Monday, October 27, 2014

This one's for Jim.

So, here's the good/happy/easy-to-read news: I'm almost to my six-month mark of working at The Gazette. Summer minor league baseball came and went and high school sports are in full swing. I've seen and experienced some wonderful and intriguing things in my time here. I'm happy to be here in Billings. My coworkers are supportive and hilarious and my bosses are engaging and always looking for exciting and new things for me to shoot. They care. Which is wonderful. I am in a good place professionally, which is something I'm really happy about.

But, there's more. Allow me to explain. Bear with me.

One of my best friends, another KSU photojournalism grad and amazing photographer herself, was here in Montana visiting this past week. We were catching up, enjoying our reunion, when she very bluntly and almost angrily pointed out that she hadn't seen any new work from me in months. Not one website update, blog post, nothing. I was taken aback by this... and instantly frustrated with myself. And why? Because I had not even considered updating my website or blog in months. The thought had never even occurred to me. Here's why.

It's safe to say that the past three months or so have been extremely difficult. A few months ago I lost a very good friend unexpectedly. He committed suicide. I'd never lost someone like that. I dealt with the normal emotions: guilt, blame, confusion. But it was more than that... He was the last person (or at least I saw it this way) to really push and encourage me to move forward in my career. To do something daring. To create work that meant something. He pushed me every day to become better and to find happiness and balance. He was one of the very few anchors I had during a very tumultuous, confusing and lonely time in my life. He meant the world to me. His sudden and tragic loss hit me like a freight train and I shut down for a very long time. I went through the motions of life, I went to work and tried to do my best every day, I went out with coworkers, I did my best to pretend that everything was normal. But really, nothing was normal. 

If you know me at all, you know that I am driven. I have spent the past 5 years of my life working toward one singular goal: success in this crazy, difficult, weird field of photojournalism. 3 internships, 2 full-time jobs, 2 degrees in 4 years. I worked hard. I sacrificed a lot, especially connections to my close friends and family, to go to places where my social life might suffer but my professional life would flourish. Everyone in this field knows what I'm talking about... we sacrifice bits and pieces of ourselves to become someone better... to do meaningful work. Because that work is what keeps us thriving and growing. 

When my friend died (among a few other tragic events that aren't worth discussing), I lost that drive. It dissipated. Evaporated. Vanished into thin air. And I had no idea. I stopped searching high and low for meaningful stories. I shut down. My ambition disappeared and I was simply drifting day to day, camera in hand, but no soul behind it. And that's what makes my work mean something... the heart and soul backing it. It's funny how a huge part of you can disappear and you never even see it go. 

But... my best friend Brooke made me see again. Made me see that I've let so much slide that was once so very important to me. Finding long term projects and making connections with my subjects has saved me multiple times in the past. I learn and heal by watching and helping others learn and heal through my work. Brooke made me remember that the best way I can work past my friends death (and everything else) is to return to what I know and really love. I spent so long focused on the fact that I would never see Jim again, never talk to him again, never hear him laugh again... So blinded by his absence in my life that I forgot about what parts of him still remained with me. Like his advice... to do something meaningful. To work hard and move forward and never stop growing. 

So that's what I'm gonna do. Starting now. Because that's what Jim would want. 

In the meantime, here are some photos from my many months of silence. I hope you enjoy them.

Trig Clark of Meadow, SD, flies off his horse "Dragon" on Thursday October 16, 2014 during the bareback riding competition at The NILE Rodeo at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.

Tayah Beeman, 2, lies on the gym floor in a white dress and waits for her turn to wrestle during the wrestling tournament of the Big Sky State Games on Saturday July 19, 2014, at Billings West High School. Beeman's father, Josh Beeman, is the wrestling coach at Huntley Project High School. 
Sam Shaules attempts to wrestle a pig into a barrel during the greased pig wrestling contest Saturday July 12, 2014 at Homesteader Days in Huntley. 
Kienna Gillespie, 8, soaks up the sun and enjoys Independence Day festivities  at the "Celebrate Freedom" event put on by Harvest Church on Friday July 4, 2014 at Castlerock Park. 
Collin Johnson of Browning, MT, attempts to take down a steer in the wteer wrestling competition during the final night of the Yellowstone River Roundup on Saturday August 16, 2014 at MontanaFair.
Swimmers exit the water as the sun rises for the cycling leg of the Big Sky State Games Triathlon on Sunday July 20, 2014 at Lake Elmo State Park.
Blood pours from a wound on pick-up man Scott McClain's forehead Friday October 17, 2014 after a saddle bronc kicked McNeal in the face as he tried to remove its flank strap during the NILE Rodeo at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.
Grand Champion Goat/Grand Junior Goat Showman Kolby Dietz of FFA Shepherd bids a tearful farewell to her goat "LL" after it was sold for resale Saturday August 15, 2014 at the MontanaFair Junior Livestock Sale at the Expo Center at MetraPark. 
A runner jogs down Buffalo Trail Road near Molt, MT, at sunrise on Sunday September 21, 2014 during the Montana Marathon. 
Keyan Hernandez, 8, top, flips on top of his opponent Trace Steinmetz, 7, during the wrestling tournament of the Big Sky State Games on Saturday July 19, 2014 at Billings West High School. 
Thousands enjoy Independence Day fireworks Friday July 4, 2014 at Castle Rock Park. 
Mustangs pitcher Justin Remer, right, successfully tags out Great Falls player Hunter Jones at home plate Friday September 5, 2014 during the Mustangs first playoff game against the Great Falls Voyagers at Dehler Park. 
Nick and Aspen Zugg walk hand in hand past their muddy pick-up truck after exchanging vows of marriage and taking a race around the mud bog track to celebrate at a Mud Drag at Montana Off Road Extreme (MORE) Racing on Saturday June 28, 2014. 
Firefighters respond to a grass fire at 1801 Bench Blvd. in the Heights on Friday July 11, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Siberian Tigers, football, basketball, softball, track, baseball, a derpy one-winged owl, the cutest couple ever, pig racing, graduation and more. Thanks for looking!

Billings Central graduate Sophie Malin laughs and hugs fellow graduate Weston Marsh after the Billings Central Catholic High School graduation ceremony Sunday evening. 
Helena Capital's Mary Leslie competes in the AA girls pole vault finals at the state track finals Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls. 

Three sleepy pigs rest in a pile after competing in a race at Bearcreek Saloon & Steakhouse in Bearcreek, Mont. 

Helena Capital's Kyle Nickol rests in the grass and says a prayer after winning the AA boys 400m dash at the state track meet Friday at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls.
Loyola's Pat Kosena of North and Forsyth's Luke Schwagler fail to intercept a pass at the end zone during the Class B Boys All-Star football game Saturday at Herb Klindt Field. 
World War II veteran Mel Blanchard, 90, plants a kiss on his girlfriend Tori Marion, 63, after returning home from final Big Sky Honor Flight on Monday May 12, 2014 at Billings Logan International Airport. 
White doves take off into the sky as part of a 21 dove salute during the Memorial Day ceremony Monday at the newly dedicated Yellowstone National Cemetery in Laurel. 
Billings West head coach Ed Kriskovich hugs pitcher Jalen Creech when seh is overcome with joy and emotion after her team's 3-2 state championship win over Missoula Big Sky on Friday at the Multi-Sport Complex in Great Falls.
Helena Capital's Maggie Settle competes in the AA women's high jump during the state track meet Friday at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls. 
Randon Gordy, 1, right, watches drag cars race with adult-sized headphones protecting his ears Saturday at Yellowstone Drag Strip.
Jeff Howell, left, dances with his daughter Sammie Howell, 9, on Father's Day at Chords for Kiddos at Yellowstone Perk.
A Siberian Tigers basks in the sunshine at ZooMontana.
Willow Creek's Jaci Nesbit competes in the C girls 100 meter hurdles during the state track finals Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls. 
Glacier teammates Mercede Erickson, left, and Alysha Smith, right, hug after finishing their final event at the state track finals Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls. 
The Mustangs's Aristides Aquino is tagged out while sliding into third during the Billings Mustangs vs. the Great Falls Voyagers game Monday at Dehler Park. 
The Munirah Tribal Dancers of Red Lodge perform belly dancing numbers for attendees of the Festival of Cultures on Sunday at Rocky Mountain College. 
Gable, a one-winged Great Horned Owl, greets festival-goers at the ZooMontana booth of the Festival of Cultures on Sunday at Rocky Mountain College. 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Welcome to the Wild West

My one month mark at the Billings Gazette was just a few days ago, May 8th. So far, I am so happy I made the decision to move on to this bigger and better place. The photo staff is supportive, knowledgeable, and best of all, hilarious. And they've already made me feel like an important part of the team... not just the newbie on staff. My other coworkers have also welcomed me with open arms. I feel so much more at home here than I've felt at my past few gigs, it's encouraging to know that after what feels like an eternity of trial and error in several cities, it's possible to find a home away from home. 

Montana is beautiful. Just absolutely gorgeous. Each day I drive to work, the Yellowstone River (and an oil refinery, but I try to look on the bright side) on my left and the Rimrocks that surround the city on my right. Even after a long, difficult day, it's easy to find solace and peace with one look outside. They call it "Big Sky Country" for a reason.

I feel so positive about my experience here professionally. I can't wait to see what lies ahead. 

Here are some of my favorite images from the past month. Bullriding, a vigil held for a man shot down by a police officer, hockey, softball, Pippi the Clown, veterans, fires, car accidents... here I see a little bit of everything. Every day is a challenge -- and that's something I have desperately needed throughout the past year.

Guytin Tsosie is bucked off of "Pitch Black" during the PBR Stanley Performance In Action Invitational on Saturday April 12, 2014 at Rimrock Auto Arena.
From left, Denny Harper of American Legion Post 100 in Park City, WY, Max Long of American Legion Post 123 in Laurel, Don Hedges of American Legion Post 123 in Laurel and Disabled American Veterans member Bob Scott all took part in fundraising for Big Sky Honor Flights.
Simeon Forsman, 10, of the Park city Wyoming Puck Chuckers cries and clutches his leg after being injured on the ice during the Big Sky State Games hockey tournament Sunday April 13, 2014 at Centennial Ice Arena
Beulah "Grandma B" Rylander, 86, shares a laugh with Guide Safety Instructor Love Burland before launching as the first official rider of the new zipline course at Outlaw Canyon Adventures on Thursday April 17, 2014.
Fire crews work to quell a blaze at the General Store at Oscar's Dreamland at 3740 Wise Lane on Sunday April 13, 2014. 
Friends and family of Richard Ramirez gather at the site of the shooting at 5th Ave S. and State Ave. and light candles in honor of his memory Friday April 18, 2014. 
Julia Ramirez, oldest sister of Richard Ramirez, cries on a friend's shoulder at the site of Ramirez's shooting at 5th Ave S. and State Ave. Friends and family gathered to light candles in honor of his memory Friday April 18, 2014. 
Mystic Pippin, 10, playing Connie Swanny, adjusts her tiara before running scenes with the rest of the Chicken Little cast April 21, 2014 at NOVA Center for the Performing Arts. Chicken Little premieres April 25th.
Triathlon runners stretch in the few minutes before the start of the 36th Annual Peaks to Prairie Adventure Race on Sunday April 27, 2014 in Red Lodge.
Travis Goff, 40, left, talks with Katy Miller (not pictured) while Justin Miller, right, plays with his children Mathew Miller, 3, top, and Leela Miller, 2, bottom, before a hot Easter meal Sunday April 19, 2014 at Montana Rescue Missions.
World War II Navy veteran Barbara Musgrove, 92, cries and waves to friends in the cheering crowd after arriving home a Big Sky Honor Flight on Monday April 28, 2014 at Billings Logan International Airport.
Billings Central's Molly Day is tagged out at third base after getting caught ina rundown between 2nd and 3rd during the Billings Central vs. Laurel High softball game Friday April 25, 2014 at Stewart Park.
Airport firefighters spray an arc of water over a departing plane containing the last Big Sky Honor Flight for World War II veterans Sunday May 11, 2014 at Billings Logan International Airport.
Billings West catcher Maranda Ratcliff looks to the umpire for confirmation after tagging out Bozeman High's Savannah Davis at home plate during a softball game against Bozeman on Friday May 2, 2014 at Poly Vista Park. 
Firefighters carry a dog kennel out from the burned house at 2007 Ida Street  in Billings Heights on Sunday May 4, 2014. The homeowners lost their 3 dogs in the blaze. 
Jeanne Thomas, AKA Pippi the Clown, right, measures James Pelham's, 11, head for a birthday balloon hat at the NOVA Center of the Performing Arts one year anniversary party on Saturday May 10, 2014. 
A rainbow arcs over Billings after a thunderstorm Monday May 5, 2014.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Goodbye North Carolina, Hello Montana

My 8-month stint at the Rocky Mount Telegram came to an end on March 28th, 2014. It was such a learning experience in so many ways. I will miss my coworkers and some of the amazing people I met out and about in the community, but I'm really excited for my next adventure! I accepted a full-time staff photographer position at the Billings Gazette in Billings, MT, and start on April 10th. 

I can't wait to start fresh somewhere new and beautiful. Considering some of the events of the past couple months, I know it's exactly what I need. I'm nervous, excited, scared, thrilled and more. But mostly I can't wait to start making photos in Montana!

In the meantime, here is some of my favorite work from my final 2 months or so at the Telegram. This time around, everything is in chronological order. 

Dr. Smita Sampat wears a "bindi," a traditional Indian decoration that wards off bad luck, on her forehead at the International Festival of Cultures on Saturday March 1, 2014, at Nash Community College.
Chase Wheeler, 7, carefully adjusts his pinewood derby car on the race track during the Scout Show on Saturday March 1, 2014, at Golden East Crossing Shopping Center.
Alexus Hill hugs her mother Nicolette Hill after Northern Nash's 57-45 loss to West Craven High School at the NCHSAA Eastern Regional Semi-Final game Wednesday March 5, 2014, at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.
Northern Nash's Kiana Thomas, left, and CeCe Harrison, right, jump for a rebound during Wednesday night's Eastern Regional Semi-Final game against West Craven High School March 5, 2014 at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.
William Enzor, 4, middle, watches while Kevin Valentine, 4, right, points out his gums during a presentation about taking care of your teeth by pediatric dental hygienist Angel Mills on Tuesday March 11, 2014, at Braswell Memorial Library. 
Kileak Pittman, 4, rests inside a playground equipment bubble to soak up some sunshine Friday March 14, 2014, at the A.J. Richardson Head Start Center.
Owner of FishTails Pet Shop Brittany Brenner holds a Red-Eyed Tree Frog at her 105 E. Church Street location in Tarboro. FishTails Pet Shop sells guinea pigs, parakeets, hamsters, fresh water fish, a variety of reptiles as well as accessories and food for all types of pets.
Rocky Mount police officers try to hold back Christy Carrothers, playing the mother of the crash victim, during the VIP for a VIP mock crash, an event that informs high-schoolers of the dangers of drunk driving, Thursday March 20, 2014, at Rocky Mount High. 
Yattie Williams, 63, wipes a tear from her cheek as she recounts the traumatic March 5th hit-and-run accident that killed passenger Tony Leonard, 51. Williams, a volunteer driver for the Twin-County 55 DAV Chapter in Rocky Mount, had left the Greenville VA Clinic and was traveling south on N.C. 43 when a driver made an illegal pass, causing the accident that took Leonard's life.
All-Area Basketball: Dante Battle of Rocky Mount High School.
All-Area Basketball: Alexus Hill of Northern Nash High School.
All-Area Wrestling: David Guevara of Tarboro High School.
All-Area Swimming: Jen Jackson of Nash Central High School.
Kimora Davis, 6, left, throws a pie in the face of fellow club member Laderrick Marshall, 17, right, while Unit Director Ashley Banks, middle, watches in surprise Friday March 28, 2014, at the Lucy Ann Boddie Brewer unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Nash/Edgecombe Counties.