Jun 122018
 

The Birds photography book

Those of you who follow me on Instagram are probably well aware by now that I have started a Kickstarter campaign for the initial print run of my self-published book, “The Birds.” The book contains a series of photos documenting the sudden ubiquity of BIRD’s, a brand of motorized, dockless scooters.  In late 2017 and early 2018, BIRDs began appearing on the streets, sidewalks, and virtually every other unoccupied public space in some neighborhoods of Los Angeles. They were particularly abundant in Venice Beach and Santa Monica, where the company was founded.

The series documents unoccupied scooters — as they were found — in the early months of 2018 as they first gained popularity. It also includes intermittent quotes of dialogue from the 1963 apocalyptic Alfred Hitchcock classic, “The Birds.” We’ll come back to that later.

I started this project in Feb. of this year. As I was skateboarding down the bike path along Venice Beach one evening around dusk I noticed a BIRD sitting alone along the path in front of a landscape of beach, ocean and the distant Santa Monica Mountains. Sitting by itself the scooter appeared to anthropomorphize into an amusing, odd looking creature. Something about it’s long neck, big handlebar ears and it’s upright posture seemed to give it personality. I immediately thought picturing them this way would make a good photo series and the next day set out on foot looking for BIRD’s at rest. As the series progressed and the scooters continued to grow in popularity, the idea came to me that the BIRD’s were taking over the town, which immediately made me think of Hitchcock’s classic film of the same name and essentially the same plot. I looked up quotes from the film on IMDB and after reading one or two I realized they would not only be funny when put with my images, but could also add extra layers of meaning and could be used to form a loose narrative around the photos. From that point on I began shooting with that story concept as the driving force. I admit it’s an unconventional approach to what’s essentially a photojournalism project. But it’s also a photo series about scooters! How could I not have fun with it?

If you haven’t seen them in the news yet, dockless scooters are the latest trend in transportation. BIRD and other brands, such as Lime, Spin and GOAT, started appearing around the same time in cities such as San Francisco, D.C. and Austin and have since expanded to numerous other cities. The main feature that sets them apart from other ride sharing devices begins with the fact that they are GPS enabled and can be located and activated by using an app on a user’s phone. The user can then ride to their destination, cruising along at speeds up to 15mph using the scooter’s electric motor, and when finished, simply hop off, log out and leave the scooter where it is. It’s a great idea, but it has not come without controversy. In fact, new rules potentially capping the quantity of scooters in one area are being debated by the Santa Monica City Council as I type this. While the concept’s merits, such as convenience and environmental friendliness, have been validated by their obvious popularity, detractors have complaints and/or concerns about a number of issues. The two most common revolve around safety and optics. The scooters are literally everywhere. Not just along the edge of sidewalks and paths where the companies suggest riders place them, but also in the middle of sidewalks, down every alley, in parking lots and almost any other public space you can think of. They are often knocked over as well and can frequently be found blocking access to doorways, driveways and various other right of ways. This presents not only numerous opportunities for pedestrians to trip, but is also considered unsightly by many who would rather not see them lying on the ground and randomly strewn about the community. The public’s frustrations (and amusement) can be seen in many of my photos, as well as countless ones posted on social media, that depict the BIRD’s tossed in dumpsters, hanging from ropes as if lynched and having been either vandalized or physically destroyed. It’s a complicated issue to be sure. I try not to have a strong opinion either way, but think that both sides have merit.

In shooting them and creating this book I wasn’t so much trying to make a point, but to document a new trend and to have fun with the way I present it. I didn’t necessarily aim to show the scooters only blocking sidewalks or in ridiculous situations, but aimed for strong compositions, varying numbers of them grouped together and, of course, anything that made me laugh. I also found along the way that through the BIRD’s the images are also documenting my neighborhood. The area’s colorful textures, amazing beaches and unique architecture are some of the numerous features on display.

If you made it this far thanks for reading! If you enjoy this project please consider supporting the Kickstarter and/or sharing the project on your social media. I’ve created a special project website (thebirdsthebook.com) and Instagram handle (@thebirdsthebook). Thanks!!

 

 

Jan 312018
 

Photojournalism - WSJ Honda

Photojournalism - WSJ Honda

Last month I spent an afternoon going door to door with members of Honda’s Recall Team in Torrance as they attempted to inform car owners that their vehicles are subject to recall due to the famously deadly flaw in Takata airbags that were used between 2001-2015 by Honda and numerous other carmakers. The only problem, they were hard to find! This is largely due to the fact that Honda, whose cars were affected possibly worse than any other company, has spent the past several years reaching out in every way they can to car owners and have already found a high percentage of them. They are also trying to reach 2nd, 3rd and higher-generation owners, whose records are often hard to find or turn out to be inaccurate.

After several hours driving to various residences, which their records indicated were home to Honda owners who had not yet fixed their vehicles, we found exactly zero actual owners. We often missed them because they were at work, in which case they left a flyer on the doorknob, and in one case found someone whose husband owned the car, but had just sold it. I’m sure it’s a frustrating experience for the recall team, but also worth it as there’s supposedly a 50/50 chance that the driver or front seat passenger of an affected Honda could die or be seriously injured by shrapnel should the airbag deploy. Pretty bad. The recall is considered the largest in history, affecting over 42 million vehicles across all manufacturers and killing at least 20 people worldwide. If you own a car you think might be affected by this hopefully you’ve been contacted already and taken care of it! If not, you can get info here. Honda will actually come to your vehicle and fix it for free, so get on it.

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Dec 222017
 

Magazine Cover - Editorial Photography

Editorial Portrait Photography

Not long ago I found myself bobbing, weaving and trying to hold focus as a fierce woman with a two-toned mohawk swung large purple boxing gloves at my face. Usually I don’t appreciate that sort of behavior while I’m trying to take a picture. In this case I’d asked her to do it, so it was okay. My would-be attacker was Hollywood super-cool stuntwoman Petra Sprecher, who I was photographing on Venice Beach for a profile to be published in Migros magazine, a publication from her native Switzerland. She may not look familiar, but you’ve probably seen her work!  She’s performed in numerous big-time films, including Minority Report, Eagle Eye and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, to name a few. Prior to that she grew up performing in circuses, ultimately touring with Cirque de Soleil’s Quidam. Circus to stunts seems to be a natural transition. The other stunt performers I’ve known were either trained gymnasts and/or parkour runners. Who else would be capable of jumping off rooftops or falling down stairs? Unfortunately timing didn’t allow us to shoot her doing those things on an actual set, so we did the next best thing, having her demonstrate some of her training exercises, also stopping to take some standard portraits. It was a fun afternoon and we were both thrilled to see the work chosen for the cover.

Oct 192017
 

I recently got the itch to polish my video skills and it so happens that my good friend and badass artist Curtis Weaver was putting the finishing touches on his solo show, TREES IN WOLVES’ CLOTHING, before its debut at the Garboushian Gallery in Beverly Hills. A few shooting days and many hours in front of a computer later and this is the result! Curtis is an incredibly creative sculptor and painter. His work generally revolves around a reimagining of the biological evolution of plants, with an environmentalist bent. While in the past he’s used a variety of synthetic materials to create imaginary beings from scratch, this time he chose to base everything on found pieces of wood, which he then disguised with paint and real-world objects such as shoes and clothing. The resulting pieces are great and worth a gallery visit if you can make it before the closing date of Oct. 26th. Check out the video and his artist statement on the gallery website for a better description of the work, www.garboushian.com . I am beginning to ramp up my video production capabilities, so keep an eye out for future projects in the coming months!

Oct 022017
 

Discover Magazine-Editorial Photography

Discover-Editorial Photography

Discover-Editorial Photography

Discover-Editorial Photography

Discover-Editorial Photography

It was great seeing not one, but two, pieces published in the October issue of Discover magazine! The first story was shot at the UCLA Brain Imaging Center to illustrate a first-person narrative by writer Jeff Wheelwright relating his experience getting tested for the Human Connectome Project, a large study creating a baseline map of the brain to better study how it ages. For the story we created a series of images of him going through various cognitive tests, as well as an overhead of him lying in a decommissioned MRI machine. That latter was a challenge, but we pulled it off with the help of my assistant LR, a patient subject and a Camranger remote, which allowed me to shoot live view wirelessly from my laptop to my Nikon, which was carefully positioned overhead on a boom. The second story was a fascinating piece on advancements in stem cell therapies that are allowing people such as Kristin MacDonald, who I shot at home in Beverly Hills, to regain partial vision almost totally lost to Retinitis Pigmentosa, an incurable degenerative eye disease that caused her to start going blind in her twenties. Others have successfully used the therapy to overcome paralysis caused by stroke or injury. The advancements were initially made possible by the passing of California Proposition 71 in 2004, which provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research in the state after the feds cut off funding for embryonic stem cell research in 2001. I did a related story several years ago when scientists were just figuring out how to work around the ban, so it was great to see how far things have come in the last seven or so years. I’m looking forward to seeing the advancements this field is sure to produce in the coming years.

 

 

Jul 282017
 

Female Fitness Athlete Portrait Venice Beach

On weekday mornings when I’m not shooting, I can frequently be found on the Venice Beach boardwalk playing paddle tennis. From there you can see the Venice Beach sand pit, a fitness area situated behind the more famous Muscle Beach weight pen, where regulars and visitors work out on a variety of gymnastics equipment, including parallel bars, rings and rope climbs. I’m used to seeing various feats of strength being performed, but usually don’t give people a second look. A couple weeks ago however I looked over and saw a woman with a shock of pink hair doing a series of very difficult exercises seemingly on endless repeat. Pushups, pull-ups, upside-down shoulder shrugs, one-legged squats and other things I don’t know what to call. I had never seen her before and every time I looked over throughout the course of a couple of tennis sets she was still there working hard and still going strong. I’m always on the lookout for interesting subjects, so after a set concluded I decided to introduce myself and see if she’d be interested in shooting with me sometime. She told me her name was Krista Stryker, a fitness blogger and entrepreneur with an app called 12 Minute Athlete. No shock she was a pro. I followed up later with some samples of my work and she agreed to meet up. I had a great time working with her and shot a variety of portraits as well as images of her doing some difficult exercises. A recent Portland transplant, she told me she was a personal trainer at a few gyms, but has found a lot more satisfaction since starting her own business. I can identify with that. Shooting with her, however, made me realize that although I’m in fairly good shape there’s a lot of room for improvement. I’m starting with getting past 5 pull-ups, an exercise I’ve been neglecting for the past 20 years or so. If you’re interested in upping your fitness game and have 12 minutes to spare check out her website and follow her on instagram at @12minuteathlete. Also check out more images from the shoot below.

 

 

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