Go west, young medical student
Medical school classes start this week, so before all that madness, I took a smaller, but still adventurous and slightly myopic, trip. On July 17, I set out for Chicago on a road trip through Omaha and Casper, Wyoming, to take a hike in Shoshone National Forest.
tap for title text
Kite aerial photography at the Indianapolis Museum of Art
On Monday, I was accepted into the IU School of Medicine. Today, I was paid to fly a kite. Truly, we live in interesting times.
While I was in Guatemala, I got an email from an intern at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The museum was planning its annual spring equinox event, with this year's event themed, "Go Fly a Kite." The intern went looking for kite aerial photographers in the area to take pictures of the event from above, and the intern found my site. I agreed to take the photos (because, a la Ghostbuster Winston Zeddemore, when someone wants to pay you to fly a kite, you say YES!), and I also agreed to be the interesting person that other organizations, like Sky Blue Window, could talk to before the event.
...If you haven't clicked through to the Sky Blue Window story, please do so, if only to learn how happy I, as a Beatles fan, became when I read it.
I took more than 2000 photos using the IMA's GoPro, which was much better than mine and also could send photos to a display screen on the ground. It was a fun day, and I would love to do it again.Continued...
This was 2014.
A three-year tradition for this four-year-old blog. (Whoops. Sorry, 2011.)
Today, I end 2014 with, oddly enough, a few words about 2013.
Only over the distance of a year can I feel that I fully understand how transformative 2013 was. I started out the year thinking I would spend my life as a photographer, covering weddings & newspaper assignments and flying a kite with a GoPro for fun. I ended the year heading into a second semester of pre-med classes and becoming ever more convinced that I would spend my life, not as a photographer, but as a doctor. There was such a hairpin turn in the middle of that year, and I could feel the turn as I drove through it, but only now can I look back and see how sharp the turn was.
I also see how much happier I am after that turn. There are many reasons for this contentment, some of which appear in great detail in my INPA post, so I won't recapitulate everything here. I'll simply say that returning full-time to my love of science has been an awe-filled, fulfilling, and oddly goal-oriented experience (what with the requirements that medical schools place before their applicants). At the same time, a part of me will always miss pizza in the newsroom and telling a good story on deadline, and that part of me will always live vicariously through my reporter friends. I'm really glad that I have friends who do journalism as their way to make the world a better place, and I'm extremely lucky to have friends like Ryan Dorgan who use great photos to tell an even greater story. I will be watching those friends from afar, appreciating their work, awed by their skill, and confident they will improve the world.
This year doesn't feel quite as transformative as did 2013. At least, any transformation that occurred was nowhere near as sudden or cataclysmic. The theme this year is progress. I finished my medical school requirements (while bumping my GPA past 3.8!), I earned a good score on the MCAT, I got a job in medicine as a scribe for ScribeAmerica, and I scheduled interviews for January with the IU School of Medicine and the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. There were many other small improvements this year, as well, like taking more high school basketball assignments and finding a better way to capture stars trailing through the night sky. Each improvement, small and large, assures me that I chose wisely to make that hairpin turn. There will be hills and mountains and further sharp turns to come, but now that I've lived to tell the tale of that consequential turn, I'm more and more confident that I can make it through those, as well.
But let's leave tomorrow for next year. (ba-DUM, tish.) Today, let's look back at the year that was. Have a good night, and I hope to see you here next year.Continued...
or I missed posting 11 photo assignments
or Let's use this ketchup before it expires
There are 10 days left in the year, so now is the perfect time to remember that I am behind on my posts. I picked a good time to accidentally stop posting; I could focus on a new job with ScribeAmerica and on my biochemistry class, and that photo illustration of the partial solar eclipse is quite pretty, isn't it? Alas, it is time to knock it down the list of most recent posts and upload some new photos.
This first batch of catch-up is just that: the first. I also neglected to post photos from two weddings, one in the summer and one in the fall. Those deserve their own entries, and they'll go up before the year-end recap.
Unlike what I've done with most previous entries, I'll select only one photo from each assignment. It's an exercise I've grown away from, given the focus of my Star assignments on filling pageview-greedy photo galleries, but choosing only one photo from these assignments is refreshing. I hope you like it.
One more thing: Last week, Michel du Cille died at the age of 58 while covering the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He was a three-time Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who worked for the Miami Herald and The Washington Post, but before all of that, he was a photographer for the Indiana Daily Student and a graduate of Indiana University. I had the fortune of being in the same room as him on three separate occasions: a lecture and after-lecture photos during centennial celebrations of the IU School of Journalism; a lecture with two other Pulitzer-winning IU alumni; and possibly my most helpful (and most humbling) photo critique. I'll never forget how good he was at seeing the ordinariness in photos I, the day after taking them, thought made up a great set of breaking-news work, and his ability to pick out a set of photos that most effectively told a story. It's palpable in both his images and his words from Liberia.
You were a good guy, Michel. I hope people remember your work for years and years.Continued...
Fourth of July, taken slowly
Earlier in my journalism career, I learned how to be very good on deadline. I learned, through the crucible of the IDS, how to be quick, yet thorough, and it is because of those skills that I first got the privilege to work with the Star. By now, I've sent off a great many assignments with tight deadlines, enough that I don't bother to count them anymore.
While editing photos of a wedding I covered last month, though, I was reminded of how much good work can come out of the absence of a tight deadline. (I'm also reminded of this in my studying for organic chemistry; you cannot quickly learn and memorize how an alkene reacts with a peroxy acid to create an epoxide!) The most effective lesson came from an assignment ten days ago, when I had my eyes so focused on the deadline that I didn't send my favorite photo (4). If I had been taking things slower, focusing on the photos more than on the time I had remaining to send them, I would have thought more clearly, and I definitely would have selected that photo for submission.
Anyway, here are photos I've taken over the last two weekends, chosen outside of the fog of deadline-induced blindness. They include Greenwood's pre-Fourth of July Freedom Festival, a concert on Georgia Street on the Fourth (with high-school friends in the crowd!), and a concert by The Fray, one of my favorite bands from high school. Side note: This is the first concert I've covered where I found myself singing while taking pictures. I think the other photographers (and some audience members) might have heard me sing "You Found Me." Whoops.
As for those wedding photos I mentioned earlier: I sent the couple a CD yesterday, and a few of the best will be up on the weddings part of the website before the week is out. That is, if studying for an organic chemistry exam allows it.
One more thing: I was fortunate enough to not be directly affected by the multiple shootings in Indy this weekend. Unfortunately, seven people in Broad Ripple and the family of IMPD officer Perry Renn weren't. While Chicago had a much more violent weekend than we did, this should still be a wake-up call for the city, a time when we can discuss what can make us better. The Star, through its news coverage and commentary, is fostering that important discussion, one in which everyone in Indianapolis should take part.Continued...
2014 Little 500
There are some things in life that just make me smile. The profundity of seeing the million-year-old light of stars in the night sky. The connection I make between something I learned in organic chemistry and something I've observed and wondered about throughout my life. The friends I made in Madrid, and the fortune I've had in seeing them many times since we studied together.
On Friday, what made me smile was the exit off State Road 37 into Bloomington. At 1:45pm that day, an hour after finishing my physics lab in Indy, the exit meant I was that close to the Little 500, an experience that is simultaneously just a pair of bicycle races and so much more than just a pair of bicycle races. It's spring, it's college, it's athleticism, it's determination, it's the pinnacle of life in a great many ways. For me, it's the memory of good times at the IDS, it's where I first earned a photojournalism award, and it's a reminder of how vivacious life is and can be.
That's how I describe it when I'm away from the race. When I'm there, though, the only words I can say are "Wow" and "Woo hoo!" and "This is the best!" I have neither the time nor the presence of mind to put those emotions into words; I'm living the emotions, and there are photos to make! And make them I did, including my first good crash photo and the winning moments in both the women's and men's races. The sound I made when I saw that I got Brenna McGinn of Kappa Alpha Theta crossing the finish line, hand over her mouth in jubilant realization, is something hard to replicate. If you see me in person, ask me about it, and I'll try my best to make it. It was some sort of squeal.
I was covering the race for the Star, and they posted photo galleries, of course. Their gallery-posting system is still a bit off, though, and it resulted in crops I didn't make (to be fair, I'm certain the photo editors didn't make them, either). So, here are galleries of the women's and men's races, but original versions of 32 photos (16 women's, 16 men's) appear below.
Happy Little 5, everyone, and happy spring!Continued...
This was 2013.
How do I define a year with so many distinct parts? This year contained one week of Spanish translating work in Guatemala with Operation Walk, six weeks of daily photojournaism at the Journal & Courier in Lafayette, eight weeks of learning how to do school again in that wonderful place called Bloomington, two weeks of frantically mapping out and registering for the start a wholly new career, a semester full of science classes at IUPUI, and the filling of every spare weekend possible with assignments from The Indianapolis Star. Not to mention hours of website coding, a weekend of best-manning a friend's wedding, one late night spent at a bar in Lafayette talking with a Purdue professor about the merits of getting a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology, two days of agonizing waiting before I found out I got straight A's, and five seconds of my brain processing the translation of a patient in Guatemala telling me she would name her next son after me.Continued...
Way up there and way down here
Leica Microsystems, the brand behind the first practical 35mm camera, makes microscopes that take pictures. I had to try one out, and a post-doc in Dr. James Marrs' lab happily indulged me.Continued...
On the off chance that 'Gravity' really happens
I remember a few nights of star-gazing very well. One night in 1997 (for a great many nights, really), I could look out my west-facing bedroom window and see Comet Hale-Bopp, its white and blue tails of Sun-smoked ice and dust dazzling me to no end. The star-spangled sky over the Boundary Waters, of course, scared me back into my tent for four days before I could spend half of my last night there marveling at its vastness. And one very early morning in elementary school, my dad and I (I don't remember if my brother was there) watched the space shuttle chase the International Space Station across the sky before docking with it.
The memories have been embellished, of course, as all memories have been; but still, I smile when I remember those nights. The reminders that we live, as Carl Sagan put it, on "a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena," have stuck with me and help me to cherish our existence here while keeping me from giving it galactic import. Every chance I get, I look up and marvel at how much we've explored and how startlingly much we still have left to explore.
Last week, my attention turned to the International Space Station. I had watched Gravity on its opening weekend with my dad and sister, so the orbiting global cooperative was already on my mind. My dad had found its path over our speck of Earth on a NASA website (still functioning on what was day two of the partial shutdown). I set my camera on top of my car, steadied it with my rigid camera bag, and took the six 30-second exposures you see below (presented as both a flattened .jpg file and as an animated GIF).
Keep looking up.Continued...
Two weeks with the Journal & Courier
On Feb. 24, I was reminded how good it felt to speak Spanish every day. Eight days later, I was reminded how good it felt to do photojournalism every day.
I started what will likely be a six-week stint at the Journal & Courier in Lafayette on March 4, filling in for an editor on medical leave. My life hasn't been so full of journalism since the IDS, and I love it. There are a lot of stories to tell (like getting on the AP wire and breaking my camera on the same day), but I absolutely have to tell you one of them.
My first assignment was to cover a gold and electronics buy-back event at the Comfort Inn. It was very low-key, but one promoter was insistent that I get photos of every type of item bought at the event. This man, known around the place as Jeff the Coin Guy, showed me some of the gold they had received earlier in the day (photo 9). After the photo, he hurried off to do a live radio spot, so I asked another organizer what his full name was. (You know, for the caption.) The organizer said, without trouble, that his name was Jeff Parsons.
I came back to the newsroom and submitted the photos. The next day, the reporter on the story, Hayleigh Colombo, came over to the photo desk and asked me about the photos I'd taken. Specifically, she was confused about Jeff the Coin Guy. She had been told that his last name was Allen, which didn't jive with my Parsons. She checked it out, and she found Illinois documents showing that a Jeffrey A. Parsons owed $500 million to various creditors. Five hundred million dollars! And the photos of Jeff the Coin Guy attached to Illinois media stories matched our guy.
Anyway, this was an exciting two weeks. As a token of my excitement, I have here a batch of photos from those first two weeks (March 4 to March 17). Going forward, I'll probably put up an entry every Sunday night while I'm here, starting with photos from my third week this Sunday.
While you're here, I should tell you that I have a series on Operation Walk in Guatemala running on the Indianapolis Monthly's Circle Citizen blog. So far, I have three entries there, with the fourth going up some time today.
tap for title text
Operation Walk in Guatemala
Yesterday, I started a month-long stint as a photographer for the Lafayette Journal & Courier. I'm filling in while one of the photographers is on leave, and I found an empty room in a house of graduate students to stay in, meaning I'll be under long-term exposure to "the enemy" (of course, Purdue has never been my enemy).
Before that gets going, though, I want to put up something from Guatemala. Last week, I translated Spanish and English for the Mooresville branch of Operation Walk, an organization that goes to developing countries and does orthopedic surgery for those who need it but can't afford it. The humanitarian trip alternates every year between Guatemala and Nicaragua, and this year we were stationed at Hospittalia Amatitlán, a hospital about an hour south of Guatemala City. Simply put, this is the best thing I've done and been a part of in a long time. To say that I was part of a trip that resolved 99 joint cases in 69 patients in four days is nothing short of an honor. The head of the trip (who is also my research-job boss) invited everyone back next year, and I can't wait to do it again.
I didn't have a lot of free time, but when I did I took some photos. Many of them I took on my iPhone because I was too busy to run around with my big DSLR as I gave patients instructions on physical therapy and their medications. Regardless, I hope this gives you a taste of all the good things we did in Guatemala. If you'd like, you can go to the trip website and go through the photos of the extremely talented Jim Brown, former journalism professor and associate dean at IUPUI.Continued...
This was 2012.
Update 2013.01.02: When I posted this, I forgot that, a while back, I did some fancy things with the blog index page. I figure the year-in-review post is a good place to introduce this new-fangled stuff.
If you type in a URL like www.alex-farris.com/blog/2011, you'll see every blog post I put up in that year. The same principle works if you type in www.alex-farris.com/blog/2011.06, which would show you every post from June 2011. And for those of you snarky enough to try this for dates before the blog started (like, say, 2010), there's something there for you, too. (There's also snark for those of you want to travel back to the future.)
Final Let Go! dance party
Last night was my first, and apparently my last, time at the weekly Let Go! dance party at the Lockerbie Pub. Given the momentous occasion, I decided to use this Indianapolis Star assignment to one-up my previous dance-party experience.Continued...
Election Day in Columbus, Ohio
I went back and forth on this one. This whole "covering Election Day Obama campaign volunteers in Columbus" idea started with talking to Harold, an Obama '08 volunteer, while covering the President's event in Columbus in October. And yet, I ended up not using his material because I got enough on that day. I thought of making the end result just audio, and then I thought of putting the photos on top to make an audio slideshow, and then I settled on keeping the audio and photos separate. Makes the navigation through all this stuff freer, I guess. Finally, the decision to follow Obama volunteers instead of Romney volunteers came from talking with Harold and wanting to finish that story. Of course, that didn't pan out, but something else did. Seriously, these people are dedicated.
So, here it is, finally. I'm sure if I didn't have a day job outside of journalism I would have finished this less than three days after the election. (By the way: Everything was recorded on my iPhone, that gorgeous piece of journalistic magic that made shelling out money for a dedicated audio recorder optional.)
As for the photos: I didn't do any coverage in 2008 (besides one Obama-with-a-baby photo that became my first work published in the IDS), so this presidential election has been an eye-opener. I carried over some lessons from covering the midterm elections in 2010 for the IDS, but of course this year everything played out on a much larger scale. I'm no Damon Winter or Charles Dharapak, but maybe I'm getting there, and I'm sure Demotix appreciates it.Continued...
Paul Ryan stumps in Owensville, Ohio
or Politicians talk with their hands and faces
Maybe I should apologize for not providing any verbal substance or analysis of Congressman Paul Ryan's stump speech at the Clermont County Fairgrounds in Owensville, Ohio. (I did record a bit of it on my iPhone, near the beginning when he addressed the U.S. Embassy attacks in Libya and Egypt that resulted in the death of four diplomats in Benghazi, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. Specifically, he defended the guy at the top of his ticket, Mitt Romney, in his critique of the Obama Administration's early responses to the events. Audio here.) Like I usually am at these sorts of things, I'm too immersed in the visuals to pay attention to the words.
But maybe I can provide some substance. Along with the photos on Demotix, I have a set of images that analyzes (somewhat) Ryan's non-verbal methods of delivery. I've been fascinated by politicians and other speech-givers talking with their hands ever since I noticed Bill Clinton's "pointing without pointing" (also known at the Clinton thumb) when I was a kid. There's so much that politicians can say without saying a word, and it would do everybody some good to separate, every once in a while, the words and the gestures (and the faces) of a speech.Continued...
Go fly a kite, with an iPhone attached to its string
or My first foray into kite aerial photography
Randall Munroe's photos over Boston rekindled in me something that has long been a dream of mine: to take photos from extremely high places.Continued...
Last night, I delivered the photos and video of last weekend's wedding to the Cariaso household. Sophia, the mother of two friends in my high-school class and the bride in that wedding, thanked me and invited me in so we could watch the video and flip through the photos together with the rest of the family. I stayed there for four hours because, well, we're all good friends.
Despite that friendship, I never really knew the story of their family while I was in high school with J.D. and Denice. Denice, their eldest daughter, set me straight during the reception on Saturday. J.D., Denice, and their father, Edgar, moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1997, and the rest of the family (Sophia and kids Daniel, David, and Angel) was assembled in the next five years. By the time I started high school in 2003, all of them were here, so I thought they were just a family made here that maintained its strong Filipino roots (and cooked great Filipino food!). Hearing their story during the wedding Mass's homily, how they met in their childhood neighborhood and fulfilled their Catholic marriage obligations (especially the children part) even before they were officially married in the Church, provided an even more awesome story than the one I already knew.
As grandmother and granddaughter, husband and wife, watched the video and laughed at dance photos, I couldn't help but smile. I've known this family for a long time, but I was thankful to be a major part of the culmination of a long and happy life together, one that promises to be even longer and happier now. All weekend, and last night, every time Sophia and Edgar said, "Thank you," I made sure to say it back to them.
tap for title text
Second rock from the sun
Of course, NASA beats me, but I think I did pretty well with my limited resources.Continued...
NATO brings out the protesters
"The biggest problem with NATO is its existence and the idea that it's built on," Anna Sanne Göransson said. With the existence of such a large military alliance, "you have a hammer, [and] you see every problem as a nail."
tap for title text
"Mr. Big" Jerry Hostetler's run-down house
I had no idea.
I got called April 12 to take photos of a run-down house on the Northside for an IndyStar story. Writer Will Higgins had talked to Dan Kirklin, a neighbor across a pond from the house, and he'd organized a visit where I would talk to Dan, take a photo of him looking over to the house, and work my way into the house for some more photos. All I knew about the house was that it belonged to a Jerry Hostetler, a guy who was a bit rich and had put a lot of gaudy additions onto his home before his death in 2006, and that it was going to auction soon because it had been abandoned since then.
When the story got published online last night, I was treated to the real Jerry Hostetler. From Will:
For most of his adult life, Hostetler was a minor celebrity around Indianapolis. Celebrity is not the right word. But he made the papers, first back in 1964 when, as "Mr. Big," he pleaded guilty to two charges of pandering, running prostitutes. // A report filed by a probation officer back in the day said: "When asked how he became involved in the business, (Hostetler) said it was difficult to pass up that easy money."
You can find the full story and all the photos of the house and Hostetler here. Enjoy, and if you're game enough, you should go to the auction June 4. You might be able to reverse what Kirklin told me: "The whole was far, far less than the sum of its parts."Continued...
2012 Little 500
Little 500 is my favorite event of the year, as it is for a lot of people. Some of my best IDS memories are of taking or editing photos of the men's and women's races, the rush to make the best photo of the eight-person team and telling a full story of the event in an award-winning photo gallery. There's so much pageantry around the event, and it produces many of my favorite photos.
This year, I shot for The Indianapolis Star instead of the IDS, and even though I was shooting on my own, I still think I got a complete picture of the event. Check it out below.
Note The Star put up a gallery of the 20-odd photos I sent them yesterday, but this is a looser/more expansive edit of about 40 photos. Y'know, more bang for your click. Also, the IDS did a great job this year at both the women's and men's races.Continued...
It's a marvelous night for a moondance
Intrigued by the footage of the planets' movements on NBC Nightly News (but knowing about it beforehand), I decided to record this Moon-Venus-Jupiter proximity for myself. I set up the camera on a tripod and took photos every minute between 8 and 9 p.m., and then I put it all into a .gif file for easy consumption.Continued...
IU basketball beats Kentucky 73-72, all hell breaks loose in Bloomington
Once again (but for the opposite reason) I have to claim some emotional interest in journalistic sports photos I've taken. I was at Nick's English Hut with friends watching the IU men's basketball team play No. 1-ranked Kentucky last night. I had my camera with me, so I was able to capture the greatest moment in Indiana Universy basketball in about a decade. I regret that in the pandemonium I didn't get any names, especially of the fans in the first picture who all acknowledged me in between photos, but in the grand scheme of things, the documentation of such a euphoric event was enough. (If, though, you know who they are, please let me know. Their anticipation and emotion should be bottled.)Continued...
On Saturday, I had the honor of being a groomsman at the wedding of my good friend David Erdely and his wife, Vicki Hayes. I've known Dave since first grade, and after going through elementary school, getting our Eagle Scout badges and surviving college, this seemed like the next logical, beautiful step. I was thrilled to be such a large part of his best day ever.
Of course, being a groomsman meant that I couldn't spend my time taking photos. Believe me, it was more than a fair trade-off; however, I still wanted to capture some images, the best of which appear below. Main photo duties that day belonged to local (and awesome) event photographer Lerin Morkal.Continued...
Two weeks without Lauren Spierer
IDS reporter CJ Lotz and I, as well as freelancer Peter Stevenson, went on the first public search for Lauren Spierer on June 5. There, at the front door of Smallwood Plaza, we met her parents, Robert and Charlene, who had flown from New York to Indianapolis over the weekend. The parents, about 15 volunteers, and we members of the media (including a Fox 59 cameraman) drove to Hoosier National Forest to search.Continued...
Victor Oladipo sings "U Got It Bad"
I don't like covering non-game athletic events. Nearly every banquet, media challenge and discussion the IU athletic department puts on doesn't seem real to me at all. (The media challenge, to be fair, was fun to cover, especially since I could watch other reporters work themselves to exhaustion.) I know it's the department's goal to be more visible and get people to look at their programs, but I get irked about the thought of doing some p.r. for them by giving them coverage. I don't want to be their publicist. (At least not while working with a newspaper. If I worked for them, that'd be just fine.)
I'll let this event slip by, though. The Spirit of Indiana Showcase ended with freshman basketball player Victor Oladipo singing Usher's "U Got It Bad." It's hard to beat a singing basketball player, even if he was singing with the recording in the background. (He was good, but I could tell he was no Usher.) Plus, with all the awards the department gave out and how well dressed all the athletes were, I thought back to those banquets in high school, and I felt better about everything.Continued...
Egypt: Not far from home
Between the third and the sixth of February I interviewed five Egyptians about what was happening in their country and took portraits of them posed loosely like officeholders. Now that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has said he will not step down, the hopes of the people of Egypt to rule their own country look slightly perilous; however, the good nature and optimism of those I talked to make me think the movement will succeed, eventually.
The photos and brief story appeared in today's paper, and an audio slideshow was uploaded to the website.Continued...
You've come to the right place?
If you've come here to read a blog on the very best of photojournalism, go here, here and here. If you've come here to find international work that pushes the limits of danger in order to expose injustice and (in)humanity, go here. If you've come here to be inspired by the work that your fellow (wo)man can do, both in front of and behind the camera, go here. If you've come here to follow the work of the best young photographers on the planet, go here. (And here.)
Seriously, you won't find the best of anything on here. Anything universal and quintessentially human can best be captured currently by someone else, and in the wide spaces of the internet there is no shortage of that work on other websites. This blog can provide none of that for you.
If, however, you've come here to watch someone try to get to here, here, here, here, here and here but who is clearly not there yet, then you, my friend, have come to the right place. I do not claim to be worthy of the work on those sites, but I do claim that I am trying my damnedest to reach the top without sacrificing the promises of elegantly simple photojournalism. I want to go to there, and this blog will document my path to there.
If you would like to stay, save the blog page in your favorites and peruse the forthcoming photos and galleries (which will appear up ↑ there →). If you'd like to go to the other pages linked above, please do so. Hopefully, when you come back, the photos here will be worthy of the sites there.
Thanks for reading.
tap for title text