents it means so much and to the children receiving the toys, I have no words! I have done lots of monetary donations to different organizations and different needs, however, the feeling of rolling up your sleeves and using this one talent you have to help someone you have never met and never will is truly amazing to me.

How did you overcome the Covid this year?
There was a lot of adapting. It has been a very humbling experience from the photography/business perspective. I was used to always working with a big crew of talented people and all of the sudden, I was wearing many hats: steaming clothes, prepping hair and skin, changing them, setting up lights, shooting and wrangling; then editing, prepping, organizing and sharing files. Finally, packing up clothes and dropping them off at the post office to be returned. That’s at least 5-6 different roles on set! I have always appreciated my photo and production crew but now I have a different level of respect for them! Things are changing these days and we can shoot with smaller crews while keeping it safe;I am truly excited for that! And for The Portrait Project, we are keeping a bare minimal of people on set: 1 family per 30 min. This gives us some time to disinfect in between sessions. Everyone is required to wear a mask and the kids get to take them off for photo time only. Parents will get to prep the kids, and they should arrive camera ready. All images will be selected by parents at a later time via Zoom call to minimize time on set. It is all a big adjustment but with a little creativity and hard work it can be done safely.

Why did you start this project? 
I grew up in Brazil and lived in a neighborhood that had shawty towns all around. During the holidays, my dad – who did not have much at all, would go purchase a few simple toys that me and my sisters helped deliver to the children at the shawty towns. Seeing the happy faces of those kids is something that stayed with me my whole life. I have two children of my own now and they are lucky that most of their holiday wishes come true, but I need them to be aware of the fact that is it not the case to every child. By creating TPP, it is my way to give back and plant that seed of hope that our girls will one day do the same. I also make sure to communicate with the families that come for The Portrait Project about how important it is for their children to understand how they are helping with the donations by participating in this project.

If someone wants to book a session or volunteer, how can they find out more? 
Booking a session is tricky because it sells out quickly, like last year within 5 minutes after going live. So the best way to know when they will be live and ready for purchase is by subscribing to our newsletter over at casastudiophoto.com . For volunteering please email studio@priscillagragg.com

What have you learned about yourself and your work by doing this project? 
That when you pour your heart into a project that is meaningful to you, it truly resonates with people. I have countless clients that came to me because they saw images or videos shot for The Portrait Project.

The Daily Edit – American Window: Ethan Pines

Pictured: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.
Pictured: thermal pools and mineral deposits, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.
RV road trip with family and friends through Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Utah, July 2020.
PIctured: buffalo, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.
PIctured: Eddie Mitchell, store owner, 74, Greybull, Wyoming.
PIctured: Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota.
Pictured: Old Trail Town, Cody, Wyoming.
Pictured: streetscape, Greybull, Wyoming.
PIctured: Rocky Mountain goat along the highway, Glacier National Park, Montana.
Pictured: deer at a sawmill along the road.
PIctured: Mount Rushmore, as seen from the highway, South Dakota.
PIctured: buffalo crossing the road, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.


Ethan Pines: American Window

Heidi: How did this project start, and why?
Ethan: After being housebound for months, we and another family — along with much of the country — decided to take a summer road trip. We rented an RV, packed it to the gills (my camera bags lived in the shower) and headed out with few reservations and a loose 4,500-mile route through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Utah.

The project started on Day 2 of the trip. Before that morning, I didn’t know what I’d be seeing or how meaningful it might be. Waking up in a small town in Nevada, which was only a brief stop on the way to Idaho, I realized that we’d be seeing some special places and moments, both on and off the beaten path. And as I started looking at everything not just as a traveler but in a more studied, photographic way, I started seeing vignettes and juxtapositions that struck me. There’s a lot out there, especially in the areas of the country that haven’t been heavily commercialized.

What struck you about this personal project and why were you proud of it?
I was itching to shoot something personal and meaningful. It’s always important to shoot personal work, but this summer it felt especially rewarding to be creating fresh, self-guided work. I was doing something for myself. I was creating images I wanted to share. And I felt like a hunter — hyper aware, watching for those moments, shooting with intention, working the moments and juxtapositions until I had something. Hopefully they resonate with others.

I’m proud of everything I put out there. In this case, I felt like I was capturing not just what we saw, but what it was like. I also feel like I pushed myself in terms of visual mood and language. While my commercial work tends to have pop and contrast and clean color, here I worked with exposure and color grading and reduced contrast to bring out more mood, tone, emotional range. The restrained highlights and slightly chalky blacks also generate a painterly feel. I’m putting up a new fine-art website, and I’m going to launch it with selects from this project. But the series is a photo essay and should be seen as a whole.

What was it like traveling with your newborn?
It was the best. Moxie would babble and pant excitedly every time we strapped her to our chests and left the RV to see new places and people. Of course a nine-month-old takes work, and it certainly disrupted her sleep training. But whom you travel with is as important as where you travel to, and she was a sunny, funny travel companion.

Was your child a catalyst for this observation out the window?
I wouldn’t say she was a catalyst for the observation; more of a limiter, in a good way. Having a child with limited patience — in fact, two entire families with limited patience — forced me to look keenly, choose wisely and shoot selectively. I also shot 95 percent of the series on medium format (Leaf Credo 60 on an H4x), which is a slower, more deliberate way of working than 35mm. I love the big viewfinder and sensor, the aspect ratio, the color, the depth, everything about that setup.

What window did you photograph from?
Very little of the series was actually shot through a window. I was in and out of the RV all the time. As I thought about how to title the project, I wanted to convey not only that it emerged from a road trip, but that it offered a view of this country, a series of vignettes that show something about the U.S. American Window seems to carry that. There’s metaphor in a window. It’s a view, an opening, a portal through which lies something more. It offers a framed glimpse into what’s out there.

What do you hope Moxie would learn from these images?
Don’t judge; there are good people everywhere. Use asymmetry and imbalance in your compositions. Remember to include context. Stop and get that burger and fries. Shoot the odd moments and scenes that don’t really seem like photographs at first. Get out of the car and position yourself where you need to be. This country isn’t all one way or the other. Look deeply when you can. Think about what you’re seeing. Why is it that way? How did it get here? Look at things twice, even three times. Use your photography to illuminate. There’s beauty in things that aren’t beautiful.