This past weekend I was invited to present some of my work to a group of architects, graphic designers, engineers, and other design practitioners from around the world who were visiting New Orleans through the Loeb Fellowship, sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The goal was to provide some visual context as the group learned about the impact of the oil and gas industries on the coastal ecosystem, the various projects that are attempting to slow the rate of land loss, and the cultures and communities that are truly at stake as South Louisiana dissolves.
It was a nice opportunity to comb back through different assignments and excerpts from trips that I’ve made down the bayou, and rather than dump a folder back on a hard drive I thought I should share. The following edit (if you can call it that) might be too much, but you have to imagine the sound of my voice narrating with some really insightful and poignant details for five to seven minutes… See?
Some recent commissions that have helped me get out to explore the Gulf Coast:
MATTER: Louisiana Loses its Boot
The Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography (MPS Fund) was created by the New Orleans Photo Alliance to honor the life and work of Michael P. Smith, one of New Orleans’ most legendary and beloved documentary photographers. My friend Brandon Thibodeaux won this year’s $5000 award judged by Michael Famighetti, editor of Aperture Magazine. Brandon’s series When Morning Comes is a delicate and beautiful body of work from the Mississippi Delta, and he couldn’t be more deserving of the award.
I was proud to be named as one of five finalists for this year’s award for Postcards from Pine Bluff, a project I plan to continue shooting up in Arkansas over the course of this next year. Check the awards page for the other great projects that received mention and be sure to dig into Brandon’s work, too.
Last month Variety Magazine commissioned me to photograph Ryan Kavanaugh and Tucker Tooley, the Founder/CEO and President of Relativity Media, respectively. Relativity is a full-scale film production studio based in Los Angeles, and Kavanaugh and Tooley flew in from the West Coast (and then straight back again) to meet me on the set of “The Best of Me”, a feature film currently in production in South Louisiana starring James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan.
This was a ‘hurry up and wait’ shoot — we didn’t end up starting until dusk and couldn’t use lights since we were on an active film set, but they were great to work with and Variety is running several pictures in the current issue as part of a tenth anniversary feature on Relativity. I’m not quite sure about the storyline of “The Best of Me”, but the scene they were shooting that night involved trains and guns and pickup trucks, so at least they’re covering the bases…
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20th, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. It claimed eleven lives and is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. States along the Gulf Coast are still reeling from its aftermath — In Louisiana alone, 4.6 million pounds of oily material was removed from the beaches in 2013, over double the amount collected in 2012. The mess is definitely still out there.
In 2011, I worked on a New York Times story that explored the low yields reported by Louisiana shrimpers: Gulf Shrimp Are Scarce This Season; Answers, Too (peep the slideshow)
This past month, I was able to follow up on the legacy of the BP spill with two different assignments. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal took different approaches and pegged both stories to the fourth anniversary on April 20th. Following are some of my favorite images from both shoots. One of them ended up on the cover of last Sunday’s NYT, which is always pretty cool.
New York Times: How a Gulf Settlement That BP Once Hailed Became Its Target
Wall Street Journal: BP Spill Fines Pay for Inland Cleanup
The Louisiana white shrimp season officially started on August 12th. I caught a ride aboard Acy Cooper’s skiff for the night as he and a deckhand worked to fill the boat with over 2000 pounds of the little guys. I first met Acy while covering Hurricane Issac for the New York Times, and have kept in touch for all things shrimp-related.
This was a fun shoot because the same things happened multiple times over — drop nets, drag nets, empty nets, sort shrimp, repeat. We were on the water for over 12 hours, so it was just a matter of waiting for the perfect light…
For more work from the Gulf Coast and Mississippi Delta, check out the My Mississippi series on my portfolio site.
I spent a few days roaming through Southwestern Louisiana for a travel feature on the food and music of Cajun Country. In addition to shooting stills, I produced a short video feature using only my phone. You can check out the results here:
Et voilà !
Last week was a hard one for New Orleans, with a shooting at a Mothers Day second-line parade injuring 20 people. I was at the parade with many of my closest friends and we know several of the club members who were parading — all of us were just mere steps away from the gunfire. I worked on a followup story for the New York Times which helped to keep me grounded and busy while still processing the experience. Along with images from a community rally against violence that occurred the day after the shooting, my editor included two older pictures I made at the Mothers Day parade in 2011 to provide some visual context for the story. It made for a great layout in the National Section of the paper, and you can read the excellent story online: “Celebrating, in Spite of the Risk“.
This week has been much quieter — I went camping on the beach in Florida. I’m wandering shaded streets around town shooting a (sweaty) travel assignment, and sorting through old stories and revisiting some of the things I absolutely love about this city… like MARDI GRAS MARCHING BANDS.
This past Mardi Gras season, Katy Reckdahl wrote a fantastic piece for the NYT on the trials and triumphs of The McDonogh 25 High School marching band (the “Roneagles“). I had an awesome time tagging along with the band one evening as they played in the annual Krewe of Hermes parade down St. Charles Street. The experience reinforced my love for New Orleans as one of the many ways this city really comes together.
Redux Pictures just sent me a tearsheet from a story that appeared in Gioia Magazine last year. From what I can tell, Gioia appears to be a higher-end women’s publication a la Marie Claire or Vogue, and like Marie Claire, they sneak some real journalism into each issue through feature stories and photo essays.
Two images from my This is Home series appear in a story about LGBTQ homeless youth. I worked on this story in San Francisco over the course of an entire year during grad school, and grew pretty close to several of the traveling kids who let me hang out with them when they passed through town. It’s always nice to see older personal work take on a new life through publication. Redux Pictures does a great job of distributing my stock archive and finding venues for pictures to live while keeping their original context. I’m happy to be working with them, and pleased to contribute some pictures to illustrate this story. I just wish I could read Italian.
A few months ago I traveled to South Carolina for a corporate client to shoot at a Boeing plant where the new 787 Dreamliner jet is being assembled. I like walking into assignments like these, not really knowing anything about the subject matter, and just looking for pictures along the way. Unfortunately our time at the Boeing plant was limited to one hour for portraits and a tour of a factory floor that is larger than a football field. We had escorts pointing out the things I could photograph, which seemed vastly outweighed by the things I could not — I actually shot one of the images used for the title page out of a moving car. Despite the time constraints, I felt good about my take, and was happy to see the layout when the magazine arrived in the mail.
Hochtief Construction keeps a digital archive of their CONCEPTS magazine online, and the issue with this story is located here (p. 36-40).