Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Past, Present, and Future - January Newsletter

The Past
January is always a month of reflection for me. With the business of holidays, parties, and what not during December, reflection is difficult. This year as I have looked back at 2013, one clear idea appears.

“It Works! Eurika! It Works!”

This project, which started just as an idea with many questions to be answered along the way, really works. I wasn't always sure that it would. At the begging, I didn't know if I could produce and travel at the same time. The amount of logistical details to work out on top of the creative and technical needs seemed almost impossible to me. But the past year has give me invaluable experience. I've learned little tricks to same me time and improve the quality of each production. All the these lesson have resulted in a score of videos.

In the past 12 months, I have traveled to 9 countries and produced 30 different videos about life in Africa, the people who live and work here, and about the change that is happening here. These films are just starting to be used and shared across social media. I've been encouraged by the positive feedback they have been receiving. If you haven't seen them all you can view them at

The Present
Some of these films have yet to be released, others are still on the editing table, while others are finished but will not be distributed across Social Media for security reasons. This past month I have spent nearly all of it editing, trying to finish these stories so you can see and share them. To help you do that for the next few months I will be posting a new video each Monday. So keep an eye out for each #MissionMonday video and share it with your whole network.

If you are interested in viewing the videos which will not be distributed publicly, I will be creating DVD's with all of the videos from this past year. Every video, from 9 different countries along with all of my Video Updates and bloopers. These DVD sets will be available starting in June for $15. If you would like a copy please send me an email with your mailing address and how many copies you would like.

The Future
This next year is shaping up to be another exciting year of productions, travel, and adventures. In between editing sessions, I've been able to have pre-production conversations setting up the next couple of trips. This February, I will be heading back to the US of A for a few week for a little R&R catching up with friends and family. After that I will be heading to Mozambique, South Africa, and Rwanda for production shooting. As I've been going through the pre-production process researching the stories and getting to know the people I will be working with, I've started to get excited for these new stories. I'm looking forward to bringing all the skills, techniques, and lessons I've learned over the past year to these stories in the hope that they will be effective stories, creating change in the audiences that view these powerful stories.

Your continued partnership in this project is part of that. I cannot express how important it is to me, to know that you are behind me, supporting me and this project. Thank you. I hope that you are as excited for this next year as I am.

Your Fellow Servant,

A Wedding Story

When my grandfather was first teaching me about photography, he told me about working at weddings every weekend as part of his photography business. Sometimes even two or three in one weekend. He told me how with a simple 35mm lens and an Olympus OMG he would run all over capturing the moments that people would collect in albums and show for years to come. He told me that doing that Photography work had taken something he “loved” and made it a “job.” After years in the industry, he didn't want to pick up the camera at family gatherings because he was tired of holding the camera. He said, “If you really love photography then don't become a photographer because it will ruin your love.”

I believed him. It is part of the reason why I decided to study Video production and film making. It was a way of working with visual media and cameras with out being a photographer. I have avoided doing weddings at almost all costs. Even when I could have easily gotten into filming and photographing weddings, I avoided it because I wanted to keep my love for photography intact, separate from work, to keep it sacred.

In the past year, I've shot 35 films in a dozen different countries. Picking up the camera to make a video is work. On average, it takes me between 60 and 100 hours of work for each video I do. But there is no doubt that I love it. Not because it isn't exhausting or because the weight of the equipment is so much lighter today. Not because the locations are exotic or the images and scenery captivating. No. I love it because it isn't about the camera, the images, or the photography. The technical stuff is all used to tell a great story. I wonder if Grandpa G knew when he told me about keeping work and love separate that it would lead me to this work? I doubt it.

I doubt that he knew 15 years later, I would be shooting a traditional Ivorian wedding. As I shot this joyous and unique celebration, the memories of Grandpa G were very close. Nor do I think that he thought back then that his photography lessons would get me here. I am certain that this wedding was like none he had ever photographed.
But the stories he told me of the energy needed to direct and position people in each photo took on a new meaning as I tried to do that same thing in a foreign language. His advice on how to position people all while making them comfortable, moving their hands to avoid “sausage fingers,” and adjusting the tilt of their head ever so slightly to catch the light in just the right way was used a thousand times if I used it once. The lesson that “Film is cheap. Keep pushing the trigger until you get it right,” kept me shooting all day long. At every moment, I was on my toes looking for the right shot because he had said, “Each image should tell a story. Scenery is beautiful but put people in the shot to give it character.”

Now as I look at the finished and edited photos, seeing the smiles and thinking of how these images will be shared, and the stories that will be told along with those images, I can't thank Grandpa G. enough for what he gave me. He didn't teach me how to make photographs.

He taught me how to tell stories.