Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's all circular

It’s Christmas Eve here and I have wanted to share some images of generosity for a few weeks. This time of year my lens goes pro-bono documenting the work of some generous people to make the holidays a bit more merry for folks who don't have much but their life (refugees) and some family.
psyched!

The Welcome to America Project, as you may know, provides basic needs, household items for newly arrived refugee families and adopts 60 families each holiday season. The Pedal Power Foundation provides bikes to kids who whose families could never provide themselves.

I’ll keep it simple.

Whaaaat? No wisdom, no deep heart-felt thoughts inspired by the holidays and the benefits of giving?

Okay, well maybe just one.

I’ve mentioned this one before because it resonates.

Double duty, photo'ing my family bearing gifts for a Burmese family.
I’ll never forget the bit of wisdom of John Benson, a nurse, counselor,  jack of all trades and entertainer of orphans in AmeriCares camp on a Rwandan mountain top in 1994 contemplating why he volunteered to spend three months helping the Rwandan people at this clinic, “I get more than I give...(but) it's all circular.”


His example, the more you give the more comes back to you.

Volunteerism, do we do it because it feels good, or because it is the right thing to do?

YES!

A new game to help with English
Is Pink okay?

Mike presents one of 70 bikes
Loves her new dolly

Joy comes in green.
A little story of challenge and success from Burundian refugee.

Girl talk

Warmth in a gift of thick socks.

Add caption

Before giving we must assemble

Gene delivers another bike after quality control check

Mike the bike elf himself.


 Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guyana Part II

     In September, I  was at it again back with one of my favorite clients. They work all over the world dealing with healthcare issues, to education, disasters to daily life.


     In addition to assisting to the improvement of HIV/AIDS care, they are involved in a number of programs to help improve lives. When I share the work that they and similar clients do, it is sometimes a surprise at what form those projects actually take.

     The goal of vocational education projects is to teach students marketable skills that will help them to earn decent wages to take care of their families and keep a roof over their heads. In Guyana that goal takes the form of masonry and child care classes, computer skills and cake decorating.

     I can hear it now, "Seriously, cake decorating?"

     Absolutely!



      It is a skill that, like others, were requested in surveys of potential students in the communities. It is a skill that has as much value as carpentry and masonry.  (I promise to share my story about one such lady whose skill is in demand in her community, since she learned how to bake and decorate, but of course my client has to publish it first.) 

Meanwhile at the same facility students learn from a former superintendent of presidential building projects the foundation skills of carpentry and masonry, while others develop and sharpen their abilities in marketable crafts, computer operation, general cooking and nutrition and remedial education. As with all such vocational programs it gives some students a second chance and others just a chance at a reasonable living.
 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Jumping the hurdles with respect

When the patients say no, a portrait of the doc is still valuable
I recently had the opportunity to work with one of my favorite clients.

They're not just my favorite just because they love what I do. They're not even my favorite because any gig for them means a flight, a passport stamp and usually a headlong interactive experience with a culture I had not yet encountered.
Counseling a man who has not told his family his HIV st
 
It is also because what they do is important.

By working with them I have the great opportunity to show the world that important work. In a way to be a part of what they do, even if I don' see myself as the one doing the heavy lifting.

That said, these projects are hard work.

When there are hurdles in a shoot, you still shoot.

Testing blood for HIV
When in a permission-only situation you figure out a way to make those images for which permission is not needed.

When frustrated, you take a deep breath and then try something else.

In a case like this, you respect people's wishes and find another way to make telling images.

Work it and then work it again.

This was the nature of a part of my work in Guyana recently where the larger lesson taught me that the stigma for having HIV/AIDS is still significant.

With this stigma comes the unwillingness to be photographed. We would ask permission from the patient, who would say no. All we could do was wait and ask the next patient, after a while, asking permission even to photograph over their shoulder, no face, to see the healthcare professional in action rarely saw success. Sometimes they agreed, more often, they did not.
Hospice. A vigilant son and his mom.

Unfortunately these folks have very real concerns.

As I photographed a group-counseling session, (only the side of the room where people had consented), a woman discussed with the group her challenges, being avoided by people she cared about, a family member not accepting extra vegetables she had purchased at market.

It is not unusual for people to be shunned, for employers to make up excuses to fire the HIV-positive person. Another group member confronted that challenge.

A consenting patient checks in with a program nurse.
The level of difficulty in making pictures, of course pales in comparison to the real-life challenges people live with in this place. Sure there are ad campaigns, radio programs broadcast constantly to educate the populace, to mitigate this ostracism based on ignorance. In Guyana it seems a tall mountain they're climbing.

As I kept trying to produce images of these programs that my client would find valuable, the government and the aid organizations keep trying to eradicate the stigma.

Results come from picking yourself up and trying again.


Lend a hand! Check out Rick's Kickstarter project.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pixels of Mercy

As you may know, the workshop that we have planned and worked so very hard to promote, was put on indefinite postponement this summer as it became clear that the economic landscape was just too much to overcome. We hope that sometime in the future the times and interest will develop and alllow us to bring it all back.
Meanwhile, it was our most disappointing task to let our new friends at the partner organizations know that we would not be coming.

They were probably more disappointed than we were.

We did not want to let them down.

We decided to try a different tack.

We decided we'd put together a team of photographers to put together an essay that looks at the work of a number of these small organizations that are doing some pretty amazing work. By treating it as one essay, we could cover more ground in a short time and create an essay that blends four styles.

The thing is, these kinds of projects are not exactly cheap to pull off, especially on an economic landscape where publications buy pictures but do not fund essays.

The new landscape is more about crowd-sourcing and grant-writing to find the funds to give these people a voice in photographs.

It is with that in mind that we have launched a project fundraiser on Kickstarter.com to to make this project a reality.

Two things make such a campaign a success, a project that people believe in, and lots of networking: spreading the word, retweeting, Facebook posting, until so many people know about it that it must succeed.

This is really important because, through the Kickstarter model, the goal that we set to cover our project costs, must be met in pledges.

If we miss the goal, none of the funds are collected.

Spreading the word is absolutely key.

Please visit the site, watch the video, meet my colleagues, learn a little about the organizations we will photograph.

Be inspired.

Pixels of Mercy

As you may know, the workshop that we have planned and worked so very hard to promote, was put on indefinite postponement this summer as it became clear that the economic landscape was just too much to overcome. We hope that sometime in the future the times and interest will develop and alllow us to bring it all back.
Meanwhile, it was our most disappointing task to let our new friends at the partner organizations know that we would not be coming.

They were probably more disappointed than we were.

We did not want to let them down.

We decided to try a different tack.

We decided we'd put together a team of photographers to put together an essay that looks at the work of a number of these small organizations that are doing some pretty amazing work. By treating it as one essay, we could cover more ground in a short time and create an essay that blends four styles.

The thing is, these kinds of projects are not exactly cheap to pull off, especially on an economic landscape where publications buy pictures but do not fund essays.

The new landscape is more about crowd-sourcing and grant-writing to find the funds to give these people a voice in photographs.

It is with that in mind that we have launched a project fundraiser on Kickstarter.com to to make this project a reality.

Two things make such a campaign a success, a project that people believe in, and lots of networking: spreading the word, retweeting, Facebook posting, until so many people know about it that it must succeed.

This is really important because, through the Kickstarter model, the goal that we set to cover our project costs, must be met in pledges.

If we miss the goal, none of the funds are collected.

Spreading the word is absolutely key.

Please visit the site, watch the video, meet my colleagues, learn a little about the organizations we will photograph.

Be inspired.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vital Signs: healthcare and the workload

Vols react as a virtual patient suddenly speaks at Banner's training hospital
It's all based on vitals signs.

One of Banner's sleep disorder experts
And scans.

And health maintenance.

It seems photography can be a very healthy practice. Just try pushing a carload of lighting gear around the labyrinth of passages and hallways of a hospital that has undergone multiple expansions over the years (most hospitals). Stretch out, bring your walking shoes, its a great workout!

Lately, the health care industry here in the Valley of the Sun has been providing the workout, keeping the vital signs of D'Elia Photographic in a good place,

A number of entities have kept me running, documenting moments and making portraits to tell the stories of new facilities and programs, while dispensing advice on health maintenance, stress management, kids' health, mens' health and other common health concerns.

A PCH pediatric surgeon
Some say that in tough times, health care is the one thing that remains relatively stable.  "They" actually point out that now health care is the one industry that is actually growing thanks to the numbers of aging baby boomers who are beginning to need more care. I actually heard a comment to this effect about six months before these projects began developing in quick succession

While contributing to an increased pace of work, this combination of portraits, documentary, action, and interior spaces, demonstrates just how diverse the lineup can be for client assignments that are equal parts commercial and editorial/documentary in scope.

Phoenix Childrens Hospital expands
It supports the philosophy that a photographer steeped in editorial sensibilities does not simply leave those skills behind as the diet develops a more commercial flavor, rather, they get thrown into the blender to create a new flavor as unique as the individual photographer.

A commercial photographer's value, enhanced by the editorial background.

So far, this flavor that is keeping healthcare clients pretty happy, is happily challenging my art directors and me to hatch different approaches in creating these images.

Given the relatively limited demographic of our subject-matter, the goal is to save the very clinical settings such as doctors' offices, for when appropriate and necessary, while exploring more visual possibilities, looking for something unexpected on pieces that present more wiggle room.

I love it when the challenge leads us in an interesting direction, you can almost taste the creative energy.

Oh wait, that's coffee.....
A fitness director encourages working out for stress reduction


Psychologist avoids stress of a car breakdown
PCH's new CT Scan lab.

Nurse and patient have a moment.
Scanning for issues in womens health at SMIL.

Staying healthy by getting out to enjoy nature

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wall O'Dust

 
Having no idea that a regular summer monsoon season phenomena had taken aim for my neighborhood, I glanced out the kitchen window last night as I made dinner. As often as this spectacle develops in summer months, the approaching wall never fails to arrest all activity and inspire awe.  By the time I'd grabbed the camera and a higher viewpoint upstairs, Red Mountain had disappeared into the approaching cloud. 

Ten minutes later this view turned completely brown.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Firestorm recap


It looked like a firestorm.

Clouds of white, black, gray, swirled and billowed in the high mountain winds, turning oily-orange each time a fireball or 300-foot flare attacked and devoured another Ponderosa pine in the western flank of the Wallow Fire.

Burnout ops Produce a spectacular display south of Greer, Az.
As I stood on the road photographing alongside four colleagues, flames from a burnout operation marched over the ridge a mile in front of us and made its toward the edge of a vast meadow that lay between us and the forest carnage, a fire break. The scale made it among the most impressive displays of natural force I'd witnessed. If not for the firebreak I might have been terrified.

Evacuees share news of the Wallow Fire
We always photograph the best of what is available and always hope for something more significant. We do not hope for disaster, only that when it does strike that we may be able to effectively document its most important effects.

I began the four-day journey photographing folks who had left their homes and who had not slept much in their gymnasium home. Gracious and accepting of the historic nature of their experience, the Coffmans experienced their emotions unperturbed as a Republic photographer and I made emotional images. About 75 people had spent the night, but even more would arrive when the Salvation Army began serving lunch.

the Salvation Army keeps evacuees fed at the shelter
I ended this journey feeling as if I had accomplished more than at any of the handful of past major Arizona fires that had presented opportunities to document history; feeling tired, feeling a form of jetlag, and finally being relieved to be out of the smoke.

Families take shelter at Pinetop school
When the landscape burns, it turns lives upside-down. Worried parents and small children leave their homes to sleep in school gyms, never knowing if they will see their home again, intact.

Firefighters converge from across the country, working in altitude-thinned air thick with smoke, for 12-16 hour days of hard physical labor, spending their nights in tents in dusty fields.

Upside-down, they battle, they worry about their progress and they themselves inside-out trying to make a difference.

Hot shot crews set a burnout to stop the Wallow Fire.
Covering the Wallow fire was documenting history. It is the largest monster to ever consume land in Arizona, at least for as long as anyone has been writing it down.

On my second day of coverage, we approached a crew setting a burnout from the edge of the road, working to form a containment line by taking away fuel that the main fire would use to pick up speed to jump the road. After shooting for half an hour, we loaded up again to caravan toward Alpine.

Just as we slowly pulled alongside, a large bush flared.
As firefighters continued to set the burn walking south along the road, we watching this through the lens and the car windows. We weren’t sure whether to shoot or shield from the heat as the burnout found larger bushes of fuel. Of course we shot, as a wave of intense heat washed over us until we began shouting at the photographer driving our vehicle, GO, GO, GO!!! It soon become clear just how hot things had become as the photographer to my left, closest to the flames, realized his fingers no longer had the hair with which they had started the day.

Yikes, that was exciting….

A Surprise, Az. FD, crew mops up near Greer.
The next day the information officers confessed that they had only been able to arrange some interviews in the field with a crew that had made the stand a few days earlier to protect Greer. I had already learned that with 4,000 personnel working the fire, we never knew what we’d find while moving through the area. We knew very well that we might find nothing, and we just might come across something worthwhile.

As reporters and television photographers interviewed the firefighters who saved most of Greer, a brush truck and mop-up crew from Surprise (near Phoenix) worked their way along the road, attacking smoking holes, chopping up and extinguishing smoldering stumps. A day of low expectation had suddenly yielded another piece of the story, another aspect of fighting a massive, historic blaze that ultimately came down to four-man crews ensuring that the blackened landscape was completely free of fire.
Families with animals opted to set up home in campgrounds

With the day's results in hand and filed with the picture agency, it was time to take another look at the shelter and see if anything had developed. Turns out, the Red Cross had made the rounds of campgrounds in that area and discovered families with animals had opted to camp out. Volunteers were preparing to head out to deliver ice, food and other supplies to families who had no idea how long the might be using their outdoor homes.
Camping evacuees unload ice from the Red Cross

One group of families and friends suspected they might be in for the long haul and organized their camp into sleeping and community areas complete with an outdoor kitchen with hanging pots and pans, cooking and food-prep surfaces. They were making the best of a tough situation.

By the fourth day the information officers were not sure whether they could get us out to the fireground. Commanders were very concerned about the effects of the increasing winds. The respite from fire-growing high winds had ended and everyone was worried.

German journalist Thomas witnesses the firestorm
In spite of that concern the information folks knew we needed to continue covering the event and a Pinetop fire officer knew just where to take us. It was then that the five of us found ourselves witnessing the unfolding firestorm.

While much of my work these days has had more of a commercial mission, news is in my blood, and will likely always be a part of my photographic diet. It is difficult to not be involved in documenting such a historic event in our state as it affects so many lives and will probably have many other ramifications for years to come. It's tough, dirty, stressful, fascinating and rewarding work to be a part of making the record and bringing home views of an event to inform the general public.

If you missed it, there are more images downpage (a few repeats) as well as many up at the agency archives at Corbis: http://www.corbisimages.com/Search#p=1&s=50&sort=2&pg=Rick+D%27Elia