Recent Work

  • Roller Derby

    Roller derby is something I've always wanted to shoot.  I remember seeing photos by other students back in Columbia from roller rink events but somehow I never made it out.  Photographers are obviously drawn by the cast of quirky characters that you find at the bouts, but also by the motion.  I was drawn by a certain grittiness that I feel is a part of derby.  Plus the girls that are part of the team seem to lead a double life.  It's something I want to maybe explore more later, but society tends to pigeonhole people.  You're a teacher, a doctor, nurse, mailman, etc. So it's surprising then, to see the woman selling you stamps at the post office strap skates on and paint her eye black for intimidation purposes, or roll out onto the rink in lace tights and sequined shorts.  

    I was able to spend one night at practice with them and one night at the Breast Bout Ever event the Killamazoo Derby Darlins hosted.  I also wrote a story to go along with it on a Darlin that is a two-time survivor of breast cancer.  I ended up shooting for news coverage, but also portraits of a few of the girls.  Way back when I first started as a news shooter for the Columbia Missourian I was assigned to cover the True/False Film Fest annual Jubilee Gala.  To this day that remains the worst night of my photography career.  I had seen what the lovely and talented Rachel Coward did the year before and wanted to do something similar.  She had zoomed out her flash to focus a beam of light on the subject, obscuring everything else in shadow.  Needless to say I was not as successful (please don't look up my photos).  As I started snapping the portraits of the derby girls I saw, without even realizing it, I was achieving the same effect I failed to do two years ago.  

    Here are some of my favorite shots from the event...

  • Cowboys and MacGyver

    Where do I even start?  If I promised to be a better more consistent blogger I don't think anyone would believe me.  They'd shake their heads knowingly and say, 'We've heard that one before.'" So instead, I'll just say that today is a brand new day with a brand new blog post to go along with it.  There are many, many posts I wish I could have put up recently, but I'll just stick with my favorite for right now and perhaps back track later.  

    Recently, Junfu Han, the other multimedia intern in Kalamazoo, and I visited the Allegan County Fair to cover the Flying Star Rodeo there.  Here's the link to the published photos and column I wrote.  The rodeo wasn't nearly as large as some of the others I've attended, but the culture was exactly the same and it made me feel at home. Both Junfu and I are somewhat fascinated by rodeos and the cowboys that test their skill on the backs of broncos and bulls and so we collaborated on a portrait series of the athletes, as well as other individuals involved in the rodeo.  

    The experience was awesome.  I increasingly enjoy using studio lighting and now look for ways to incorporate it into our daily assignments (Rita Reed aren't you proud?).  A big change for me considering I used to try to get out of assignments where flash was even a remote possibility.  We had a loose plan of what we wanted to do that night, but as I've now learned from personal experience, nothing ever goes according to plan, and I had to tap into my MacGyver skills.  First we found that we were one stand short to hold up the single light and black backdrop.  Ok great.  So initially we attached one side of the backdrop to the nearby fence while using the other stand for the other side (keep in mind this was all done outside).  We stepped back and analyzed.  It was lopsided, plus the afternoon sun was beaming right through it.  Then I thought we could just tape the whole thing to the fence.  We just needed tape.  Befor I even started looking Junfu had walked up to the nearest cowboy and asked to borrow his athletic tape which he was using on his hands and arms.  We also borrowed some sand bags to use as weights because of course it was windy that night.  With all these obstacles now taken care of, we realized the backdrop was too short for the subjects to stand.  We ended up also borrowing a chair.  

    When we were done, we were excited about what we had, but I realized that working through the challenges made the results that much more rewarding.  Now I understood how MacGyver felt at the end of every episode.

  • Learning to Tell Stories in New Ways

    Well, how time flies when you're suppose to be keeping up with a blog.  I have a lot of updating to do, but I wanted to start with the story on Cameron Jeschke that I did a few weeks ago.  It was one of the first stories I latched onto when I got to Kalamazoo.  I had been wanting to do a story on autism for a while after seeing another project in which the photographer had aimed at portraying not only the story of the boy's life but also how it felt to have autism.  I also wanted to try my hand at making images that were perhaps more conceptual not only to better tell the story but also to work on making more sophisticated and stronger photos.  I was happy with the story I made in the end, and it was so refreshing to have the chance to dive into a real story, but I want to continue on finding that "different" image - the one that makes you think on a deeper level.  In my mind it's the fusion of "art" and journalism.  I didn't have the chance to take any art photography classes while I was at MU, so I'm attempting in some small way to make up for it now.  

    Cameron Jeschke is 3-years old and was diagnosed with autism a year ago on July 2.  His mother Kathy hates to think what life would have been like if they hadn't been able to get him into the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research.  The four months before they were able to enter him in the treatment programs were "horrible," she said.  Cameron communicated most effectively through tantrums which happened frequently.  He has a preoccupation with all things round, toys that float or bounce, and he loves to throw things.  Once as his parents closed the garage door, dozens of toys came crashing to the ground.  The Jeschkes were a wonderful family to work with.  They were completely open to me just hanging out with Cameron, who has the most adorable and infectious laugh of any 3-year old I know.  Here's the edit I put together with some help from another intern, and here is the link to the online story it appeared in.

  • New Challenges and Projects

    So sorry I forgot to update my blog in recent weeks.  Last week the other intern and I were given the challenge of shooting portraits around Kalamazoo, not only to practice our skill but to also get to know the community.  It was such a refreshing experience.  Walking up to complete strangers to ask if you can take their photo is such an intimidating rush.  The hardest part is just getting out of the car.  But once I did, I found talking with people to actually calm my nerves.  The more you interact with other people the more you find you can relate to them.  This is one of the most rewarding parts of my work.  I want to keep practicing my portraiture, get past my anxieties enough to take truly composed and thoughtful representations of people.  

    Here are some scenes from around the North Neighborhood two Sundays ago.

  • Week 3: Chris Brandt

    My favorite assignment was perhaps my most rushed.  Chris Brandt just finished the eighth grade and is about to embark upon a 280-mile round trip bike ride with 30 other kids.  What sets Chris apart from the others is his cerebral palsey.  Despite his disability he is able to join in the journey with the use of a special bike donated by Watermark for Kids, which is attached to a tandem bike allowing him pedal when he can and rest when needed. When I met him that day he was still recovering from a recent spill after a sharp turn tipped him out of his bike.  His arms were all bandaged and a cut marked his forehead.  His gloves apparently had been shredded but saved his hands. Despite his injuries he was excited about the upcoming trip. It felt good to shoot such a fulfilling story, even if it was for only 20 minutes.

  • Week 2: Flying Dogs and Graduation

    This week I had some interesting assignments, the air dog show by far being the quirkiest.  Some of the dogs could jump as far as 27-feet.  I was also sent to cover the Kalamazoo College graduation.  I've been really wanting to capture a new way of seeing with my photos recently, getting beyond the expected to present something different, more intriguing and dare I say artistic.  And at both events I found myself really struggling with this.  Rather than capturing something artful I found myself naturally looking for moments.  I attribute propensity to Jackie Bell and Brian Kratzer since they hounded me to capture the "moment" during staff class.  This is far from a bad thing, but I also want to develop a unique vision for my work.  I feel myself progressing in that direction, though more slowly than I would like.  It's like having something on the tip of your tongue but not knowing how to verbalize it.  Its frustrating, but fun at the same time, always giving me something to work for.  

  • My First Week of My New Adventure

    What I love most about photography is that you learn something new everyday.  This cliche is used far too often, but in photojournalism it is absolutely true. Whether you are learning technique, or about a subject, or a place or culture, light, composition, etc. its always new.  And, as a "newb" to the field of newspaper photography and really photography in general I have a lot to learn.  As I progress in skill, which I hope to do throughout this internship and in any position I receive later on, I want this blog to serve as a way for me to become more thoughtful about my photos.  I want to become more reflective on my work so that I can overcome some of the hurdles I face in accomplishing my goals.  I want to dig deeper and get closer so that I can become more like the photographers I admire.

    This summer is going to be a tremendous growing experience for me (with plenty of growing pains in store I'm sure) and I want to embrace that.  I'm looking forward to covering a wider range of topics and getting a few more stories under my belt. Each week I'll share a little of what I've seen and experienced in Kalamazoo.  

    Here are a few shots from the Mud Run I shot this past Sunday.