04
Apr

Arriving In Manila

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work, Travel

Last month I wrote about an upcoming assignment in the Philippines for an organization called Arts Aftercare.  Here is a link to the post if you are interested in the backstory, but basically I was working with the story of sexual slavery, human trafficking, and the work people are doing to help survivors.  I was gone for 10 days in the beginning of March, and  I got back to the States a few weeks ago.  After taking some time to rest, and reflect on the trip and what I saw, I finally feel like I am at a point now where I have processed enough of the trip, and I can share my thoughts and more importantly, my pictures.  I feel like this project makes the most sense when split up into 4 or 5 different stories.  The first part of the story is arriving in Manila and getting somewhat acclimated to my surroundings.

I have never had to think so much about an assignment as I did on this trip.  There are so many variables to consider, which I have never had to think about on past assignments.  One of the things I found myself thinking about a lot on this trip was journalistic integrity.  Thankfully I was traveling and working with my close friend, and filmmaker Eric Becker who I learned so much from.  It would have been a totally different experience for me if I didn’t have him there for support, and just overall great companionship.  When I was in Liberia last year, I took pictures of anyone, because everyone in the entire town I was in, was effected in one way or another by the lack of clean drinking water.  It was something that had a broad reach, and just about any person, place or thing seemed relevant to the story.  In the Philippines, I was trying to tell a story about sexual slavery.  Although prostitution seemed to be everywhere I turned, it is not so easy to create a visual story without being painstakingly careful.  For example, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort when we visited Angels City.  Just in the short time I spent in the lobby during a 24 hour period, I saw 20 or so men bring back, or meet prostitutes in the lobby.  Everyone knows what is going on, but at the same time, seeing a 65 year old American man and a 20 year old Filipino girl walking to a hotel room is not proof of what is going on.  Sometimes the age difference was not so great, and it certainly isn’t fair to assume every white guy and Filipino girl are in anything other than a serious relationship.  Being a portrait photographer, I wanted to photograph so many different people, but I knew I needed to be careful what I was implying by including someones portrait or picture in a series like this.  I didn’t photograph the bellhop at the hotel I was staying at and say he is somehow a part of the story, anymore than I would want someone photographing me in the Philippines and saying I was somehow involved.  There is actually a lot of human trafficking that happens in Seattle.  Seattle is a major player in human trafficking unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean you can photograph anyone in Seattle and say they are part of the story.  Some of you may be thinking what I am saying seems pretty obvious, but it was  new for me, and took a lot of thought to work through.

With all of that being said, these images are from our travels to Manila from Seattle, as well as wandering around and exploring Manila after we first arrived.  Which I might add, we didn’t have much time to explore.  None of these images are linked to or are intended to be linked to prostitution or human trafficking, but they help set the stage for where I was in the Philippines, and what my surroundings were like.

I am really excited to share more from this trip in the coming days and dive into the images I am most excited about.  As always, thanks for your interest!

On another note, all of these images were edited with VSCO Film which is an amazing image editing tool for Lightroom, Aperture, and Camera RAW.  It has totally sped up my workflow, improved my images, and is one of my favorite tools as a photographer.  Check it out for yourself here.  I also wrote a couple of reviews here and here with processed images if you want to find out more.

21
Mar

On The Road For AARP Bulletin

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Editorial Work

Better late than never I always say.  Actually, I don’t always say that, and it’s not really a good motto to live by, but in this case, it works.  I have been meaning to post these images for a few months, but am just now getting around to it (my bad).  Last Fall, I was excited to see Director of Photography Michael Wichata’s number light up on my phone, as he was calling about a cross country assignment.  I love working with Michael because of the thoughtfulness he puts in to his work, and he is really passionate about photography.  It makes assignments that much more enjoyable when you work with someone who cares that much.  The story is called ‘Will I Ever Work Again?’ and it covers three people over the age of 55 who felt the effects of these tough times when they lost their jobs and had to try to re-enter the work force at a time when there are more people than jobs.

The first stop was Dallas, TX where I met Alejandra Mendoza, who was let go from her supervisor position at a mid-size bank.  It was my first time in Texas, and it was HOT!  In the spirt of everything being bigger in Texas, my assistant Oliver and I went to the biggest movie theater in America (so I was told) and saw Captain America.  Unfortunately we can’t undo that experience.

Our next stop was Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  We arrived late Monday night, and shot first thing on Tuesday.  Florida was a different kind of heat than I had ever felt before, the kind where you could feel your skin melting off after just a couple of minutes in the sun.  This might be why we saw so many people walking to the mailbox, or picking up the newspaper in only their underwear.  Mark Krieger was my subject in Florida, and he lived in a really nice gated community on a series of lagoons.  When we arrived, there was no one at the gate, and no way to call or get buzzed in that we could see.  We couldn’t reach Mark either, so after driving around the community looking for another entrance, we decided to park on the side of the road just to the side of the gate.  After waiting for a few minutes, a car approached the gate and it opened.  As soon as they began moving through, I gunned it and sped in behind them just before the gate could close.  Seems a little anti-climactic now, but at the time I felt like James Bond, and it was more than enough to pump us up after several long flights.

After a quick shoot with Mark, it was back to the airport where we experienced the heaviest flash rainstorm I have ever seen on the highway.  It came out of nowhere, and we saw 6 crashes over the span of 2 miles.  We even got honked at and flipped off for slowing down as we narrowly avoided hitting the car that had just crashed in front of us.  Oh Florida…  Thanks for the hospitality.

Next it was off to Akron, OH to meet Pam Gaul who recently got a job at Bridgestone Tire Company.  The company headquarters was in a really old, half-empty building, and it was one of the coolest buildings I have ever seen, from a photography interest point of view.  We got a tour of the empty part, and it was hauntingly beautiful.  Much of the furniture was left as-is from decades ago.  If only I had more time to explore, there were some really cool rooms to shoot there.

Pam was the inspiration / success story of the article, and her story was really fascinating.  After losing her previous job she joined a job club and was coached on interviewing, applying for a job, and personal presentation.  It’s so interesting, the difference between our own perceptions of ourselves, and how we are actually coming across to others.  After a few adjustments, Pam had a great interview and got a job she LOVES at Bridgestone.  Not to make it sound like it’s just that easy, but it is exciting to see people make positive changes and reap the rewards.

After Akron, we flew back down to Wilmington and then back home to Seattle, just missing Hurricane Irene.  That was one bumpy flight!

Here is the link to read the article I shot these portraits for on the AARP website.

Thanks Michael and AARP.  This was a fun one.

 

07
Feb

Preparing For The Philippines

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under News

As you may know, last January I traveled to Liberia with a team from MiiR to document the clean water wells they are funding in areas that don’t have access to safe water.  It was an incredible experience for many reasons, but it also opened my eyes to a much bigger world than the one I live in on a typical day.  A lot has gone on and been discussed in the past year since I went on that trip, and one of the many things I came away with was a newfound excitement and desire to help educate and inspire others to bring about positive change by using the unique gifts we all possess.  I really love the work I get to create as a commercial photographer, and I find myself laughing a lot which is such a blessing.  But because of my experience in Liberia, I have decided that I want to be about something much bigger than myself.  I want my brand to be something people not only associate with creative photography and portraits, but also with a love for justice and for others.  I am still processing what this all means, and how it will play out, but one thing I know is that I would like to be involved in at least one campaign per year where I can help tell a story that needs to be heard.  I want to be a voice for the voiceless, and help those who can’t help themselves. Even though my efforts have been focused on overseas projects so far, I believe there are stories and challenges right here in Seattle that need to be brought to our attention as well.  I think there is something to be said about traveling overseas, and getting out of ones comfort zone though.  It is good to experience new challenges and different cultures, but I hope to also find stories to be involved with in the States at some point also.  Unfortunately, the story I am going to document in the Philippines is also a serious problem right here in Seattle.

That being said, at the end of the month, I will be traveling to the Philippines with an organization called Arts Aftercare.  It is a nonprofit bringing the arts to survivors of slavery, which was started by my college friends Curtis and Grace Romjue.  The purpose of the trip is to train care workers in a new art therapy curriculum which will be introduced to survivors of sexual slavery.  I will be photographing survivors, youth advocates, and trying to tell the story of what life is like for people who are trapped in slavery, as well as those who have been freed.  Thankfully, I will be traveling with my good friend and filmmaker Eric Becker who will be telling the same story through video.  It will be a collaborative effort, and I am really excited to start working on this so we can shine a light in the dark places of the world.  I was shocked to recently find out that modern day slavery is a bigger problem today than slavery has ever been in the history of the world.  What’s even worse is that not only are many of the slaves children, but they are forced into sex 10 to 20 times a day.

A friend of mine emailed me me a video this morning about a girl who had been sold by her mother into sexual slavery.  I could only watch about 2 minutes of it before I turned it off.  This sucks.  I hate reading about this stuff, and it is beyond sad.  What is wrong with people? is the question I find myself repeating over and over.  I leave in less than a month, and I thought I should start writing about my thoughts as this assignment approaches.  My hope is that some of you will be inspired to take action, and in turn tell your personal network about the work that needs to be done.  I also feel like I need to do what I can to prepare myself for what I will be confronted with.  As my wife reminded me today, I tend to cover my ears and walk out of the room when I hear her nurse friends talking about something that makes me queazy.  I guess if I am being honest, I like to be comfortable, and I don’t like to be burdened.  Not really the best way to live life, as nobody ever said life was meant to be comfortable.  I also feel like you never know what is possible until you put something out there.

I know there are many of you who are already involved in fighting modern day slavery through organizations like International Justice Mission and others.  My hope is that by sharing this, some of you may feel inclined to help fight for justice by giving of your unique gifts.  Maybe you are a medical worker, a writer, a teacher…  The possibilities are endless.  We are also still looking for funding for a portion of this trip, so there is also a financial need at this point.  If you are interested in becoming involved, you can write me (john@keatleyphoto.com) or Curtis Romjue (curtis@artsaftercare.org / www.artsaftercare.org).  You can donate through the Arts Aftercare donation page and mention this trip in the comment field aftercare.org/donate.  If you have any experience with social justice, or working around such a heavy situation, I would love to hear from you.  It’s going to be a difficult trip, and I know I am going to need help and encouragement.

Thanks for reading.  I hope to share more about this soon.

13
Apr

Now For Something Completely Different

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog, Personal Work

Surprised to see something other than stylized portraits?  From the beginning, the goal with this ongoing personal series was to create something completely different from my portrait work.  Last fall, I decided I wanted to push myself to create something outside of my comfort zone.  I would prefer to let these images stand on their own without adding a story or context to them, but I also realize it is important to talk about one’s work.  If not the meaning, at least the process.  I have attempted to explain these to a few close friends, and the best explanation I have come up with so far is that this good idea evolved from several really bad ideas.  What this means is I began with an idea and talked about it for a little while and really wrestled with the concept and how it would read.  The first few concepts never really sat right with me, but thinking and talking about them with others eventually led to what you see here.  Even after I began shooting, the concept continued to evolve.  I worked with a great post production studio called Gigantic Squid, and collaborated with Ian Goode on the final look and feel of everything.  This really has been an experiment and exploration of a different type of photography.  As much as I pulled away from my portrait work in this process, I came to realize just how important the human element is to me in my work.  I learned how to respond to what I was shooting and adapted my approach as the images came to life.  That is not something I get to experience when working on an ad campaign which has to be planned out completely before shooting.  So far, this project has taken me across Washington and Northern California, and I am planning a couple more out of state trips in the months to come.  I have learned so much from this experience and I am excited to see how this continues to evolve and shape me as an artist.