@jimmiefailsiv and @technicolor_talbot for @nytimes, whose film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, is out in theaters now. Full disclosure: I also shot a couple of days of stills for @a24 on the film thanks to my dear friend, @mo, which is why you'll see my name/A24 in places, like this article. If you haven't seen the film, I recommend it. It's a salient piece on what it means to be a friend, what it means to feel at home, and what San Francisco has and continues to lose in the wake of its being sold to the highest bidders. It's also a wonderful performance by Jimmie and by his counterpart, Jonathan Majors, both of whom were a pleasure to work with on set. It's been strange days for years in San Francisco, but at its core it's always been a town that's inspired people to take great risks for great rewards, and the film, and Joe and Jimmie's story, is about that, too. Regardless of whether or not you get to see the film, it's worth noting that SF wouldn't be the town it is if not for the African Americans that helped build it, many of whom were the first to get shoved out. And, like Jimmie's character says in the film, "You don't get to hate San Francisco unless you love San Francisco." I moved to SF in 2003, then to Oakland in 2005, where I remained for almost nine years before returning to the city at a time when it felt like everyone was giving me a hard time for swimming in the opposite direction. I have a complicated relationship with the city. I don't know if I'll stay, but I do know that even if I do leave, I wouldn't be the person that I am without the community of people that supported me here and the opportunities this city has given me. It's not all tech bros. It's also not a foregone conclusion that culture wins the day. If you want to know about what makes San Francisco great, talk to the people that keep its lights on and the water running out of its faucets. Talk to the hippie kids on Haight. Talk the Chinese fisherman throwing lines off the muni pier every morning. Talk to the bus drivers and the Lyft drivers and the fish mongers and the bartenders. Just keep meeting people. Keep giving them a chance. Thank you, @amandaboe!
Outtakes and details of a day at Sea Ranch in late May with Mary Griffin, whose late husband, Bill Turnbull, was one of the principal architects of the development, for a spread out a couple of Sundays ago in @nytimes. Big thanks to @jamespomerantz and @christyyyyk for letting me stretch my legs, so to speak.
@bridgetharrispro, last August, at a time when I was desperately trying to hold onto my career, despite appearances. I was two months into fatherhood, was barely coming out of a four month spell of job after job collapsing and opportunities falling apart for a variety of reasons, and felt like I was being ripped apart at the seams. All while trying to trying not to let that dominate one of the most magical times of my life, meeting my son and watching him begin in this world. Amidst a haze of euphoria and panic, joy and despair, I kept reaching out to people that had tried to give me chances in the past. Bridget had me by the office, looked at my work with her team, and as she walked me out she paid me the very unexpected compliment of referencing specific images of mine and how my work has changed over the last few years. This is a woman who’s worked with some of the best photographers in the world, and it was hard to show her work knowing that. Still, she gave me her time, her attention, and then got me some work, and, to cap it off, sat for me. That was part of the beginning of a period of an evolution, and the best year of work I’ve ever had. I’m grateful for you, lovely lady. Thank you for helping put some of the wind back in my sails when I felt lost and stranded at sea.
This is the second addition to my piece on my first feature for @outsidemagazine. See my last post for context. A shout out to @amy_silverman. If not for her, @leahwoodruff wouldn't have found me. And to my assistant for the first shoot - @brendonkahn. // One of the first conversations Leah and I had before I got to work on the piece regarded our concerns with Tim allowing himself to be bitten on camera. She wasn't comfortable with it. I wasn't comfortable with it. And Kyle Dickman, the writer, was definitely not comfortable with it. "You don't need this guy's death on your hands," he said to me during our first phone call together. I agreed. None of us were interested in the spectacle of Tim getting bitten by a snake whose venom is so powerful that it starts flipping off the light switches in your nervous system within ten minutes, causes you to collapse in about 45, and will proceed to make you feel like you're being burned alive while having a stroke and, to add insult to horrific injury, make you incontinent while suffocating you within the next 2-15 hours. Maybe you get the anti-venom for a primarily neurotoxic snake and maybe you survive. Fairly large roll of the dice on that one. Unless you've been systematically injecting yourself with venom for 19 years, like Tim Friede has. And even then, not exactly a hot air balloon ride. Ironically, the only person that was comfortable with being bitten was Tim. Why? Well, go back and read that last post. Better yet, read Kyle's story in this month's issue of the magazine. It's not a simple answer. Enough people have exploited Tim for his interest in proving, for better or worse, that self-immunization is possible. Only now is the science behind what he's done being taken seriously. Enter Distributed Bio, and Jacob Glanville, and a shitload of incredibly expensive and state-of-the-art equipment to analyze and sequence DNA. So why not more pictures of the most deadly snake in Africa? Because Tim isn't just a guy that let's himself get bitten by snakes, and that's only a small part of the story we're trying to tell. Reject the notion that you think you understand what motivates people. It won't get you anywhere.
Last fall I got a call from @leahwoodruff from @outsidemagazine to see if I was interested in working on my first national feature about a guy that's been letting deadly snakes bite him for 19 years. And that about sums up what people think when they hear about Tim Friede. A guy that lets venomous snakes bite him. Why? Who cares. These snakes are deadly. He obviously has a death wish. Except, it's not that simple, and it's pretty hard to reveal a human being. I spent a day with Tim, his girlfriend, Gretchen, Kyle Dickman, the writer of the piece (who nearly lost his own life after a rattlesnake bite a couple of years ago), Jacob Glanville, who started Distributed Bio, and Raymond Newland, who's the PM in charge of their project in South San Francisco to create a broad-spectrum antivenom from Tim's DNA. Then I flew to Green Bay, WI, to spend time with Tim and Gretchen at home. And, of course, to photograph one of these incredibly deadly snakes. They showed me generosity and graciousness at a time when they weren't catching many breaks. Does Tim want the attention? Yes. Does he get a thrill from pushing himself to the edge (and over, once, when he flatlined 19 years ago)? Yes. Has it taken its toll, and brought all manner of people looking to exploit his personal quest to prove that he could immunize himself against the world's deadliest snake venoms? Yep. To many people, Tim is a guy with a death wish. He's also a partner, a father, a factory worker. He's also someone with something to prove and, like many of us, someone that took a risk that they felt would make their life worthwhile. Is there a chance that in ten years every single anti-venom vaccine on the planet will have Tim's antibodies in it? Yep. Was the risk worth it? Who knows? If the last 20 years leads to the vaccine it's a good start for Tim. It would also be nice if it led to a pension, and he's in an agreement with Distributed Bio that could lead to royalty-sharing, something that the family of Henrietta Lacks never got. In 8,000 words, Kyle Dickman wasn't going to be able to describe the depth of a human life, and I can't do in a few hundred. But we're trying. Like Tim, and Jacob, we're trying.
This is my friend, Drago. You won't find him on social media. Not that kind of guy. Our friend, Cheryl, describes him as the kind of guy whom you can call at 3 am to help you bury a body and who will then take you to breakfast. He’s definitely not the kind of guy that’s going to make a big deal out of the fact that he’s been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, either. Just like he didn’t make a big deal out of writing and co-producing the film, LUCKY, Harry Dean Stanton’s last film, which also starred David Lynch, and was hailed by Rolling Stone as the “farewell Stanton deserved,” given 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, and which Matt Zoller Seitz said was “the humblest deep movie of recent years… with its own rhythm and color, its own emotional temperature, its own reasons for revealing and concealing things.” That’s Drago. A man with his own reasons for revealing and concealing things. I first met him in Taos where Cheryl Nichols and Arron Shiver were making their film, CORTEZ. I had never met Cheryl, or Drago, or Kelly Moore, their cinematographer, and now suddenly I’m not only on their set with a camera, which is essentially a loaded gun that no one knows you’re capable of handling, but also in their living room. They were all making a lot of sacrifices to make this film and it would have made sense to keep me at an arm’s length. But they didn’t. And Drago, the one who played his cards closest to his chest, was the one with whom I stayed up late at night talking about our careers, about our fears and doubts and ambitions. Drago was working on getting a movie made. He wasn’t sure if he should stick with acting, with movie-making, professions that, like photography, will endlessly make you feel like giving up. But he made his movie and yes, now he’s sick, and he’s doing all the things because he wants to live, and that costs money. So if you can help, or if you know someone that can help, please help. We live in a country that bankrupts people that are told they have a life-threatening illness. Until that changes, LINK IN BIO. Grab a hold of the ones you love and pull them tight and look them in the eyes. Don’t say a word. Just look them in the eyes.
So it was this one's birthday yesterday and unlike most of my friends she's been forced to sit in front of my camera for work many times, so I have all these images of her that I can use to remind her of how smart she was to acknowledge from basically the third day after we met that we should be friends. She would say to this not to “should” on ourselves, but she knows it’s true. Still, that type of advice, her quickness to call someone on their bullshit, her devotion to her sweet pup, Shasta, her loyalty to her family and dedication to her craft, are just some of the reasons I love this human being. And her laughter. If you haven’t gotten to work with her, or meet her, that’s a shame, because she’s got one of the best laughs out there, which is appropriate, because right now she’s somewhere in South Carolina filming a show for HBO with Danny McBride and John Goodman to make YOU laugh. If it weren’t for @margotbingham, I wouldn’t know Arron Shiver (who’s too pretentious for social media, and I love him for it) and if it weren’t for Arron Shiver, I wouldn’t know @cherylpickles, who’s too talented for social media but she still let’s us have some cake. If it weren’t for Cheryl Nichols, I wouldn’t know @hatface. And that would be sad, because Cassidy Freeman is the kind of person you meet on set in another state and then, before you know it, you’re driving through Malibu singing Freedom by George Michael at the top of your lungs with the sun roof open and feeling like Tatjana Patitz on a good day. Or putting together a little birthday post and realizing that you never noticed her subtle way of giving you shit on set until just now. You’re a good egg, Cassidy Freeman, and I’m grateful to know you. If I ever get it together as much as Ms. Nichols, I’ll cast you in a heart beat. Happy birthday, dear spirit. Can’t wait for our next recital.
@susanwojcicki for The New York Times. Written by Daisuke Wakabayashi. Illustration (originally animated) by Minh Uong. Thanks to Mr. Brent Murray for the assignment, and to Susan and her team for giving me the time I wanted to do what I do. No one knows how they're going to be represented when I show up, and Susan understands there are legitimate criticisms and problems with YouTube. Despite that, she and I found a groove almost immediately in which neither one of us had to feel defensive. On a separate, but related, note, I'm now 2 for 3 in photographing the Wojcicki sisters in reflection.
Last October I was hired by a technology company to go to Perryville, the only women's prison in Arizona, to photograph a call center in that prison for a magazine they'd started. The call center is run by a company called Televerde, which established programs in partnership with correctional facilities in Arizona and Indiana to hire incarcerated women to make sales calls (they also have call centers in other countries that are not based in correctional facilities). Televerde's business proposition is B2B lead and sales generation, and much of that happens for large technology companies, and I was given the impression that some people on the other end of the line have zero idea that they're speaking with someone in prison. Televerde also employs previously incarcerated women It wasn't lost on me that I wasn't there to do any hard hitting investigative journalism, and I felt like the women I met were performing for me in front of their bosses, whom I suspect wanted to put the most positive face on the whole thing because they've got their clients to consider, one of whom was directly represented by the writer there with me, let alone the warden and whomever else was watching us without our knowing it. I will say that of all the women I met, both in the prison and at Televerde's headquarters, had what seemed like genuinely positive things to say about the opportunity the company had given them and the impact its had on their lives. I also got the sense that these women were simply behaving in a way that anyone would if they were being interviewed at their job about their job- professionally. I suppose the only thing I'm left with that I feel sure of is that, where humans are involved, nothing is obvious, prison sucks, and the best way to get the warden's attention is to wander off toward whatever catches your attention and start pointing a camera at it. Thanks to @tomfurr and @newvoicemedia_ for the opportunity for some perspective and @furrtography for the art direction (though I took liberties with my layout here).
They say today is National Siblings Day. Well, here’s about the best example I can share of why I love my sister: She’s been putting up with my shit since she was born, and continues to love her big brother. Wouldn’t be who I am, wouldn’t be one of the luckiest people I know, if not for you, Leesh. I love you! @sheeshums
Rummaging through archives as I put together work for a proper print portfolio. Here’s @doresandre and @luke_ingham, Principal dancers in the @sfballet, for the @sfchronicle last year. Working with actors and dancers is one of my jams because they respond to direction and have been trained to know how to use their bodies to evoke a visual language. I, on the other hand, am often doing my best not to trip over my own gear. Shout out to @j_robinson and @jachristian for the assist. And to @alexwashburn, who used to be the wind beneath one of my wings until she split for ATL. 🤷🏻♂️
Proud to have this image I made of Guy Raz last year to be selected by @american_photography_winners to be included in their online archive of their photo annual. While it won't appear in the book, this is the first time I've been recognized in competition by some of the best editors and creative directors in the industry. Awards and recognitions are strange. Do I wish that I'd gotten enough votes to be included in the book? Yes. Do I want recognition for my work? Yes. Am I annoyed that I'm still just a runner-up? Unfortunately, yes. Ego gets in the way of good work, I think, but mine has the benefit of being rejected over and over again. It's not always fun to feel like everyone is doing more, doing better, doing more interesting things than me, but that feeling is part of the evolution of a creative career, I think, and you either take it and work on improving, or you take it and give up. As you can see by the following images, I've obviously not given up. The most important thing to me are the relationships I develop along the way. Big thanks to @brentmnyt and @tara_god and the @nytimes for what turned out to be a very memorable assignment, @guy.raz and @hugorojo for being wonderful collaborators, and to, among others, the jury this year- @j_dims, @wonkabar, @leagolis, @roseylakos, @natashalunnwatkins, @lyonse, and @theatraff.
Norman and Nora Stone, at home, for @nobhillgazette for the February feature on relationships. When I first showed up to the Stones' home, the first thing that caught my attention was a large sculpture of a tomato sitting on a small patch of grass that constitutes half of their front yard. When Norman rounded the corner into the foyer where I was standing with one of their assistants, my eyes did that cartoon thing where they pop out of the head and then snap back into place. Norman's father, W. Clement Stone, was born in Chicago on May 4, 1902, to a family that was left in debt by his father who died three years later. Ten years after that, he owned his own newstand and, in what the internet tells me was his true entreprenurial spirit, started selling papers direct to patrons in restaurants. He also wrote self-help books. Oh, and built an insurance company worth several billion dollars. So Norman was born into money and with that money he collected and supported art and artists. With his time he studied art, got a degree from Stanford in economics and a masters from the Wright Institute in Social-clinical psychology, which he then used to work as a psychologist at the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation for Community Improvement in San Francisco. His wife, Nora, is no less impressive. A former corporate attorney, she's equally dedicated to making sure their life remains playful and kind. After the shoot they mailed me a book on meditation and mindfulness with a thank you for our time together. As for the Bruce Nauman piece above them, yes, it's real. According to an interview with the @sfchronicle in 2006, Norman was quoted saying that "When Norah was bidding on it at auction in New York, there was a guy they had to remove from the auction room who was screaming that it was an obscenity." These are the kinds of moments that I especially love my job. Thanks to Nob Hill Gazette and @gazettephotos for the assignment!
Principal ballerina in the @sfballet, @lapetitefrench_, and restaurateur, @mourad_lahlou, for the February cover feature on relationships and what makes them work for @nobhillgazette. Nice to see work still being printed this large and getting a nod on a radio station I listened to every morning when I first moved to San Francisco in 2003 was a nice full circle moment. Thanks to Mourad and Mathilde for letting me run them around the ballet school and to Mathilde for smuggling me in the back door of the opera house. That was fun. Thanks to Matthew Petty for being a totally kind, complimentary, and smooth operator. Pleasure to work with you, sir.
Oliver Theil, Director of Communications for the San Francisco Symphony, during a lighting test for a shoot for the New York Times. Thanks, Oliver.
Rupy, after a conversation about ritual, religion, spirituality, and artistic practice, last July.
Last fall I had the distinct pleasure of meeting @guy.raz to make his portrait for a feature on his ascent in the world of podcasts. I never know what to expect from someone who’s going to be on the other side of my camera, especially when their attention is being pulled in a dozen different directions. Not only did Guy give me forty-five minutes of his time (an eternity in this line of work), but he did so while in a location where an event he and his team were hosting was about to happen. And not only was he not distracted, I found him to be completely engaged, collaborative, gracious, and curious. Among my favorite qualities in a person. Shortly after the piece was published Guy invited me over to the studio, where I had coffee with him and discussed the possibility of starting over in life, and he challenged me to see that it’s possible more often and later in life than I otherwise believed. Not long after that conversation he and his team asked me to come back to make more portraits of him. As a person rises into the public eye a persona forms and, to some extent, obscures the view of who they are when they’re not delivering what the public has come to expect. I don’t capture the essence of people. I don’t believe in that. I have a conversation with them and I make images of that dialogue. Big thanks to Sara Sarasohn, who’s as sharp as they come (and mentored some of my favorite radio hosts over the last two decades), @nour.ishing, for her kindness and always making me feel completely welcome, Casey Herman, for his enthusiasm, and to Guy, for giving us the space to explore ideas, and for one of the nicest compliments anyone has ever given me.
My father. My son. And the grand confusion of the heart in the face of time.
Hey folks- we have three desks and a good, solid, creative office space** in the Mission (that’s a district in SF) in which we want a third person to join us. We had a commitment and it just felt through, which has put us to the screws. If you know anyone that might be interested in sharing a space with a photographer and a designer, close to mass transit, great food, wonderful parks, and more than enough baked goods and coffee, please let us know. **Note: This is not a space in which a photographer can shoot. Thanks to whomever can help!
The trick with Valentine’s day is to use it as an excuse to be reminded of the people that have to put up with you on your worst days, in your lowest moments, and still love you, and enable you to look through your own failures and self-doubt to see what’s good, and how it’s possible to love yourself. It’s not easy. Real relationships are roads of beautiful views and broken glass. Staying the course can seem foolish at times. Humans are strange, difficult, wonderful beasts. I love these two for giving me reminders every day of how much further on this road I wish to travel. I love you, B.
Ron Johnson, celebrated and skewered by the retail kingdom over the last two decades, for @barrons, out in print last month. Ron created the Apple Store, which you've probably heard of at some point or another. He's also credited with the demise of JC Penny. The truth is more complex than that but who doesn't love to put human beings on pedestals and then topple them? He’s now the CEO of @goenjoy. We had a nice time together while after I broke a small sweat setting up my own small studio inside of their offices on a day when I was feeling worn out, didn’t give myself enough time, and ended up running around hiding lights next to some poor employees' faces while getting some shots of him around the office. Sorry, folks. Photographers are the worst. Thanks, @anniemchia! You’re awesome.
The one image I can share from my work for @a24, who brought me on in December to create stills for the film, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” by Joseph Talbot, starring @jimmiefailsiv and Jonathan Majors, with whom it was a pleasure to work. Big thanks to the folks at both A24 and Plan B, Christina Oh, @_wizkhaliah, Ali Herting, and Graham Retzik, all of whom put their trust in me, and to my dear friend, @mo, who threw my name in the hat. Congratulations to the entire cast and crew for the big win with the Special Jury award in the US Dramatic competition at @sundanceorg and to @technicolor_talbot for the win in the Directing category!
So it’s almost February and I’ve barely started wishing people a happy new year. I’ve got this problem where I have so many people that I love and appreciate and want to thank that I felt overwhelmed with the idea of how to start. An embarrassment of riches, it’s called. So I’ll start with the two most important people in my life. It’s strange to say that when my parents and grandparents and sister are as important to me as they are, let alone so many friends that have helped me and encouraged me and put up with me along the way. These two, though. What can I say here, on social media? We say these are places to “share,” but how can we share anything truly intimate and important in such a flat space? Still, maybe worth trying. This year, for me, is about looking more people in the eye while I listen to them, myself included. Last year I became a father, and @britthull gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever experienced; my son, this magical creature that is his own person, and has quickly become one of my greatest teachers. I’m still surprised by how stereotypical I think I sound. And how wonderful that feels. Children are a phenomenal reminder of the point of all of this. Other people. The things that hold me back? Fear, insecurity, my ego. What moves me forward? The hope of being kinder, and gentler, and more loving, and these two are at the forefront of that. So heads up- I’ll be wishing folks a happy new year the rest of the year. It could never be enough.
Interlude: Mombasa, Kenya, 2013, from my time with the weavers.
Alexander Debelov, Co-Founder & CEO of Virool, a viral video ad company based in SF, in January of 2017 for a piece in The New York Times that never ran. Virool was acquired by Turgo for an undisclosed amount of money. #psphotofestival
My December spread for @WIRED on DIY AI. Five years ago @carriejlevy sat down with me and explained very clearly why the mag wasn't going to hire me to shoot for them. That might sound harsh. It was the best feedback I've ever gotten as a photographer. And while I didn't know how long it would take, I knew that if I took the advice to head and heart I'd get to the point where I have both the confidence and skills to shoot for them. A huge thanks to @amy_silverman and @annagoldwater for giving me my first chance to work for the mag, and to all the hard-working editors with @wiredphoto that took the work and made it better. To get one image published would have been an achievement; three images and an opener that will likely remain one of the more bizarre and educational experiences I've had in this job was a wonderful surprise. Like @jakestangel says, if you want to get the shot, you've got to climb up things, climb under things, get closer, back up, or, in this case, lay down in the street. Thanks, Jake. I'm proud and honored to see my work featured in a magazine that is made possible by some of the best in the business. To be published in league with such towering figures as @danwintersphoto, mentors and friends like @ian_allen, and fellow local inspirations like @christiehemmklok, is a milestone in my career. Thanks to Will Roscoe and Robbie Barrat for letting me photograph them for this piece, Tom Simonite for writing it, and to fellow contributors @tarokaribe and @claxtonprojects photographer @yabliko. And to you, Carrie, for being honest and direct all those years ago, and for all of you that have kept encouraging me, especially during discouraging times. I love this job and I'm grateful to all of you that help me keep doing it.
Just under the wire here. London Breed, new mayor of San Francisco, for the cover feature of the December issue of @sfmagazine. Big thanks to @jodinakatsuka for the opportunity and to @londonbreed and her staff for letting me and @evdogdavis (Thank you, Evan!) build a studio in the mayor’s office. This is the fourth time I’ve photographed London, but the first since she’s become mayor. She was my district supervisor and I wasn’t always happy with the job she did. But it’s a lot harder to take people down when you’ve met them face-to-face. A healthy democracy requires an educated and informed electorate. One that’s willing to criticize their leaders regardless of whether or not they like them as people. I also think a healthy democracy requires an electorate that has some sense of decency and respect. That goes both ways. So here’s to you, Madam Mayor. You’ve got a tall order ahead of you. As a San Franciscan and as someone that wants some decency to return to politics, I hope you succeed for the people.
Wayyyyyyy behind in sharing everything I’ve been up to for the last six months, which, more importantly, has to do with the faith and trust others have been placing in me. As I work on making sense of closing out this year, here’s a b-side portrait I made of one of my favorite artists, @wendymac, for The New York Times. As Wendy’s window will tell you, “There are ideas in the clouds. But, only if you draw them.”
Me and @britthull are looking for a new studio mate to join us in our space in the Mission beginning in January. Dedicated desk. Relaxed environment. Close to a million restaurants and BART. Looking for someone that wants to keep a clean studio, working in a creative field. Send me a note if you’re interested!
Let’s try this again. Last post had some kind of glitch that @instagram was showing everyone but me. Great! Thanks, @vincenttullo for the solid and letting me know. The Finnish conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, during a conversation about the balance of awareness and instinct, out today in print for The New York Times.
Spent a little time in a the Arizona State Prison Complex - Perryville, in Goodyear, last month, which is the only women’s prison in Arizona. More on that later. Here’s a glimpse of the yard. Also, the same day I was there @npr ran an article about complaints lobbied by inmates regarding a growing shortage of basic hygienic supplies, specifically toilet paper. “According to a U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics report from 2016, Arizona had the sixth-highest female incarceration rate of any state (106 per 100,000), almost twice the national state imprisonment rate for women.”
Last month I got to spend a couple of days with one of the nicest guys in show business. Guy Raz! He'd never think of himself as someone in show business, even though he commands a huge audience through a variety of podcasts (TED Radio Hour, How I Built This, to name two). Combined monthly downloads for his podcasts? 19.2 million. But here's the thing- Guy was told years ago while on the Pentagon beat for @npr in no uncertain terms that he didn't have the right personality to host a radio show. At that point, Guy had become the NPR Berlin Bureau Chief at 25, a successful war correspondent (and for those of you that know war correspondents, or are friends with them, or do the job yourselves, you know that success is often just not dying), had taken over as NPR London Bureau Chief, and worked for CNN for two years in Jerusalem. But he dreamt of being a radio host. So he went back to school. And not just any school. He applied for the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, was accepted, then went to Cambridge to study for a year. From there he went from hosting WBUR in Boston to guest-hosting All Things Considered to weekend host for ATC. Like him, I'm fascinated with people, and the story of their lives. More specifically, how the combination of circumstances and their decisions led them to me. I often tell the people I'm photographing, "Look, the thing is, this really isn't about the photos. Sure, I want to do a good job. I worked hard to get this job. I'm a little obsessed with getting better. But the photos are just by-products of my interest in conversations with people, about where they are, who they are, and how they came into my life." The opportunity to spend time with someone that's dedicated his life, who's risked his life, to tell stories, and to see our work run almost full-cover on the Sunday Business section of The New York Times, is, unquestionably, one of the best moments of my career to date. Huge thanks to @tara_god, @misterbrentmurray, and @nytimes for this assignment and these opportunities, to @nelliebowles for her work, to all the designers that laid this work out so well, and, of course, to @guy.raz, for his kindness, curiosity, and dedication.
Had the absolute pleasure to get to spend a part of a couple of days in one of my favorite artist's studios this week. Turns out she's just as lovely as her work. Total class act. I've been a fan of Wendy's illustration and writing since I first laid eyes on it four or five years ago, both in the club where I swim, where she picked a pretty tight lock on the culture of that place and handled it with love and respect and care, and in @californiasunday, which is one of the best things to happen to print this decade. Wendy just took on the feat of a weekly column, “Meanwhile,” for The New York Times Sunday Business section, which is spicing up the way it tells stories about people, at which Wendy is particularly good. She presents the sensibilities and skills of an artist, a writer, an illustrator, a social worker, and a journalist, all with a genuine curiosity for the people and the world around her. She's also a hell of a lot of fun to work with and the opportunity to talk with her about artistic practice, the challenges of running a business, and the joys and face-slaps of life, is a high point of my career. Her newest column on air masks and the incredibly depressing reality of the growing global air filtration market, executed beautifully, out today in A2 of the @nytimes. Big thanks to @misterbrentmurray for the assignment and to @wendymac for the chance to pull some ideas out of the clouds, the delicious malt ball, and for being one of the best collaborators yet. I remain a fan.
Bennet Omalu, for my first feature, in San Francisco Magazine. Out on stands now. Bennet is an unlikely story of determination and curiosity and the pursuit of the truth. His path has led him from growing up in Nigeria to working as a physician in the U.S., (specifically as a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist), where he's been credited with being the first person to discover and publish findings linking CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and American football players (he was played by Will Smith in the movie "Concussion" about his work and life). That discovery led to the creation of a $765 million dollar fund within the NFL to deal with the problem. It also led to upheaval in Bennet's life, so he moved from Pennsylvania to California, where he's now back in the spotlight for publishing findings that contradict a report by the Sacramento Police Department after they shot Stephon Clark to death (the county says Clark was shot seven times, three of which were in the back, and Omalu's report states that Clark was shot eight times, and six of the bullets entered his back). As you might suspect, tensions have flared. As reported by Gabriel Thompson, the writer on this piece, "Omalu is the shortened version of his father's surname, Onyemalukwube. In Igbo, the language spoken by Omalu's ancestral tribe in southeastern Nigeria, it means, 'If you know, come forth and speak.'" Big thanks to @jodinakatsuka for the opportunity, which was fifteen years in the making, and to @itstaylorle (Taylor, we made it happen, finally!), for making me look better than I am, and to Bennet, for coming forth, and speaking up. And yes, it’s a real brain.
Carla Emil, for the @nytimes, and something called The C Project, in which she curated performances created by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, who engages in "performative practice," which happened this past weekend at the Women's Building in San Francisco. The simplistic way of describing Ragnar's work would be, in part, video installations that are derived from exercises in music, theater, film, and a study of the history of all those mediums. His installation at the @sfmoma last year in the sound exhibit was one of my all-time absolute favorite pieces they’ve put up. Carla is an art aficionado working to bring art to the public at large in San Francisco, which has a lot of great art that's siloed in institutions that are easily accessible if you come from a privileged background. Less so if you don't. Thanks to Carla for being a champion and a total professional and showing up while feeling sick for a shoot (which makes being on camera feel about a thousand times worse and you'd never know it by these), to all the incredible folks that have dedicated themselves to the mission of @thewomensbuilding (especially at a time when even though it should be a foregone conclusion that society should be putting women first it's still being run by people that attack, degrade, and disenfranchise them), to @acelii for the assignment, and to @vincenttullo for all of his unwavering positivity, humility, and help over the last few months. You make me want to pay attention to everything more, Vince.
Last month I photographed the Women's Building in San Francisco for a piece on public art for the @nytimes. More on that art in another post. According to Mission Local, the building "was designed by Bay Area architect Reinhold Denke for the German-Americans Turnverein Society to provide gymnastic and meeting facilities." Interesting thing about the Turnverein movement, it refers to the Turners, a group of Germans that were part of a German gymnastic movement that started when Germany was occupied by Napoleon. A group of them ended up in the U.S. after the movement was suppressed in Germany. A group of them ended up fighting for the Union Army during the Civil War. They got involved in politics, public education, and labor movements. Even helped get Lincoln elected. They were also on the receiving end of the rise of a nativist movement in the U.S. that grew in response to German and Irish immigrants. That movement gave way to the "Know Nothing Party," whose "political agenda included a limit on the number of immigrants allowed into the United States and a denial of voting rights to foreign-born residents." The Women's Building didn't become the Women's Building until 1979, when it was bought by The San Francisco Women's Center "to facilitate and participate in the collective strength of women working together for change to a non oppressive society." The mural on the Women's Building in San Francisco designed and painted by Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cerva, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton, Irene Perez, Olivia Quevedo. In its first year there was a pipe bomb detonated on the steps, and an arsonist set fire to the building. It's still going strong. The Know-Nothing Party? Not so much. Take a moment to think about all the women that made your life possible and then do whatever you can to celebrate and empower women in general. They, like the Turners before them, have some pretty good ideas about how to make society function better. Take a moment to acknowledge the women around you, because they’re all reflective of the one’s that made you possible. Shout out to @acelii for the reminder of how lucky I am to live where I do, to do what I do.
Rupy and Roohee, back in July, during a time when everything felt light as a feather and stiff as a board. #portraitphotography #portrait
@stonemillmatcha for @nytimes, last month. Been sharing less and making more lately. More work. More time with my son. More space for new ideas. More room for the gratitude of all of you that have supported me and rooted for me and have believed in me and put your trust in me. I’m endlessly grateful. And incredibly lucky. To have these opportunities to do what I love to do (even when I feel like it’s going to rip me in half), sure, but to have all of these incredible people in my life. To have my wife and my son in my life. This matcha is made from tea that’s sourced from a 200-year-old tea company from Uji, Kyoto, which I’m told is the birth place of Japanese matcha. The stone mill is called Ishi-Usu in Japanese. Quality takes time. It takes patience. It takes skill. Most of all, it requires teachers. Big thanks to Kim Gougenheim for this one, right in my back yard. #portrait #food #matcha #tea #foodphotography
Earlier this year I had organized, as a personal project, making a portrait of @trevorpaglen , who's one of my favorite artists, while he was installing a show in San Francisco. Trevor and I had met a few years ago and remained in touch about the possibility of my making some images of him. This is not Trevor. This is Josh. I'll get to him in a moment. The day after I collaborated with Trevor, I attended another talk of his at the @minnesotastreetproject. It was packed when I arrived and I found a space toward the back next to the stadium seating and after a few minutes felt someone nudge my arm. It was @mcnairevans, who's a friend, and also one of my favorite photographers. We laughed, quietly, proceeded to have our minds blown (again) by Trevor, and then went for a drink after the talk. His friend @j_robinson came along and over a couple of beers we talked about our lives, our career paths, and Josh's interest in pursuing photography full time. We exchanged cards and a couple of weeks later I emailed him to see if he might like to come by the studio to have coffee and to offer whatever advice I might have. He was already doing some work for McNair so I wasn't sure how much more I had to offer. Josh responded and scheduled a time. Since then he's assisted me on a variety of shoots, each time proving his willingness to learn and grow. Most of all, to show up. I'm continually impressed with his follow-through, his thoughtfulness, and his receptiveness to critical feedback. These days I can't honestly say that I'll be able to keep this career going and that's hard for me because it’s a part of who I am, but I have a family to support and at the risk of sounding cynical, there isn't a great economic value placed on photography despite (or perhaps because of) the ubiquity of its presence in our society. It’s a generalization, but the point is that it's extremely difficult to carve out a viable path. It takes courage, and smarts, an understanding of people, business, sales, marketing, technology, and culture. It also takes friends, and mentors, and family, and help. Josh has been a big help, and I appreciate him, and his spirit, very much. #portrait
Bill McGlashan, founder and manager of TPG Growth, and founder and CEO of The Rise Fund, which he co-founded with Jeff Skoll and Bono, for @barrons. Big thanks to @j.arbaje for the gig and for being so darn reasonable and complimentary, to Bill for being completely down to earth and easy to work with, to @j_robinson for the assist. No thanks to the powers that forced us to have to leave the lobby with a hand truck full of equipment and walk back around a city block to enter in the loading zone.
That whole thing about third time being a charm is both true and a total myth. A very rushed outtake of Max Hollein, former director of @deyoungmuseum & @legionofhonor, now the director of the @metmuseum, for @nytimes. A total gentleman, as always. This time we were comfortable enough with one another to joke while we ran.
“Contemporary Muslim Fashions,” the newest exhibit at the @deyoungmuseum, spearheaded by Max Hollein before he was tapped to become the new director of the @metmuseum, for @nytimes, out today in the Sunday Arts edition. Big thanks to Erica Ackerberg, @jorifinkel, and the fine young folks at the de Young for letting me have free rein. And, of course, to Max, who always lets me squeeze every last possible second out of whatever his very busy schedule will allow, always the gentleman.
I’ve been a fan of the work @rachellebussieres is making for a little while now, since @be_dizzle introduced me to her. My inclination is to describe her work in terms of others whose work I like, but I don’t want you to think about that work. I want you to see her work. She’s an artist, but that doesn’t mean anything. Or, it means everything. More definition is required. She’s working with light, and light-sensitive paper, but really she’s a sculptor. She shows you the pressure of time in the most subtle of ways, the way it slowly rearranges who we are, and what we are. Her work deals in the sensitivities of frequencies, wavelengths that are near imperceptible. She’s also an archeologist, of sorts. She’s excavating these moments in time, to then study, and present to people, such that when they look at it they can confidently say to themselves, “I’m alive. I exist.” #portrait #artist
What can I say to my four month old son, about the society in which we live? That it continues to be ripped in half by the same, old, tired, violent, desperate, petty, patriarchal ways of thinking? That it’s hopeless in the face of so many liars and cowards with power to believe in a world where there is equity and fairness and love? And what should I say about the true heart of all the great religions, which were founded on the concept of forgiveness and mercy? That they are childish and naive fanciful ideas? And what about the men, whom he may look like, that in their cohort work to dominate and subjugate and violate women in our society over and over and over again? I will tell him that he’s not like them, and that together, with those that don’t look like us, and that believe in true justice, will never stop chipping away at the base of their monolith, and when it falls, we will overtake them, and turn them into memory and dust. There are men that want things to change. That need things to change. That, hopefully, can be a part of that change. Rage against the machine, my friends. Be smart. Be safe. Be cunning. Most of all, be loving. We all need more of it than ever. 📸: @hero_and_max
Interlude: Earth is synonymous with life. It makes no sense not to do everything in our power to protect it. An outtake while on assignment for @nytimes in Santa Cruz last weekend shooting for my first piece for the international edition and my first piece on climate change. Lot more to say about that topic. The gist? Adaptation is now a requirement, but it’s pointless without extensive mitigation. We need everyone to act in small and large ways to prevent a future in which humans haven’t eradicated themselves. Everything we do, or don’t do, will make a difference.
Big Mike, shortly after we met, shortly before we said farewell. Downtown Nashville, last month, while wandering the streets with my Hasselblad. #portrait #portraitphotography #nashville
This is Big Mike. He used to be in sales for a company in New York, where he’s from. Meetings with heads of companies and board rooms and all that. After he got done explaining how many different ways I could have gotten my ass kicked for indiscriminately pointing a camera in the direction of a bunch of junkies, ex-felons, and people who seemed generally on rough times, he told me about his family, and all the money he used to have. Cars. A mortgage. A wife and son. Another life. That was before he lost it all to drinking. And then whatever else followed that, which ultimately led him to having recently been discharged from the hospital in downtown Nashville with nowhere to go for at least a week. He seemed to speak to everyone around us like they had been sharing a dorm together for a year. Eventually we talked about my family, and my son, and how much I want to do right by them. How much I want my son to know that I made an effort to lead a life of curiosity. Mike was just about to turn 50. He invited me to come with him to see some truly hard shit, as he put it, more or less, but I had a flight to catch, and so when, in his slightly drunken and possibly slightly high state he said goodbye, he held my hand and said, with tears in his eyes, go home, and tell your son you love him. Happy 50th, Big Mike, wherever you are.
Downtown Nashville, Tennessee, last month, on film, while there for work and with some time before having to catch a flight.
Pennsylvania, on the street where I spent my childhood, last week. Been focused on new business, new work, and pulling out of the nose-dive my career went into this year. Appearances can be deceiving. Appreciate all of you that have helped keep me from slamming into the ground. #travelphotograpy