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Jun 26, 2012
Category:Behind the Scenes JLP News General 
Posted by: Jessica

For many photographers like myself, we avoid any attempt to be in FRONT of the camera.

We like the comfortable space behind the lens.

However, like most business owners, we need professional head shots too. This is when you make a call to friends and tell them you need some shots for your business. We are almost always willing to help each other but we are the worst people to photograph sometimes!

Thankfully, I have friends like the stylists at Collective Creations and the husband and wife team at Tim Schultz Photography, both in Tampa Bay.

A talented stylist named "May" worked her magic on me (at my home) to make me presentable and maybe a little less of a pain in the butt for the Schultz team.

Then, I headed out to Ybor City to explore the alleys and streets and I tend to find a new favorite spot each time I visit. Ybor City is a gold mine for fabulous photos--you just have to be willing to walk through some questionable puddles and maybe get your heels dirty.

Karin and Tim Schultz were so much fun--they really made it as easy as possible to be on the other side of the camera. And anyone who has photographed me knows I am not a fan of it! And the night ended with some new photo geek friends and a Mexican dinner complete with margaritas.

That's called success! 

(And here are a few of my favorites...)

Apr 28, 2011
Category:Behind the Scenes In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Being a wedding photographer can be stressful.

A bride and groom’s wedding day is one of the most important days of their lives. They want it all documented, from start to finish, with no moment missed and no flaws.

It’s a ton of pressure to put on one photographer because if you screw it up, there is NO reshoot. There is NO second chance.

I can’t imagine how photographer Hugo Burnand is feeling right now.

In about 12 hours Burnand will be responsible for photographing the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, otherwise known as the “wedding of the century.”

No pressure whatsoever.

For William and Kate, I’m sure the process of choosing a wedding photographer for such an elaborate and publicized event was difficult. But I do not envy Burnand for the task that lies ahead. If he makes any mistakes, he has to answer to the Queen of England!

Burnand has his job cut out for him Friday—it’s a long day for any wedding photographer to shoot a full service and ceremony but for this, it may actually take him all day.

Photographer Mario Testino shot the engagement photos shown here that spread on the internet like wildfire. The whole world is watching and everyone wants to see the most up to date photos of the royal couple.

I’m interested to see how quickly Burnand’s photos make it online tomorrow.

And wedding photography is just ONE facet of this enormous event about to unfold—there are also chefs, cake designers, florists, musicians, printers, program designers and a slew of other vendors like most weddings.

But this one has a slightly bigger budget.

*Photos by Mario Testino*

Apr 27, 2011
Category:Behind the Scenes In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

From time to time I like to recognize my fellow photographers because so many people are shooting really cool work across the globe.

Photographer Nate Bolt had the patience and creativity to do a time-lapse video of his flight from San Francisco to Paris, capturing one of the coolest phenomenons on the planet: the Aurora Borealis. He said he didn't even know what he had captured until later. The camera took 2,400 images and pieced together, make for a fantastic video.

Bolt shoots strange photos and video that always seem to catch my eye. And that's really one of the best parts of being a photographer--seeing what your fellow shooter can do that takes your breath away.

I'll be posting some of my own photos from my recent trip to Norway soon. I chased the Northern Lights all the way to Finland but I don't dare say it's as cool as this video!

*Photo and video by Nate Bolt.*

Oct 29, 2010
Category:General Behind the Scenes Tips and Tricks 
Posted by: Jessica

Every year, a few bored, artsy photo geeks figure out how to turn a physical object into a camera. It's actually quite easy once you get the hang of it and it can be done with almost any object including cans, boxes and pumpkins!

Check out this video to see a step-by-step demonstration on how to turn your Halloween pumpkin into a pinhole camera. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

Oct 20, 2010
Category:Behind the Scenes In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Mike Kamber is a photojournalist in the truest sense of the word.

He photographs what he sees with no agenda and doesn't stop until he's done his job.

Kamber created a video to show unpublished images from the war in Iraq and to expose the censorship he endured while embedded with the United States Military.

He said it was a difficult to find a balance between showing the reality of what he witnessed with what he was allowed to document. Car bomb photos were not allowed then wounded soldier photos. Well, maybe wounded soldiers but don’t show their face or identifying marks. And don’t show any of the faces of the other men in the soldier’s unit. Oh and don’t use photographs that show badges on the soldiers’ uniforms that could identify the unit.

You can see how that would get frustrating as a photographer. You’ve been sent there to do a job and you’re getting paid to do it well. Where’s the balance?

I try to be unbiased as possible even though I am a photojournalist and I feel for Kamber. I remember the struggle I had when covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Obviously, Iraq is completely different and a much more dangerous situation but I do get how upsetting that would be. It’s hard to get orders from your editor (“Go shoot evacuees at the Superdome. I want to see inside.”) and then get to the edge of the Superdome and hear from the National Guard (“There’s no way we’re letting you in—no photos.”). It’s heartbreaking.

From the perspective of the military, I think they believe it’s disrespectful to photograph wounded soldiers. I understand that too. They are there to do a job as well—to fight and protect their own unit. The last thing they need is someone documenting one of the worst moments of their time in Iraq.

I guess my response to them would be that when the war is really over, they might want a true, accurate account of what they happened in Iraq. If I was risking my life to fight for my country, I’d want people to get it right when it gets published in history books.

*Photo by Michael Kamber*

Oct 1, 2010
Category:Behind the Scenes Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

Geekfest is a gathering of professional photojournalists from around the country who come together once a year to drink, share work and mainly kick each other in the butt.

Everyone needs encouragement and inspiration and sometimes the best place to get it is from others in your profession.

I have to admit, at first I felt a little disconnected this year. I no longer work for newspapers and in my freelance career, I don’t shoot much editorial work. My clients want commercial photography, family portraits, business head shots and boudoir portraits.

Many of the photographers at Geekfest are still working in journalism and focused their presentations on photo stories, which I rarely shoot any more. But what’s great is that whenever I leave this conference, I feel like I too can shoot whatever I want, whether a client wants it or not. I sometimes forget this is for me, not them. It feels selfish to say that but I didn’t choose photojournalism as a way to please others. I chose it (or it chose me) because I’m good at it and it’s the artform I’ve been most passionate about for the last 15 years.

St. Pete Times Director of Photography Boyzell Hosey started off the weekend by updating us on the “Eye of the Storm”. He created this tagline by comparing the newspaper industry today to a Category 5 Hurricane. Boyzell said people suffering in the industry ask, “Why me? Why on my watch?” To which Boyzell replies, “God says ‘Why not you?’” His talk comforted me even though the industry doesn’t affect me directly. But many of my friends still work in the business and I can’t hear about any more furloughs, layoffs, buyouts or just plain sadness about their jobs. It breaks my heart.

One of the most shocking and moving photo stories was the “Resurrection of Amalia Mendoza” by Greg Kahn of the Naples Daily News. Amalia was in a horrible car accident in 2001 that took her eyes, nose and part of her skull from her. She put all her hopes and prayers into a doctor name David Trainer. Kahn followed her through this journey and the video and stills are incredible.

The story that I was most impressed with was “Michael’s Story” by Los Angeles Times photographer Liz O. Baylen. She covered a story about a 6-year-old boy who was molested by a L.A. Unified School District special education aide. Liz could not reveal the identity of the victim or his parents so she said she used audio to recreate the story. And somehow she pulled it off.

The person I think I connected with most during the presentations was Atlanta photographer Zack Arias. He’s humble, honest and tells it like it is. He touched on a few key elements with lighting that I had simply forgotten. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with bills, deadlines and clients that I forget how simple creating a great photograph can be. Zack reminded me that after I pay the bills, it is for me. Shoot for the client and please them, but shoot some frames for myself too. He said (and he may have been quoting someone else), “Commercial work is your life but photojournalism is your mistress.” Love it.

When I heard humanitarian photographer Ben Rusnak talk about what working for a non-profit entails, I was impressed because it seems the first thing you have to do is let go of your ego. He said you need to give up control over your photos and the design in which they are used, don’t expect to receive any photo credits and understand that fundraising comes first, and changing lives is second. Ben is a rare shooter—most of us have egos (it comes with the profession) and it warms my heart to see that he has risen above it all.

As New York Times photographer Todd Heisler came to the podium and looked around the room, he said, “Is photojournalism dead? Well, apparently not.” He wowed us with his “One in 8 Million” project, showing how everyone, even in NYC, has a story. Lawyer/teacher Alexis Lambert reminded us that photography is a business whether we like it or not. She’s a genius when it comes to contracts, copyright law and anything related to the University of Florida. And that’s not the only reason I adore her—she’s also one of the funniest people on the planet. Designer Deb Pang Davis broke down the rules of marketing yourself and described branding in a whole new way for me. She stressed that we should speak about our passions and focus on our personalities, not our work. Brilliant.

San Antonio Express News photographer Lisa Krantz has passion about everything. From her daily assignments to her big projects, like covering Sam Houston High School, she loves what she does. It is wonderful to listen to someone who simply can’t say enough great things about their career. Picture Editor Mike Davis showed me a new side of editing—how he sees our raw images. Wow! I was not ready for that. Editors do have a different eye and it was fun to see that. He said, “There are people who respond well to visuals and those who don’t—most of them work at newspapers.”

I saved the best for last, as did organizer Melissa Lyttle. With a welcome only heard in sporting events, Portland photographer Sol Neelman entered the ‘arena’ wearing a Lucha Libre (wrestling) mask. I saw him hiding by the door to the auditorium (with the mask on) and he casually says hi, how are you, etc. I can’t help but laugh—he’s amazing and he doesn’t even know it. Sol is refreshingly honest (he might curse like a sailor), and he encourages others to do what it takes to be happy. He said, “If I can suck, you can suck too,” after showing us his first portfolio. In a room filled with photographers (who can sometimes be competitive), that was brave. Sol makes a living by chasing his passion—weird sports. He’s covered everything from the Redneck Games in Georgia to Hog Wrasslin’ in Wisconsin. To say he’s passionate is a gross understatement.

On the last day of speakers, a shooter walked by my friend and I and we saw what looked like spiders tattooed on both calves. When he came back, we asked what they were—he said they were apertures. Freakin’ apertures. Not the numbers (f2.8, f4, f5.6, etc.) but the diagrams of each aperture as they are seen inside a lens. Bad ass.

After seeing all the work presented, listening to the passion of other photojournalists and being in the same room with all that talent reminded me why we’re here—to leave something behind that we created or as Sol put it, “This is what I saw on this planet.”

Geekfest 2011…here I come.

Aug 29, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

There’s always a time during a disaster when feelings start to switch from desperation and chaos to generosity and normalcy.

I drove to a huge fire on Royal Street a week after Katrina hit and found that firefighters from New York were helping their NOLA brothers in need. They were all working harmoniously, even without standard fire hydrants available. Helicopters dropped tons of water on top of the blaze to keep it from spreading. No one was panicked—everyone knew they had a job to do and it didn’t matter that they weren’t on duty or that they weren’t in their home town. That’s a sign of good things to come.

Then I met Ed Garcia from Port St. Lucie, Florida. He rented a U-Haul with two friends, gathered $8,000 of their personal money and bought as much food and water as they could. They drove to Lacombe, Louisiana where no government help had arrived yet. The sight of a U-Haul truck filled with supplies was a sign that maybe someone did care about them. Maybe someone was trying to help, even if that help was offered by strangers from south Florida.

September 4, 2005 journal entry:

“I was sent out on a mission today to go to the shelter at LSU to see seven kids (coincidentally named the Love family) who are being flown to San Antonio, Texas to be reunited with their parents. There’s a mile of red tape getting into this shelter because there are medical patients and kids involved. A guard escorts us to the parking lot where the volunteers are saying goodbye to the kids as they load into a van. I’m so glad I caught them when I did! The volunteers were having a hard time letting go, as were the children. They were together for a week while the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tried to locate their parents. What amazed me about the Love family was that there were seven children under ten years old and they stuck together, found shelter, told an adult what happened and got out alive. That’s perseverance.”

The best sign of normalcy I found was when I stumbled upon Johnny White’s Sports Bar and Grill on Bourbon Street a week after Katrina made landfall. I walked in to find the bar buzzing with activity and a bartender behind the bar taking drink orders. Francis (the Times reporter) and I looked at each other like “Really?” We started talking to patrons with bandages on their hands and head who were ordering shots of Southern Comfort like it was a Friday night happy hour. And a 14-year-old cardboard sign was still taped behind the bar that read "Never Closed."

Even though I couldn’t imagine drinking alcohol at a time like that when I had lost everything, I understood the need for normalcy. Only two bars were open on Bourbon Street by then but locals were flocking to them, just to get a taste of what they knew to be real. If ordering a round of shots for your friends helps you heal, I’m all for it.

Throughout this Hurricane Katrina blog series, I’ve tried to remember the good, the bad and the ugly. I wrote this blog so people don’t forget. Just like journalists that covered 9-11 or the Tennessee floods or the BP oil spill want to bring awareness, so do I. I hope that by reading this blog, you’ve gained a new perspective on the victims, the journalists and the recovery process.

If you feel moved to help but cannot make it out to New Orleans personally, you can always make a monetary donation. I believe in donating to well-established organizations and doing your homework first before giving away your hard-earned money. The Red Cross and The Salvation Army are always accepting donations and if you want to check on a charity before donating, look them up here.

But of course, the best way to give back is to go visit "Nawlins"...grab a coffee at Cafe Du Monde, watch a Saints game at the Superdome or join in on the Mardi Gras fun.

Aug 28, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

The success of a disaster aftermath is usually determined by the response of rescue crews, volunteers and the government.

Seeing locals standing in the rain for hours on Interstate 10 at a temporary staging area was difficult. They waited for hours, sometimes all day to catch a ride on a bus headed to a shelter. They didn’t know where they were going but they knew any other place had to be better than here.

One of the uplifting parts of covering a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina is seeing all the good that comes out of a community. Rescue crews were organized and determined to get to help to as many people as possible. Most were also kind to the media by allowing reporters and photographers to do “ride-alongs” in helicopters and boats to assess the damage and talk with victims.

Volunteer Reggie Seals is a man I’ll never forget. Not only did he take me out on a boat (that I was technically not supposed to be on) but he also gave me a level of protection I didn’t know I needed. He said he would treat me like one of his daughters and make sure I got back safely.

September 5, 2005 journal entry:

“I’m not quite sure I’m going to make it through this week without losing my mind. I’m out on a boat in the middle of nowhere, breathing exhaust fumes, waiting for a rescue crew to take us out to see the damage in the worst areas. I’m hungry and I’m tired but at least I’m safe. Reggie is our boat driver and as we head out, he tells Francis [the Times reporter], ‘Don’t worry, I’ll protect Jessica’. Reggie brought gloves, masks and a gun. Fantastic! I feel a little fearful that he thinks we need that.”

“As Reggie [a rescue volunteer] drives our boat towards the Ninth Ward, we meet up with another rescue crew that just is leaving the area. They said they searched for people stranded on their roofs but only found bodies floating in the water and angry, desperate people. I immediately said I wanted to go in and take some shots. One of the men in the boat took me aside and said he could not, in good conscience, let me go. He said if I went in, I’d come out a changed person. I was a little surprised by his chivalrous speech so I asked him to explain. He said people left in the Ninth Ward are armed and attempting to take over any boats that come into their neighborhood. He was afraid for me, being a young woman, that I may not make it back out…

…I have no clue what I would have found if I got to enter the Ninth Ward. I do know I have that man to thank for talking sense into me and reminding me that no photograph is worth my life.”

Aug 27, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

The only flooding I’ve ever witnessed was about knee-deep.

When I saw some people wading through waist-deep water with bags of belongings thrown on their backs, I wondered what they brought with them. What was important enough to carry all that way?

When I went out on rescue boats, I was amazed to see that the water levels came up to street signs and the top of homes. I finally understood why residents were cutting holes in their roofs to escape.

As I was shooting photos of people wading through water looking for dry land, I saw two men pulling a canoe with an elderly man inside. I met Leroy, 78, who was being helped by two relatives. They were desperately seeking medical attention for his Diabetes. He had no insulin and needed his dosage. I felt so sorry for the weak man who wasn’t even asking for water or food but insulin. He eventually found a volunteer who was using his personal truck to give rides to refugees. And he was on his way to a medical shelter.

Businesses and homes alike were damaged, some destroyed beyond recognition. Some places had items taken by wind and rain clear across a neighborhood. Barstools and tires from who knows where were strewn across what was once a busy trolley track.

Homemade signs about surviving Katrina or needing help were hung up anywhere they would stick.

Approximately $80 billion in damage was done to 200,000 homes in New Orleans leaving 800,000 people displaced at some point. Those numbers are staggering.

Two days after Katrina hit, 80% of New Orleans was flooded and some places were 15 feet under water. The storm supposedly caused 50 breaches in levees, built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

September 1, 2005 journal entry:

“We heard the ‘N Word’ for the first time today and it probably won’t be the last. Some residents are upset because they think black looters are taking over the city. Racial tensions are definitely higher than normal because minorities in low-income neighborhoods think residents in wealthier areas are receiving help faster.”

“One of the strangest feelings I’ve had this week is having to relieve myself outside, probably in what used to be someone’s yard. As a woman, I enjoy privacy for these situations but when there are no stores open and people have either abandoned their homes or they remain but have no water or electricity, what do you do? It just felt wrong…”

September 2, 2005 journal entry:

“Greg [a Times photographer] arrived today and it helps to see a friendly face. I’m supposed to leave on Tuesday, which would be my 12th day of work. The plan is to switch people out so we don’t get too burned out.”

Aug 26, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

Merriam-Webster defines martial law as the law administered by military forces that is invoked by a government in an emergency when the civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.

While the local, state and federal governments were arguing over how to handle the crisis, who should handle it and who should get credit, The National Guard stepped in and took control.

Thank God.

Working in a tense, unpredictable situation is hard enough without worrying about whether or not YOU as a journalist will become a victim. When people are desperate, they turn to anyone who can help. Some plead, some steal.

Rumors started that the New Orleans Police Department was basically disabled—officers had taken to looting or fleeing the city all together. I have no idea if that was true. I do know that as many local people as there were volunteering (police, firefighters, etc), there were just as many members of the National Guard.

I never felt 100% safe when I was in New Orleans for Katrina but then again, I didn’t feel completely safe while attending Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street either.

As we drove near the French Market, we came upon a profane epitaph spray painted on a wall above a dead body wrapped in a sheet. It was a surreal experience to see a dead body in the open with no immediate need to remove it or investigate. We asked some local police officers later if they knew what body we were talking about. They did and they said it appeared the man was strangled to death.

So, this man didn’t die from drowning or starvation after Hurricane Katrina, but instead someone strangled him? This blew my mind.

When I asked why they didn’t move the body to a morgue, the officer answered with a “What’s the point?” kind of attitude. He said there were so many bodies piling up, it was hard to find places to store them. 1300 bodies total were found in Mississippi and Louisiana, not counting those who are still missing. A makeshift morgue was set up at St. Gabriel to house nearly 900 bodies while family members tried to identify and claim their loved ones.

We also visited a cemetery and saw that the few caskets that were buried underground were no longer in their original resting place. Most of the graves in New Orleans have above-ground tombs because once you dig a few feet under the surface, you’ve hit water. When it floods, everything becomes an above-ground cemetery.

After a few days of complete chaos in the city, The National Guard took over and did so very well. They camped out at the Riverwalk and Convention Center and brought order to a situation that seemed completely out of control. They were kind enough to share water and MREs with us and I will never forget how they handled the aftermath of Katrina.

September 1, 2005 journal entry:

“The most uneasy feeling was driving around the French Quarter, seeing no one except refugees trying to leave and looters. It finally hit me that there is no law. If something happened to us, no one would know and there’s no police to call. Even if there were, our cell phones don’t work within miles of New Orleans.”

“Francis [a Times reporter] didn’t do anything I didn’t want to but I definitely pushed my personal limits—with my car and my safety. It’s a bad situation when I don’t feel safe, even when police and military are sometimes standing near me on a street corner. There is no guarantee they can protect me.”

A special thank you goes out to Louisiana State Trooper Doug Pierrelee of Bossier City, Louisiana who watched over me while I was in New Orleans. He did his job well while still giving me access to important information and photo opportunities. I appreciate his time and felt completely safe knowing he and other troopers had my back. Thank you!

*Last two photos by Bart Boatwright/The Greenville News*

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