Some highlights from the projects of 2016
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)
The best part of what I do as a photographer? Getting to know people that I would probably never, ever encounter if it wasn't for being a photographer. Meeting people from different cultures and spending some time with them, eating with them, drinking tea with them really keeps things in perspective for me, and I find immensely enjoyable. I am lucky. Here I am getting to know and sharing a bit of tea with Abhimand a bit before I photograph him earlier this year on an assignment for Abbott. He was on his way to deliver milk from his cows to the milk receiving center in Shirdi, India about five hours east of Mumbai.
Stories, from the road: "My father is a barber, my grandfather was a barber, I want something else. Although I am very talented. Abbott has given me an opportunity to be something else."
"Want a haircut?"
I was in Brazil last year on assignment for Abbott Global Citizenship report. This particular report is for Abbott Brazil specifically using photos I took while in Brazil it also includes photography I did in China, Haiti, as well as the USA. Here are a few selected pages from the report. If you want to see more of what Abbott Brazil does in corporate citizenship click here. Also check out the main Abbott citizenship site here.
Those are the words that I have been hearing a lot from clients these days. My answer is of course we can! The advantages of shooting both is that they work together as companion pieces. Although In my experience its always been a challenge trying to do still, and video together in the same shoot without compromising one or the other. I think I found the magic sauce; with the right crew, and clients who trust you anything is possible. I can go on and on about the process, but thats perhaps a future blog post.
Many thanks to Jason Rogers my camera man on this project, and Charley Parden my assistant who somehow always finds parking among his many other skills. They made the process go smoothly, efficiently, and more importantly successful.
The weather has played a huge part in my recent travels unfortunately not for the better. I was stuck in Shengyang, China (a small city near North Korea, although they did have a Prada, Gucci, and Burberry boutiques just to name a few) when on my way to Singapore because of snow, getting around Chicago was a nightmare with all the snow and the cold. I almost slid my rental car into another car in Odense, Denmark. Luckily whatever I did kept me from hitting the car, but got myself stuck in a snow bank instead. A woman who was jogging passed by me, volunteered to help push my car out of the snow bank as a result of the slide. Did I mention Danes are amazing?
So why should flying from Copenhagen via Frankfurt be any different? I was supposed to fly to Sao Paulo and make a connection to Rio de Janiero. That was not to be....My flight from Frankfurt was late by an hour then the connecting airlines computers were having issues so they couldn't get me on another flight. I traveled by taxi to the domestic airport to try to get another flight no luck. Ugh...a rare defeat for me. I usually mange to overcome those issues somehow. Anyway Rio was rescheduled and I stayed in Sao Paulo to work on other parts of the project. I photographed doctors, patients, battery recycling, regular people, kids, babies, and triplets...the triplets were a challenge.
I was last in Sao Paulo 10 years ago, and it was really great to be there again. Its a busy metropolis of 10,886,517 in the city and 19,616,060 in the greater metropolitan area of people with things to do.
Thanks to everyone in Sao Paulo who made my short time there interesting and special.
Observations in Sao Paulo in February: Hot!, beautiful people, clean for such a large city, bad traffic, crazy afternoon rains, great food, Brazilian Portuguese sounds beautiful, great music, friendly people, great vibe, Bohemia beer, and those Capirinas that somehow taste better there.
Flying into Sao Paulo. This is the edge of the city. Look how it ends so abruptly an>
Thunder storm out my window at the Sheraton Sao Paulo Brooklin. During the storm the power went out in the hotel for about an hour.
Ok I am not a spot news photographer, but when a client calls, and says "hey can you go to the Clinton Foundation to photograph Bill making an announcement." I say YES! I jumped at the opportunity to bask in Bill's rock star aura. He even threw in a tear jerker moment in his speech for good measure. He's good! Unfortunately I did not get a chance to talk to him or get closer than 6 feet away, but it was still was a thrill. Jeez, I sound like such a groupie
Here is a photo of a small section of everyone else crammed into the conference room. I had my own reserved spot, but still had to dive in, and crawl around the floor to get a few different angles. It was a bit crazy with everyone jockeying for position. I have a lot or respect for the spot news photogs. it's a rough biz.