18
Apr

PREDA Foundation

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work, Travel

This is the fourth post in this series.  You can see all of the posts by clicking on the Arts Aftercare tag.

I love and hate these pictures.  From a photographic standpoint, I am really proud of this series of images taken at the PREDA Foundation.  On the other hand, I hate that these pictures need to exist, and that this is a story which needs to be told.  It seems impossible to ignore the devastation and loss of innocence these images also represent.  But fortunately I do see hope in these images as well.  I believe we were created with the capacity to choose great evil, but thankfully we also have the choice to love, which I believe has the power to overcome all else.  At PREDA, I met some wonderful people who have made the decision to simply love, and care for the people who have been exploited and experienced so much devastation.

I arrived at PREDA with only 2 hours to work with before Becker and I had to take a taxi to Angeles City.  It was a bit hectic when we arrived, and we didn’t have much back story or time to prep for this stop.  After meeting Alex, the program director, I asked if I could take a tour and look around.  The tour started in the administrative offices, followed by the kitchen and then some classrooms.  It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for or interested in.  Eventually, we went down a hall and into a large room filled with colorful metal bunk beds and bright blankets.  Half of the room was lined with large windows, streaming in midday light.  As I took it all in, I asked my tour guide what the room was, and she told me it was the girls dorm, for children 9 and under.  To clarify, these are children age 9 and younger who have been sexually abused both commercially and domestically.  Unbelievable.

I started the day expecting to make portraits, but this room was speaking to me, and drawing me in.  I didn’t have my camera with me, and after looking around for a moment, I burst out of the room, and down the hall to get my camera and tripod.  I think my guide thought I was a bit strange, leaving the way I did with no explanation, but I couldn’t move fast enough.  I was in a zone.  I spent maybe the next hour shooting these images of the girls dorm, although it felt like I was only there about 5 minutes.

Girls lockers.

Primal therapy room.

Father Shay, founder of PREDA Foundation in Olongapo, Philippines, on Subic Bay.  Father Shay has dedicated his life to fighting for children who have been sexually exploited both commercially and domestically.  He has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize 3 times, and I sincerely hope he is recognized by one in the near future.

I just can’t decide between these two portraits.  It is usually pretty easy for me to make these kind of decisions, but there is something about each of these that I can’t get past.  It doesn’t help that everyone else I have asked have said both as well.  What do you think?

Father Shay’s desk.  Nearly 40 years of hard work has happened here.  I can’t even imagine the phone calls, letters, and meetings that have taken place here over the years.

PREDA Foundation is a service provider for sexually exploited children in Subic Bay, Philippines, which infamous as a destination for sex tourism. From their website:

“In 1974, with Filipino helpers, Fr. Shay Cullen established the PREDA organization (Peoples’ Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance Inc.) to give shelter and protection and recovery to victims of abuse and more importantly to change this unjust situation in society that abandons children and criminalizes them and prostitutes them or allows them to be abused without getting help and justice.”

PREDA provides many crucial services to the children, including residential care homes organized by age – one for girls as young as 9 years and under.

 

16
Apr

At Home in Manila

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work, Travel

This is the third post from my assignment in the Philippines for Arts Aftercare.  You can see all of the posts from this trip by clicking on the Arts Aftercare tag.  For those of you who are just joining in, the following portraits are of people who have been affected in some way by sexual exploitation.  Some of the people are volunteering, or caring for survivors, some of the people are survivors, and one person is simply family member of a victim of sexually exploitation.

Some of my favorite moments in the Philippines were when I was able to walk through neighborhoods, and photograph people in their homes.  It took several days before I was able to find transportation, and arrange times with people, but once I was able to establish some trust and familiarity, things began to fall into place.  I only wish I had more time in Manila to take more of these.  I have intentionally left out some of the names for various reasons.

The mother in this family is a volunteer at Samaritana, where she teaches women how to sew.  I photographed them at their home just outside the garbage community in Manila.

Jonathan Nambu is the co-director of Samaritana with his wife Thelma.  They were our wonderful hosts while we were in Manila.  I photographed him at his home in the backyard.

This young woman is in the Samaritana program for women who have been sexually exploited.  She lives in a small home with a large number of her family members along with extended family.

This is the girls father (pictured above).  He collects recyclable garbage for a living, and has a small shop in the front of the family’s home.

I was able to spend quite a bit of time with Krys on this trip, and got to know her a bit more than others.  She works at Samaritana, and spends a good amount of her time on the streets at night forming relationships with pimps, and women who are being exploited.  She has such an amazing heart, and her story is deeply moving.  This shoot was especially fun, because we got to ride a trike, transfer to a jeepney, and then take a long walk to get to her apartment where this portrait was taken.  I’m a sucker for a good trike ride on the deadliest highway in the world.

This woman also works at Samaritana, and she lives in a squatter community, which is like nothing I have ever experienced before.  A squatter community is exactly as it sounds.  People build homes right on top of, and next to each other, regardless of who owns the land.  Power lines and other resources are spliced, and it looks a bit like controlled chaos.  From a photographic standpoint, one thing I love about many of these images, is that there was often only one natural light source in each home, which provided a single stream of beautiful light to work with.

Survivor in the Samaritana program, photographed in her friends home.

I shot all but one of these images on my Vanguard tripod.  It was fun to work this way for a change with natural light.  It made me slow down and take a different approach.  I even slowed down my breathing, to accommodate the timed exposures.  I feel a deep connection with each of these images, and I also feel a different kind of appreciation for these because of the process.  I am really looking forward to creating more work like this at some point.

09
Apr

Survivors in Manila

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work, Travel

This is the second post from my assignment in the Philippines for Arts Aftercare.  You can read the first post, as well as this entire series by clicking on the Arts Aftercare tag.

After arriving in Manila and getting acclimated, my main focus was to document the art therapy training by the Arts Aftercare staff.  Leaders from several organizations in the Philippines and abroad attended the training, which took place over the course of 3 days.  When I was not in the training, I spent the rest of my time trying to figure out who is who, and what direction I wanted to go with my personal work, which would be to tell a story about the sex industry in the Philippines.  We would be spending about 6 days in Manila, and then we would head to 2 other towns and visit organizations working with survivors of sexual exploitation.

One of the things I was hoping for the most out of this trip was an opportunity to make portraits of some of the survivors of sexual exploitation.  Our hosts told us that they thought only a couple of the women would be willing to be photographed, but we would just have to ask and see what they say.  We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, and wouldn’t be able to ask until Monday.  It was a long weekend of waiting.  Understandably there are some really complicated issues that come up when photographing people who have had to deal with something like this.  It was important, but also really difficult for me to remember that, as I had my heart set on making portraits of at least a few of the survivors.

When Monday came around, Becker and I introduced ourselves to the group and told them what we were there for, and what we hoped to accomplish.  We walked out of the room and gave them time to talk about it among themselves.  Not long after, someone came out and told us that every single woman had agreed, and they were really excited to be photographed.

I quickly grabbed my gear and set up at a bus stop just down the street from the organization.  It was incredibly hot and humid, but I somehow made it through, on excitement and adrenaline while I shot for the next 2.5 hours.  It was such a fun shoot.

Sexual exploitation is such a heavy subject, but what really made an impact on me was the hope and joy I saw in so many of the women who are going through the recovery process.  After spending time with them, I decided to make the portraits with an overall hopeful feel, which is why I chose the brightly colored wall as a background.  I directed the women a little, but tried to interject as little as possible to allow these images to feel more natural and reflective of each woman’s personality.  I let them pose how they felt most comfortable, and tried to keep things as natural as possible.  These women are so incredible, and they have amazing strength and beauty.  I hope that comes through as you look at these portraits.

My intent in doing this project was to help spread the word about the exploitation of women and children which is going on all around us.  Hopefully by sharing these images and stories, others might feel inclined to get involved in the fight and healing process.  As the week went by, my focus became sharper and sharper on creating great images which told a captivating story.  My approach could be described as a bit selfish at times, as I was solely thinking about what I could do, or where I needed to go to get the shot.  After this shoot was finished, I began hearing from a few people about how much this experience meant to the women.  The big 5 ft. octabank, Curtis holding the big flag, Becker shooting video, and my Hasselblad camera, all made them feel like they were a part of something fancy and exciting.  It seemed pretty normal to me, but that type of experience is not something everyday people are a part of very often.  On top of that, I was working really hard to make the pictures look great from a visual interest standpoint, but to the women, it all made them feel beautiful and pampered.  It was a good feeling to be a part of that, but it still didn’t fully hit me until the next day.

The next day we were back at the house, and everyone was finishing up training.  I was waiting for a ride to another site to take pictures.  The house we were staying at was beautiful, but not a place I felt was conducive to anything I thought would be visually interesting.  As I was watching everyone laughing and going through the drama portion of the training, it hit me.  Forget about yourself and your portfolio for once, and use that camera in your hands to really make an impact on someone.  It’s easy to help others when my portfolio is also benefiting from it, but how about taking pictures that only benefit others.  A totally new concept for me.  I told one of the leaders that I was willing to take pictures of the women with friends, groups, whatever they wanted.  And for the next 45 minutes, we took pictures of people jumping off chairs, human pyramids, group poses, and on and on.  It was so awesome.  They came up with their own ideas, and it was fun to see them take charge and direct everyone.  The pictures are not ones I will be showing, or putting in a portfolio, but they brought a lot of joy to those in them, and that was a powerful experience and a good lesson for me.

These images were all edited with VSCO Film.

20
Mar

Don’t Talk To The Cops for City Arts

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Editorial Work, Tear Sheets

Don't Talk To The Cops shot for the cover of City Arts by photographer John Keatley.

For those of you who are fellow Seattlites, you may have noticed City Arts has been gaining great momentum as the go-to arts publication around town.  They have been doing a great job covering culture, art, and music, and are not afraid of going out on a creative limb so-to-speak, to bring their audience something fresh and original.  I got to shoot the Seattle based hip hop group Don’t Talk To The Cops for the cover of the March issue.  This was a really fun shoot, and I was excited to get to throw in a slight nod to those amazing laser portrait backgrounds we all coveted back in the 80′s.  I think the hardest part was picking out the right turtleneck and NFL game day jacket.  After that was decided, it was smooth sailing and a lot of laughing.  I can’t say I’ve made it through the article exposing bubble tea, but the cover image is certainly reason enough for picking it up :) (not to mention it’s free).

Big thanks to Art director Dan Paulus, editor in chief Leah Baltus, and Don’t Talk To The Cops.  This shoot was a fun collaboration of talking through ideas and inspirations with Dan and Leah, and I love how it turned out.  I met Dan and Leah for the first time, when I was photographed as part of the City Arts Future List late last year.  Retouching by Gigantic Squid.

21
Feb

Filmmaker Eric Becker

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work

Portrait of filmmaker Eric Becker by photographer John Keatley.

This is a portrait I recently shot of my good friend and colleague Eric Becker, who is a director / documentary filmmaker.  For over a year, Becker has been working on his film, Sound & Vision, which “explores issues facing the nearshore environment. It is a film about the oceans, told through the stories of people working to clean up, protect, and restore habitat in Puget Sound and beyond. The film is scheduled for release this fall.”  I really like this portrait, because it hints at the chaos of documentary filming, while capturing the beauty of the Puget Sound that Becker’s film strives to preserve.

I was lucky enough to see the film at a pre-screening not too long ago, and it is really beautiful.  Not your typical everybody freak out, we have a problem documentary, but one that explains a problem and offers hope, as well as a call to action.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Becker and I will be leaving for the Philippines with Arts Aftercare next week.  I can’t believe it’s almost time to go.

Retouching by Gigantic Squid.

09
Nov

Bill Gates & Dustin Moskovitz for Forbes

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity, Editorial Work, Lighting Technique

Why are Bill Gates and Dustin Moskovitz, the richest and youngest billionaires in America, laughing?  Let’s just say my joke was so funny, someone bought it, and I no longer have the rights to tell it…  I have wanted to photograph Bill Gates for a long time, and my opportunity finally came around a couple of months ago when Forbes called.  Dustin, is one of the four co-founders of Facebook, and since he is 8 days younger than Mark Zuckerberg, he is the youngest billionaire in the world.  As you would expect, time was extremely limited for this shoot.  We were given one and a half hours to set up the studio shot, and then I would have the first 10 minutes of the interview, and the last 10 minutes of the interview to take pictures.  Immediately after the interview we had 3 minutes for hair and makeup and 7 minutes to photograph both Dustin and Bill.  It was a whirlwind, but I am really happy with how everything turned out, not to mention it was a pretty cool experience to sit in on a conversation with these two.  You can read the Forbes article here.

Here are a couple of shots I took after the shoot of the studio lighting setup.

For the interview image I used a Canon 5D Mark II with an on camera flash which I bounced off a wall to fill in with the natural light coming in from the back windows.  The studio setup was a bit more elaborate, and I used my Hasselblad H3DII-31 Camera with the Hasselblad H 80mm Lens for the portraits.  For lighting, I used two Profoto Giant 150 Silver Reflectors.  One as the key, and one for fill.  The Wescott 45” Umbrella was used to brighten up the right side of the background, and I used two Profoto 1×3 Softboxes as edge lights for the subjects.  A lonely Elinchrom Ranger head on an Elinchrom RX 1100 Watt Battery pack snuck it’s way in, poking out over the top of the seamless as a hair light.  Aside from the Ranger, the Profoto lights were powered by Profoto Acute 2400 watt power supplys, and one Profoto AcuteB2 600Ws AirS LiFe Power Pack.

12
Oct

Herbert Has The Last Laugh

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Random

Possibly the greatest portrait ever.  Apparently Herbert sat for this portrait right after he stole some candy, and planted a whoopie cushion.

Found on a wall at Seattle Central Community College.

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02
Oct

John McKay Seattle Weekly Cover

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Editorial Work, Tear Sheets

John McKay on the cover of Seattle Weekly. Photo by John Keatley.

This is the cover of the current Seattle Weekly featuring my portrait of John McKay.  We had some difficulties scheduling this one, and it went right down to the wire.  Thankfully we were able to get some time with John the night before the issue went to press.  I really like this picture.  It is a simple portrait, but there is so much about it that makes it fun to look at.  His eyes are bright and focused, as if he is looking right at you.  One eyebrow is slightly raised giving him a a strong sense of confidence, and maybe even a bit of mischeviousness.  The subtle tilt of his head, and parted lips seem like he is either about to say something profound, or even start laughing.  I never get tired of photographing people, and I love that I learn something new about expression, emotion, trust, interaction, light, and timing every time I take a picture.  As much as I always feel the need to try something different, I don’t think I will ever get tired of photographing faces, because there is always something new to see and learn.

You can read the corresponding story on the Seattle Weekly website here.

01
Oct

New Liberia Images

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work

I added a couple of new images to the Liberia section of my website.  Check em out.

13
Sep

Henry Seattle Weekly Cover

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Editorial Work, Tear Sheets

Mural painter Henry photographed by John Keatley for the cover of Seattle Weekly.

I photographed Ryan Henry Ward for the cover of the current Seattle Weekly.  It looks really beautiful in print if you are in Seattle and are able to track down a copy.  There is something about the rough matte newsprint, muted colors, and heavy contrast that really makes this image stand out.  As the copy indicates, if you live in Seattle, or even visited recently, you have probably come across at least one of Henry’s colorful murals which are spread across the city.  He just finished his 120th mural in the last 3 years.  He has also sold over 2,000 canvases, which is impressive, but even more so when you hear he has only been painting full time since 2008.

Henry signs all of his murals with a big “Henry” in black on a white circle.  It’s hard to miss, and most likely a big part of his success and brand recognition.  Since his work is mostly cartoon-like animals, I thought it would be fun to photograph him in costume as if he were one of his creatures.  My art director, Boo Davis, came up huge in finding this narwhal costume, and big thanks to Henry for being willing to go along with this idea.  It took some warming up to the idea on his part, but I think it turned out fantastic.  The horn was a little problematic, and made the shoot take about twice as long as it needed to, but he was really patient and made it work.  You can read the article about Henry on the Seattle Weekly website.