ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Leslie” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

Alexia Foundation Logo
This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 12/07/2012.

She offered me tea when I arrived. I accepted; a mug of green. While she prepared it, I looked around her office, an interior room in the building. Her desk was far cleaner than mine, and her book shelf held what you’d expect of someone working with homeless youth. I turned to the wall.

Affixed beside a white board were two large sheets of paper from an easel pad. All were covered in multicolored handwriting. A lot of it I recognized from my work in trauma. I looked closer; it was specific to prostitution trauma.

Leslie Briner, who works for YouthCare, a Seattle non profit serving homeless youth, did a lot of direct services client work but found her interest drawn back to policy. That was what I was looking at on the wall. Policy development for addressing domestic minor sex trafficking.

Leslie Briner Portrait

A lot of it related to the marginalizing of women, creating a space where they are vulnerable, decreasing their options, and, once they’ve been subordinated, using them as objects.

The idea is that we all do this, whether we are aware of it or not. It is ingrained in our culture.

I was reading Leslie’s thought stream, laid out on the wall. She was framing the issue, but the view she was revealing pointed toward solutions. Toward resiliency and hope.

I was seated when she returned with the tea, after which we fell into an easy conversation. My being the journalist and her being in social services, I had expected some conflict. I realized I had been afraid of her and had felt I needed to prove to her my intentions weren’t exploitive. Instead, I was surprised to find how similar some of our thoughts and approaches to the issue are.

And she got it, she saw what I am trying to do with stories and how this can help her with the work she is doing. While she’s researching and authoring policy, at the heart of what she’s doing is trying to change our cultural norms.

Youthcare is one of the agencies in Seattle at the heart of the response to domestic minor sex trafficking. They were also a client of mine, as I helped them update their entire image library last year. Some of what I learned was touching, difficult, and can’t be talked about. It’s one of the reasons Leslie shifted from direct services to policy development.

At the end of our conversation I felt heartened, more confident and hopeful. Leslie is a wealth of knowledge, an incredible resource, and is driven in her work.

Asking if I could take an iPhone snap of her for social media, I pointed to the white board.

“Tell me about that note you’ve highlighted,” I asked.

Written in large letters, separated from her notes on the stigma prostitutes face were these words:

“You Never Know the End of the Story”

“That’s my reminder to keep moving forward every day,” she said.


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February 25th, 2011

This year’s photo contests, at least the major press photography ones, are wrapping up and I wanted to share some of my favorites. Definitely, there is a lot of strong stuff, and definitely, there are a lot of similarities to previous years and styles. One criticism I heard, and can’t really argue with, is that there must be a dead body in the image for it to win. While there are a lot of dead bodies, I do think it’s both gratuitous and representative of a reality, and necessary to show.

You could certainly spend a good chunk of time this weekend looking at the winning images and multimedia at World Press Photo and Pictures of the Year International.

There was also some discussion around the use of cell phone images, and the “apps” used to process the images; another discussion was about the unorthodox use of images captured by that Google mapping car–you know, the one with the cameras on top that creates the “Street View” images we use in Google maps?

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December 7th, 2010

This is a touching portrait of marriage and Alzheimer’s. From 2010 College Photographer of the Year Rachel Mummey. Read her interview on the NYTimes Lens Blog, as part of the Turning Point Series.

For better or for worse from Rachel Mummey on Vimeo.

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October 29th, 2010

12_HDSLR-FCSThis is part of a series on using the “new” storytelling tool granted us by the convergence of the digital still camera with the video camera. This is an evolving field so check the dates on everything; it may no longer be current or relevant.

There are a lot of online posts from Hollywood film makers, high-end advertising photographers, and others who are producing beautiful work using the new HDSLR. Their exploratory work is helping push the boundaries of the HDSLR and to develop aftermarket equipment. While we can learn from the big-budget work, this series of posts is intended for people like me: photojournalists and documentarians who work with few resources and a minimal footprint.

12_HDSLR-Canon-logoI’ve met still photographers struggling to learn video and the new HDSLRs, so I thought this series of posts might help. If you’re a pro with a lot of experience in film and video, and you wish to contribute your knowledge, I welcome you to post to the comments or to author a guest blog.

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August 16th, 2010

The Aftermath Project is now accepting applications for a single $20,000 grant made possible by the Open Society Institute.

Picture 16“The Aftermath Project is a non-profit organization committed to telling the other half of the story of conflict — the story of what it takes for individuals to learn to live again, to rebuild destroyed lives and homes, to restore civil societies, to address the lingering wounds of war while struggling to create new avenues for peace.

“The Aftermath Project holds a yearly grant competition open to working photographers worldwide covering the aftermath of conflict. In addition, through partnerships with universities, photography institutions and non-profit organizations, the Project seeks to help broaden the public’s understanding of the true cost of war— and the real price of peace — through international traveling exhibitions and educational outreach in communities and schools.”

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Builder Magazine and Architect Rick Mohler

July 21st, 2010

A month ago I receive an assignment from Aurora Select, pairing me with Builder Magazine (a sister to another publication I’ve shot for). The story was about an architect, Rick Mohler, who finessed city code and zoning laws to build two homes on his single city lot.

As someone who believes in decreasing sprawl by increasing density, I found Mohler’s approach very interesting. So, not only was I doing a portrait job, I had a chance to talk with an engaging guy about everything from his house to public transportation to important documentary films. I liked him immediately. He also teaches at the University of Washington Architecture department, so I think it’s no surprise he had an ability to tell engaging stories and feel at ease with a photographer.

If I had the money to buy a city lot with a tear down, I would probably do the same as Mohler: build two homes and rent one out.

Read the article here, at Builder Magazine
Read a Seattle Times article here.

The magazine editor wanted a portrait of Mohler that emphasized the exterior of the home. So, while the lead image for this post is more about Mohler (and my favorite of the take), the picture at right is what they editor chose out of the various locations and setups I provided. This was a simple portrait, using gear I’ve traveled with in developing countries (minus the light stands): two Canon 580EX strobes, Pocket Wizards, and the Canon 5D Mark II. Oh, and I put home made snoots on the strobes…made out of heavy duty aluminum foil, the kind you’d use for baking!

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Interview with Tim Hetherington at NYT Lens Blog

June 22nd, 2010

LensBlog_RestrepoCheck out this Q&A piece at the NYTimes Lens Blog by Michael Kamber of Tim Hetherington. Both are war photographers, but Hetherington just released the documentary film “Restrepo” which he shot and directed with writer Sebastian Junger.

The interview not only looks at war photography and the making of “Restrepo,” but at cross-platform, long-form visual storytelling; ie. the evolution of documentary photojournalism. Hetherington operates in multiple mediums, using each as an addition to his storytelling tool kit, in order to reach as broad an audience as possible–something I identify with. He started with a Vanity Fair article, produced a fine art exhibit, gave to broadcast television, a book, and now a feature length film.

He and Junger self-funded the editorial production of “Restrepo.” I identify with and have much respect for that too. Together they are showing how important long-form, time-intensive documentary work by professional news gatherers is to informing the public; how those professionals must now be capable of using all the tools available to them, be it a still camera, video camera or whatever; and have the ability to distribute that media through platforms like Vanity Fair, a newspaper blog, a Facebook page, or through industry discussion like my re-posting commentary.

It is one of the reasons I spent the last three months in New York, learning to be a better producer, emphasizing multi-platform distribution, and working with visual journalists like myself–but from a production standpoint. The insight I received, not only from people like Brian Storm and Eric Maierson at MediaStorm, Pamela Chen at Open Society Institute, and from the projects I worked on, only reinforces what I believe, and what Hetherington is saying.

Click through to the jump for some excerpts from Hetherington’s interview, but I encourage you to read the whole piece at the New York Times Lens Blog.

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Chad Kellogg on Mt. Everest

May 10th, 2010

kellogg_everestNot long after I left for my stay in NYC, Chad Kellogg left for Mt. Everest. As a friend and climbing partner, it’s a trip I think of with pride and trepidation. Chad is attempting to set the record for a single push from base camp to the summit and back (via the south col) without aid from Sherpas and without supplemental oxygen. He’ll be starting at 17,500 feet and going to 29,035 and back in, what he hopes, is under 30 hours.

Chad is an incredible planner; give him a goal and he’ll start ticking backwards from the deadline and have a schedule laid out down to the minute. He is also a machine. Having been run into the ground by him, I don’t say that lightly. If anyone can do a single oxygen-less push on Everest, solo, it would be Chad.

A couple mornings ago, while home in Seattle for Mother’s Day weekend, I was sitting in the sunshine with T talking about the important things in life like Legos, Batman, and Bakugan when I showed him a picture of the Baltoro glacier. At the end of it was K2, the second highest peak in the world. Then I mentioned Everest, and I mentioned Chad. T has met him, and remembers him, so we talked about the climb. We then watched a video of Chad on the Outdoor Research Verticulture site, including footage from his helmet camera on the South Face of Aconcagua. Looking at the steep ice and overhanging seracs, T grasped the gravity of Chad’s endeavor, and expressed it in his own terms. “Does he have kids?” T asked.

“No,” I replied, and then tried to explain the concepts of risk assessment, planning, and trusting yourself and your decisions. I think Chad will laugh when he finds out I’m using him as a role model. Or, at least, a partial one. I held back on something Chad has said to me many times since Lara’s death: you better make the most of the here and now, because you don’t know what tomorrow may bring. I understand and struggle with the thought; it’s a tough concept to bear even for adults, much less a six year old. So, for now, I’ll stick with the simpler and more upbeat of the life skills I can share with him.

Read Chad Kellogg’s Everest dispatches at Outdoor Research’s Verticulture.

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Run: Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges

May 7th, 2010

IMG_5253A lot of people already know about this iPhone app and website, but I just discovered it recently. It’s pretty sweet. does just what it says–it maps your run way better than google maps.

Over a month ago, when I ran 20-something miles, I wasn’t very kind to my ilio-tibular or “IT” bands. Chiefly the left one. They are the casing, or fascia, of your butt and thigh muscles, on the outside of your legs, that narrow down to a band of connective tissue, inserting at your knee as a tight band of fiber. On me, they’re really tight (ie. painful), so I haven’t run that much lately.

Click through to the jump for a couple more pix and “Map My Run” in action.
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Ithaca: To Grandmother’s House We Go

May 5th, 2010

IMG_5009(Note: this was written several weeks ago)
She handed me a miniature pair of boxing gloves made from hand-stitched leather.

“These were Bill’s when he was young,” she said. “Isn’t that something? Especially now, knowing he’d be the least likely to be a boxer.”

I held the two gloves in the palm of one hand as she looked inside one of her many pieces of antique furniture. Bill died when I was five or six. All I remember is my parent’s sunlit bedroom in California, my mom hanging up the phone, sobbing. Of Bill, himself, I only have freeze-frame images of his faded jeans from my seat on the kitchen floor. All the other images are of pictures, the real kind, printed on photographic paper. I’m chubby, he’s long-haired, and we’re smiling. (at right, the canyon of Treman Park in Ithaca, NY)

In my grandmother’s “cottage,” at an assisted living facility in Ithaca, New York, is the remaining clutter of 89 years of life. “Oh, how I miss my three barns,” she kept on saying. They sold the farm, auctioned off many of their possessions, and moved into “the place where we’ll spend the last years of our lives,” as my grandfather had said. He died several years ago. There was a memorial service in August of 2001, just before the World Trade Center fell. My grandfather got pneumonia and, as my grandmother said, he saw his chart and gave up. He was a doctor and knew what it all meant.

Since then, my grandmother’s life has become an exercise in minimalism, in everything but “stuff.” Letters are stacked on tables, boxes, baskets. Magazines; she has a vintage 1948-ish Time magazine, with Churchill on the cover. She likes Churchill. She also likes all her empty boxes and miscellaneous things that might be useful one day. I understand, I’m like that too, which is why I gave up on trying to clean up her place. I mean, just what do you do with the baby-sized boxing gloves of your dead uncle?

Over the weekend with her, I realized I could know her as a person, not just my grandmother. She was a tough woman–still is. Back in the day, she took on the Catholic Church to help bring contraception, family planning, and women’s reproductive health to upstate New York. She was president of what became the Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. She kicked ass. Especially for someone who is a staunch Republican in everything except her environmental stance and her views on women’s rights.

She continues with that environmentalism: she’s up in arms over the local hydrofracking of shale for natural gas. We even watched a lecture her endocrinologist gave on how the chemicals they’re using can alter our hormonal development. It’s scary stuff, but she kept on falling asleep, as she says she’s prone to do at her age. She lived through the depression, World War Two, the death of her second child, Susan, who succumbed to leukemia, and the death of her youngest, Bill, whose baby boxing gloves I’d held, from complications related to mononucleosis.

And now. Now she is reflecting on the illness of a third child, Carol. As I write, I’m on a plane flying to a small family reunion in Walnut Creek, California, to celebrate Carol’s 60th birthday. She has liver cancer. When I called her on her birthday, I told her grandma took me to where she and Doug were married. That afternoon, my grandma walked me through the Tolkien-esque canyon near their wedding reception.

“I love that place,” Carol responded. Their wedding was on a hot and muggy day, and as a five year-old I spent most of it playing in the cool of the creek.

“I wished I’d been able to do what you were doing,” Carol laughed. Yes, to be a child. It definitely was much simpler.

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