Volunteer Work Continues

It all began in 2014 when I volunteered with The Humanity Exchange in Douala, Cameroon to introduce photography to underprivileged children at a youth center. Teaching, especially in a foreign language, was definitely challenging; however, what I lacked in teaching ability, I made up for in artistic creativity as I cataloged my adventures on camera.

My experience in Cameroon exposed me to a new world of photography and inspired me to explore other forms of photography, so much so that soon after my return to the U.S., I was eager to return to Cameroon – this time playing to my strengths and skill as a photographer. In 2015, I teamed up with Love Volunteers to create a photographic library of their projects and beneficiaries in Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Cameroon. As a collection of expressive and compelling images, the library complemented stories from former volunteers to be used in Love Volunteers’ promotional materials. They were so thrilled with my work that they have asked me to come back.

A brief moment inside a man's home in Dakar, Senegal. Love Volunteer project 2015.

A brief moment inside a man's home in Dakar, Senegal. Love Volunteer project 2015.

I'm super excited to announce that in November this year, I'll be visiting Love Volunteers’ many projects in Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, and Honduras to document the work their volunteers are doing and create captivating portraits of the individuals and families who benefit from their programs. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to share my skills with others and to be a part of something so wonderful.

A boy outside his home in Rwanda. Love Volunteer project 2015.

A boy outside his home in Rwanda. Love Volunteer project 2015.

A woman sits on her couch in a refugee camp in Kenya. Love Volunteer project 2015.

A woman sits on her couch in a refugee camp in Kenya. Love Volunteer project 2015.

As a volunteer, I’ll be responsible for my living expenses in each country for the next five weeks. The cost alone would be enough to give anyone pause about undertaking this adventure, so it goes without saying that this trip could not have been possible without the dozens of clients who scheduled shoots with me this year. To all my friends and clients, thank you for your continued support over the years from my initial trip to Cameroon in 2014 to my subsequent return trips. 

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you!

A child and volunteer in Kenya. Love Volunteer Project 2015. 

A child and volunteer in Kenya. Love Volunteer Project 2015. 

 

 

Return To Africa

I am pleased to share with you that in November and December of 2015 I will be traveling to Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Cameroon, where I will partner with Love Volunteers to build a photographic library of volunteers at work, project beneficiaries, and local attractions. As a collection that will include captivating, expressive, compelling, and visually stunning images – standards that you have come to expect of my work – the library will complement individual stories from former volunteers to serve as a powerful marketing tool.

A woman carries her baby in Rwanda.

A woman carries her baby in Rwanda.

A moto taxi in Douala, Cameroon.

A moto taxi in Douala, Cameroon.

I am thrilled to be given this opportunity to realize my lifelong desire to foster my creativity. This could not be a more opportune time to challenge my artistic ingenuity by shooting in remote rural areas in Africa, where “shooting on location” takes on a whole new meaning.

The magic selfie stick.

The magic selfie stick.

Last year, I volunteered with The Humanity Exchange in Douala, Cameroonwhere I had the opportunity to introduce photography to children at a youth center. The challenge of instructing in French notwithstanding, the children’s depictions of daily life, narrated through unique lens perspectives, inspired me to catalog my own adventures on camera.

The experience of recording my travels through film exposed me to a new world of photography, and inspired me to explore other forms of photography. Indeed, since my return from Cameroon, I have sought new opportunities to venture into and to further develop my artistic expression.

A few of the photography students at Les Maisons des Jeunes in Douala, Cameroon 2014.

A few of the photography students at Les Maisons des Jeunes in Douala, Cameroon 2014.

Look out for my travel journal, where you can discover captivating scenes of rural Africa with me on a journey that will most certainly redefine my creativity. My current trajectory could not have been possible without your continuing support over the years, and I thank you for embarking on this journey with me. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you upon my return.

Les Motos in Bamenda, Cameroon

Les Motos in Bamenda, Cameroon

After a performance at Les Maisons des Jeunes, the children rush to go back to school.

After a performance at Les Maisons des Jeunes, the children rush to go back to school.

Children watching a theatre performance at Les Maisons des Jeunes in Douala.

Children watching a theatre performance at Les Maisons des Jeunes in Douala.

Children jump for joy in Rwanda.

Children jump for joy in Rwanda.

European Vacation

I decided not to bring my camera on my summer vacation but instead opted to just shoot all my vacation pics with my iPhone6.

Gopher From 'The Love Boat' Returns!

Fred came to my studio after his New York agent recommended that he work with me. Fred needed updated actor headshots and and couldn’t have been a more unassuming and down to earth guy! We got to chatting a little about his career and he told me he used to work in LA. I love to hear people’s stories so I asked him what type of work he did out there, assuming film. He told me he actually was in TV and did a little shot for a while. Curious, I asked him if it was a show I might know. He casually replied, “Oh yeah, a little show called The Love Boat.” Blank stare. The.frickin.Love.Boat?!!

Turns out that not only was Fred “Gopher” on the Love Boat for nine seasons but he was a member of Congress, College Professor, TV and Radio host, former President/Captain/CEO of Goodwill and is a Harvard grad (!) What?! Who knew?!

Of course Fred didn’t mention any of this during the shoot (my assistant looked up his bio for this post). He wasn’t about bragging, just getting the best shots and his years of experience in front of the camera showed–he knew exactly what to do to get the shot! He really impressed me and I could tell he was a seasoned professional in front of the camera.

Fred and his agent were thrilled with his photos and he started booking work with his photos before they were even retouched! Score!

 

Vacation: To Shoot Or Not To Shoot?

When I go on vacation I am always at a crossroads between being a vacationer and being a photographer. On one hand I want to bring my camera and shoot everything I see. I want to dive into the world of creativity and play all day long with shapes, color and textures. But then I end up being and thinking like a photographer, which bothers everyone around me. My mind is occupied with looking and spotting great things to shoot. I'm continuously looking for what I can shoot next.

Then there is always the option of NOT bringing the camera. The option of looking and seeing my experience without thinking about f-stops or shutter speeds. But, then I get this sort of anxiety of not being able to capture the things I see. Yes, I'm enjoying a nice relaxing time, but I always find myself saying, "Wow, look at that, I wish I had my camera." I could always just take my iPhone, which I've done in the past but the experience just isn't the same, and usually ends up with me thinking like a photographer again, not a person relaxing on vacation.

Nevertheless, on a recent trip to Hawaii, I played Mr. Photographer and I got rather snappy with my Sony NEX5 16mm 2.8 toy. Luckily, I was with another photographer, so I was easily forgiven. Here are a few of my favorites.

HAWAII
HAWAII

Like To French?

Cedrick Dbn came to me from Paris. Well, not literally. He happened to be in town visiting from France for a week and really needed some updated images for his modeling agency. Photographers in Paris are a dime a dozen, Cedrick wanted an American photographer to shoot his images because we often have a different eye. He requested a European style (obviously) with the clothing, but with an urban edge. I knew just the stylist, my good friend Will Lawry couldn’t say no. I purposely choose Georgetown as the shoot location because the forecast called for rain. I knew an ideal spot where rain wouldn’t even be noticed... under the K Street bridge.

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This was a very small shoot. Cedrick. Will. My D3/1.4 85mm and me. No reflectors. No lights. No rain. It was a bit of a tough shoot in that Cedrick's English isn't perfect. Soooo shouting, “look to the left” or “chin down” proved to be difficult. My French is pretty much limited to saying, “oui oui, stupid American” while pretending to ash a cigarette. Speaking of trying to be somebody I'm not, whenever we get cool clothing at a shoot I always like to try it on. You know, just to see if I can make the clothing look as good as the model does. Of course, it never plays out that way and I always end up looking inferior. See below.

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After the shoot was over and we lost daylight, we headed over to the studio for a few clean body shots, something Cedrick was very familiar with. Speaking of body, his is offensively perfect with seemingly little effort. While breaking from the shoot, he ate exactly two bowls of dry Fruit Loops, 3 pieces of bread and a handful of Smarties. Not to mention the Burger King he told me he had the previous day. Life is just not fair. C’est la vie.

Overall this was a very smooth and easy shoot. I think it proves that you can do a lot with little resources. A good model, great styling, a little planning and you’ve got yourself a shoot!

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UPDATE:

 Just got a thank you email from Cedrick. Found out that his agency loved the images and he just got booked for a Calvin Klein job. Not too bad! I have also decided I’ll be visiting the Eiffel Tower in January and will probably shoot some models while there. Need to visit RosettaStone.com, quick.

Below are some of the shots Cedrick added to this portfolio.

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8 Inch Nails & Dead People

Most people wouldn't guess that one of my favorite places to hang out in is a graveyard, they are always quiet, peaceful, calm (unless of course there is a funeral going on - then lots of crying).  Most of the crew were pretty creepied out by the concept of shooting in a graveyard, but I was excited about it! What can I say, I like things that are strange, unusual and fascinating.

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This shoot had a few firsts for me. I had never shot in a graveyard and before it was over our model Leanne, was laying in an open grave. At the same time, I was taking photos while sitting on a dead guy's tombstone. Hope he didn't mind.

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The vision of the shoot was deathly, with hair messy and disheveled. Vintagey, ghostly fabrics were draping from the model. And the makeup was to be fairly clean. I wanted to keep the lighting really simple for two reasons. 1… I'm lazy. And 2… we didn't have permission to shoot there, so we needed a quick escape should something go awry. We took a risk with this one because there was no backup plan or location.

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Call time was 5 am. NO ONE's favorite time of the day. But, after five years working on a morning radio show, 4 am wake up calls were not new to me. We arranged to have these fabulous 8 inch nails put on the model. We were all super excited about it! However, the nail tech called at 5:15 and said she wasn't coming. Actually, no, she texted me. Ick. So the fabulous assistant Jackie had to rush to CVS and get acrylic nails, and paint them black. Quickly… and in a graveyard. Happy Halloween Jackie!

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 It's no surprise that interesting characters would pop up at a graveyard. But, always a great opportunity! While shooting, we met a gentleman (maybe my soulmate?) taking his daily walk through the graveyard with a beautiful white Great Dane. I thought the dog would be a great element in the shot and the owner was cool with shooting. The dog?… not so much! There are probably 50 outakes of an uncooperative canine. Eeehh, another shoot maybe.

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Though I only had 3 days to edit and retouch the images, I was happy with the end result. I loved creating something new in a place with so much history. We were shooting next to tombstones that were hundreds of years old! Aside from the nail snag (get it?), the rest of the elements really came together--great team, amazing weather, strong clothing and an unusual and fascinating location.

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City. Beach. iPhones.

Miami is one of my favorite cities! It's a city, it's a beach, it's relaxed, it's energetic, all at the same time. I promise I could lay on the beach (in the shade of course) for hours. I was down there shooting some fashion editorial photos and video for Explore Modeling and I asked some of the photo assistants to get snappy with the camera, and by camera I mean iPhone. This trip was actually one of the toughest trips I have done in a long time. Just before the trip I injured my back (doing something stupid) and was really having a hard time getting around. The crew were absolutely wonderful and didn't seem to mind me hobbling around or laying on my back in between shots. Luckily they didn't get any shots of that!

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Model Test: Alex

I just had the pleasure of shooting STOMP artist Alex. This was a seriously photoshopped job!  I had to shoot everything on simple white in order to mix the plain and solid colors of the fashion with the crazy backgrounds. I used a bare bulb from my Profoto D1. I then had to cut out Alex from the white and create the patterns in Photoshop. Hair & MU: James Cornwell. Styling: Apuje Kalu

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MAKEOVER - TIM COBURN STYLE!

The top modeling agency in DC, The Artist Agency, came to me needing a real makeover on a cute 17 y/o girl. The owner of the agency wanted something updated for her hair and a look that would make her stand out. So of course I got my best hair and makekup talent, James Cornwell, and we went to work! Here is the before... and after!

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model portfolio, model testing
model portfolio, model testing

Expecting The Unexpected

Life works in funny ways sometimes. Just before this shoot, I got off the phone with a potential intern. We were having a conversation about the type of photography he is doing now, where he wants to go and what he wants to learn. At the moment, he's shooting a lot of photojournalism for the military. We were discussing how in photojournalism, you have to be prepared for anything! You are sort of a fly on the wall, capturing what you see, as you see it, in an interesting way. But, doing what I do, a lot of the work is in the prep. Organizing models, hair, makeup, setting up the shots, lights, direction, etc. It's less about capturing the moment than it is creating it yourself. Or so I thought! I had my vision down pat! Two hard rim lights and a main light with a soft box and a grid, wide angle, dunking the ball. Simple enough. I've done this lighting setup only a thousand times. Upon arriving at the shoot I realized that the location I scouted out, didn't have power. Ok. This wasn't a big enough shoot for a generator. Not that I have one anyway. Not a huge deal. I did bring my Profoto Pro7b just in case. At least this will give me two lights on battery power. So a quick lighting change and we setup the first shot. I get a few frames taken when I look over at the Pro7b and notice it's smoking. Yes, literally smoking is pouring out of the battery pack. We wait around for a few minutes and the thing is popping and kind of... melting? Ouch, this is going to be expensive. So, we go from a 3 light setup to a no light setup... talk about unexpected. But, I have the model here and I want to get some shots, but we're loosing light, it's 7pm. I have the model run around the court just playing basketball. "Just pretend as if you are playing with the best in the world," I say. Here I am, a fly on the wall, just shooting away at what I see. It has been an extremely long time since I have shot like this. It was kind of liberating actually.

The best part of the shoot was my VERY poor direction. I know little about sports and kept calling the hoop a goal and asking him what it was called when you push the ball to another play with both hands, passing? In the end only one of the shots used a flash and I got some of my favorites shots in my portfolio. I can't wait for that new intern to start... I'm sure I'll learn a lot from him. Time to go fix that battery.

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Washington Life Fashion Editorial Video

Watch me shoot for the Spring 2011 issue of Washington Life. These videos always make me laugh. I love how left out the part where the police came and told us to stop shooting. We had to change out game plan a little bit. Oops!