Salt Lake City , Utah

Help Wanted

Assignment: Boom Times in Utah My editor called me Tuesday and asked, “Are you sitting down?”

Not knowing where this was going, I lied and kept standing.

“Believe it or not, I want to assign you to do one of your montage-composite things,” he said. “And it’s looking like it will run on A-1.”

Now this was a surprise. I’ve been doing a lot of multi-image pieces since 2002. I’ve put together hundreds of composites, panoramas, and tiled pieces like the one above. But as far as seeing them published, the odds are mostly stacked against them.

The photojournalism world is fixed on powerful single images and old school Life Magazine-type photo essays. Do something other than that and a lot of photographers/editors get uncomfortable. They like things the way they used to be, in that powerful, traditional style that has been around for decades. I like that, too. But sometimes I need to mix it up.

Every time we run one of these types of photographic compositions, someone from the other paper in town always comments on it. Without fail, every time. They tell me how they would never be able to publish anything like it in their paper. Just too radical for them.

After we published a few of these back in 2003, I realized that I had gotten way ahead of the photojournalism community. Every major photojournalism contest had rules that prohibited the techniques I was using (and still do). There was no way I could win awards with these images, aside from the in stepchild Illustration category, a catch-all for digital imagery (mostly photoshopped, cartoony images). And photographers I showed them to either loved them or hated them. There was no middle ground. (To be fair, when I was a young purist, I would have hated them, too.)

All that said, I don’t think that readers get wigged out by things that are different. I think they’re right there with me, taking in the message that the images are communicating.

An image like this is a collection of details. None of the photos by itself is any good. It’s only together, through their collective message, that the content is relayed. The sheer amount of help wanted signs demonstrates the amount of jobs available (in this case mostly retail and fast food jobs). It’s not pure black and white old school photojournalism, but to me, for some stories, here and there, it works.

Draper , Utah

Duchesne v Kanab

Draper – Duchesne players celebrate their state championship. Duchesne defeats Kanab high school for the state 1A championship title, at Juan Diego High School.

Cedar Hills , Utah

Election Day

Yeah, we went a week without posts. Assignments last week just weren’t great for blogging. Among other things, I photographed a cinnamon roll in Logan and a high school assembly in Sandy. Trust me, you don’t want to read about it. Not to worry, I’ve got several posts on the assembly line now. This past Saturday I was sent out to photograph early voting, taking place on Diebold electronic voting machines at the Salt Lake County offices. The election workers there couldn’t have been more helpful, providing completely open access to the polling station. It’s essential to our democracy that the voting process is completely transparent. Saturday’s experience was a welcome contrast to a previous experience I had photographing an election.

Back in 2005, the small town of Cedar Hills, in Utah County, was voting on a ballot measure that would force local businesses to close on Sundays. Driving to the school where the polling station was, I passed several signs that referenced religious reasons why people should vote to close the stores. As I stopped to photograph signs, I got a call warning me that there might be some trouble getting access to the public polling station.

Entering the school with my cameras I was immediately confronted by a local election official, a city employee if I remember it right. She told me I was not allowed to photograph in the gymnasium where people were voting. I politely explained that I was here from the Tribune to photograph the election and that the polling station (and the school) were public areas. She said that wasn’t possible, and quoted me a state law pertaining to elections, saying it was illegal to “disrupt the voting process,” and so she would not allow me into the gym.

Of course, this argument was completely ludicrous. To say that photographing people voting disrupts the voting process is a stretch. This is America and our election process is, by law, open and transparent.

Instead of getting angry and yelling like I really wanted to, I calmly explained to her what I intended to do. I would respect people’s privacy by not photographing or looking at anyone’s ballots. I wouldn’t talk to any voters inside the gymnasium, allowing them to focus on the decisions they were making. And if someone didn’t want to be photographed, I would respect their wishes. I repeated that this was public property, and that polling stations are open to public scrutiny.

This is when the official backed down, realizing that I was right and that I wasn’t going to back down. We came to the agreement that I would not be a disruption to voters and I went about doing my job.

I photographed a mother, Stacey Chappell, who brought her three children with her to vote. She really summed up the community, as I saw it: middle class families with children. She was happy to talk to me once she was finished casting her ballot.

Later, her father got in touch to compliment me on the photograph. He was proud of the photo that showed his daughter doing her patriotic duty as an American citizen.

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Orem , Utah

Brighton v Lone Peak

Orem – Brighton’s Krista Kelley (7) lets out a yell with her teammates while holding the state championship trophy. Brighton defeats Lone Peak for the 5A state championship, girls high school volleyball at UVSC.

Orem , Utah

Cottonwood v Murray

Orem – Cottonwood celebrates their championship. Diana Franca (13 at right) and Trustine Mendoza (left in light jersey). Cottonwood defeats Murray for the 4A state championship, girls high school volleyball at UVSC.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Evanescence

Assignment: Evanescence

The typical “shooting a concert” routine is that you get to shoot the first three songs, no flash, from inside the barricade. Works pretty well, except for the fact that the more controlled these situations are, the less authenticity you find in the photographs. If you look back to all the iconic photographs throughout the history of rock n’ roll, I’d bet most of them were taken during the last song, at the climax of the show. Certainly not the first song. Pete Townsend/Paul Simonon never smashed his guitar/bass during the first song.

The routine seems to be to get the photographers out of the way before the performers break into a sweat. This is no knock on Amy Lee and Evanescence, who put on a good show. I mean, put on a good first three songs. (I didn’t see the rest.)

Waiting for the band to take the stage, I met a photographer who shoots a lot of concerts for local promoters. He told me a great story. He was shooting a concert and a guy starts talking to him, saying, “You photographers must get all the girls!”

The guy then says he has a plan. He walks over to a couple of girls and unleashes this pickup line, “That guy over there is a photographer for the Tribune. And I’m his agent.” Don’t know how that worked out. But I can guess.

Saltair , Utah

Evanescence at Saltair

Salt Lake City – Amy Lee and Evanescence at Saltair.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Volleyball Practice

Assignment: University of Utah volleyball player Sydney Anderson, in practice Coach said they would be doing setting drills. The repetition of the drill made it perfect to line up for the perfect shot. Here’s the play-by-play commentary in my head as the shoot progressed:

Okay, this shot is horrible. You need to eliminate the distracting foreground elements. Come on, you can’t shoot her with that big stripe down the frame. Open your eyes, man!

Hey, where is the ball?! Get the ball in the shot. For heaven’s sake!

Okay, now you’ve got the ball, but that background is too busy. Get a better angle to clean it up!

Good. I think that’s it. Good choice to climb up on something. You lined up the school’s logo in the background and waited for a good moment, good expression, peak action. Now crop it and tone it and send it in.

This is the final file? Cool. This should work well.

Utah , United States

Progress

Went out and photographed Joanne Benfatti this week. She is a resident of the Meadows Mobile Home Park in Cottonwood Heights. The Meadows is in a wonderful location. Lots of trees, a beautiful mountain view, and the neighborhoods surrounding it are very high-end. There is the problem. The land the Meadows occupies is worth big money, even more when you sell it to developers looking to rezone, demolish the mobile home park, and build 30 new luxurious homes in its place. That’s what has happened to Benfatti and the other 274 people who lived in mobile homes at the Meadows– many of whom are poor and live on their Social Security, she told me. Benfatti has found a place to go, and some of her neighbors are moving there as well. For someone being displaced, she’s lucky. Still, she has had to pack up all her belongings and now she’ll literally cut her house in half to move it.

I drove through the Meadows and saw “For Sale” signs on dozens of mobile homes. I wonder where all these people will go, and who would buy these homes? A lot of them were old and worn, and mobile home “parks” seem to be disappearing in favor of modern condos and apartment blocks. With all the construction and development sprawl taking place all over urban Utah, it’s easy to tune out the impact on those in the way of society’s progress. “It’s like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from,” Benfatti told me. Here’s the view looking north, to the future:

Here’s the view looking south, to the past:

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Photo Work Room

photo workroom. Salt Lake City – Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trailblazers.
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