It was such a treat to photograph Asher & Rosa’s Wedding on Friday, June 27th at the Basin Harbor Club. I’ve known Asher & Rosa since high school, making it extra special for me to photograph their wedding. Here are some of my favorite images from the day. To view the full gallery from the day go here!
I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be showing my Food 4 Farmers photographs June 28th – July 31st at the Karma Birdhouse Gallery at Maglianero Cafe! I’ll be displaying 26 images from the series, and if you are in the Burlington, VT area, you are invited to the gallery opening from 5-7pm on Friday, July 18th.
I feel very honored that Rick Peyser & Bill Mares will be signing their book, Brewing Change: Behind the Bean at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, at the event. This is especially significant to me, as this book inspired me to get involved with Food 4 Farmers.
I hope to see you there!
Sara is my oldest friend, and she’s been a wonderful person to photograph over the years. We’d been talking about doing a photoshoot focusing on her tattoos for a while, and last weekend we had a perfect location. My family’s summer home sits on Lake Champlain in South Hero, Vermont and, when the water dropped for the summer, huge trees and driftwood were washed up on the rocks. The combination of drift wood, South Hero and dusk, made for a perfect scenario.
Sara’s tattoos are beautiful and very personal. The tattoos above are in memory of her brother Zeke, who passed away two years ago.
Sara and I have matching tattoos of the silhouette of birds in flights. Sara’s on her side, mine on my shoulder blade.
This past spring I purchased a 105mm lens, which I used exclusively for this photoshoot. It has an incredibly sharp focus, and I’m very happy with it. The 105mm is a macro “prime” lens. Prime lenses are challenging to use, because in order to make the image you want, you have to physically move yourself for the desired subject to be in the frame. This can be stressful if you don’t have a lot of time to make an image, but I find using prime lenses keeps me on my toes for my composition, focus and attention to detail. A challenge and benefit of using the 105mm is that I am, generally, going to be quite far away from the subject. Sometimes I like being close to the person I’m photographing, but this lens forces me to be a certain distance apart. The benefit of forced distance is the person does not feel crowded. It changes the interaction between photographer and subject.
It’s been important to me to photograph Sara because she is my oldest friend and kindred spirit. Through our photoshoots, I’ve been able to document the elusive quality of our friendship strengthening and changing over the years, as well as our own transformations as we grow older. Now that we’ve done so many photoshoots together, the whole process is very natural when I’m making images. I’m very lucky to have such an amazing friend.
Spring has arrived and I have been itching to make some more images for Anisocoria. This winter I’ve done a couple photoshoots for the series, but most of my ideas have needed an environment warm enough to stand in for more than 10 minutes at a time. But now that the weather is pleasant, I’m really excited and I’ve filled up my schedule with folks to interview! Stay tuned to see portraits of everyone I know.
“Anisocoria” is based on the idea that each image is a re-staging or reimagining of a crux moment in a person’s life, and I’ve been reflecting to try and identify some more moments in my life that have been important to me. One moment for me that I decided was important to create an image about, is a decision I made when I was 14, the decision to stop the way I was thinking about my body.
Similar to many girls, I was totally insecure about myself as an adolescent. I’ve kept a journal since late middle school, and reading some of those early entries can be pretty scary – I felt so bad about myself and was just miserable about it all. And this was something that I remember hearing from ALL of my girl friends, even though we were all different shapes and sizes, and at some point I just got tired of it all. I realized that I spent a significant amount of time every day thinking unhelpful thoughts about myself, or listening to my friends say the same about themselves. So I decided I would stop thinking the way I did. Every time the thought “I feel fat” would pop into my head I would stop, actually THINK about it, and tell myself to let go of that idea. And it worked. It just took some time.
What I ended up realizing was that the idea of “fat” had very little to do with fitness or literal fat on my body. The thought “I am fat” was really a thought of worthlessness. By thinking about at my body differently, I was actually changing the way I felt about my inner self. This is not a lesson someone else can give you by showing you their desire for your body, it has to be something that comes from you. Self acceptance is a life long journey, but the decision I made to start thinking about my body differently at age 14 was definitely a life changing moment for me.
I wanted to stage the scene inside, surrounded by plants, looking in a mirror and experiment with reflecting light. Shining sunlight back on myself seemed like a perfect visual metaphor to show self love, but I will admit it was pretty uncomfortable. I have really sensitive eyes, so I was basically blinding myself during this photoshoot.
I think the last two are the strongest, but I am having trouble choosing which one to use for the series. Which do you think is the most compelling? Let me know!
Last April I went to NYC to visit friends and go to the AIPAD photography show, and I’m pretty sure this might become a lifelong tradition. AIPAD is such a thrill – the world’s best photography galleries display their best photographs. Most people at the show attend to purchase these photographs, anything from $1,000 – $60,000, and then there all of the photography geeks who wander around drooling.
It’s one of the best ways to discover new photographers, meet artists, and see what is happening in the world of photography. I saw so many incredible pieces of work. This year I feel in love with the self portraits of Jen Davis. Her ability to show emotion, her attention to color and light, and sheer bravery blew me away. I was able to look through her book and I am absolutely going to get one as soon as possible.
Yep, I’m definitely going again next year. Of course, what would a trip to NYC be without a photoshoot? I interview my friend Jen a couple months ago, and we finally had an opportunity to shoot while I was in the city.
When I interviewed Jen for Anisocoria we talked about how she has rediscovered her creativity and confidence in herself through moving to NYC. Jen joined a choir after being in the city for a couple months and this has been a hugely positive change in her creativity output. Through singing in the choir she has felt a big change in herself. In planning for this photoshoot, I wanted to shoot the scene at a karaoke bar, where Jen and her friends would be singing on the stage and I’d be a spectator. I was picturing a 90s grunge scene.
This photoshoot definitely went differently that I was planning. The karaoke bar we went to ended up looking entirely different than I had planned for. Cool bar, but it was very dark with no stage. After experimenting with several different scenarios to plan the shot, I realized I wouldn’t be able to get a good exposure without lowering my shutter speed to 1/10 of a second – which meant anyone who moved in the frame would blur in the image. So I basically ditched my original idea and just tried to make an interesting image. It’s different than what I was originally going for, but I’m still glad I did the shoot and made an image! Sometimes having all your plans change can be really helpful, because it forces you to improvise and make it work.
I decided to focus on a moment when you are waiting to perform – a little nervous and a little drunk. I really liked the blue-purple light that was shining in the hallway, so I decided to stage the scene from the seats. Big thank you to Jen for modeling and sharing her story with me!
Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending the day with The Gang of Thieves and photographing their album release show at ArtsRiot in Burlington, VT. In the past year, the band fundraised $10,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to work with a grammy award winning producer, Michael Rosen, to make an incredible album, Thunderfunk. This day was the culmination of an insane amount of work on the part of all the band members, and I felt so lucky to be included on such an important day for the gang. See the full gallery from the day here and you can buy the album here.
One thing that makes this band unique is the fact that they silkscreen all of their own t-shirts. They were in full production mode, and I was really impressed with everyone who was making these shirts. Silkscreening is a very detail oriented art form, and the whole team came together to put on various inks, bake and fold the shirts.
Throughout the day I took portraits of the band members.
Michael Reit – Lead Vocals/Electric Violin
Tobin Salas – Bass/Vocals
Nate Reit – Trombone/Vocals
Nick Wood – Guitar/Vocals
Lenny Sokol – Guitar/Zen Guru
Devin Massarone – Drums/Vocals
Aron Meinhardt – Videographer
And, of course, I took some photos of the band.
Sound check ended up having the most amazing light streaming through the windows.
The Lynguistic Civilians performed while the rest of the band sold merchandise and got ready for the show.
I was very impressed by these performers and enjoyed photographing their energy.
Now go buy Thunderfunk. It’s $12 and will be funk for your soul.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was very lucky this year to travel to Seattle with Food 4 Farmers to attend the SCAA to present my photographs. I selected what I consider the best 40 images from Nicaragua and printed them for a portfolio. Below is a digital copy of the portfolio for those of you who didn’t get a chance to check it out!
The SCAA is always a fantastic event, just the sheer number of fascinating and enthusiastic people attending the event makes it impossible to have a bad time, and this year did not disappoint. It was great to work at the booth with some truly amazing women – Sophie Conway, Charlene Farmer, Janice Nadworny and Marcela Pino.
In keeping with tradition of last year’s event, Food 4 Farmers had an Ice Cream social with some special celebrity scoopers – Rick Peyser & Kayd Whalen! These two were later replaced by Sophie Conway and Marcela Pino!
Thank you to all our fantastic scoopers and to everyone who stopped by to get some Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream! FairTrade International actually sponsored another Ice Cream Social at their booth the next day and helped fundraise for Food 4 Farmers! Big thank you to FairTrade International.
Marcela Pino gave a talk at the Sustainability Lectures and did an incredible job!
The SCAA is attended by about 10,000 people, and I was able to snap a couple photos of the event as I walked the floor. This represents probably about 0.5% of what was happening this year.
It was an exciting and busy weekend in Seattle! Last week I photographed the album release party for a funk rock band, The Gang of Thieves, and I had Cocoa Mocha stuck in my head the entire weekend! This was actually quite helpful because the whole event was very high-energy, and, even with the endless supply of coffee, music works just as well.
As usual, I decided to take a self portrait to reflect on the experience.
The SCAA was very very busy for me, and I found myself quickly swept up in attending events and parties, sharing stories about Food 4 Farmers, and making connections with people. By the end of every night I was socially exhilarated to meet so many interesting people, but, by the time I finally got back to the quiet of the hotel room, silence felt a little shocking.
In these quiet moments I would meditate on why I was at SCAA – yes, to connect with people and assist Food 4 Farmers – but the purpose of doing ALL of this is to help coffee farmers live a more fulfilling life. That is what Food 4 Farmers is about, and this is what I want to contribute to. The SCAA is incredibly important event for developing relationships, but the distance between the coffee farmer, the consumer, and where I fit somewhere in the middle, felt simultaneously out of reach and yet somehow tangible.
But this is the nature of the coffee industry, it is a business that attempts to bridge the gap between bean and cup, between farmer and consumer.
I’m excited to announce that I will be going to show my photographs alongside Food 4 Farmers at SCAA (the Specialty Coffee Association of America) in Seattle this year! SCAA Expo is the biggest coffee event of the year, and the vendors range from coffee retailers to roasters to restaurants to non-profits. For those who work in the coffee industry, this is the place to be. I’ve been to the event several times because my father is a coffee expert and I’ve been able to tag along with him in the past.
I’m especially excited this year because this will be the first time I will be formally showing my Food 4 Farmers photographs, and I could not think of a more perfect event to show them. I’ll be working at the Food 4 Farmers booth Friday through Sunday, talking with people about my experience in Nicaragua and showing a portfolio of the trip, as well as selling photographs.
SCAA also used a portrait I took of Spencer Turner for one of their promos this year.
In preparing for this event, I’ve been reflecting on the time I spent in Nicaragua. It was a challenging experience personally, professionally and linguistically, but I loved every minute of it. I was traveling with Marcela Pino, a co-founder of Food 4 Farmers, and we spent a lot of time together over two weeks. While I was sometimes on my own for a particular photo shoot, I was often traveling with Marcela and was able to observe her work. Traveling with Marcela was so inspiring; she was incredibly warm and connected with people on a very personal level. Watching Marcela helped me push myself to connect with as many people as I could in Nicaragua, even though I felt out of my element. At the end of our trip I interviewed Marcela, and I wanted to share that interview here.
One-on-One with Marcela Pino
J: You worked for Grounds for Health for five years, and now you are one of the founders of Food 4 Farmers. These two non-profits both focus on health and increasing the standard of living in coffee-growing communities. What does coffee represent to you?
M: I see coffee as a connector. It allows resources to travel from one place to another. Through coffee I’ve been able to get to know the people who produce coffee and learn about their farming, agriculture, activities, and what the land means to them. Often people see coffee as separate from origin, and my job is to help communicate to the industry and consumers, where people do not know the story of the coffee producer, that the two are intertwined. I work to bring the resulting financial and organizational resources to the people who grow the coffee.
J: You’ve been around the coffee industry for 10 years. How have you seen the industry change?
M: It has been interesting. There are two big things happening. The first is that a lot of companies are becoming conglomerates, and they own many of the steps of the trade, which makes it more difficult for small growers. The second is a lot of emerging young companies, with fresh ideas and perspectives that are bringing a different direction. We’ll see what the future holds!
J: What would be your advice for a consumer looking to buy their coffee responsibly?
M: It’s always good to do a little research. A number of companies and organizations have come up with schemes to help producers keep a larger proportion of the revenue from coffee. Also, If the coffee you are buying is specialty coffee, it’s much more likely that the farmers are getting better prices than those growing other coffees you might get in a can from a supermarket.
J: For those looking to learn more about the coffee world, is there a book or movie you would recommend?
M: Rick Peyser and Bill Mares wrote a great book on Rick’s experience in the coffee industry, Brewing Change. It’s a story of how he found himself where he is now as Director of Social Advocacy at Green Mountain Coffee. Another book, Brewing Justice, reviews the history of fair trade. And, of course, After the Harvest does a great job of depicting the reality in Mesoamerica as if focuses on chronic seasonal hunger.
J: To bring us back to Food 4 Farmers, you interviewed a family in Nicaragua and they were going through a difficult time. Could you talk a little about your experience talking to them?
M: It was very humbling. I don’t experience the same difficulties they do, so I sometimes find it difficult to ask people about what they are going through when it is such an intimate subject. In this particular case, the family was eating only a few items in their regular diet, and eating smaller portions. This family had an eight year old and a six year old, and it’s tough to know these kids were going hungry. And yet, it’s always surprising when I am talking with people going through this, they still seem to be very happy people. For them, hunger is part of life – it’s not an obstacle to their happiness. They have strong spirits and they are very joyful people.
J: As part of your work for F4F you often talk with people in difficult situations. How do you cope with that emotionally?
M: I’m Buddhist, so I internalize it and try to integrate my feelings in my regular life. I ask myself what else I can do, given what I have, to improve people’s lives. I know I have a limited reach, living in another country, but I still do as much as I can.
J: Do you feel your organization has been making a difference?
M: Yes, I do! It’s hard to explain, because the work we do has long-term positive effects and is based on building relationships and trust. We are a young organization, so we are still building our program. Food security is a big issue, because many farmers consider the “thin months” of seasonal hunger a way of life, not a problem, but now the farmers we work with are thinking, “maybe there is something we can do about this” – they have hope that they do not have to suffer.
Throughout our process, we ask people to give us feedback, and I’ve seen a lot of positive change at each step. Our collaborative work empowers people and presents them with ways they can solve problems. I remember after one workshop, a farmer in Colombia came up to me and said, “I feel that we should all go back to our farms and look at things differently.”
J: I was so impressed with the change I saw in the women after the workshop in Nicaragua. They seemed so excited and empowered.
M: Absolutely. As members of a co-op they are already educated, and they learned a lot. The general manager, Fatima Ismael, told me that two women in the workshop who were participating a lot, hardly spoke when they first joined the co-op. And now they are among the most outspoken members.
J: What is the most difficult part of your job?
M: When you start a non-profit you often focus on the mission, but making time for organizational development is just as important. Finding funding for the organizational work is not easy, because people want to hear about results, they may not be as excited about building systems – but systems are really important, that’s how things get done. It takes time, and so we have to work harder to find those with more of an interest in startups.
Another obstacle is coordinating with so many people. Since we’re designed as a collaborative organization, we need a team to complete our comprehensive, long-term projects. Our program brings a lot of people with different skills together, often in different countries, and everyone needs to communicate and work together. Logistically, it can be challenging.
J: How do you think your being a Costa Rican and a woman has affected your work?
M: Generally, people see me as a Latina, and my background has been helpful in many ways, especially because we work with so many different people from the north and south. I am able to bridge certain cultural gaps. If I were an American it would not be impossible to do the things I do now, but it would be more difficult.
J: And as a woman?
M: It’s my responsibility to teach both women and men in Latin American communities that there are many ways that women can improve themselves, and I can help break down gender inequality. I also encourage women who are doing important work to continue.
That said, men can also have that connection. When I was with Grounds for Health, we were doing a three-day training with a large group of women, when the male general manager came in. As is custom, the women wouldn’t look him in the eye. His job was to address and welcome the women, but they weren’t looking at him, and then he did something really good. He said, “I want to apologize to you, because we haven’t taken care of you the way we should have, we haven’t given you the positions we should have, and which you deserve.” And then I could see all the women start to make eye contact.
The machismo culture is so engrained in some rural areas, I don’t want to try and break it; I just want to show that there are other possibilities and perspectives.
J: What are your long-term hopes for Food 4 Farmers?
M: I hope the approach we’re building can be replicated in many more coffee-growing communities. I’m convinced that diversifying livelihoods can develop the rural areas in ways that agriculture cannot do alone.
J: Six years ago I interviewed you and I asked you, “If you could change anything about the world, what would you do?” And you said, “to infuse the water with trust.” What would you do now?
M: Now, I would infuse the water with something that would open people’s hearts.
See why she is inspiring? She is an amazing woman. I’m off to Seattle tomorrow, so check back in soon to hear about the event. It should be a very caffeinated trip, but thankfully I have a lot of practice!
There is an unspoken rule when traveling on public transportation: keep to yourself and keep quiet. I’ve lived in smaller communities for the majority of my life (Burlington, VT and Saratoga Springs, NY) and I’ve found that people look each other in the eye more often in these small communities. Whenever I’m in a big city, I feel the lack of engagement like fresh snow, everything is covered in a thin layer of concealment, but concealment that could easily be brushed away. I decided I’d try an experiment and break the silent rule. I approached people waiting for the T or in transit and asked them if I could take their portrait.
I would guess about 50% of the people said yes, and those who declined were very nice about saying no. Actually, I went into this expecting much worse. Of those who said yes, I could tell that some were uncomfortable in front of the camera while others were very relaxed.
I love these girls – they were really funny!
The image below is one of my favorite photographs from this day. Something about her pose and gaze felt very familiar. Mostly I love that she is oblivious to the young girl in the background who is covered in blotches of colored powder from the Holi festival that was happening nearby – there is always something going on in big cities.
What amazed me was once I had engaged with someone (and proved to them that I was not crazy), people were very kind, real and funny! It’s a little magical – the transition between seeing a person go from completely in their own world to smiling and chatting with me.
I’m sending out a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who let me spend a little time with them, you were all so kind to let me take a portrait. If you like the image of yourself, feel free to use it for social media or anything personal, just please credit me or if you are on facebook you can tag my facebook page.
We live in a time when we have the ability to document almost every aspect of our lives, but when does the documentation become more important than participation? I’ve always been someone who processes through various medias – I’ve even kept a journal since I was 12 (some of that should never be read again, wow was I annoying) – but as smart phones have become dominant, it seems like people sometimes hide behind their documentation to avoid having a connection. As a photographer, I am very aware of the documenting and image-making I conduct in my life. The idea of bringing my camera with me everywhere is very tempting, but if I bring my camera I know that, at some point, I will turn my focus to making an image rather than being present. Depending on the event, I usually prefer to just enjoy the moment and leave the distraction at home. For this reason, I find it frustrating when I am hanging out with someone and they are hanging out with their phone. My boyfriend and I have a no phones during meal time rule, and this extends to our guests. When we are having friends over for dinner and tell them about our no phone rule, most are relieved, now they have an excuse to set it aside, but others really seem to be bothered. It’s amazing that we have the ability to share our experiences with others and connect instantaneously, but I often observe people connecting virtually rather than participating in the tangible world.
While I was in Culebra I wanted to make an image that commented on this, as I was in a spectacularly beautiful place. I woke up before dawn and set up my camera for a sunrise shoot on the beach. For me, a perfect example of when someone is placing documentation over participation would be a scenario just like this image – a beautiful sunrise on an empty beach… and this person is taking a selfie.
This actually ended up being a really difficult photoshoot. I wanted the phone to be in focus, with the live image of myself displayed on screen, and I wanted it to look like a “selfie” picture displaying on the phone. When I’m taking self portaits I set up my focus for a specific spot, but it was very difficult to get the phone in the exact spot it needed to be and have a good “selfie” on the screen. I wanted to be in a pose that, on the phone screen looked non-chalant, but from another angle looked entirely contrived. I did enjoy the sunrise, but mostly I spent the time making everything line up properly and getting really enjoyed with trying to look peppy in the images!
Self Portrait in #Paradise #NoFilter #WhatIsItAllFor?