Month: May 2008

YFZ Purgatory


Anything to photograph today on the YFZ story? No. No. No. No. No. Been that way for nearly an entire week.

The past few days…no, start over. The past SEVERAL days have been disappointing. Photos have been very hard to come by, mainly due to a lack of access on all sides of the story. As everyone sits and waits for the Supreme Court of Texas to come to a decision that will define this entire event, nothing happens.

Not that it hasn’t been fascinating at times. I’ve met some very interesting people that I never thought would talk and found them to be quite amazing.

On the down side, lawyers have refused me access to photograph their clients, the state isn’t saying much of anything, and I spend hours sitting around waiting for something to happen. I could go on, but I don’t want to make anyone mad by complaining. I’m just going crazy waiting for something to shoot. This is history and I want to be on the front lines.

If you don’t believe me, here is my Wednesday in San Angelo:

Woke up. Showered. Rented Rambo. Bought candy (Mike-N-Ikes, Sugar Babies).

Drove to courthouse, parked in shade. All other media are gone. Watched Rambo in my car, as I looked for anything to happen. Watched all deleted scenes and special featurettes on Rambo DVD.



Returned to hotel. Played the 1984 videogame, Super Basketball on my laptop (via the Mame arcade emulator). I’m getting better. I finally beat the Japanese team. (That’s me above, celebrating with my shirt off after hitting the game-winning free-throw?).

Went to lunch with two Tribune reporters, one of whom is having a hard time eating anymore after so much restaurant food. We encourage her to eat. If the ruling comes down it’s going to be hard to find time for meals.

Returned to hotel. Watched entire Rambo film again, this time with Sylvester Stallone’s audio commentary.


Went out and started a new photo essay: The Dumpsters of San Angelo. (I told you I was going nuts.)

While I was working on my photo essay, I did some dumpster diving in the bin behind a bookstore. There were dozens of copies of magazines with their covers ripped off. I pulled out several cycling magazines before store employees ran me off.

Return to hotel. Read cycling magazines while we talk about going to a movie. There are five choices; I’ve seen three and I don’t want to see the other two.

Two of us go to eat and have the best steak of the trip. Why didn’t we find this restaurant two months ago, when we started this story?!

Going to bed now. Maybe tomorrow will bring something for me to do. Otherwise, there are hundreds more dumpsters in this town.

The Warren Jeffs Photos – Time Bomb


What’s today, Wednesday? So it’s been five days since we first published the photos of Warren Jeffs and the 12-year-old girl. The photos, if legitimate, seem destined to become the poster image for the FLDS/child bride debate. But for whatever reason, the photos didn’t break into the spotlight immediately. Only today do they seem to be coming into the national conversation. Almost a week after their release are they popping up all over the Internet as news outlets and blogs “discover them.”

The delayed reaction is surprising from here in San Angelo. We hadn’t seen anything like these photographs released before and expected their release to go off like a bomb last week. We expected shows like Nancy Grace and CNN to pipe them into your homes nonstop all weekend long. And that was probably the hope of Child Protective Services (CPS).

But it didn’t happen. All was quiet over Memorial Day Weekend, and only a few outlets picked up on the photographs. But then The Smoking Gun put them online yesterday and everything kicked off from there. They are now spreading like a virus coming out of its incubation period.

One thing to note for all of you ethicists is that many news outlets are running the photographs with no attempt to conceal the identity of the girl, and some are even printing her name (which was handwritten on the sheet of photos). The Tribune decided to blur the girl’s face to protect her identity in case she is a victim of sexual abuse. Our policy is to not identify victims of sexual abuse.


I was in the hearing last Friday when the photos were first introduced into evidence. As the lawyers handed the three sheets of photographs showing Warren Jeffs holding and kissing two different young girls, I was craning my neck for a better view. The photos were released at the next break in testimony.

We were the only media outlet in the hearing that had two staffers. So while the reporters were stuck in the courtroom listening to testimony, I was able to wait in the clerk’s office for the first copies of the photos.

Once they were in my hand I calmly walked out and down the steps of the courthouse, trying to act normal as I went to my car to send the photos with my laptop. I didn’t want the masses of broadcast (TV) media outside to realize we had a scoop.

My call to the Tribune with news of the photographs came during the afternoon budget meeting and sent a buzz through the assembled editors. Again, I’m talking last Friday. That’s when we had it. Smoking gun or not, we were first.

FLDS in Court Monday

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I’m sure that the FLDS will appreciate this photo of the Tom Green County Courthouse this morning. After Friday’s crazy media scene, the court officers have moved the media lines back about twenty feet and the new yellow tape they put up to keep us back reads, “CRIME SCENE.”

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I spent the morning photographing people walking into court. Above is Rod Parker, Dan Jessop, and Willie Jessop. But I don’t know who this guy is:

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Camera Bubble

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I was the only still photographer present when Louisa Bradshaw and her husband, Dan Jessop, left the Tom Green County Courthouse Friday after a custody hearing for their newborn baby. But there was a swarm of tv cameras.

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They formed what Brooke called a “camera bubble” around the couple as they carried their son to a waiting vehicle.

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The mechanics of the bubble are more complex than you’d think. Walking backwards through unknown terrain with a $60k camera on your shoulder and holding out a microphone can be a challenge. One guy dropped a pair of headphones and they dragged along, still attached to his camera but repeatedly crunched under the feet of the bubble.

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I rarely walk with the bubble. I swarm around it for multiple angles. And I’ll run ahead and find a good viewpoint…

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…then wait for the bubble to come to me and pass.

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I ran ahead to the car and got on the far side, where I could photograph them getting into the vehicle. Most of the bubble got stuck with the view from behind.

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The kiss happened fast and it was a tough shot through the glass.



Sometimes words fail me. So I’ll use the words of my colleague Brooke Adams, who wrote this for The Salt Lake Tribune:

A single photograph introduced in court Friday could define Texas’ case against a polygamous sect: FLDS leader Warren S. Jeffs cradling a 12-year-old girl in his arms and kissing her, a state attorney said, “how a husband would kiss a wife.”


NOTE: The Salt Lake Tribune blurred the girl’s face.

ONE MORE THING: Thanks to my dad for cracking open the .MDI file that the photos came to me in. Microsoft, what are you thinking with all of your closed file formats?

Back to TX

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I was eating free Cheetos and licorice, getting ready to cover a pair of state championship high school softball games when the calls started coming.


So much for any plans. So much for Memorial Day weekend. A court in Texas had ruled that there was insufficient evidence for CPS to remove 450+ FLDS children from the YFZ ranch. I was booked on the next flight. Time to run.

For a couple weeks I’ve been following the case from Salt Lake, thinking about a few things. The story is complicated. Take this example:

I was talking to a source who told me that one of the prominent FLDS men was a mean-spirited thug. He said one of the man’s wives was disabled and wheelchair-bound, and that the man once pushed her over for a laugh. That’s the kind of bully he is, said the source.

It’s the kind of statement that in the past would not really have been “checkable.” But now that the FLDS are a little more open than before…

Later that story was run by the FLDS man in question. It was met with laughter at the accusation, which he found absurd. His response was something along the lines of, “He must know something I don’t, because I don’t even have a disabled wife in a wheelchair.”

American Idol – The Decision Comes

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The David Archuleta fans watching the live broadcast of the American Idol finale were pretty pumped to see the hometown kid win last night. The photo above shows them screaming for the camera about twenty minutes before the final decision. Then, this photo is the moment that the winner was announced. And it wasn’t the hometown kid:

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When “David…Cook” was announced, rather than David Archuleta, this hush came over the crowd, disbelief.

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Below, fans Crystal Martinez, Cecily Estrada, Ariel Sollis, and Liz Sollis continued to hold up their “Congrats Archie!!” sign even after Archuleta lost.

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American Idol – Waiting for a Winner

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A horde of screaming David Archuleta fans were at EngerySolutions Arena Wednesday night for a live showing of the two-hour American Idol finale, waiting to see if the hometown kid would win.

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Most of the two hours assignment amounted to killing time waiting for the announcement. Most of the music was (insert your own opinion here), but cameraman Pete jumped up and rocked out to Bryan Adams’ “Summer of 69”:

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Next post- Who would win? The decisive moment.

Jazz vs. Lakers, Game Six, Season’s Over

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Look at all the cameras around Kobe Bryant after the game ended. I guess still photography isn’t quite dead yet. I wasn’t as interested in Kobe as in the Jazz players, namely Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, so I left the pack focused on Kobe and moved left.

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Lucked into Boozer hugging former teammate Derek Fisher. For the rest of these photos I was on the opposite side of each situation from the other photographers, and that’s where I’m most comfortable.

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Kobe came over and I just happened to be in place. I followed Boozer and he walked off the court with Williams.

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That (above) seemed to be the perfect photo to mark the end of the season. The two best players on the team walking off together with some fans giving them a somewhat standing ovation. A good moment that tells the story.

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They’ll be back next year. Season opener in November.

Jazz vs. Lakers, Game Six, Emotion

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Carlos Boozer

You want to look for the emotions when you’re shooting a big game. And this one was easy, with the Jazz losing badly throughout the entire game. Plenty of painful moments for fans to re-live.

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Mehmet Okur, Deron Williams
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Deron Williams