Monday, January 31, 2011

More than we give

Among the coolest things photographers get to do is to witness good works and bring them before the eyes of the rest of the world. Around Christmastime for me that means photographing, for example, things like soldiers arriving home after a long deployment and kids receiving new bikes.
Mike gives away another bike


For the second year, I have spent several Saturday mornings in December helping out the Pedal Power Foundation by documenting their work in Phoenix an Tempe.

This year Mike McIlroy, his wife Amy and their crew gave away 275 bicycles to kids through a Tempe school and various Boys and Girls clubs in Phoenix.

Excitement hung in the air as kids stared at the field of blue, green, pink, red, and yellow bikes challenged them to restrain themselves while Tempe and Phoenix police officers demonstrated proper adjustment of bike helmets and as Mike said a few words about Pedal Power.

Fitting a helmet
And then kids were called by name or by group to receive their brand new bikes. The elation, the pure joy of the kids had me grinning like an idiot as I photographed kids receiving their new wheels.

It is possible that some may had never smiled so much and so wide, while others, I could tell, were just too stunned with "is this real, is this bike mine?" written all over their faces.

When I find orgs like this that become a part of my volunteer portfolio, the orgs are always very grateful to have professional photographs of what they do. They may not have otherwise had access to much more than snapshots.

Rules of the Road
I once worked an assignment for AmeriCares, documenting their volunteer doctors treating the sick and injured in a field clinic in Rwanda just after the genocide in 1994. On this shoot, I interviewed the doctors and nurses about what they did and why they did it. John Benson, a nurse and jack of all trades, said that while what he did was important, he suggested,  "I think I get more than I give," for his work with patients and in his play with the orphan kids who lived in the camp.

At the B&G club, the distribution was done, the club personnel and Mike's crew were all smiles. I helped pack up the truck with the leftover bikes (they bring a few extras in different sizes just in case) and headed out. As I drove away I saw no less than five kids cruising around the neighborhood on their new bikes with permanent smiles plastered on their faces.

Don't tell Mike, but I may get more than I give.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Cup'a joe and business photography

It came to my attention recently over coffee. (big surprise, right? me? coffee?).

My latest general porfolio book lay before my friend Tanya who had a look of, "wow, cool', on her face that alternated with simple surprise.

Tanya is a great graphic designer and project organizer who knows what she likes. Only part of her reaction was rooted in the way layout, color and light are things that naturally please her own creative vision.

You see, she has a fair amount of her own international experience and it is that commonality, a discussion of faraway places that led to a friendship. When we first
met, she couldn't wait to look through a portfolio of purely NGO (development and relief) images.

And, of course, she was moved by the photographs, the moments of emotion, and intimacy, the respect and care that I try to use in telling the stories of the people and the NGOs who work in such places.

Tanya has known me as that kind of photographer and she has kept her eyes peeled for local projects that might be well suited to these professional inclinations (T, thanks for that, by the way). It is such a part of who I am as a photographer at home (Pedal Power, Welcome to America Project) that she didn't realize this is only half the story.

Until she turned a page.

 A storyteller/historian portrait.

A unique Yoga Studio.

A CT Scan suite.

An automobile fluids recycler.

Images that represent who the businesses and people are, images that tell their stories well, on a website or glossy sheet. Some of my most favorite business-commercial work to date.

This is where the revelation comes in.

I wondered who else only thinks of me as a photography provider in that way?

How many who know about my NGO work are completely unaware of how I tell the stories of businesses as well?

With a career that began in some of the Valley newsrooms, vast amounts of assignments developed and blended a sense of awareness in emotion, interaction, simplicity, lines, shape, form, overcoming bad light and making the most of good light.  It is that blend which informs my commercial and editorial images, and has helped a few of those specialties emerge as favorites that really get my creativity and passion for the image, get fired up.

Those specialties, working with businesses and organizations large and small, on their architecture, landscape and the activities of their people, make up probably half of the work that I do.

Whether recycling computers, providing high-tech medical testing or building homes, these opportunities drive my passion as a photographer just as much as the health and education programs in Africa.

These companies have happily discovered what my blend of experiences and specialties bring to their projects and they have collaborated well to find interesting visual solutions that present their companies' settings and missions clearly and attractively.

At the end of the day, that is the goal of my entire package as a photographer, whether commercial, editorial, NGO documentary: communicate the message clearly and in a compelling manner


That and having a good cup of coffee with a friend.