2018 Year in Review

December 28, 2018

Happy New Year!  My wishes for you is a happy, healthy and joyous year filled with many, many memorable moments.

Twenty eighteen was a wonderful year for me in so many ways.  It encompassed my first full year living in Arizona after 17 years in Las Vegas.  The opportunity to expand and connect with new businesses and stories is exactly what defined my year, some of which I will highlight below.

At the beginning of 2018, I connected with local charity Gathering Humanity, which assists in resettling refugees in the Phoenix-metro area.  My work with them included photographing their all-volunteer teams as they stock and pull items in their warehouse, as well as how they set up apartments for incoming refugee families.

Gathering Humanity is operated strictly on donations and no volunteers or co-founders take any money from the organization.  More recently they have been assisting in the arrivals of asylum seekers from the Southern U.S. border due to overcrowding in detention centers.

Gathering Humanity volunteers load furniture and household items into an apartment for an incoming refugee family.
A volunteer looks fondly upon some home decor for an incoming refugee family.

International travel continues to be a large part of my documentary repertoire.  In April I visited Jordan for two weeks, followed by two days in Bahrain.  I truly believe the heart of any country is best experienced through its people and that is one of the reasons why I am so drawn toward photographing portraits of the people I meet throughout my travels.  Whether a street vendor, a school kid, a well-connected businessman, or a women simply walking with her children, each face has a story and it is through those stories that we can feel the true essence of a country.

School girls sing, laugh and clap during a school outing to the Amman Amphitheater in Amman, Jordan.
Abu Hamzeh, a Jordanian bedouin, walks through the desert sands of Wadi Rum to find a quiet place for his evening prayers.

In September I was fortunate to be selected to attend Missouri Photo Workshop.  There under the mentorship of Dennis Dimick and Mary Beth Meehan, formulated and documented a story on Morgan Branson, a 24 year-old women from Mountain Grove, Missouri, who owns and operates a mobile slaughtering and butchering service.   By doing the killing herself, Morgan assures a humane practice for her clients, most of whom run small farms in the area, and go to her for the convenience of having the work done on their own property. Morgan’s passion for working with animals and animal products stretches into her other businesses: breeding dogs and making custom leather handbags.

Morgan slaughters a cow on a farm outside Mountain Grove. “Dang, I got it right in the center of the head,” she says. Morgan believes that killing the animal instantly, rather than putting the animal through a lengthy dying process, is more human practice.
Morgan and Matthew share all aspects of the process, with the most labor-intensive work being done while skinning the animals.

I was interviewed by Marie Gardiner for her series on profiling international female photographers for SRB Blog. In this interview I touch on my beginnings of photography, how I mentally and physically prepare for my international expeditions, as well as how I foster connections with my subjects so that I can capture authentic portraits of my subjects.

In the fall I made a return trip to Iceland for a continuation of my project interviewing and photographing local Icelandic women.  As of January 2018, Iceland enacted a law mandating that all companies with 25 or more employees receive government documentation proving they pay men and women equally for the same job.  Iceland has long been designated as the best country to live in for gender equality, therefore the implementation of this law, although widely accepted countrywide, is still facing some challenges as shared by some of the local women.

Dafina Morina works at a bank with an office in the local mall in Reykjavik.
Katrin Helga works in security at Keflavik International Airport.

Early winter I spent a week in Havana, Cuba, documenting and exploring a story on the local Muslim population.  Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world with Cuba’s Muslim population growing day by day.  Currently there is estimated to be about 3500 Muslims throughout Cuba, with over 95% of them being converts.  In 2015 with the support of the Saudi government, the largest mosque in Latin America opened in Havana.  While in Cuba, I was able to interview and photograph locals, exploring the reasons why Cubans are converting to Islam, challenges to those conversions, as well as document the lives of Cubans living in Havana, and photograph inside the mosque in Old Havana.

Dr. Romero is the only Muslim doctor at the José Antonio Céspedes Argote Teaching Policlinic on the outskirts of Havana, and finds the hardest challenge of converting to Islam is learning Arabic.
When Hadiya first converted to Islam, she started wearing a hijab. People in her local community thought she was wearing it because she was sick. She faced some discrimination but over time those came to realize that Muslims are good people and she was accepted as a Muslim into this community.

The end of 2018 brought the documentation of the large influx of asylum seekers presenting themselves at the Southern U.S. border.  Currently detention facilities are over capacity and therefore ICE is releasing detainees into Arizona several days before their travel arrangements are made. Hundreds of people are bussed into the Phoenix area each week where churches and organizations such as Gathering Humanity are trying to fill the gap by providing a hot meal, a shower and a place to sleep.  At the request of ICE, faces of the asylum seekers are hidden for safety concerns

Asylum seekers line up after being unloaded from Homeland Security busses. Here they are welcomed into a local church in Phoenix, given a hot meal, a change of clothes, shower, and where they will sleep until arrangements can be made to be reunited with family members while they wait for their asylum request to be processed.
A young Honduran girls holds her only possession, a doll given to her at a local church in central Phoenix. Here she and her family wait in line to receive a change of clothes while interpreters call relatives to make travel arrangements.

2019 Plans

Looking forward, I have a lot of plans and ambitions to further my documentary photo projects. Some locations I will be visiting in 2019 include New York, Uzbekistan, Pittsburgh, Portugal, Croatia, Montenegro, and Florida.

I will also be obtaining my FAA Part 107 certification for a drone pilot license so that I can incorporate drone and aerial technology into my storytelling. This will be a unique service where I can offer extended material and content on the stories I cover.

Droning in Iceland, October 2018.

Here’s to a prosperous, happy and healthy 2019!

Leave a comment

Pin It on Pinterest