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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.

Indeed.

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Posted in behind the scenes, documentary, human trafficking, journalism, Leaving the Life, multimedia, photography, prostitution, Uncategorized Comments Off on ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Leslie” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Organization for Prostitution Survivors” a Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

Alexia Foundation Logo
This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 12/05/2012.

I sat, on the end of the row of chairs, feeling like the journalist. The outsider, the observer, the untrusted. Not because my intention is exploitive, but because I don’t directly help people. I tell stories, hoping the people who see them will learn something and want to act on their new knowledge.

I was at a training meeting for the Organization of Prostitution Survivors (OPS); the intention of the series was to get volunteers and board members on the same page, although most already were.

The room was split fairly evenly between survivors of prostitution and social services providers, though to categorize so simply is unjust. Many fit both roles and, it seemed, all had some kind of a story.

This evening’s training was on trauma. Single event, vicarious; there are many forms. The evidence of trauma manifests itself in many ways too. While I observed, I was beginning to remember.Meeting Space for the Organization for Prostitution Survivors

Like the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting next door, whose cheers and clapping I could hear through the wall, this group thrived on sharing. On honesty and vulnerability. Some were talking about horrific experiences they owned; to do this meant trusting the people in the room.

The only reason I was in the room is I have been researching the story of domestic minor sex trafficking in Seattle for four years, hunting for funding and trying to do this without repeating earlier mistakes; the kind where I overextend myself financially and personally.

And that’s when it clicked. Sitting in that chair I remembered, and my own story became clearer.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “JP” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

Alexia Foundation Logo
This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 11/30/2012.

I met James on a cold, clear night. There was a rally for the homeless in Westlake Park, in downtown Seattle.

James was clean and sober and in search of housing. He’s been in and out of prison over the last ten years. He doesn’t want to give “the DOC,” the department of corrections, any more of his life; he says he’s old enough now that every year counts. He shows a self awareness and intent that just may keep him out. We both knew, as a formerly incarcerated person, the odds are stacked against him. Even in his search for housing.

His body was in continuous motion, physically filling space as he filled the silence with stories of prison. Clallam Bay, aka Gladiator School, where they put the young gang bangers. The penitentiary, in Walla Walla, where the guards ask, when you arrive, where you’re from. It’s so they know where to put you. Meaning, you better have a group to belong to or, for your own safety, they’ll put you in the hole. Isolation. JP a former pimp and hustler

Then I asked him what he knew of the Life. Of pimping and prostituting. He laughed; he used to pimp, he had a few girls. They came to him, he said. They wanted to be taken care of. I asked if they gave him all their money. Yes, he replied, but they were expensive. Getting their hair and nails done and everything. One time he had two girls with a crack habit and a heroin habit. It was tough, he said, hustling for those two habits.

As a journalist, I’m looking for stories that will illustrate the theme I am pursuing. Sometimes I don’t feel this is a fair way to be in a conversation, in a relationship with someone, however brief. James wasn’t the story I was looking for, but he had some history, something I could learn from. And I relaxed; I let him lead the conversation again.

What struck me most is how he saw himself; the provider for these women who went out to have sex with anonymous men, and then turned all their earnings over to him. I had the sense that in this transaction there was a kind of intimacy, however skewed in my opinion, where it wasn’t just business. That there was some kind of love. After all, he said, the girls came to him.

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

June 17th, 2013

Alexia Foundation Logo
This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 11/28/2012.

It happened one evening in early August. We saw a woman sprawled beside the road, holding her head. We looked, drove past, then my wife asked if we should stop. We did.

I rolled down the window and asked if she was ok. She said she was in pain and everyone was driving by. She said all she needed was a ride. It was crushing, but I quickly understood what she was doing and probably why she was in pain. I asked where she wanted to go.
Just off Aurora Avenue
“Aurora,” she replied. We were 200 feet from the highway. I asked where.

“Anywhere,” she replied. “By the donut place.”

“Near 125th?” I asked. She replied yes. That was not a go; we had a nine year old in the back and I didn’t want him any closer to her. In the driver’s seat, my wife asked if I’d get out and talk with her. I did, and she drove up the block and waited.

Kneeling down, I asked the woman if she was “working.” She replied, softly, that she was. She identified as a prostitute.

I asked if she wanted me to call someone, that I knew of a safe place she could go. It wasn’t what she wanted to hear, because she started screaming at me for not giving her a ride, for wanting to take care of my family, not her. She got up and walked off.

She was an adult, she wore a short black skirt, black tank top, and had a rather large black hand bag. Her hair looked to be bleached, she wore heavy makeup, and she moved erratically.

North of 125th is where the older prostitutes tend to work. It is likely that a john or a pimp hurt her then dropped her beside the highway, leaving her to find her way back to where she would earn the night’s money; for the pimp, for the drugs, for whatever.

For us? She walked away; you can’t force help on people who don’t want out of “the life.”

But I, we, wanted to do something, to help. We didn’t want to turn away but, in the end, we did. And now our son is scared of the bad people who hurt her.

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Posted in behind the scenes, documentary, human rights, human trafficking, iPhone, journalism, Leaving the Life, multimedia, photography, prostitution Comments Off on ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “On Aurora” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

WINNING THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION WOMEN’S INITIATIVE GRANT

October 17th, 2012

I was speechless when I heard over the phone, “You’re going to be busy for the next six months. You just won the Alexia grant.”

It took a moment to recover, to say thank you, but it’s taken a little while to realize the significance. Alexia is a well respected photojournalism foundation and they have supported some incredible work. To win one of their grants is a great honor.

That recognition is confidence-building, but it’s also four years of research, grant writing, and relationship building. It’s four years of reporting on human trafficking in southeast Asia. It’s another ten years of documenting the impacts of sexual violence on individuals and communities. And starting a non profit. It’s years of photography and developing my multimedia skills. It’s hands on experience with education, advocacy, and audience engagement.

All of this went into writing the grant application.

I recently gave a talk to local journalists at a monthly meet up. It was casual; a bunch of photographers and beers and a projector. My kind of thing. They asked me about the grant, looking for tips on how to get one. I picked apart my grant proposal, analyzed the application, and found that I had to go back to those moments over the years where I tried, failed, or succeeded, but each time I learned something. Something that applies to today.

Writing a successful grant isn’t just about the vision of what the end product will be or the budget required. It’s about knowing your subject inside and out, then crafting a strong story to carry it.

I won the grant. I’m still a little speechless. And excited about the work ahead.

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2011 CLIENT REVIEW: EDITING WILD CAUGHT ALASKAN SALMON

April 2nd, 2012

With the Alaskan salmon season approaching, I thought I’d share some work I produced last year for Dan Lamont, a fellow photographer and board member with the Blue Earth Alliance. He needed an extra set of hands to finish up a project with the Seafood Producers Co-Op. Multimedia is time consuming; working as a team can make all the difference.

The Co-Op was updating its website with new content Dan had shot. They wanted to tell the salmon story, and why wild-caught salmon is so special, through video. With all the assets already shot by Dan, my job was to make a short overview piece for the Co-Op, plus a subject-specific short.

The challenge for me lay in careful image and video selection. Dan had already produced a couple of other subject-specific shorts, and we didn’t want the entire package to be reusing the same visuals. He had spent several days in Alaska capturing all the footage and stills, but working alone he could only gather so much footage, and only so many stories, and stay within budget. Having shot fishing stories in Alaska myself, I know how time intensive and expensive it can be.

Working in Dan’s editing suite, I was thankful for how he’d organized his assets, provided a rough audio track, and outlined the themes. All I had to do was clean up the audio and build the visual sequence in Final Cut.

It was fun to work in a collaborative atmosphere, and to enjoy Dan’s excellent culinary skills (lunch was on him!).

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2011 CLIENT REVIEW: WHY RELATIONSHIPS MATTER

March 13th, 2012

When I was in school and working as a photographer for the University of Washington Daily, the publisher (our adviser) introduced some of us to the communications department of the Everett School District.

We would shoot hand-rolled Tri-X film, process it in the Daily’s darkroom, make contact sheets on paper we bought, edit it, and submit for client review. Once the images were chosen, we’d scan the negatives and work the images in Photoshop. It was a great arrangement; given our experience we were reasonably paid, but what we learned was invaluable. It was an introduction to contracts and corporate communications, with a reliance on our growing journalistic skill.

Last year, I received an email from Karri Matau, one of the people from the Everett School District’s communications team. She now works for the Greater Everett Community Foundation. It’s a great job: give money away to partner non profits in Snohomish County, north of Seattle. (above: Inside a juvenile detention facility where the foundation supports an art program. They are my first client to use iPhone images in an annual report)

Reintroducing herself by email, she said:

“I googled you to see if you stayed in the field. I am breathless by your portfolio and work to date!!!”

“We have a story to tell and a need to help our community celebrate and rebuild hope for the future,” she continued. “Interested in helping do some photo shoots with our grantees to “capture” our story for our annual publication and for our breakfast celebration in Sept?”

“I have hired a lot of photographer for day shoots and I’m just not pleased with the lack of emotion and energy in the shots.”
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2011 CLIENT REVIEW: CONTINUUM OF CARE FOR HOMELESS YOUTH

March 9th, 2012

YouthCare. I remember a background interview I did with its executive director, Melinda Giovengo, in 2010, when I wanted to learn more about their work with prostituted juveniles. (below: Giovengo at YouthCare’s Orion Center)

Not one to mince words Giovengo said, and I’m paraphrasing, that in her 20 plus years in the aftercare industry, she found the busiest time for Seattle’s street kids engaging in sex work during the 1980’s was the lunch hour. That was when the Bellevue businessmen drove to the city for a quickie. Today the business isn’t much different, but its been redefined as human trafficking, opening the issue up to different resources.

Flash forward to 2011; an introduction from a mutual acquaintance put me in touch with Deborah Edison, Director of Development and Marketing. She doesn’t mince words either.

While the YouthCare’s human trafficking program is important, Edison is less interested in talking about prostituted juveniles than she is in promoting the YouthCare’s continuum of care. Since I see human trafficking as a symptom of greater issues, with homelessness and its lack of opportunity one of the root causes, I was immediately on board. Edison wanted me to help her update YouthCare’s image library, some of which was over 10 years old, so they could showcase their work in a new website.
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FRED BECKEY’S AUTOGRAPHED NEW BOOK: 100 FAVORITE NORTH AMERICAN CLIMBS

January 10th, 2012

Fred Beckey 100 Favorite Climbs ManuscriptThere are many stories of Fred Beckey, considered one of the most prolific alpinists of our time. He is constantly in motion from one climbing trip to the next, the quintessential “dirt bagger” and master of living cheaply. He is an icon in the mountaineering community.

Nearing 89 years of age, he has established first ascents across the globe and authored, among other books, the definitive climbing guide to the Cascades; three volumes essential to any Cascade climber’s library. And now, Patagonia Books published Fred Beckey’s “100 Favorite North American Climbs.”

A hybrid of coffee table and guide book, it is large format, with narrative and climbing route topographic maps. It is meant to inspire and, as I heard last night, imbue pride in climbers when they see Fred included their favorite route. I also understand it was hard getting him to whittle it down to 100 climbs!

My Fred stories are limited. I’ve gotten lost by misreading his sometimes vague route descriptions (like “trend up and right past the white block to the second corner and onto the ridge”). While working outdoor retail, I’ve accepted his well-worn down sleeping bag for washing. I’ve successfully avoided his propositions for climbing and ski trips, I think more out of fear than anything else, as I understand they are enriching experiences in and of themselves. But with no shortage of Beckey Tales, I’ve been able to appreciate his endeavors from the safety of the published word and the stories I’ve heard from many others.

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DOCUMENTING “PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY ON THE ROAD” WITH PETE BROOK

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 Wired.com’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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