A week ago, a deadly mudslide ripped through a small-town of Oso, Washington, resulting in the tragic deaths of at least 21 people. Officials believe 30 residents are still missing, down from a high of 120 people just a few days ago. Life in this part of Washington state has come to a screeching halt. The after effects of the mudslide — flooding of the Stillaguamish River, dozens of homes destroyed, access to surrounding cities cut off — continues to affect daily life. I had to see what it was like on the ground in Darrington, one of the areas closest to the mudslide. Many people in Darrington live and work around where the slide occurred, and if they didn’t have homes there, they know people who do – or in some cases, did. I was impressed by the way the communities have supported one another. I will be returning soon to keep working and exploring and seeing what I can do to tell the stories of the people here.
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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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The streets of Seattle are filled with confetti and shouting tonight as the Seahawks bring home the Vince Lombardi trophy! Their incredible season was capped off by an absurdly effective offensive and defensive plan. What a game. I tried to catch some of the fray in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, where the cheering of Sea….was always met by a resounding HAAAAWKS. What a season and what a night!
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!
Bezos Center for Innovation Launch for Puget Sound Business Journal | Seattle editorial photographer
I had a fun assignment Saturday for the Puget Sound Business Journal to photograph the launch of the Bezos Center for Innovation Friday Oct. 11 at the Museum of History and Industry in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle! I wandered around and grabbed some features before the start of the on-stage interview. MOHAI has been completely revamped in its new location there, and the dedication to detail is impressive. The new exhibits that comprise the Center are fun and interactive — I only wish I could have had more time to really dig through some of them. Maybe next time…