Those wacky folks over at Artslandia came up with the brilliant idea of inviting the who’s who of the holiday stage for one big photo Xmas mashup. And we got to join in. We mixed cocktails for Crumpet from the Santaland Diaries at Portland Center Stage, tempted The Oregon Ballet’s Sugar Plum Fairy with cookies (heck no she didn’t eat any), helped Lucy string up poor old Charlie Brown from Stumptown Stages and put George Bailey, Scrooge and Kris Kringle through the holiday wringer. Then we just added a little fake snow and blasted the Pandora Holiday station to get everyone in the mood. Talk about a holiday Cornucopia. Someone brought their toddler to the set and I sure that child will never look at Christmas the same way. That’s right, changing people’s lives with the power of photography. Here’s wishing all of you a happy non-secular December and a fabulous 2015.
So lucky to have the Oregon Symphony as a client. For the last several years we have had the pleasure of getting a behind the scenes view of the whole shebang. This involves going backstage, annoying audience members with shutter noises, climbing tall ladders, hanging with Carlos, that kind of thing. This year’s marketing involved capturing the magic of the Schnitz with all its amazing architecture and unique historic details, plus the excitement and anticipation of attending the Symphony. We were pretty excited ourselves to have access to all the little secret spaces the concert hall has, and were kept on our toes by the documentary vibe they wanted.
I will go on record as saying that alpacas are adorable. They look like llamas, walk like camels and act like cats, curious and lovable, but not necessarily affectionate. Now the reason I have such first hand alpaca knowledge is because The Latin School of Chicago, a co-educational independent day school for students in k through twelve, recently hired me to shoot a profile and the cover for their Alumni magazine. The man of the hour was ’59 alum Barry Bolewicz, who raises Alpacas and sheep at his EasyGo Farm in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Barry and I had a great time tromping through the fields as I snapped away and asked endless alpaca-related questions.
Me: “How long have you raised them?” ”Have you ever eaten one? What do they taste like.” “What do you use them for?” “There are alpaca shows? That is crazy.”
Barry: “More than 20 years.” ”Yes. Gamey chicken.” “To stud, for fleece, and to show.” “Yes.” “No.”
Photographing the alpacas reminded me a bit of dating. If I ignored them, they would look at me with great interest and immeasurable cuteness. But as soon as I would get near them or try to approach, they got skittish. Probably worried that I was about to press for a LTR.
But luckily all of us were able to work out our commitment issues, the weather held, Barry smiled (eventually) and I spent the day surrounded by adorableness.
Got a call from Portland Monthly Magazine to photography Victory Academy, Oregon’s only year-round school for autistic kids. Which left me feeling rather flattered and excited but also nervous as photographing people with Autism can be tricky and amazing and difficult and wonderful.
No one yet fully understands why autism spectrum disorder occurs. Those with it often exhibit indifference to social engagements, an intent focus on a single object or subject, repetitive motions like rocking and biting themselves, and difficulty with verbal communication, among other traits. But every child on the spectrum—1 in 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—is also distinctly different: some are math geniuses or speed readers, others are unable to utter more than groans.
In my experience, there are many moments of extreme highs and lows when dealing with Autism, and not so much middle ground. Which pretty much summed up my day at the school. Instances of so much unguarded joy and wonder and moments so bittersweet that you immediately burst into tears (ok, maybe that was just me). These were immediately followed by biting and screaming and the incredibly awkward interactions that people on the spectrum are so good at manifesting. I was squeezed, questioned, ignored, hugged, tugged, looked at with great skepticism and with great welcome. It was basically just like being at a family reunion. And that is how Victory shakes out really, you are loved and accepted just the way you are. Or rather I should say; you are loved and accepted especially for the way you are.
Question: How many photos can one take of the same space, using different angles? My answer appears to be at least 4.
As a side note, I am a big fan of downtown McMinnville, it really has that small town, quaint feel, not to mention some great places to eat and shop. Though maybe I’m biased. Carmen also runs a salumeria next door called Fino in Fondo, making Oregon a burgeoning meat empire. I personally just like to say the word salumeria.
I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a town bursting with creativity should have such a plethora of performing arts. Singing, acting, dancing, Portland is well, bursting, with it. And for this year’s Artslandia Performing Arts Guide, NashCO got up close and personal with quite a few of them. We decided it would be cool to craft behind-the-scenes looks for each of the groups we photographed. Which sounds so easy, right? Notice I said craft, not capture. Turns out, creating images that look happened upon is a hell of a lot harder than just happening upon them. But then again they are lit a lot better too. I think I could literally feel my brain working at each assignment: location scouting, art directing, people directing, and then of course, actually pushing the shutter. Let’s just say this project taught us a lot about how to bring an editorial vision to life. Turns out the answer is gesticulating, lots of gesticulating. And duct tape. And bourbon.
So with adventures like that, you can understand why I’ve been dying to do a story on him. Now just needed to find a wordsmith and well, a publication. Ah, technicalities. Luckily the plucky Deena Prichep was able to supply both and got National Public Radio’s The Salt to come along for the ride. We spent the day watching, shooting and interviewing as John took a group of folks from Acorns to Pudding. Apparently this involves lots of grinding, lots of leaching and lots of sugar. The result was warm, sweet, and porridge-like.
Did you know that Southern Oregon is a wine mecca? Yea, me neither until I got a call from the New York Times to spend a few days trolling around Ashland, OR hitting the Rogue, Applegate and Umpqua Valleys. Lots of warm and wine filled welcomes at Kriselle Cellars, Cowhorn WIne, Quady North, and Troon Vineyards. Liz Wan at Serra Vineyards, even left the gates open so we could sneak in after hours to get a little sunset action. And for all those “Glampers” out there (glamping is luxury camping, fyi), Willow-Witt Ranch is a wild, wonderful off-the-grid mountaintop farm with three canvas tent and some quite photogenic goats. Dancin Vineyards has an amazing menu, chickens, and even a fish pond where carp as big as your head will eat from your hand. We were even lucky enough to hit some riverside music and picnicking at Red Lily. People always joke that my job is like going on vacation. Well, sort of. It’s actually just like photographing other people on vacation. Which is still work, but work to feel grateful to have. Especially when there’s a delicious bottle of pinot at the end of it.
Spent a day with Kevin Atchley, co-owner of Portland’s Pine State Biscuits and his lovely gal Laleña Dolby, communications director at Zenger Farm, photographing their adorable pad for Oregon Home Magazine. At only 690-square-foot the duo worked wonders making the place magazine worthy (literally). Think reclaimed wood and thrift stores finds plus a knack for putting pieces together in a way that is both beautiful and original (now why didn’t I think of that…). We finished off the day with a little bourbon and gossip and voila, we now feel lucky to call the couple friends.
Popped over to the Banks Law Office to photograph Robert S. Banks for a New York Times article. Robert was a great guy, and even thought to bring a prop to the shoot (his tres chic Coach brief case). The tone of the article was pretty serious (his client unsuccessfully opposed the removal of her complaint against her former broker whose regulatory file included 41 customer complaints and a job termination!) and so we needed his vibe to match. Luckily, he seemed to have the tough lawyer look down.