Pandemic, Protests and Economy Are on Voters’ Minds in Key Counties
The Wall Street Journal took a deep dive into ten counties that seemed important for Democrats and Republicans to vie for in the 2020 elections. One of those counties was Maricopa County, the heart of Arizona and where Phoenix is located. I was assigned to make portraits of several voters from across the county who each had different perspectives and plans for how they’d be voting.
The Door-to-Door Election Battle to Swing an Arizona County
This was a difficult assignment, not for the emotional or interpersonal reasons that usually get me, but because scheduling so many portraits in a short time is just super hard. But I got it done, I met a lot of interesting people and ultimately I think the finished story looks pretty dang good. They even ran some of the moody images I filed expecting them to ignore. Wins all around.
‘I Don’t Want to Go Back’: Many Teachers Are Fearful and Angry Over Pressure to Return
This was a super fast portrait, I got the call to make this about 30 minutes before I arrived on site. Hannah didn’t have long before she had to leave, so I got it done in about 20 minutes. Filed it 10 minutes after that. Zoom!
Should 5-Year-Olds Start School This Year?
This was my first time working for the Parenting desk at the Times. It was super fun the kids were totally amiable and wanted to tell me all about everything. It brought me back to my days training as a reading teacher. I would love to do more work like this, it’s a welcome respite from the darker rougher parts of the news.
Sacred Arizona spring drying up as border wall construction continues
This one was a saga. I was tipped off that something was awry at Quitobaquito by a friend in Ajo. The NYT offered me a day rate to go down there and do some preliminary reporting with no promises that it’d make the paper. I took them up on it, but ultimately they couldn’t take the pitch. So I pitched 22 other outlets, mostly folks I’d worked with before, but no one could take it. Eventually I sent it as a travel pitch (Quitobaquito is after all a beautiful part of the Organ Pipe National Monument) to Nat Geo and while the travel angle was too flimsy to run, the environmental desk was interested and it was off to the races.
They ended up licensing a number of images from my archive and having me go out and make another day’s worth of images. Of course I would have loved to have been there for longer, but given Covid restrictions, it just wasn’t logistically possible.
Doug Main did excellent writing on this historic and dense subject in a very short period of time. I sent him contact info for everyone I know in the area and he did a great job talking to all of them and finding new sources too. I’m really really happy with how my first Nat Geo assignment turned out. Though frankly I’m still haunted by the drying of the pond. I haven’t been able to go back, the thought of seeing it totally dry makes me sick.
Phoenix Mayor Says FEMA Refused to Help With Testing
Not much to this assignment, the assigning editor just wanted some basic images of Phoenix at the height of the first wave of the Covid pandemic. Honestly it kinda reminded me of how phoenix was in in the early aughts. Empty except for folks without homes and security guards. This photo was on the front page of NYT for a hot second though, so that’s kinda cool.
THE BORDER PATROL INVITED THE PRESS TO WATCH IT BLOW UP A NATIONAL MONUMENT
I got a press release saying DHS and Army Corps of Engineers were inviting press to watch them destroy Monument Hill, a sacred place to the O’odham people and the burial grounds for several Apache people. I reached out to both the photo editor at The Intercept and Ryan the writer there that I’d worked with previously. Fortunately for me, Ryan was in San Diego so it was quickly arranged. We decided to go meta and describe the event rather than just what DHS was asking us to look at.
The actual event was carefully massaged by CBP press agents to make sure their destruction seemed minor and unimpressive. Press was kept a mile away from the explosions, supposedly for our safety. I rented a 1.4 tele adapter to stretch my 200-500 and I’m glad. The explosions were tiny dots far away.
I’m pretty happy with the tone of my images and the tenor of the article. I wish I could work with Ryan again.
A Life on and Off the Navajo Nation
An important Op-ed by Diné writer Wahleah Johns, I split photo duties with my homie and personal idol, Adriana Zehbrauskas.
This was pretty tough. To be totally ethical and super safe, I spoke to no one and visited none of my friends in Dinetah. I left Phoenix at 2am, to get to the border of the Diné nation just as their curfew ended at 5am, and to catch sunrise there. There was snow still on the top of Mt Humphries which reminded me why the Diné call it the Abalone Mountain. I was thinking about the pre-Colombian trade routes that must have existed for abalone to be common enough in the high desert to name a mountain after their alabaster shells.
I drove up and circled Black Mesa and as I began to finally head south again, a bad storm kicked up near Round Rock which almost pushed the car off the road. That’s where I made that final image: a total stroke of luck.
This Is What Racism Sounds Like in the Banking Industry
This article by Emily Flitter took a long time to develop. I enjoyed asking Emily about it every few days, though I’m not sure she’d say the same.
I used a borrowed Canon Mk4 and a borrowed 85 F/1.2 to make Peters’ photo. The light in his condo was so low my F/2.8 stuff just wasn’t up to the challenge. Thanks Caitlin and Loren for the gear assists.
The Kennedy portrait was tricky, I had 15 minutes and had to film some video of his taped conversations. But the light was dramatic in his forayer, so I got lucky. Also lucky that my editor was totally down with my sorta low-key images in this project. I also visited and got kicked out of several banks while trying to get environmental images for this story, but it turns out banks in strip malls look pretty boring, so none of them ran in this story (though several have since run as sorta stock imagery).
What’s Another Marathon? Relentless Racing Fuels Sara Hall
My first collaboration with indomitable sports writer Talya Minsberg on the rather peculiar training regimen practiced by Sara Hall.
Flagstaff is always so much colder than I expect it to be. Doubly so at 4am which it was when I met up with Talya and Sara to photograph Hall’s morning run. Talya, herself a member of the NYT Running Team, kept up with Hall on the warm up and cool down. I kept up with Hall for about 30 seconds. The whole time I was heaving and trying to catch my breath, I kept thinking this assignment should have gone to Caitlin who is also a marathon runner, but she was in Seoul working on her long term work there. I did my best and it came out pretty good. But it probably would have been different if another marathoner had done it.
After Sara’s morning run we visited her home where her husband Ryan made me some pancakes and talked to me about power lifting and jiujitsu. That was pretty fun. There are a bunch of photos from this on my instagram.
Tiger Woods’s Success Promised to Diversify Golf. It Didn’t.
This was one of my first NYT assignments and the editor let me know it was probably gonna be a section front page feature if I did a reasonably good job. So I went ham. I got down in the sand bunkers and had them throwing sand every which way, I did shutter drags, I did double exposures, I had them do trick shots, really anything I could think of to make dynamic and powerful images. And of course, these sorta static but clear and direct images are what ran. But the layout folks ran the image full page and my mom was so stoked she framed it. Guess I can’t complain. Haha.
Mining the Future: Climate Change, Migration and Militarization in Arizona’s Borderlands
This was my first assignment for The Intercept, the editor called me and spoke to me for an hour or so and helped me really understand what they were looking envisioning.
The editor was stoked to hear about Juntos and made an effort to include work from Caitlin and Laura. That was a sweet gesture.
The circumstances that occurred during the assignment were all wild and absurd and I definitely shouldn’t put them in writing. Sorry friends! haha.