Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Finally, time for an update

Attorney John P. Galligan will represent Major Nidal Malik Hasan for his murderous rampage that left 13 dead and injured 30 at Fort Hood in November:

A few weeks ago the Dallas Morning News called about photographing Colonel Galligan, the attorney famous for representing soldiers on trial. After a few attempts to schedule a day and time we met at his office in Belton on a dreary Tuesday afternoon. He was very friendly, welcoming and accomodating as I explained what I was trying to accomplish in photographing him. He kept repeating himself saying with his native Texan accent something along the lines of "wow, what is all this stuff? I thought you were just gonna walk in here and snap, snap and be on your way... You're a real professional, I can tell, not like those other photographers."

It was a compliment I genuinely appreciated as I worked very hard to set up multiple sets and positions to give my editors options. Going into the assignment I knew I wanted try and shoot him on seamless to make a well lit, tight clean headshot. I set up the paper renegade style, measure the light and went to work with Galligan. It was a lot of fun working in this way and caused for a positive interaction between he and I as we warmed up the shoot. I set up another lighting set up near a waterway and walking path to do some full length portraits. I wanted to show him for who he is, just being himself. But also given the context of the story I wanted to highlight his own characteristics; adjusting the tie, diverse facial expressions, optimistic personality.

In the end the story ran on Sunday's A1 and jumped to the top diptych on A20. I was impressed that it ran as I envisioned. Read the story here.

Austin runner Jeff Lahr's wife, Erin, died last year during the Whiterock Marathon in Dallas as she collapsed at mile 23:

A few days later, I had the privilege to meet Jeff Lahr and photograph him for the Dallas Morning News. He was an incredibly accomodating person as I photographed him Thursday evening after he got off work and before he went back to work for an emergency. He gave me time and patience to do multiple lighting and location set ups throughout his condo. We talked a lot about his wife's unexpected death and I was impressed at his ability to be strong through such a tragedy. Photos of Erin hang throughout the condo and Jeff ran the race this past Saturday in a relay format with 20 plus friends and supporters. Its always impressive for a group of people, many strangers in this case, rally behind some one going through something challenging. The top photo ran as the lead on Saturday's A1 cover. Read the story here.

Disabled rowers training for the 2012 Paralympics:

Back a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet a diverse group of disabled people, learning to row and trying out for the 2012 paralympic rowing team. It was impressive to say the least. I was again working with Austin American Statesman writer Pam LeBlanc for her column and looking forward to making some powerful photos. It took 2 days to cover this story because the first day it was 50 degrees and pouring rain.

We went out on a boat with one of the staff at the Austin Rowing Center and I would make a few pictures of the group on the water then quickly hide my camera in my gortex jacket to keep it from getting soaked. It was challenging and wish I had brought my camera's raincover. As the athletes came in from morning practice I was able to interact and make some photos of them bringing in the boat or reattaching their prosthetics.

The second day I came back because I thought these people impressed me with their ability to overcome life changing experiences and channel their energy to a sport. I set up my lights on the row center's dock and made portraits before they started practice. My goal was to show each person and their injury or disability. They were all great sports about participating in the photo project and I was excited to have the opportunity like this.

A friend described the way I photograph as "taking genuine interest people that I photograph, committing myself to them with undivided attention and an almost (childlike) wonderment."
I found his analysis interesting and complimentary to me, my outlook on life and approach to photography. Similar to the commitment of the disabled athletes overcoming their own personal obstacles to pursue rowing. They a 2 page color spread on the cover of Monday's Life/Arts section, but you can still see some of the photos and read Pam's story here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zulu at 100 books on sale in New Orleans

To coincide with PhotoNola week in New Orleans my Zulu at 100 books are on sale at 2 galleries in New Orleans; Coup d'Oeil Art Consortium on Magazine in the Lower Garden district and The Darkoom on Sophie Wright Pl. just down the street.

Big thanks to Ken and Charles for making this happen!

If you happen to be in New Orleans please check them out. They are handmade, limited edition series of 137, archivally printed from silver gelatin scans and each one has been individually typed on a Corona typewriter. Email me at Ben@BenSklar.com for more info. They make great gifts.

Photos of the books at Coup d'Oeil provided by Ken Capone! Thanks!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Grant W Anderson

During Thanksgiving week I got to hang out with my friend who was in town from New York. After the dissolving of The Lords, for which Grant was the drummer, he is spreading his wings creatively and i gave him a few starting lessons about photography. We philosophized about visual communication versus music. I think he found it rewarding to see instantaneous results on the screen of a digital camera from an image he created. He really understood aperture, balancing light and shutter speed pretty quickly. Maybe he'll get a camera and start shooting?

The top photos is between Casa 808 and my 1950s Traveleze trailer. The bottom photos are the leaves growing on the vines on the side of Casa 808, pretty amazing sight. Thanks to Rachel for making stellar hot chocolate and holding a reflector!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Weeks away, working... MJ is back!

I've been so busy and backlogged with work that it's been over two weeks since I've posted... As I mentioned I was with the Harris family who now lives in New Mexico for nearly two weeks until they had their third child. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Often I'm photographing intense moments of sadness or grief, but this was the most intense moment of joy. I'm still working on an edit of the photos, but am happy I was able to shoot and participate in the birth.

I immediately after I got back from NM I produced the Slideluck Potshow multimedia event with Lance Rosenfeld and Kelly Lynn James. Thanks to Brandon Wilde of Austin Multimedia Group for helping us so much and letting us invade his space for days leading up to SLPS Austin II. The show was stacked with talent and an outstanding night overall; 500 people came out and we had a in/out line at the door. I even sold one of my Zulu books!

On Friday and Saturday I got to hang out in the rain with Statesman writer Pam Leblanc and photograph disabled rowers participating in a paralympic mini camp. Many of them were Veterans or associated with the military and others were born disabled. It will be an amazing story when i comes out. I was so excited about these folks I went back Saturday morning to shoot portraits of them all... the story hasn't run yet, so I'll have to wait to update the photos.

You may noticed some changes here, thanks to Drew Tieken for working hard to bring a fresh look to the website and adding new batches of work. I also worked my email to be Ben@BenSklar.com, so email me.

Thanksgiving was outstanding. My sister came in from LA and mom from BR. I made pumpkin pie from scratch with basic ideas i had from the Harris. No sugar! My mom called in Pumpkin Mousse, thanks Aimee and Jeff...

Back to work, on Thanksgiving I got a very considerate email from a NYT sports editor asking about my availability on Monday (this week). I said I was free and turns out I was going to meet and shoot Marion Jones. No details, just shoot Marion Jones. So I thought I was shooting a portrait until I arrived to a very nice community church gym in northeast San Antonio. Turned out she was getting back to her roots and going try and make a comeback as a WNBA basketball player. I was there with Bill Rhoden, NYT sports writer, to bring the news to the world. I was privileged to be a part of this story. She was super nice and a good person. Hard to imagine the things she did in her Olympic days, steroids and accomplishments. After photographing her in working out then shooting hoops for 4 hours or so, I finally got a few minutes to do a portrait next to a window. I told her representative that I wanted to shoot her outside on the street with some nice lighting set up. He thought it was a good idea. As she wrapped up her interviews with an ESPN crew and said good byes to Kevin Blackistone, who was writing for AOL, and Bill, I set up my lights one block away on a neighborhood street with a clean back ground. She came over with Rich, her rep., and I shot for probably a minute and a half. She was soaked from head to toe and exhausted from her workout. Not to mention she had to drive back to Austin to pick up her kids from school and daycare. Despite the 40 degree weather, she stepped up and let me make some portraits. Thanks Marion, good luck with hoops.

The story ran on the front of Tuesday sports with two photos, if you didn't see it you can read Bill's story here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Slalom Champion

Andy Mapple, 6 time world champion slalom water skier, was one of the most friendly and accommodating professional athletes I've worked with. He did an instructional camp at a ski ranch near San Marcos when I photographed him for the Statesman. I'm glad I was available for this assignment.

I'm still near Taos, NM waiting on the Harris third child to arrive and I've learned birth is totally unpredictable. I've thoroughly enjoyed being in their company and have the privilege to spend over a week in their new home. They've made massive steps in living sustainably and finding peace with the world and themselves as a "semi off the grid family." It has been pretty amazing to have witnessed this family's progression over the last two years.

Don't forget Slideluck Potshow is Saturday the 21st at the Shangri-La on East 6th st. in Austin. One Week from today! What dish are you bringing?

Monday, November 9, 2009

A day in November at Ft. Hood

Last week was shaping up to be a slow week as I prepared to leave Austin, for Northern New Mexico to spend time with the Harris family, the people in the Voluntary Simplicity - America Downsizing project. On Wednesday I was asked to shoot an energy story for the Times on Friday morning in Taylor so I decided to stick around and leave from the shoot and file from the road.

Thursday, I was preparing for the trip and wrapping up a few things. Printing, typing, trimming and about to begin stitching Zulu at 100 books when I got a phone call... At about 2:20 an editor at Getty Images in New York called and asked if I could look into a suspected shooting at Ft. Hood in Killeen. I asked her when she wanted me to go and she said umm NOW. Immediatley after we hung up the New York Times called and then the Dallas Morning News... This was major and I was out the door not knowing what was going on as there wasn't much information available to the public at the time. As I approached Killeen I learned more from the public radio stations.

About an hour later I arrived in Killeen and went straight to the main gate of Ft. Hood. I had no idea what to expect and only knew that I had just missed a press conference. I hurriedly parked and immediately began shooting civilians, military family members and soldiers in the parking lot. I think a lot of hysteria in the parking lot near the main gate was result of a lack of information. We learned soon there after 12 people had died and 30 more were injured in what the radio was calling a massacre.

After making some images I left the main gate to file my pictures as it was nearing newspapers' deadline times. This was a very real situation that became serious quickly and the world needed to see what was going on, which was frustrating because it was so heavily restricted. No one can control any one's reactions to such a horrible event and this became the first photos I sent to New York.

The above photo was a very difficult situation as this distraught woman had no idea where her husband was and was unable to communicate with him. Monica Cain, above, explained in broken english that her husband Darren had only gone to the base that day for a minor doctors appointment. She was overwhelmed that after he was first injured in Iraq, now he came home to an attack within his own base. They had moved to Killeen only 4 months ago from Hawaii. A few journalists photographed her with long lenses and me and another got closer. I stuck around and although very difficult I found my presence with her more helpful than if she were alone with her children. As I was kneeling near her car, where this photo was made, she began to vomit from the stress and apoligized. I ran to my car and brought her my nalgene of water and she thankfully drank. She continued calling family members and tried to make contact to no avail causing her to burst into more tears, fearing the worst. When I came back after filing photos, she had gone, I found my water bottle on the curb where her car had been parked.

I came back and the sun was setting. A slew of journalists milled around the main gate at Ft. Hood waiting on a press conference where 3-star Gen. Robert Cone would speak about the massacre that took place. I found some soldiers waiting to hear from family inside the gates and stood with them until the general appearred. As I waited I began getting text messages from my editor that papers and websites were using my images on the fronts of their publications and friends from all over sent me words of encouragement. It was amazing how fast the images I made had made an impact. I felt strange to benefit in any way from the distress and trauma of others as messages of congratulations came, but I knew that I was doing a good thing telling these people's story. I was just doing my job.

Almost 3 hours after the announced time. Gen. Cone showed up for his press conference and explained the days tragedy. I filed and got home around midnight. Friday morning came and I did my morning Times assignment and went straight back to Killeen looking for community reaction photos. It seemed to me that the community had for the most part become numb to the previous days events. I went to churches, high schools, blood drives and restaurants searching for reactions. A moment of silence took place, but didn't resonate in the community off base. It was surreal to me, as if people weren't reacting. Eventually, i went to the home of the suspect Mjr. Hasan and photographed the owner of the complex who felt guilt for harboring such a man unknowingly.

I eventually learned that 13 newspapers had published my images of Monica Cain and the two soldiers hugging on their covers. I felt odd to be proud of this, but knew that it was a privilege I was able to tell these people's story and know that I did the best I could as a person and photographer.

I left Friday night for New Mexico after filing some follow up reaction photos from Killeen and have been here for 3 days. It was a crazy experience, but I felt comfortable and prepared for covering the story. I hope things settle in their community sooner than later.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Down in the Greenbelt

Work has been very busy. I've been editing and preparing a wedding a shot last weekend as well as printing, trimming, typing and stitching my Zulu books to distribute to bookstores and galleries in Austin and New Orleans... I've had a few assignments over the past few days for the Statesman and the Times.

I've also been spending a lot of time in the greenbelt over the last week mostly climbing and doing some hiking. I've been bringing my digital camera along with the m6 to photograph various routes and other things along the way. Kyle and Scott Smith do a few different routes at the New Wall.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Zulu at 100 zine now on sale

NOW ON SALE: "Zulu at 100" my 12 page photo zine to coincide wtih my upcoming show in New Orleans, February 2010.

Limited edition series of 137 printed with archival ink from silver gelatin print scans. The series captures the history and excitement of the Zulu Mardi Gras parade on its 100th anniversary (2009).

Please email me if your interested.

Today I tanned a hide for my new promotional books coming in December... Here are some photos thanks to Michael Jackson:

My hands are stained because they are leather.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Public speaking

Tomorrow evening at 8:30 I'll join photographers Erich Schlegel, Andrew Loehman, and Thomas Meredith to speak at The University of Texas National Press Photographers Association student group meeting. The topic is freelancing. If your interested join us at 830 at CMA 3.124 near the corner of Dean Keaton (26th) and whitis.

The link is up! Check out the style piece I shot for AOL here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The United Soviet State of College Station

I spent this past Saturday in College Station shooting a street style fashion piece for Stylelist.com a website owned by AOL.com. The idea was to find people who dress interesting to tailgate for a Big12 rivalry football game and the day was equally as tame as it sounds until we found this group of tailgaiters.

Thanks to my John for holding reflectors for me that made it possible to make some great photos of our not so model prepped models. It was a great time in the end and the editors were really happy with the photos. I'll post a link when it comes up.

I got an exciting email on Saturday from Ken at Coup d'Oeil Art Consortium in New Orleans and one of my prints from the Zulu project sold during the Art for Art Sake night on October 3. I think I'm most impressed by the idea that some one is hanging something I created in their home.

On Friday I was in San Antonio to shoot a writers guild conference that helps veterans find a voice. The article ran today. It was held in the San Antonio public library downtown after hours as the sun was sunsetting after a mostly rainy day, making it a beautiful time to shoot. I had a great time running from group to group and shooting the empty architecturally sound building in the mean time. Here's some photos that weren't published:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Larry Coker

Last Thursday I photographed Larry Coker, former University of Miami football coach, for the New York Times at UTSA where he is starting a football program from scratch. Coker won an NCAA championship in 2001 with the Canes. He was very friendly, accomodating and was even willing to get his shoes a little muddy for the portrait below. They didn't run the portrait but I thought it was a good idea. I mostly documented him doing what he does, which is mostly stuff behind the desk considering he won't have any players til next fall. Here is a link to the story.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Zulu at 100

I've been scanning a few silver gelatin projects that I've recently completed. One of which is from last years Zulu parade during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It happened to be the 100 year anniversary of the parade and the energy there inspired me to do a project.

A show is in the works at Darkroom a gallery, printer, framer locale in New Orleans for February 2010, during Mardi Gras. Here's a photo...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hospital Installation

Recently, I wrapped up hanging an installation for the University of Texas Medical Branch Internal Medicine residency program at Brackenridge Hospital.

I've done this project for about three years now and had a great time meeting the doctors entering their profession each time. It's consistently a challenge to photograph them while they work and capture natural expressions of concentration, curiousity, confusion, exhaustion or what have you. The theme of the work is 'face of the new doctor.'

This installation idea came from collaborating with Dr. Beth Miller and would not be possible without her support. Thanks so much!

Next week I'm starting a new installation commissioned by the Family Medicine department of UTMB...