This spring has kept me hopping and shooting a lot of new editorial and commercial assignments. I can’t share them all yet, but one came in late last month (for the first time ever via LinkedIn) to photograph Bill Gates being interviewed for a large Italian newspaper called La Stampa. The paper is launching a new series about global issues and the wide-ranging interview covered a lot of ground. I was allowed to shoot the first and last five minutes of the interview, for which La Stampa Editor-in-Chief Mario Calabresi flew in from Turin. It was a little surreal to be inside Bill’s office at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and hear him speaking about everything from who his heroes are to what lies ahead for the newspaper industry. I did my best to be low-key and inconspicuous as I moved around and tried out different angles. Bill never acknowledged me, but I suspect he is very used to this kind of thing. At one point I was trying to line up a shot from his profile side and almost sat down in his chair — I caught myself and thought better of it. It was one of those crazy days planned for a week and all over in a matter of minutes, I am just happy to see it ran in print today.
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In April, I did a shoot about the turnaround at Brooks Running company for Footwear News, a Condé Nast trade publication dealing with the footwear industry. The story is about how after 100 years in business, Brooks CEO Jim Weber has managed to overhaul the company from the brink of bankruptcy into a company that sold a half billion dollars in products last year. It was no easy feat. It required dumping entire product lines, launching new ones, and hiring executives from visionary brands to come work in new divisions at Brooks. Over what became a very long day, I photographed Brooks CEO Jim Weber, as well as Shane Downey, head of the new heritage line, Pete Humphrey and Eric Rohr in the Brooks Running testing lab in the Eastlake neighborhood, and several other employees for a lookback quote section about their experiences and memories at Brooks. The magazine cover story published last month and I am excited to share the tear sheets! It’s always a sweet assignment when I get the chance to photograph and meet people who do interesting work in interesting places.
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I had a fun assignment a few months ago that was recently published. I traveled a few hours south to the Peninsula area town of Shelton, Washington to photograph Mayor Gary Cronce. I wanted to capture his connection to the town, where he also runs a jewelry business, and so my assistant and I roamed with minimal equipment and just walked around. I loved the bright colors of some walls along a back alley and was struck by the visual starkness of some of the area’s scenic landmarks, like the train parked on Main Street.
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For the March issue of Northwest Leaf I got the opportunity to photograph Martin Nickerson, the owner of Northern Cross Collective, Bellingham, Washington’s longest-running medical marijuana dispensary — open since 2011. I’ve photographed him a bunch over the years for various stories. This time around, it’s because the Washington state Department of Revenue contends that Nickerson owes more than $50,000 in unpaid taxes related to the sale of marijuana. “This is medicine, you can’t tax medicine,” Nickerson told Northwest Leaf in February, during a tour of one of several marijuana grows under his control.
Before working on the inside grow room portraits, I was drawn to the stormy weather and open fields surrounding Martin’s property. The wind was whipping and cold, but the light and color of the sky was so striking. I quickly threw a light on a stand and convinced Wes, the editor, to hold on.
“I know accounting may sound boring,” Harkley said, “But a business can’t operate and serve patients unless it’s making money to pay the operating bills… I realized that I could use my accounting skills to help these businesses succeed. If they succeed here in Washington, then it’s a model for the rest of the country and it’s also another “chink in the armor” of the drug war. I think that’s what has got me really excited, because I can do what I love and at the same time I can actually help some really interesting entrepreneurs. You can’t serve patients or recreational customers efficiently unless you’re following all the guidelines, so give me all your boring stuff and I’ll do it so you can focus on more important things.”
Attorney Adam Ballout of the ABC Law Group in Everett has worked to protect parental rights for medical Cannabis patients in Washington since 2011. “Family law recognizes environment above all,” Ballout said.
“Do not make it easy for them. Keep your medicine out of reach of children, and make sure that you respect it, and that it isn’t affecting parenting. Mentally you should always be prepared to think ‘What if I had to give a walk-through today?’ There shouldn’t be a bong in the living room, or plants growing and smelling in a way that affects children in the house.”
Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert & City of Seattle Director of Electronic Communications Sabra Schneider for Cityvision Magazine | Seattle editorial photographer
I had the pleasure last month of shooting a couple assignments for Cityvision Magazine’s Feb. 2014 issue. The theme is how local governments are putting more data online in a move towards more openness and community building.
The first shoot took place at Arlington Municipal Airport to help convey how Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert is an amateur pilot (fun fact: that’s her plane and she flew herself in for the shoot after having lunch on Whidbey Island with friends). My friend and fellow shooter Chris Wilson gave me a hand setting up a few lights on the tarmac, which I got to drive onto! Felt a little bit like North by Northwest as I drove in between planes…I guess I can check that one off the bucket list. We also shot back at City Hall for a few more options for the editors.
The next week, another assignment for the same issue came through and I photographed City of Seattle Director of Electronic Communications Sabra Schneider at her offices overlooking downtown Seattle. Sabra and her team are working to find more ways to put more data online, so that city residents can access the data that is publicly available to them. It’s an interesting new time for the city and I think it’s great that they are embracing new mediums to keep transparency on the up and up.
Tip of the hat to my friend Kai-Huei Yau who shot a story in Walla Walla as part of the same issue on page 16.
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Ever since I first covered the Seattle Elvis Invitational back in 2009 when it was smaller and staged at the (sadly defunct) Club Motor, I have wanted to make portraits of these amateur Elvises — Elvii, if you prefer. The tribute artists come from around the state to perform their best interpretations of Elvis’ greatest hits, from his punky start in the 50s to the slinkier numbers in the 60s, and they look and sound absolutely incredible doing it. They were natural subjects for portraits, and I strived to create pictures that spoke to their personality as much as their performances. I was given approval from the organizers to set up a small photo booth area in between the dressing rooms and the stage, so most of the participants would have to pass by me. I also made some fun shots of the dapper attendees who came dressed in their sweet rockabilly duds. The event takes place at the Experience Music Project in downtown Seattle, the Frank Gehry-designed musical history museum that is well worth a visit. This personal assignment was a great start to 2014 and I cannot wait to unveil some very cool projects lined up for this year!
A few of my Seattle Elvis Invitational portraits appeared in The Stranger in print and online Jan. 22, 2014.
The Year in Pot – Marijuana legalization photos in Washington state | Seattle editorial photographer
Washington’s legalization of marijuana under Initiative 502 has dominated my assignment requests this year.
I am so grateful for wonderful clients like Northwest Leaf, The Daily Telegraph of London, Barcroft Media, The UK Sun, and Seattle Weekly, that have commissioned or licensed marijuana work this year! A whole lot of dramatic changes are still to come, like the new recreational pot stores opening, new big businesses popping up, and the impact of all this on the community and the alike. Washington, alongside Colorado, are going to be the battlegrounds for a radical paradigm shift, and I hope to have an opportunity to document it as much as I did this incredible year.
Thanks to all my friends and colleagues for their continuing support of my work on this story.
Onward and upward in 2014!