I can remember being a lot younger(I’m twenty-three in ten days),
learning in school about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. It was possibly one of the first things that sank into me as a young child, that troubled me deeply. I did not understand the hatred towards other human beings and the injustice that was allowed in what was supposed to be the greatest nation in the world. When most children were enjoying video games and watching movies(I surely did the same), I was a lot more concerned about our history as a country. I started looking into WW1 and WW2. Then I moved on to Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement. Continuing, I read into and researched our Bill of Rights and Constitution. I hit the books hard. I was so proud to be an American. They had taught me that segregation was over and that we fought valiantly for our country. That was only the beginning for me. As I started to photograph and observe more, I kicked back from the tons of non-fiction, fiction and fantasy books I was just always engulfed in. I thought it was time to start observing. After going to college for two years, I felt it was not for me. It didn’t feel right and I wanted more. I took up a photography school in Boston and start photographing spot news and working for local newspapers. While it was amazing and I still do it, it wasn’t where I wanted to stop I started to see things for what they were, rather than learning form those with special interests and beliefs that I did not have. These feelings and circumstances led me to my first big story in Guatemala photographing at a dump outside of Antigua, Guatemala for about a week on a Visual Reportage workshop trip. Coming back, I was revitalized and my eyes were completely open, and for the first time so was my heart.
This summer I had won an award for the SPD Student Contest: Self-Portrait in documentary/reportage on my work from Guatemala.
The opportunity to Intern for James Nachtwey was a lifetime achievement for me.Things did not go according to plan, as things do happen like that. I was forwarded to Ben Fernandez by my instructor, Michael Hintlian. We met via Skype online and hit it off pretty well. I would go over and work all day, sifting through photographs and organizing them, as we were building his archive for the future. What I hadn’t realized before I joined, was that he was indeed, the famous Benedict J. Fernandez… the one who had photographed Martin Luther King from his days of an activist all the way until his death. His work was known world wide and was so amazing to look at and learn through his photographs and through his stories of yesteryear. I could not have asked for a better mentor and friend. It was mentally exhausting and at the end of the day, I would have dinner with Ben and his amazing wife, Siiri. The talking did not stop there. Ben would concentrate on his dinner, while Siiri and I would talk the night away as the sun settled in the New Jersey/New York City skyline about her time in the Garment District and speaking about the future of photojournalism.
Time in New York was running out,
and the Occupy Movement started the day I had left for New Hampshire. It seemed that while things did not work out on one end, the power of the unknown took its course and sat me right in the seat of someone who had been covering movements like Occupy America, for 40 years. I would go to bed mentally exhausted at night, his pressing questions at me asking me what I was covering, why, explaining to me how both sides work; the activists and sympathizers, and the Police Officers and nay-sayers. ‘You have to wear both sides buttons, one on each side of your jacket.’ He was right about everything.
As a graduate of school,
I found myself searching for my next few projects. I always feel that, you have to photograph from where you are and document what is most important to you. I had had in-depth conversations with two good friends of mine, Bryan Huff and Scott Eisen about the future of where this country was going. People were upset and the tension was growing. The middle east was having a revolution and it was spreading throughout Europe. Our predictions were that it could only be a matter of time before it came to the U.S. I’m glad we were right.
Covering my first movement,
this has been an incredible experience. From meeting new people to covering this with our journalists, I have become a better person. I am aware of the situation at hand, and I agree with it’s motives. This was the hardest thing I have ever photographed, and it took a lot of blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights… sometimes in a row. To think this is only the beginning of something bigger, excites me in multiple ways. As a journalist, I get to keep photographing a movement that is changing the world and in another aspect it gives me hope that our voices have not been muted, and whether or not you agree with such movements there is a sense of appreciation as they stop their lives to cry for help for the rest of us who are struggling to make simple ends meet. We are in fact a great nation, but a deeply troubled one. This movement has given me many more project ideas to photograph, something that I will be beginning as this new year begins and I can be grateful for that. Awareness and helping others is one of my top priorities and one of the many reasons I am a documentary photographer.
This movement has not been easy on me,
and the people around me. Leaving at weird hours, canceling on plans or leaving mid-supper is not something I enjoy doing. It kills me. But there always that battle of the emotions, that if I miss it, I miss out. I won’t have the photograph and will not have documented history. While my work may represent what is happening, my work outside of the lens was sloppy. I will fully admit to that. Editing and processing were not concerns. Getting my work out there, time management and wondering when it was all going to go down, was a struggle from the beginning. Being outside of Boston 37 miles, it was hard to make choices about whether or not to come, whether it was worth the gas dollars and time out of work to make it down. Was it worth it? Absolutely. But does it come at a huge cost? Yes. I can only thank those who are closest to me for knowing how important it is for me to spread awareness to the world was is going on. My fiance, Katherine.. is the one who gets the biggest nod. I have never met someone so willing and understanding of what it means to be a photojournalists partner. She is my guiding light and a truly amazing person, who helps others in her own way all the time at nursing homes and elsewhere. My parents and my family, my best friend Nick who is always there to listen, and to Bryan… someone who I met in a crazy circumstance, you too. I’d also like to thank all of the Boston Photographers and journalists I have met, including the members of my Dialogue Collective, Scott Eisen, Noah Fournier, Tommy Chevelier and Yusuke Suzuki. Also Courtney Sacco.
I know that in the future I will be better at covering this, and other subjects and projects. But I do feel a huge sense of accomplishment for finishing up the beginning of something bigger.