December 10th, 2011

With an eye toward prison reform, writer and academic Pete Brook analyzes prison photography from behind his desk. After three years, he decided it was time to get out, on the road, and meet the people he’d written about. Especially the prisoners.

Pete is clear that he isn’t a photographer. Instead, he writes for’s RAW File and runs his own blog where he dissects photography about the prison system in America. I knew him peripherally through the photo community and through introduction several years ago by a mutual friend. I like what he does, so when he put out an ask to help make a Kickstarter video, I offered to shoot it and Seattle Times staffer Erica Schultz edited it with Pete in an 11 hour binge.

Prison Photography has built a community over the years. There’s no money involved, so for Pete to get on the road, he had to ask for help. The Kickstarter campaign began. By using social media and crowd-sourced funding, he successfully raised more than he thought it would cost to make the grand American tour, meeting photographers in person, visiting prisons, and seeing education programs at work.

Click here or below to read more and see a scene cut from the video.

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August 26th, 2011

My Kivalina work was recently included in a grant to the Open Society Institute by film maker Jenni Monet as part of her distribution plan. Subsequently, the photo agency Worldwide Image Navigation (WIN-Initiative), which holds an “image collection from the independent minds and unique creative perspectives of gifted photographers worldwide,” featured my work with a joint interview in their WINk Magazine, an online publication with a very attractive presentation. Click through to Page 75 to read the article.

The slow creep of things like climate change means stories created a few years ago are still extremely relevant. In 2008 I went to the remote Alaskan village of Kivalina on assignment for Germany’s Spiegel Magazine. My five days in Alaska was an amazing experience; having grown up in the northwest and having a librarian for a mother, I was exposed to many stories about native cultures. Reading about whale hunting is one thing, actually going out on the sea ice for a whale hunt is something I’d never imagined actually doing.

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June 1st, 2011

Tim Matsui portraitWhile in San Francisco for my aunt’s memorial service (she died just shy of her 61st birthday), I looked through old albums my uncle and my mom pulled out for the service.

I don’t know who shot this one, but I had to make a copy of it.

Me, somewhere between five and seven years.

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October 15th, 2010

Yangzhou, China, feels unfinished and new, contradicting its history as a trading center older than millennium. Buried in its heart is an old town, one that is newly constructed but mimics the ancient brickwork. It is an ornamental trapping for a city bursting with high tech industry.

There is no decisive line dividing old and new; it’s a graduation from buildings with a city-mandated height to office towers and apartment high rises, sprawling expansively across agricultural plains once governed by the rise and fall of the river.

Our Western eyes were to show this dichotomy, to celebrate the city’s historical wealth and new found treasure, but we did so within the constraints of Eastern etiquette and policy.

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August 26th, 2010

In early 2008, I visited the Children’s Surgical Center on the outskirts of Phnom Penh at the request of one of its US-based supporters. I was working for a few NGO’s while in Cambodia and using the time to continue my personal work on human trafficking. At the Center, I found a woman who recently had acid thrown upon her. I forget the circumstances of the attack, but her grand daughter was also covered by the indiscriminate spray, and had already died. The woman was feverish with infection, her breath rapid and shallow, and the doctors fought a losing battle. Blood transfusions seeped out of her damaged skin faster than they could replenish her fluids. Her adult children watched over her, fanning her, slack-faced and in shock. A few days later the woman died.

I had heard of acid attacks before, but hadn’t thought about it in Cambodia. Although barely quantified at the time, readily available acid in Cambodia’s violence desensitized and traumatized society meant acid attack was an increasingly common method of settling disputes or seeking revenge.

Not long after I met the acid attack victim in 2008, I visited the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity to photograph the survivors who were making a new life for themselves. Although horribly scarred, I found the women engaging, fun, and full of vitality.

A couple of days ago the NY Times published this piece on acid attack in Cambodia.

Click through the jump below for images from my visit in 2008.

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Recognition: Inupiat Whaling Boat Photo

June 10th, 2010

2010_color_awardInupiat Whaling Boat gets nominated in the International Award Honoring Color Photography’s 4th Annual Master’s Cup.

Seems to be quite the popular photograph. I’ve also sold a second one through the Photo Center Northwest Critical Mass Top 50 exhibition and, if you’re going to their fundraiser in October, you’ll see yet another print of this boat.

Maybe I should start a boat series?

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Cambodia: Elsewhere, Round Two

March 7th, 2008

20080307a_pnh_013.jpg In my time in Phnom Penh I managed to get hooked into the NGO crowd, but also the party crowd. Or maybe they’re one and the same; work hard, play hard. Some of them work for NGO’s and some…well, let’s just say I met a guy three weeks earlier who was trying to figure out what he was doing in Phnom Penh. He’s still trying to figure it out. (at left: on allie’s roof)

Elsewhere is *that* party. The one no one wants to go to but everyone ends up at. I pre-funked at Allie’s swank rooftop kitchen. All of us took tuk-tuks to Elsewhere; Bruno convinced the tuk-tuk driver that he should drive and I, halfway there, jumped from one tuk to the other. Like in the movies. I’ve always wanted to do that.

Further drinking and dancing ensued. It was an oddly wet night, with rain pouring down occasionally, which might have inspired people to jump into the pool a bit early. I was snapping away at the half naked partiers when one woman rubbed up against me, asking my name and hometown. Courteously, I asked her the same and in a breathy reply she said she was from “Santa Barbara, amateur porn star capital of the world.”

Huh. That’s about as good as the line Allison got last time of “Do you fuck?”

By the time I made it home–alone–it was 5am and the sky was beginning to turn. When I first arrived in Phnom Penh, I was up and running at the stadium at this hour

Well, welcome to Elsewhere.



One of the reasons they don’t allow glass near swimming pools.

My dancing friend from Santa Barabara.


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Cambodia: Scenes From Siem Reap

March 3rd, 2008

With 5 year-old Riki, the world’s cutest adopted kid. When Jon worked at AHC they would have about one orphan per month left at the hospital; staff would take them home, friends of staff, or even patients.

“I looked down at her, a tube in her nose, a tube in her mouth,” Jon said of the tiny, premature baby he saw. “I said ‘I’ve been waiting 50 years for you.’ The nurse across the incubator from me said ‘Yeah Jon, this one’s for you.'”


“Dr. Hal” waiting for his hair cut and shave.


Holding still for the straight razor.


Jon’s commute to work is through the grounds of Angkor Thom. Amazing.


On “The Farm,” Jon and Mieko’s 14 year creation. A Swiss Family Robinson series of connected ‘buildings’ with a kitchen and pantry on the ground floor, it is solar powered with a satellite internet connection.


Getting dinner going on the grill.


The outdoor towel rack in the orchard.


One of two outdoor showers with hand-drawn water from the well. Quite nice in the warm evening light.


Final dinner prep.


Dinner by candlelight. It gets dark at about 6.30. Since they don’t use much electricity that means early to bed…and early to rise. It’s a farm…so we’re talking with the pre-dawn light.

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Cambodia: The Lake Clinic

March 1st, 2008


The sense of time is different. “Hurry up” is a process of continual slow motion versus “normal” which is regularly punctuated with pauses for conversation, cold drinks, or simply moments of rest. In almost 14 years, Jon Morgan has adapted.

“Have you heard of CWA?” he asked.

“No matter how much you plan, how well you set it up, or how hard you push there is always CWA. Cambodia Wins Again.” He shrugged. It’s what you do afterward, he said, that matters; how you pick yourself up from the dust and go back to it. For Cambodia has changed him. (at right: Morgan on the slow boat to Moat Clas)

“I used to be a person who maintained all my relations because I never knew when I was going to be working with them again,” he went on. “But they have a saying over here; if you see a snake you kill it. Or you run away. Because if you don’t, it will kill you.”

Cambodia may win more often than not, but Morgan has shown that with tenacity, patience, and strategic alliances one can persevere. (at left: the town of Kampong Chleang. Rainy season flooding necessitates putting houses on stilts; even the road is under water making boats the only means of transport.)

Morgan and his wife Mieko returned in 1995 to Cambodia with the intention of staying for two years. One thing led to another and they’re still here. A nurse by training he has managed to reinvent himself several times. With each rebirth he has shaped himself anew, most recently in a transition from Director of the Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) to Director of the start-up NGO The Lake Clinic Cambodia (TLCC). The Lake Clinic will use a shallow draft boat to provide medical care and education to remote communities on the Tonle Sap lake, a body of water which grows four times its size in the wet season. (at right: a child runs over a bridge in the town of Kampong Chleang. in the rainy season this bridge is under 15-25 feet of water.)

During his tenure at AHC, Morgan saw a need for capacity building in outlying community health centers. If illnesses were caught early, they wouldn’t be as acute as the cases he was seeing in AHC. Once, when he was speaking on behalf of the hospital at a meeting of NGO and community leaders, the Moat Clas village leader looked at Morgan and said “This is what my village needs. I want you to help me.” Morgan replied he would and, years later, he is nearly there.

A floating village, in the dry season Moat Clas is three hours by boat to the nearest health center. It’s another hour by vehicle to a hospital in Siem Reap. It can cost $30 dollars (US) for a local just to get ot the city. With the daily wage in these fishing communities averaging less than $1 dollar, that is a fortune. Simple health conditions are allowed to languish until they become acute. But compounding the poverty is a lack of simple health education.

For instance, some locals know clean water is better for them but they wash their dishes in the same lake into which they urinate, defecate, do their laundry, dispose of their garbage, the list goes on. It is hardly hygienic. (at left: a coffee glass is washed in the lake with water that is filled with fecal bacteria.)

The village chief has three water filters donated by various NGO’s and yet I saw him brushing his teeth with lake water. It was where I’d peed. His wife washed the dishes in the water as did the visiting boats who served ice coffee and our breakfast the next morning. They know it’s good to brush and wash, and that the lake water may not be healthy, but they don’t know to boil or filter all water they ingest. To compound this, not everyone has filters and most stoves are open flame, wood-fired.

Visiting dentist and board member Hal Kussick ate the cooked fish and rice–because they were cooked–but shunned the tomatoes washed in river water. The next morning he turned down breakfast as well, for the sprouts that went in the soup were likely washed in the lake as were the dishes. He was trying to save himself numerous trips to “the thunder bucket.” I’m not sure what he ate, for I was slightly more adventurous but didn’t eat much. Travel on the lake is almost like desert camping; you must bring everything you will eat or use with you for food and water are suspect and the locals have barely enough for themselves (save for fish, which seems plentiful). We slept on a reed mat beneath a mosquito net, a position which could have benefited from a thermarest. And, surprisingly, it was cold enough by dawn that I was glad to have brought my jacket for I was fully clothed beneath my thin sheet.

Mieko, who does water quality analysis, took samples in our departure town Kampong Chleang and our destination Moat Clas. In Kampong Chleang the fecal contaminants were so profuse her equipment was unable to count the bacteria; she had to dilute it to 10 percent before she could confirm it was a toxic organic soup. In Moat Clas, the river water also exceeded World Health Organization specified healthy levels of fecal bacteria, but not as grossly. She is unable to test for petrochemicals, but other toxic chemicals were negligible. For an anecdote, I watched a naked kid defecate into the water while his friend practiced his flutter kick beside him. Then they both went swimming with the floaters. (at right: Mieko samples water while the village chief watches.)

“We’re going to disappoint them,” Morgan said. “There’s going to be someone who will come in here with something we can’t treat or don’t know how to treat. They know me as Angkor Hospital and are expecting that kind of care.”

But because he is just starting TLCC and lacks the funding and staff to provide extensive hospital services, his ambitions are more modest. He wants to start with basic dental care–largely pulling of teeth–for the nearly immediate relief will build local trust in the organization.

“There is not one person here who is not in need of my services,” Kussick laughed. And yet with each trip to Moat Clas and other outlying communities, patients will be screened to create baseline data and allow the Lake Clinic to bring other specialists out on the lake. (at left: at dawn the breakfast boat arrives with noodles and coffee.)

“It’s all about relationships,” Morgan said. Our visit was primarily fact-finding, photography, and supporting that relationship. In a few weeks Morgan will have his first boat which will sleep five. He is currently buying the engine. Once it is piloted up from Phnom Penh, the shallow draft vessel will be put to immediate use on the Tonle Sap. The Lake Clinic will be a very real entity for the villages on the lake; we could have provided some health care on this trip but as Kussick noted, the amount of equipment we’d have had to carry out there to serve one dental patient, never mind 20, would have been ridiculous.

Morgan is confident things will come together; the donors, the staff, the community and slowly, steadily he will reinvent himself once again. Captain Morgan will undoubtedly sail the Tonle Sap, providing the preventative health care and health education he sought to do years ago through AHC’s capacity building program. He takes his CWA in stride, something I will need to learn to do. (at right: the outskirts of the floating village of Moat Clas on the Tonle Sap Lake four hours from Siem Reap.)


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Cambodia: Angkor Wat and "Thai" Vodka

February 28th, 2008


I’d like to say this was awe inspiring for me, and it might have been had I given myself enough time, but I was up at 4.30, in the tuk tuk by 5.30 with two new friends, and with the masses as the sky glowed pink.

I only had time to run through Angkor Wat to see the grounds and make some images before needing to be back in Siem Reap for a breakfast meeting. Which was about the right amount of time as the light was turning harsh, the heat was building, and I needed a coffee. I had every intention of coming back out for sunset but things led to things and I found myself watching the sun set on the tour buses and temple tops from the restaurant of a French Algerian named Matthew who at one time photographed the temples for UNESCO. Now he helps determine the wine list for the high end hotel restaurants (rooms at $800-$1500/night) and says who can and can’t be in his establishment.

Hal almost got thrown out for calling an oddly flavored Ukranian vodka “Thai Vodka” until Jon mentioned that Hal was the one who road his bicycle across Australia to raise funds for The Lake Clinic. Immediately Matthew’s demeanor changed and they were best friends.

Ah…the French. Well, we did leave with a friend discount and a case of Duvel. It was an absolutely entertaining afternoon within sight of one of the wonders of the world, one of those moments you’d never be able to imagine until you’re in it.

I’m going to have to come back, wade through the tourists, and make a real effort to see the temples. Of course, that means I’ll have to deal with the Disneyland that is downtown Siem Reap. The outskirts are different–and that’s where most of the brothels, massage parlors, karaoke, and other clubs selling sex are now. But the downtown core is a much more wholesome, tourist friendly environment–compared to the recent past. Not that selling sex is necessarily bad, it’s the exploitation, virgin sales, and captivity that many think Cambodia could do without. I rather preferred Phnom Penh; it was a shock to see so many caucasians. And while working with a health care NGO is a bit of a holiday, I could see very easily where the other part of my work lay. I just couldn’t touch it on this trip.


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