I want to thank everyone on their support for my 2016 Rickshaw run fundraising effort for the refurbishing of the orphanage in Bhaktapur, Nepal. It made a tremendous difference in the day to day of the kids lives. I have started another fund raiser for 2017 to benefit the children’s education fund. A quality education in Nepal is not free. There are fees, materials, books, and uniforms required for the children to get a quality education in Nepal.
So what is the adventure for this year? I am trekking to Everest Base camp in May to bring awareness and hopefully raise at least $5,000 for Kids of Kathmandu. They do amazing work in Nepal. They support an orphanage, as well as rebuild schools up in the mountains that were damaged by the devastating earthquake. Every little bit helps!
Here is the link to the crowdrise fundraiser. All donations go straight to the organization and are tax deductible as allowed by law.
Some highlights from the projects of 2016
"Wait you are going to be driving that thing???" My wife's reaction to my plan. Most everyone particularly Indians I spoke to on my plans would have similar reactions.
More than a year ago Greg a friend and fellow photographer came up with an idea. Lets drive the length of India in an auto rickshaw, and we can fund raise for charities that we support. (An auto rickshaw is a three wheeled under powered vehicle used in India and other countries as an inexpensive way to get around cities. Totally not meant to do what we were going to be doing to it.) So after more than a year in the planning we departed Shillong along with 70 other rickshaw teams with similar insane ideas on a 2,400 mile journey to Kochi in a vehicle that went no faster than 30 miles and hour, has no windows, and broke down on a regular basis. Along the way we faced terrible roads, monsoon, flat tires, beyond insane traffic, sweated profusely, poor food, burned out pistons, lack of sleep, the hunt for spare parts, mosquitoes, suicidal bus drivers, roadside chai, and an amazing journey through India's magnificent landscapes. The best part, meeting people all along the way. Indians who would drop whatever they were doing to say hello, ask questions, shake our hand, take selfies with us, help load our rickshaw on a truck, bring us chai, help us find a mechanic, and treat us like celebrities. All of this with a huge smile on their faces with genuine amazement and happiness to see us.
Our fundraiser is still open until 9/1/2016. Every little bit goes a long way in helping orphans in India and Nepal. The main reason I did this was to fund raise for orphans. As cool as the trip was it was about doing what I can to help on making these kids lives a little better.
Please help me help them.
Here are some photos of our Adventure.
A big thank you to Ian and Sam. I met them in Guwhati airport getting a taxi to Shillong. We ended up traveling together during the whole adventure. They stuck by us when our Rickshaw was sick, towed us a few times, snapped photos of us, and Ian just loved to get on the ground to take apart our engine when it needed fixing. They made the trip even more awesome. Great people.
India is a challenging place to work, with its multiple languages and complex culture. A culture that at first glance seems impossible to understand. Slowly but surely I have started to get certain aspects of Indian life. My Indian friends have started to say that I am becoming more Indian than them. I highly doubt that, but I want to be able to understand the Indian people as deeply as I can. It helps in my connecting with them, which I fell is a very important aspect in my work. Recently I was in India creating sills and video stories on a Social Responsibility project by Abbott on improving the quality of small scale milk production there. I was to get the farmers perspective, and on how the program affects them and their community. I was lucky to be traveling in India with my colleague and film maker Christofer Lynch on another project and was able to add his expertise. I also hired
Kedar Prabhakar Gaekwad a great DP and director from Mumbai. What a team we made!
Originally the farmers that were to be interviewed did not work for many reasons. There are so many intangibles in getting good interviews and photographs of people that its hard for someone who is not in the communications business to understand. "You need farmers?" "No problem here are 10.", "What is wrong with the 10 I sent you?" So I was getting a little worried. Here I am in India for a very limited amount of time and not finding the right subjects. On the 3rd day, we arrived early in the morning to photograph farmers arriving to drop off milk at a milk collection point. People came and went, then a farmer showed up with his family to drop off milk. No one else had brought their family to do this task. Immediately I knew they were the ones. Plus Kedar spoke to them and told me they had a great story. We built the rest or our visit around them. In the end they were perfect. I am always optimistic that things can go from not good to great in a second. Its just a matter of determination, persuasion, and patience.
They were very happy that the program created opportunities for them to be able to not just get by and be able to make plans for the future and grow.
They are an amazing, loving family family. They treated us like honored guests. Not to mention the incredible amount of patience they had with us. We basically spent most of our time getting in their way.
Quotes from the shoot.
"Wait!! I want you to take a picture of me in my favorite dress"
"Chai?" "More Chai?"
"When will you finish"
"You want to come back tomorrow at 6 in the morning?"
"I want to grow my farm to 30 cows"
"I am happy with my life"
I am always looking for ways to combine what I do as a photographer to help others. Working for NGO's is one way I help, by bringing awareness through my photography which in turn helps the NGO's raise funds. Every few years I find a challenge to do and fundraise directly. In 2013 it was a trek to Everest Basecamp. I raised almost $7,000. This time around I am driving an Auto Rickshaw 2,100 miles from Shillong, India to Kochi, India with a friend and fellow photographer Greg Kinch. Its a bit crazy but it should be super interesting, fun, a serious challenge, and the best part I get to generate funds for a few NGOs like Families for Children, Kids of Kathmandu, and Cool Earth. My goal is to raise $5,000. Which will be split evenly by the three charities. These funds will go towards direct support of the children. Please support this endeavor!
Experiencing the most amazing moments in unexpected places.
Recently, I was traveling through the mountains in Sindhupalchok, Nepal with a small group from Americares on a patient followup who had been injured during the massive earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015. This is an area that was devastated from the earthquake with most of the homes destroyed and many people injured or killed. It took us about two hours on very poor roads just to get near the village where she lived. Once there it was about a half a mile walk on a muddy, twisting path to get to her home. On the way to Junkiri's home it started to rain heavily. So we took refuge under a nearby home's outdoor cooking fire cover. Unfortunately, we did not all fit under it. A woman inside the home invited us in. She said we were welcome to wait out the rain. I felt terrible with all five of us dripping wet and making a mess. She said not to worry. "It was all right." The rain lessened a little so off we went to Junkiri's home with what seemed half the village in tow. Along the way the rain started up again. Originally we wanted to work outside, but the rain forced us inside. All of us crowded into her tiny home, and sat where we could, on the bed, on a box, a stool, the floor wherever. It was pitch black inside with no light so everyone started to take out their phones to light the scene. As Junkiri was interviewed, her daughter passed around ginger tea and popcorn. We were not allowed to leave until all the tea was drunk, popcorn consumed and the rain stopped. She and her family took us in, gave us refuge, and left a really special memory on me of our encounter. I am happy to say that she is almost fully recovered from her injuries.
I am always impressed with the selfless dedication of Americares staff working in difficult places, and under challenging circumstances. They are extremely dedicated to making peoples live better.
Now the hard part to make our way back down the mountain during the storm....That in itself was an adventure!
As we approach the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Nepal that killed many, and left many more injured and homeless. I am in Nepal working on a variety of projects documenting some of the reconstruction efforts. I am excited to be working with Americares documenting some of their reconstruction efforts in Nepal. As a personal project, I am working on creating stories of Kids of Kathmandu's efforts in Nepal rebuilding schools and supporting orphans. I have worked with them in the past and I am a big fan of their work. I also admire and respect its founders Andrew and Jami who pour immense amounts of love, and tireless work to the success of the organization, and the children. I am lucky to have teamed up with Chris Lynch a friend, a Sony Artisan, accomplished film maker, and a fellow photographer. He is helping me create content that will help them get the word out on the great work these organizations are doing. Big thanks to Sony Artisans for their support. Stay tuned for more!
Starting a little series of how I created certain photo with some back story.
I was in India on assignment working for Abbott creating imagery that illustrated their social responsibility efforts in India. I was photographing, clinics, people, milk collection, farmers, farming, and landscapes. I had free reign to photograph whatever I wanted, but the images had to tell the stories that the client wanted to highlight. There was no specific shot list just concepts.
- Milk collection in rural areas
- A local NGO's efforts on locating and helping women with gestational diabetes
- Women's healthcare in rural India
- A local NGO that provided access to clean water
- Medicine distribution in rural India
Its not a very long list but its very daunting when you consider the process that the images have to go through before they are selected. The photographs have to feel serendipitous, show the best of India and its people, show that you are in India, simple uncluttered backgrounds, and be able to use the images in different ways. For example social media, in print, horizontal, vertical, on a cover, leave space for copy, and the list goes on. So its a lot to think about when you are deciding on an image to take, framing shots, and clicking that shutter. Plus there is no client going through this process with you and sharing in the struggles to create the images. Its my problem, and my problem alone.
In these series of photos. I was hanging around a clinic hoping to create some images of women at the clinic. The day I am there was a super slow day. The story of my life. I am either too early or too late. There were only two patients and the photos were not ideal. So I waited, and I waited hoping some other women would show up. Also it was getting later in the morning and once the light gets too high its really harsh. Not great light for images of people. Then these three girls appeared through the gate, one of them was coming to the clinic to meet with her mother.
They stopped in front of the wall to wait. I approached them and started a conversation through my interpreter. I asked if I can photograph them. They said yes, but they were very shy and would not look at the camera. I decided that I would need to separate them, and I figured my best chance was with the girl in purple. I said that I wanted to photograph them separately, but I started with the girl in purple. Just in case they decided to quit on me.
At first she wanted to be photographed with her friends and was calling them over, but I reassured her that it will be quick and I will photograph her friends after her.
This is where we started giving me a not so friendly face plus the light was a little hard. I wanted her to turn into the light a bit so her eyes would light up. Also her friend's shadow was in the shot so I had to move her away a bit.
After I got her friend to move, I was able to focus on my subject. She was shy in the sense that she wasn't able to look at the camera and smile at the same time. So I spoke to her friend and asked a question about the girl in purple. I think I asked if she was always this shy. She replied and this caused my subject to turn towards her and smile. She sort of smiled, she was trying her best not to smile. I shot about 30 frames of everyone including the final shot, and the whole encounter was probably 5 minutes.
Waiting for that "perfect moment" would make these projects go on for weeks and no guaranty of success. So I have to step in and control what I can by being selective, have a clear vision, and influencing what is going on in the image so I capture the best out of people in the time I have.
I think this image turned out great. She made me work for it a bit. The light was beautiful, as well as all the colors. Yes, it doesn't obviously feel like it was shot in India, but with the elements taken together it still gives that sense.
Canon 5D MarkIII, Canon 24-105 f4L lens
Heading back to Nepal in a couple of weeks to work on some post earthquake relief efforts stories for a few NGO's. Also developing stories for my favorite NGO that does amazing things Kids of Kathmandu for their fund raising efforts, and also followup on some personal projects. Its an ambitious schedule and I hope to accomplish much.
My friendships in Nepal grew from my Everest basecamp trek in 2013. I fund raised for Kids of Kathamndu as part of my trek. Since then our friendship has grown and I have returned to Nepal a few times on assignment after the earthquake and part of my travels for my photographic workshops with Camera Voyages.
I will be doing some fundraising this coming August for them doing something interesting and a little off the wall. I will write about it when it is set up.
Here are some images from the orphanage in Bhaktapur and from a village in the mountains where a school is being rebuilt.
I have been working on some video shorts to promote my photo workshops with Camera Voyages in Cuba and beyond. Its a great exercise in self editing as you are working as well as pre-visualizing what the final result will be. A short on Flamenco dancing in La Plaza Cathedral in Old Havana, Cuba
10 years ago I was asked to go to Afghanistan for a Abbott a commercial client. They wanted to document the work an NGO (Afghan Institute of Learning) that they supported was doing in Afghanistan. I was excited and honestly very worried. I had never been in an active war zone. Although it can be argued that growing up in NYC in the 70's qualifies as a war zone. Particularly in the neighborhoods I lived in. Needless to say my wife was not to happy. I was a father with two young children and the chances of something happening to you are high. Not to mention there were other issues. Number one being that this was my first job for them. Also it was more like documentary photography which was a departure from what my work at that time which was commercial portraits with lighting etc. So lots of things to consider. Of course I said yes! I never turn down an opportunity to be challenged and of course travel.
I started doing the research I needed to make the trip happen. Visas, travel, local customs, on the ground conditions, and connecting with the in country organization that I was going to work with. Luckily I had great support from my clients, and I already had lots of travel experience to lean on. It is one of the defining moments in my career as an artist and a person. It has led me to all sorts of new opportunities and people. All I had to do what take a leap into the unknown.
This project helped with my perspective of how I see the world and photograph it. Thoughts I live by in my day to day.
- I want my photos to be beautiful
- I want to show the best of humanity
- I portray people with dignity
This photo is one I took while I was at a clinic outside of Kabul with the most amazing Afghani woman. Dr. Sakena Yacoobi. She is a force of nature and I am lucky to have spent some time with her. Normally women in Afghanistan cover themselves from head to toe in Burkas. Behind walls they can a little more relaxed with that. Although if a man is around they normally stay covered up. So being basically an alien from another planet in a place like Afghanistan some of those rules don't apply to me. She was sitting waiting her turn to see the doctor, and we stopped to talk to her. Well I spoke through Sakena. She had pulled her burka over her head in a relaxed way, but covered her face a bit with her hand so I could really see her fully. I would ask questions like what she was doing there, how was she feeling, about her family etc. As we spoke I set up my Speed Graphic 4x5 camera, and started taking some photos. I really wanted to see her smile, but she would not drop her hand, and was very serious. As we spoke I took a few shots I tried a few words in Farsi the local language and she found that very amusing, she smiled behind her hand, and I clicked the shutter. Then she had put her hand down and had graced me with a beautiful smile. Wow what a privilege!! These are the moments I live for. I ended up only taking a few photos of her and the photo stars were in alignment that I had captured what I was looking for. It wasn't used by the client but it was more for me anyway.
- 1960's era Speed Graphic view camera
- 150 mm Schneider lens
- Type 55 Polaroid film (sadly, extinct now killed by the digital revolution)
There is no better feeling than knowing the work you do is helping others. I was in Kathmandu on a commercial project and took time to photograph for my favorite NGO Kids of Kathmandu. They are doing great things for the children in Nepal before and after the earthquake in 2015. Check it out here, and if you can give please do. It definitely goes to the right place.
To me there is nothing more satisfying to be a witness or a protagonist in those moments that leave a memory for yourself or others. Whether its witnessing a birth in a tent in the terrible aftermath of a Typhoon or just being a welcome distraction to someones day. For example these ladies were working in the rice fields in Bhutan. We had seen them from a distance away so we crossed the fields to investigate. As we approach they ignore me. I start photographing them and basically begin to be a distraction (something I do well). After a while curiosity takes over and they start talk talking to me through my guide asking what I was doing there and what do I want. I said I want nothing except to spend a little time with them and learn about them. In those moments of sharing you get little random tidbits that make like special. One tidbit that stood out is that they like smear cow manure on faces of any love interest. Just to show if you love me you can handle this....
As we left they shouted "I love you!" My daughter who was with me says to me. "I am going to tell mommy!" I told her, I think they just want to smear cow manure on my face.
I like to think that in those few minutes we spent together they will have a strong memory of the encounter. It certainly did for me.
"Guys whats going on????" That was my question to my driver and guide after spotting masked men with torches stopping cars on the road we are driving on. In my experience masked men stopping cars on a quiet road, at night, is something to be very worried about, and always avoided. I was putting on my New York don't mess with me face. After a moment the driver replies. "Oh wow this is great, man!" What! what are they doing? I say. The driver says "You are lucky they are chasing off the bad spirits!" So I got out to chase them to get some photos, but they were off chasing the spirits faster than I could catch them. Almost like spirits themselves.
A little local knowledge goes a long way when traveling. I was able to breathe again, although it was tough at 10,000 feet.
I love moments like these...
Shot with a Sony A7s iso 64000 f4 1/20 sec
Starting 2016 with a new site full of recent work illustrating the direction that my work has been going these last few years. The site still needs work and like a house it "will never be done" but that is the inspiration to keep making the site better and create compelling images.
2015 was a year of firsts. Besides my commercial photography work, I started a new company (Camera Voyages) with Bruce Byers creating and leading photographic workshops to different parts of the world. Also I got to take my youngest daughter on a photo trip with me to Bhutan and Nepal. Normally my photo assignments are mad dash through airports and places, which would be no fun for anyone. So it was great to spend 2 1/2 weeks with my youngest in beautiful, interesting places like Bhutan and Nepal, and experience a different way of life
Along with my assignment photography work I started a photo workshop company with a friend and colleague for many years. Bruce Byers and myself are starting out first workshop in Cuba along with Phase One. The new workshop website is cameravoyages.com. I am very excited to be able to share my knowledge and travel experience with people. This video is a bit of what clients will experience in my workshop. Cuba is such a visually interesting place More to come!
Back in 2007 I went to Afghanistan on assignment. I was excited and nervous for many reasons. My personal safety was highest on my mind along with all the other reasons, doing something worthy, not disappointing my clients, not mess up, in other words lots of pressure on myself by the worlds toughest critic of my work....me. I was not there to capture conflict imagery, but documenting some programs of nurse training run by the Afghan Institute of Learning, and when I had a chance something where I got a glimpse of the soul of someone. No superficial images of destruction or people beat down from the conflict. So I had to get in there, get to know people, accomplish my goals, all in a very short time frame.Being the crazy idealist that I am, along with my digital gear I dragged along a 1960's era 4x5 speed graphic and polaroid type 55 film. Super low tech, slow, and some of the best photos I took were with that camera.I met Aziza at a women's clinic she was waiting to see the doctor. We got to talking a bit (through an interpreter of course) and we connected. These are the only 2 frames I shot. You have to wait for the right moment, and create images one at a time. I liked the first one where she was being a little shy with her smile.