Monrovia

Scrap Dealers

Scrap dealers collect pieces of metal to be sold near a construction site. Monrovia, Liberia.

One week ago I arrived in Monrovia, Liberia to participate in a project spearheaded by my friend and professor Ken Harper at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. Ken is an incredible guy with a huge heart and deep roots in the Liberian culture. He has trained journalists here on several occasions, and this current project, Together Liberia, is his brainchild guided by the efforts and lessons learned in prior years.

This week and next I’ll be spending my days alongside Andrew Hida in the newsroom of a local paper called The New Democrat, one of Monrovia’s 20-something papers but one of the few dailies. We’ll be working with two of their reporters, Peter N. Toby and Abbas Dullah. Media is rampant here, but there is little training for professionals and zero dedicated photojournalists (reporters are also shooters). We’re working on photography skills, digital workflow and some basic multimedia, and I’ll be shooting some here and there on my own but primarily working with the reporters.

It’s been an interesting ride so far. Like many African countries Liberia is on the mend after a decade of civil war. Nonetheless, the Liberians have a kind way about them and I’m looking forward to the week ahead. More images to come.

New Multimedia: Drones Trailer

One of the classes I’m taking this semester under Bruce Strong is the “How To Be A Multimedia Rockstar” class. Believe it or not that actually is the title, and the goal of the class is simple: take your storytelling to the next level. So you can create a storyboard and build a narrative. Great. You can work on a timeline and produce a video in Final Cut. Great. Now, how are you taking tried and true principles of good storytelling a step further by 1) increasing the quality of the story’s independent parts (images, video, sound, etc.) and 2) exploring and implementing various non-traditional methods of storytelling that mainstream “journalistic” multimedia typically lack?

Needless to say, exciting class. This trailer is a quick look into my first project exploring the use of drone technology in modern warfare and its implications for those affected by conflict. The introduction is an exercise in type animation, and the video will be a combination of HDSLR video and infographics brought to life using After Effects. Take a look, and hit me with your thoughts.

A trailer for my current project on the use of drone technology in modern warfare.

Two New Books

Creating a custom blurb book has been on the to-do list for quite some time now, so in early January I finally blocked off an entire day to create two books for a couple meetings I had set up in New York. They printed very well thanks to the fine folks at blurb, and they will be a nice addition to my iPad portfolio. With how easy and inexpensive it is now to create a custom book now, there’s simply no reason not to print a book of some sort for any completed body of work. It amazes me how frequently as a photographer I’m ok with letting my work just sit on a hard drive, especially for personal projects. For all you photographers out there who are wishing you had a better way do quickly and easily display your work, try it. Pick a series. A group of portraits. The best of your portfolio. Whatever. I obviously love and support all things web and multimedia, but there’s simply no rivaling a photograph in print.

You can preview a selection of each book below. Book One contains four stories from Kenya, the UK and the USA on 120 pages. Portraits contains a variety of portraiture from work both personal and commissioned. Click “buy” to order your own, and support the next body of work!

Nairobi.

Felt like posting something today. Lot’s of time in the studio this past week editing multimedia stories for Care for Aids. Launching soon.

Here’s an image from my week of personal work. Public transportation in Nairobi.

In Kibera.

Preparing to Fight.

Personal Work.

Last month I spent a few extra days on the ground in Nairobi after working for a non-profit client there. Having photographed in Kenya during the post-election violence, I decided to stick around to uncover any evidence of progress being made in the areas most impacted by the violence two years ago. I was surprised by what I found.

This weekend I spent a few hours in the darkroom catching up on a huge stack of negatives from that personal work. The image above is a member of the Kibera Olympic boxing team.

Over the next several weeks I’ll be compiling these stories into still image essays and multimedia features, so check back for updates!

photography and multimedia gear kits.

I meant to post this before I left the states but never got around to it. Here are some thoughts on how I pack my gear for multimedia and photography work abroad, what gear I choose, and why.

Whenever I travel I really enjoying researching how photographers pack and organize their gear. I’ve saved myself lots of trouble by looking for tips and tricks online so hopefully this post will help someone down the road. Traveling internationally poses several challenges when lots equipment is involved, so step one for me has been looking at what others are doing and what they’ve learned.

If this is your profession, first of all get your gear insured. I’ve been out of the country a few times in the last two years without insurance and the thought of one unfortunate incident leaving me several grand in the hole shrouds the whole trip in paranoia. In January I finally bought a Fireman’s Fund policy through Tom Pickard & Co., and so far they’ve been great. Good customer service and no additional paper work required when traveling internationally. The peace of mind that comes with a good insurance policy is well worth the $400-$500 you’ll spend for it, so again, if clients are depending on your services, insure your gear. For more good tips on insurance, check here. Photography organizations such as NPPA and Photo.net also offer fairly competitive rates for their members.

As a general rule of thumb my goal is to travel light and tight. On my first trip to Kenya I stayed for one month taking two carry on bags for everything – the tan Domke bag shown above for gear and a Mountain Hardware Scrambler Pack for my clothes and personal items. Since I didn’t plan on staying in one location for the whole month, having only two bags made picking up and moving quick and easy. This most recent trip to Kenya was a bit more involved, so both of my carry-ons had to be for gear only. There are tons of really great bags out there, but when it comes to traveling with lots of things that you can access quickly in the field, the F-2 Domke Original above (tan) is my bag of choice. It’s very easy to grab things quickly out of the adjustable compartments, and it can hold several cameras, lenses, film and accessories. If you’re a film shooter the two side pockets are great for distinguishing between black and white and color film, holding upwards of 25-30 of rolls each. One of the front pockets perfectly fit a Zoom H4 or H4N. If you’re shooting in the field and would like to have the possibility of switching between cameras and formats on the fly, this bag is a good option.

For the digital equipment I used a LowePro MiniTrekker that I bought used from a friend. Great bag, but the disadvantage is that this particular model doesn’t have a compartment for a laptop. Here’s a list of the items packed in each bag.

Domke – Leica M6 with 35mm, Widelux F7, Hasselblad 500 with 80mm and an extra back, holga, film.

LowePro Trekker – with Canon 5D MKII with 24-70 L USM, fixed 35 and fixed 50mm lenses. Zoom H4N field recorder. Sennheiser ME66 Shotgun mic with K6 Powering Module, cables, Rycote softie and wind screens, Litepanels Micro Pro LED light, headphones, two Lacie Rugged 250 gb drives to store and backing up files, plenty of CF and SD cards cables, batteries, etc. I also used ball-bungeed a small manfrotto tripod with a small light stand, for the MicroPro.

I recently bought this smaller Domke F-5XB bag and so far I’m very pleased with it. I bought it so I could have something small and unassuming on my person at all times while traveling, and I love it because it houses everything I need for still reportage while maintaining a non-descriptive appearance. From the outside it looks like a standard shoulder pouch. The bag has all the strength, comfort and durability of the Domke brand.

So there are some thoughts on packing equipment. Feel free to comment if you have any other recommendations!

Care For Aids.

I joined the Care For Aids staff on the ground in Nairobi on Sunday of last week, and the last several days have been busy busy busy. In addition to photographing I’m responsible for taking audio and video, which will culminate in a handful of multimedia pieces tailored for the Care For Aids website. Some of the individuals I’ve documented have endured some seriously hard times. Some have even been bedridden for as long as two years. Yet somehow, they have reclaimed life and defied the terrible stigma that HIV positive Kenyan have to endure. In their culture, testing positive is a death sentence. Thanks to organizations like Care For Aids, individuals living with AIDS have risen from the bedridden, often emaciated state to find hope not only to continue living but to start businesses, strengthen their families and fight the stigma associated with the disease.
I shot a several rolls of film which unfortunately I won’t be able to develop until I get back to the states. To see and hear their complete stories, keep an eye out on my website and the Care For Aids website in the coming month.

a fire in my neighborhood.

Early this afternoon I received a call from my wife that the apartment of a friend of ours was involved in a fire. The friend and his dog are both safe, but the building is toast. Today was a pretty busy day but I was able to slip down to the apartment building to take a few images. I’m not sure how many of his belongings are lost, but I’m sure there was significant damage. If you’d like to contribute anything to our friend Matt to help him recover from his loss, I’m sure he would appreciate it. You can send an email to bob@plusbob.com with “fire” in the subject line and I will provide you with more information.