I shot these images on a sweltering hot day this past summer in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for Inc. Big thanks to Photography Director Travis Ruse for the call on this one. One of the things I love about editorial photography is the opportunity to talk with a wide range of successful and interesting people. Some of you may not know this, but I actually majored in Business Administration in college, so dissecting and understanding how different companies work is really fascinating to me. Alligator Performance Co-founders Chad and Jayme Hall did not disappoint. Their story was one of the most fascinating success stories I have ever heard, and I left the shoot feeling like I got to see something really special. I highly recommend reading this article on Alligator in Inc.
For many people, Ferran Adria needs no introduction, but for those of you who are not familiar with Ferran, he is one of the most innovative chefs and people in recent history. He has been on Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people list multiple times. His restaurant El Bulli was the best restaurant in the world until he shut it down in 2011 at the peak of it’s success, with the idea of reinventing it. Not many people have the vision and willingness to take great risks the way Ferran does, and that is a big part of what this feature is about.
This assignment came up very quickly, and within 3 days of getting the call, I was off to Barcelona. Aside from creating some awesome images, my secondary goal was food. Get food. Just a piece of cheese or a scrap of bread would suffice. To be able to say I was handed food from Ferran Adria, that would be pretty cool.
Right off the bat, I want to thank and acknowledge the creative team at Wired UK. The Photo Editors, Dalia Nassimi and Steve Peck, Art Director Andrew Diprose, and Executive Editor Greg Williams. Greg and Andrew also traveled to Barcelona for this shoot, and we first met up with Ferran at El Bulli Workshop not far from our hotel in Barcelona. It was a busy morning between meetings, the interview and photo shoot, but we worked with Ferran in small chunks of time throughout the day. Ferran is one of the most meticulous and driven people I have ever met. As you can see from some of these images, his attention to detail and planning is second to none. Every room in his workshop as well as his kitchens are lined with whiteboards covered in notes, diagrams, and plans. His spice rack at El Bulli Workshop is so thought out, he probably knows how many grains of salt are in the salt jar. Perhaps most impressive was the play dough portion size and design templates for each meal he has created. Nothing is left to chance. His passion for his work and innovation also seem to be very contagious, because everyone he works with seems to completely buy in. I was able to learn some of this before the shoot through my research, but it is never as fun as the real deal. It was really amazing to pull some of the intensity and passion out of him, as you can see in these images.
Ferran now has a new tapas bar with his brother, Albert, in Barcelona called Tickets. From what we had gathered, it is quite an experience in it’s own right, with an impressive menu, including several famous dishes from El Bulli. It’s also next to impossible to get in to. Greg brought up the idea of getting a table during the photo shoot, but we were told it just wasn’t possible. While Ticket’s would have been the ultimate dining experience, we were in Barcelona after all, and Ferran recommended some of his favorite tapas bars and restaurants to us, which were all amazing. Later that evening, we caught up with Ferran at a local museum which has a wonderful exhibit on the history of El Bulli. They closed the museum down, and we got a private tour from Ferran.
We had 2 days of shooting scheduled with Ferran, and after a long and eventful day one, we got up early the next morning and drove a couple of hours outside Barcelona to El Bulli. It is still closed as a restaurant, but currently is filled with computer programmers and large white boards of plans and code. Big changes are coming to El Bulli before it re-opens in 2014. Going out there, we knew the kitchen was closed, so we were not expecting food, but we were also not expecting the surprise Ferran had instore for us. Ferran pulled Greg, Andrew, and myself over to a corner of the outdoor patio and brought us into a tight circle. He held out 3 fingers, looked at us in the eyes, and said, “9:00 tonight, Tickets for the 3 of you.” Kids at Christmas! We were through the roof. More on that below.
This issue has only been out about a week now, and we are already seeing this cover being recognized as one of the best covers of 2012. Pretty exciting to be a part of that, and an honor to work with AD Andrew Diprose, who is one of the best in the industry.
Ferran at El Bulli Workshop talking with two of his computer programmers, who are working on some exciting new developments for the El Bulli brand.
Working with Ferran on the how best to hold the E, and balancing it with the proper way to hold a knife and cut. Pictured with Ferran’s interpreter, Andrew Diprose and myself.
El Bulli kitchen during the remodel / reinvention of El Bulli.
Portion sizes and shapes of all ingredients served at El Bulli made out of Play-dough.
Two dishes served at El Bulli made from Play-dough, next to a photograph of the actual dish.
Below are pictures I took of our meal at Tickets. In all of the excitement and euphoria, there were several dishes I forgot to photograph. That being said, here are quite a few images of many of the amazing things I got to eat that night. Our server’s name was Claudia, and she added so much to the experience. We didn’t feel qualified to order, so we told her to bring whatever she wanted to serve us. She talked to us quite a bit throughout the night, and brought the dishes in an order that flowed and paired flavors. Ferran even came in to say hi and introduce us to his brother Albert. It was by far the most amazing food experience I have ever had. We asked the concierge at our hotel for walking directions to Tickets before we left, and he told us he could make several other restaurant recommendations because we would not be able to get in. Greg tried to explain that we had reservations, but he just laughed at us. Silly tourists.
Confit potatoes with pork rib jus and boiled iberian ham
Liquid ravioli of Payoyo cheese
Warm lava cake of “turron de Jijona” with raspberry sorbet. We ordered 2 of these.
This short video about Tickets gives you an awesome behind the scenes look at the food they create and what the dining experience is like. Eating at one of Ferran’s restaurants really is about the whole experience and using all of your senses.
Wired UK AD Andrew Diprose, Ferran Adria, John Keatley, and Wired UK Executive Editor Greg Williams
I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the October issue of Wired UK which is currently on stands. You can also see a great documentary on Netflix called El Bulli: Cooking In Progres. There are also hundreds of fascinating videos online of Ferran and El Bulli. I can tell you I have already invested countless hours watching many of them.
I would like to thank everyone who worked with me on this assignment. Dalia, Andrew, Greg, and Steve at Wired UK. Awesome people. Thanks to my rep Julia at Redux Pictures for all her support and hard work on the backend to make this all happen. Thanks to Gigantic Squid for the awesome retouching. Thanks for stopping by and enjoying my work.
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.
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.
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.
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!