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  • Free Range Puppies Releases the Story of Gigi, aka Dr Dreame

    This article was originally posted on Medium by Free Range Puppies for their series "Stories Behind the Fog"

    “My dream is to be on the cover of the Times magazine, as America’s Storyteller.” Gigi/Dr. Dreame

    Photography by Tom John Kubik

    My name is Gigi and my alter ego is storyteller / mouth musician Dr. Dreame. I’ve never been happier than when I became a woman 3,5 years ago, but it wasn’t an easy journey.

    I was born in Akron, Ohio. I have three siblings, a brother and two sisters, all younger than me. As a kid I always had friends, both boys and girls. I liked playing nurse, or candyland, and the guys always wanted to play baseball, which of course I hated. But I got along with both, I felt comfortable.

    I love to learn. I can spend hours on Wikipedia, following the tracks of the blue words like a detective. But I hated school. I had gender dysphoria, dyslexia, ADHD and I was bipolar. They didn’t know jack shit about that, they had no meds. I was being punished because they tested my IQ and it was above average, so they said ‘You’re just lazy’.


    “I hated school. I had gender dysphoria, dyslexia, ADHD and I was bipolar. I was being punished because they tested my IQ and it was above average, so they said ‘You’re just lazy’.”


    There are certain things in my life that I didn’t even analyze back then, but now they make sense. I remember bouncing on the bed at age three, saying ‘I’m a girl, I’m a girl’, and feeling really happy. And then, when I was seven, trying on my mother’s makeup and kissing my best friend. He didn’t like it, but we were kissing anyway.


    “I remember bouncing on the bed at age three, saying ‘I’m a girl, I’m a girl’, and feeling really happy.”


    In 9th grade, I was performing in a variety show for the first time. I did an imitation of Jonathan Winters, who was my first really big idol. People loved it, I got a standing ovation! Afterwards I was backstage, and I thought ‘I think I’d like to be in entertainment.’ My mother came backstage with my brother, saying ‘Oh, you were wonderful, your father is telling everybody around him that you’re his kid.’ But when we got into the car, he didn’t ever say anything to me. That hurts.

    My father always criticized us, trying to talk us out of our plans. Because of him, I’m always comparing myself to others, criticizing myself. There is a scene in the movie On the Waterfrontthe famous cab scene, where they say ‘You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit. I want to be somebody Charley.’ That’s just like my dad and me. He has ruined my life.

    My grandparents were really supportive, they encouraged me to pursue my own interests. My grandmother was on her deathbed at that time and she said ‘Well, if you want to be in entertainment, go for it.’ She passed away when I was 14, and I still miss her so much.

    I didn’t go to college, but I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, and I loved being around all these creative people. Right after that I started doing standup. I liked doing that, but as time went on I gave up for a long time, because I felt I was getting too old.


    “I didn’t go to college, but I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, and I loved being around all these creative people.”

    Photography by Tom John Kubik

    Throughout my life, I did many of what I called shit jobs. I just wanted a job where I could go through the motions, and go home and just forget about it.

    For 13 years, I did radio, and I really enjoyed that. I’m really good with accents. I’ve never been great with learning languages, but I can easily learn the rhythm of the sounds. That’s actually how Dr. Dreame started. The first time I performed as Dr. Dreame was during Halloween in 2011. People loved it.

     

    Dr. Dreame started as an androgynous character. I had a white face, two colours of hair, and weird eye makeup. I liked doing that. Later, I realized that I had been in my caterpillar stage, presenting as male for most of my life. Dr. Dreame was basically the start of my cocoon stage. And then in the next stage, I came out as a beautiful butterfly, as a woman. I could finally move on, and feel happy and confident.


    “Dr. Dreame was basically the start of my cocoon stage. And then in the next stage, I came out as a beautiful butterfly, as a woman.”


    June 14th of 2013, Flag Day, that’s when I officially transitioned. I started hormone replacement therapy that day. But I still have to shave every morning and I hate it. It’s not so much that I think it gives me away, but it’s the one guy thing I have to do every day. I want to get electrolysis in my face and neck, because it drives me nuts.

    About a year ago, I went to court and got my gender marker and name changed. It was huge, because they would always call out my name in the waiting room in the hospital or whatever. My first and last initial are G, so it’s GG, which is Gigi. I always thought it was a cool name. My whole family knows about my transition now, but my mum is the only person that will not call me Gigi, she still calls me by my old name. I don’t want to tell you my old name, it brings up bad memories.

    Photography by Tom John Kubik

    “My whole family knows about my transition now, but my mum is the only person that still calls me by my old name.”


    I feel more confident as a woman, but even here in San Francisco we’re not fully accepted. Transgender people, we are the lowest of the lowest. But believe me, nobody is completely male or female. You know what kind of people harass me the most? These macho guys, because they’re not comfortable with their own identity, so they are intimidated by us.


    “I feel more confident as a woman, but even here in San Francisco we’re not fully accepted. Transgender people, we are the lowest of the lowest.”

    Photography by Tom John Kubik

    It has taken years for me to figure out my identity. We all grow up thinking we’re straight, but I began to think maybe I was gay, or bisexual. Now I know I’m into heterosexual men, and women that have a little extra down there. I’ve actually been married twice, both times to a woman. I’m still living with my second wife, even though we’re not a couple anymore.

    She’s the one I moved to San Francisco with, after having lived in many different cities. I knew that I would get back to San Francisco at some point. Before we got to the city, we were living in our car, getting our stuff at 7/11. You know what I had for my 50th birthday on the road? A can of beans. That was all we had. But still, it was kind of fun.

    In San Francisco, we sold our car to get some money. We got jobs, and we were staying at an SRO. Back then, you didn’t have the waiting lists you have now. They would let you stay a night or two, sometimes a week, sometimes four. We called it the hell hole. It had mice, lice, rats cockroaches, bed bugs, everything.


    “In San Francisco, we stayed at an SRO. We called it the hell hole. It had mice, lice, rats cockroaches, bed bugs, everything.”


    We had to get out when we ran out of money. So then, we were literally on the streets for three or four months. We spent our first night at the stepstones of the Opera House. We put all our stuff in storage, so we could travel around light. We’ve learned a lot, with the homelessness thing. I mean when I see a homeless person I know what they are going through. For example, they guard bathrooms in this city like they are safes. If you have to go to the bathroom, where do you go?


    “They guard bathrooms in this city like they are safes. If you have to go to the bathroom, where do you go?”


    And there’s nowhere you can rest. One day, we were resting somewhere together with an old woman. The cops came up there and said ‘You can’t sleep here.’ And I thought ‘Jesus Christ, if that was your grandmother, you wouldn’t talk to her like that.’ They are taking out all the benches and replace them with spikes. I live in the Tenderloin now, I see what’s going on. There are people laying down, because they’re out on heroin usually. They look like they’re dead. I see these things and I go ‘Brrrr’, but what I can do? I wish I knew!

    I know there is enough money in this area to solve homelessness. What makes me mad about Bill Gates is that he sends a billion dollars to Africa. You should take care of your own people first! I mean, you can send money there, but at least also spend a million here.

    I would really like to make it as a storyteller/mouth musician. I have shows, I get bookings, but I usually don’t get paid for those. I have friends that are doing better than me, and they are not anywhere near as talented as I am. Most of them are singer/songwriters, there is plenty of them. But there is only one Dr. Dreame. No-one has fused storytelling with mouth music. My dream is to be on the cover of the Times magazine, as America’s Storyteller.


    “No-one has fused storytelling with mouth music. I want to make it as a T-Girl [transgender woman]. I want to make the trans people proud of me.”

    Photography by Tom John Kubik

    I want to make it as a T-Girl [transgender woman]. I want to make the trans people proud of me. There is a lot of shit out there, there are a lot of people that should be recognized. There are trans people that are doctors, lawyers, but you don’t see them. There should be a magazine that has to do with nothing but trans people. To show that we are doing it, that we are part of society. ‘On the Waterfront’ is one of my favorite movies. Every time I see it, I see me. They say ‘This is not your night, kid’. I want what Terry wants: I want the title shot.


    Shared weekly on Medium, and soon to be published in a book, ‘Stories Behind The Fog’ is a compendium of 100 stories of people affected by homelessness in San Francisco. The project was triggered by one man’s story that will be released next year in the form of a feature-length documentary: www.moses.movie

    Gigi’s story has been written by Arjanna van der Plas and photographed by Tom John Kubik. This story is in collaboration with our partner organization Healing Well.

  • How a Leadership Program Transformed My Art

    The weekend started off in a particularly innocuous way, a dinner party at Fort Mason. On the ride over I was still unsure of what I had gotten myself into with the Hive Global Leaders Program, but having formed the habit of hurling myself into the unknown, I was feeling at peace with that. I walked through the door of the General’s Quarters and was greeted by an unfamiliar face, “You must be Tom.” It felt like a date with destiny. “Welcome home.” 

    This was the beginning of a weekend that would challenge the way I define myself. Over the last 18 months, I have been in the fortunate position of examining my life from many sides, like a Rubik’s Cube, turning and twisting with Mama Hope in East Africa, followed by a 10-day silent vipassana meditation, Burning Man, and a New Year’s Eve trip to the permaculture farm, Kalu Yala in Panama. Each one of these events was like a 7.5 earthquake to my house-of-cards-like sense of self. The upheaval power of Hive was no exception. Through the next couple of days, we incorporated a beautifully designed curriculum that incorporated original content, time tested principles of being, and phenomenal lineup of guest speakers and workshops with people such as Tom Chi, Ashanti Branch, and Lynne Twist. It was blissfully terrifying. What makes it all manageable is the incredible support system Hive defines from the first night, digging deep without hesitation and staying there. In the small groups are little pockets of comfort to return to for a soul cuddle or a hug when things get tough. Whenever anyone trips on their words at Hive, there’s an eruption of “YOU’RE AWESOME!” from the crowd as a reminder that we are perfect even in our flaws. Because of the power of community and acceptance, each Hiver is free to fail forward, or as Tom Chi says, “Don’t fail. Learn.” Palomi and Jesse guided the program through insightful reflections and beautiful grounding exercises that kept us in the present and focused. 

    Sunday we engaged in a workshop around life design. “Why do you exist on this planet?” Ryan Allis asked calmly and assertively while beaming at a man that was searching frantically in his soul like he just lost his wedding ring. Many of the 115 participants of the 12th Hive Global Leadership Program showed up thinking that with all of the hours, days, months, or years of work each had put in leading up to this point, surely that question was already solved. From highly accomplished founders and industry leaders to lost souls hacking through the bush looking for a path, all of us sat in this moment with Pascal, who was staring back at Ryan rummaging for the ineffable language to describe the force dragging him towards his destiny. After two days of intense deep reflection, sharing, open-heartedness, and community each one of us was wondering “Why me? Why this? Why now?” and 24 hours later, we would all take turns standing amongst our fellow Hive members and courageously proclaim our purpose, each one followed by the howl of the galvanized group. 

    As a working artist I’ve discovered that the biggest growth in my career comes from the biggest growth within myself. Gregory Crewdson says “I feel very strongly that every artist has one central story to tell. The struggle is to tell and re-tell that story over and over again in visual form... and try to challenge that story. But at the core that story remains the same. It's like the defining story of who you are.” The journey as an artist is the journey of discovering every nuance inside of you that can help tell your story over and over, in a more complete way each time. Art is in the intent. What is your intent and how do you plan on living in a way that makes that real?

    There’s that little something, that spark behind anything we do in life that we truly connect with. Many don’t take the time to dive in and consider what kind of fuel is feeding that fire. I’m so thankful for all of the Hive staff for helping me understand that the reason I pull myself out of bed in the morning is to catalyze deep human connection that ignites love and ripples through generations.

    Hive 12 gathered 115 people representing 43 different countries. If you are looking to expand on your life purpose, trying to find it, imagine a more cohesive world where everyone has enough, grow as a leader, or if you've been looking for a group of kind and compassionate people like yourself, I encourage you to apply to Hive and get ready for a transformation.

  • Women's March on Washington D.C.

    It was an exceptionally stormy Monday after the march when I found myself with sopping feet pacing through the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum itself was full of the triumphs of African Americans across the span of history. The top floor was adorned with artifacts of garments, pottery, art, music and film. The design was beautiful in the way one feels tiny amongst the grandiosity of accomplishments. Memories of George Clinton, Bootsie Collins, Michael Jackson and so many more engulfed the space. 

    In the concourse there was an immersive exhibit called "Journey to Freedom" where auction stones and shackles of the slave era and memorabilia of the civil rights movement submerged visitors in the darkest times of African American history. I saw a booth where guests can share an experience around how race affects him or her on a daily basis. I stepped into the silent, evenly lit sanctuary and closed the frosted glass behind me. In my moment of confession my priest was a piece glass with a blinking arrow labeled "look here”, and I watched the 2 minute timer tick down as the words hung on my breath. What was supposed to be some profound speech of whiteness and race seemed dissolve before the muscles in my tongue could catch hold and make it audible. Instead my mind was filled with those that marched on the Mall of Washington across history so many times, but while I marched for what I believe is right, so many before me marched for what was necessary, for love, for a voice, to matter: all of the same freedoms I enjoy daily.

    Two days prior the women of the world assembled on the streets of D.C. and on every continent once again, and again the message was one of solidarity. "We are here. We are exceptional. We are equal. We are free. We will not surrender." Three million women's voices around the country stood and told those watching, and yes, everyone was watching, that they will not be victims of a man's world, that their power is boundless and their conviction limitless. 

    I stood with my mother, an undisputed champion of women, a defender of the powerless and victimized. She knows too well that sting of the hand of misogyny across her womanhood, and is unable to allow another to feel the way she has in the past. The evening she called to tell me she was marching on Washington my face got hot, my eyes glossy, and I knew that I had to be there for her, with her to let her know that I would not be the face of the hand that fed her self doubt, mistrust, and abuse for so much of her life.

    My Mom

    On that Saturday I stood with her on the streets of the capital to say that I am not afraid. I am not afraid to stand beside, in front and behind every woman as my equal, not as a supplement to my power. I am not afraid to say that it is time to cease to believe that they are not as smart as us, not as rational as us, not as deserving as us. I am not afraid of the fall of men because it is not a fall but in fact it is a victory for us all; that our mothers, our nurtures, the givers of power, the reason each of us men exist on this planet are the secret to progress when we hold them on high and worship the beauty of the talents only the feminine possess. I was not in Washington to march for my freedom. I can never know what that feels like. I build stages with my camera and my words. The megaphone belongs to others.

    It had been a full minute of me staring into the glass, "look here" still blinking. I pressed the cancel button, pushed my chair back from the booth and thought for a minute about what it means to be a white man in America, then I left and continued through the exhibit resting for a minute in front of a video of Obama's presidency and a tear came to my eye. The march on Saturday as those marches before are to echo the constant cry of equality, never to stop until the last person is free.

    During my journey, I had the pleasure of sharing some time with the marvelous women that marched. Here's what they had to say.

    Nicole - "My vision for the future of women is to keep track of what we lose and get it back, to get even more. We can never go back."

    Kimberlee - "We are better than this. I need to be the good in the world. I need to raise my children to be good."

    Martha and Alice - "This not right not normal, and we want it on the record."

    Sheila - "The masses will prevail as long as they speak up."


    Erin - "I felt like I had to come to stand with everyone. I came for racial reconciliation and social justice and the future of my 2 kids."

    Kelly - “Climate change is real and we need to act now!"

    Stephanie - "tired of feeling oppressed as a woman. Im hoping by coming here that it will show the world that it's not okay to treat women like this. People are listening."

    Lauren - "I march because we have so much more work to do to ensure that we build an intersectional feminist movement - one that recognizes and values the diverse experiences of those affected by the inequality in our country. The fact is that white women elected Trump. We have a responsibility to ensure that as much as we are standing in solidarity, we are also doing the hard work of engaging in conversation with those who think differently than us. This march is just the beginning - the fight doesn't end here."

    Catherine - "I went expecting to stand up for women's rights and equal rights, and that happened, but I was surprised by how much I got back from participating. It was really healing for me. I felt so isolated after the election and this made me realize that I'm not alone."

  • 14 Hours in Lancaster State Prison

    “At what age did you lose your innocence, whatever that means to you?” Catherine Hoke asked a room half full of wealthy volunteer venture capitalists and entrepreneurs staring at a room half full of inmates at one of California’s most dangerous prisons. I want you to pause here and really think about that — Lancaster State Prison is a level 4 maximum security prison north of LA, a yard so dangerous that 99% of inmates are strapped with a shank at all times. Many of the inmates, or EITs (Entrepreneurs-in-Training as Defy calls them), are here for life, no chance of parole; some of them convicted as young as 16.

    We were in the midst of an exercise called “Step to the Line” in which the volunteers lined up practically nose to nose with the EITs, toes on a line of festive duct tape, gazing into the back of each other’s pupils. “Before the age of 18?” asks Catherine. About half of the volunteers step away from the line signifying this doesn’t apply to them. “Younger than 16?” More volunteers step back, the first batch of the EITs step back. “12?” All but a dozen of the 70 volunteers retreated from the line while a little less than half of the EITs remain. “10?” The line thins. “8? 6 years old?” Now just a combined handful stay. Several EITs rushed to the line and reach across to the now sobbing volunteers fixed on the line. They offer support, hand shakes, soft noble eyes of compassion. They offered their brethren that are still at the line warm, comforting embraces. Everyone was crying now. Some of us because we knew we should be at that line still but fell short on courage, and some of us because we wish that they didn’t have to be standing there, and for fewer still both were true. Rolling into prison for the first time 24 hours prior, I was most worried about missing a procedural step and getting kicked out or tackled and detained. Now I stood in front of 56 EITs scared of what I might discover about myself. 

    For Defy, this is business as usual. Catherine, her husband Charles and an amazing support staff sets up programs in prisons all over the country to help the forgotten imprisoned population of America regain their self image and truly reform. For the entrepreneurs reading this today, who is better to face the challenges of starting a business than men and women that have gone through unthinkable struggles? The prison system was designed to be used as a reform tool and Defy is taking that back. Their EITs in the program learn skills that prepare them for “the outs.” Each of them was to give a business pitch to a panel of volunteers in a Shark Tank style event in which 5 finalists would receive a check for their accomplishments. Entrepreneurship is possibly the path of least resistance for an ex-convict that’s been demonized by society after paying their debt. 

    Mark Suster with an EIT

    I thought about the worst things I’ve done in my life, and I imagined if I was known for that one thing, like if I were named in the middle ages. Tom the Arsonist they’d call me. How might that affect my opportunities and my path? Suddenly, I found myself scanning the eyes of the room around me. I’ve traveled alone in impoverished countries when the only way for me to know if I was safe was to look into someone’s eyes. What I saw was regret, shame, compassion, suffering, yearning for redemption. 

    Now it was the end of the day. A day full of business pitches, hugs, tears, eye gazing and carnations. Not really what I would have imagined at one of California’s most dangerous prisons. The EITs were dressed in their cap and gowns for graduation from the program. For many of them, it was the first time they had ever worn one. Marlund stood on stage, picked to represent his class to address the audience. He held strong, yet modestly and quietly. His voice was barely audible with the mic pressed against his lips. He talked about gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of the program and expressed deep thanks to Defy for the skills he’d learned. He then read a poem that he wrote titled “Love.”

    Marlund

    Rather than tell you the words of his poem, I’d rather tell you to imagine what it must sound like coming from a 22 year old man who became a legal adult in prison, five years of his double life term under his belt, only 50 more years before he’s eligible for parole. A robbery gone wrong ending in a conviction for 2 counts of attempted murder, escape, burglary, and causing severe harm with a firearm all at the age of 17, and no one will get to hear his plea for forgiveness until he’s in his mid 70s, almost 10 years past his life expectancy. One of the EITs pitched me a photo project that day: a photo of a man in the moment his first born comes into the world, and a photo of that same man when he’s sentenced to life in prison. He said you can watch his soul leave his body. 

    There has been a time when we each have looked up to the heavens, the clouds, the universe, the gooey stuff that holds all this together and asked for one more chance. I challenge each of us to give ourselves one more chance, and to give others that same chance we beg for. Think back to a time when maybe you could have been incarcerated. Think back to when you lost your innocence, whatever that means to you.

    ...and please if you live in California, vote YES on prop 57!

    Some of the faces of Lancaster


  • Avoiding The Pitfalls of an Active Social Life

    Ah, the social life of a freelancer: 10-12 hour days, to happy hour, to networking event, back into another 10-12 hour day the next day. All these pieces are totally necessary, but we all know how a bad day at work can put a big dent in our career. That last cocktail and a poor night’s sleep can seriously hinder creative ability and ultimately make the difference between a great shoot and one that sends the client looking for another option. It’s what people talk about when they talk about the most successful: reliability and consistency.

    How can we maintain continuity in our practice with such variable schedules? It’s hard enough trying to find the time to throw the undies in the washer or get through my tower of snail mail that slowly builds as the week goes on. Here are 3 things I do to help me stay mindful and focused no matter how hairy the day gets.

    1. Be physically active, damn it

    I know that lugging gear around all day and running from meeting to meeting can feel like a workout alone but let’s be real, craft services and catering does a great job of keeping us plenty fed most days. More so than that, however, is exercising with intention. Being physically active and physical training are very different. My routine is climbing (usually in the gym) and yoga. These two activities are both so mentally intense that it doesn’t leave room to think about other things. They are a holistic approach to fitness that tunes your critical thinking and mental wellness, but also your physique. Double whammy! 

    Rather than getting fixated on a specific schedule that you’re bound to break due to some unexpected job or meeting, try to set loose goals for yourself. I say that I will make it to a combined 3 climbing/yoga sessions per week. Ideally I would do more, but part of creating successful change in your life is setting realistic goals to keep you feeling accomplished. Maybe start with 2 days a week and work up from there. You’ll start to crave it, I promise.

    2. It’s true, you are a giant bowl of pasta (if that’s what you eat)

    Unless you’re a marathon runner, lay off the carbs. Carbs weigh you down and, like their nasty cousin sugar, may produce short term energy but will make you crash hard. Look, I’m not an animal. I’m not asking you to give up carbs all together. Just be watchful and think about slowing down when you hit that second piece of focaccia. 

    On shoot days I try to stick with light proteins like chicken, quinoa, fish, and beans along with hearty greens like arugula and spinach. Quick tips for cutting back on carbs: wraps instead of burgers, stay the ef away from pasta mostly, snack on nuts and other good fats like avocados. It’s good for your brain…no seriously…check it out. Going on a low fat diet could actually decrease your memory and cognitive abilities! Just make sure it’s the good stuff, not red meat. 

    I hate to break it to you, but if you look inside yourself, you’ll know it to be true. That third cup of coffee isn’t doing you any favors. Not only can it cause some pretty gnarly problems with your body that are sure to distract like shakiness (hope you have some room for a faster shutter speed), heart palpitations, but maybe the worst side effect of all — rambling thought and speech. How embarrassing is it when you just can’t stop rambling, each moment getting more outrageous and incomprehensible?

    3. It’s all in the breath

    There is a HUGE connection between breath and mood. This Harvard study found that certain breathing techniques can actually force you to relax. There’s an old Catholic saying, “If you have time, pray for 1 hour each day. If you don’t have time, pray for 2 hours.” Taking time out to center yourself and relax can actually save you time in the long run. You’ll be more productive and perform better! Everyone wins!

    Every once in a while you get a client that you feel really resonates with you, like they are on to something big. I had the pleasure of working with Spire recently on an all new lineup of images from lifestyle to product. I was so thrilled about what they are doing that I worked a device into the estimate for myself. Spire clips to the waistband of your pants and tracks the vibrations of your diaphragm, alerting you when you’re feeling tense, and offering guided breathing exercising and mediations to help you recenter your focus or calm. At the end of the day Spire tallies up your moments of focus, calm, tension and tracks your activity as well. 

    The most important thing for us as freelancers is that our clients leave happy. Our reputation and our future depends on it. Stay on top of your physical and mental state to keep yourself at rock star status. 

    And check out these rad images for Spire!

    Prop and Wardrobe styling by: Joanna Andreoni

    Hair and Makeup by: Nessa Nemir

  • You Should Know: LA Edition

    If you want to know what you should know, you should know Guest of a Guest. They've got you covered for events, city guides, and the who's who of cities around America. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to join them in LA at Jeff Klein's new project The San Vicente Bungalows to photograph 120 of the people that are causing a stir in the city of movers and shakers for their latest installment of You Should Know. Here are a few of my favorites from the shoot.

    Jon Buscemi

    Heather Lilleston

    Lesley M. M. Blume

    Gabi Richmond Laub

    Kelly Chapman Meyer

    Alex Beh

    Pamela Des Barres

    Chloe

    Studio Collective

    Miles Fisher

    Shiva Rose

    Natalie Joos

    Dimitri Dimitrov

    Landis

    Rose Apodaca

    Scotty Bowers

    Jennifer Missoni

  • Joonbug for Bobcut Magazine

    Joonbug for Bobcut Magazine

    I recently had the pleasure to photograph Jamaican native, Bay Area artist, Joonbug for Bobcut Magazine. Joonbug draws inspiration from the roots of his Jamaican culture and pre Civil Rights America to present a powerful understanding of the pulse of the nation concerning the racial challenges we face today. His brand, Fresh Kaufee has a an urban nostalgia, hearkening back to an unborn time of hip, intellectual streetwear.

    From the article:

    "Being a Jamaican native to now a San Francisco favorite, Lenworth commonly known as Joonbug has been illustrating for the bays hottest and up-coming. Snowbird Coffee, Six Stitch Apparel, Dojo45 to name a few. While finishing up his Masters degree, Joonbug took the next step in his career, launching a brand, Fresh Kaufee. “Fresh Kaufee is a clothing brand I found in 2008 that roots its principles in caffeine, a concept that serves as a catalyst to awaken your sleeping creative. ”"

  • Open Carry Texas

    Open Carry Texas

    "I believe that everyone is responsible for their own safety. We are taught to believe that the police are here for our protection but in reality we find that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away." -Epi

    For the full series of images click here

    The Onion publishes an article in the wake of each mass shooting in America. In fact, it's the same article each time. "'No Way to Prevent This' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens". The only thing that changes is the location and date. 

    Having served in the military, been trained on assault rifles and done 5 tours overseas, I have my fair share of experience with firearms and their uses. I owned a handgun when I lived in Las Vegas and home invasions were common, and yes, I did feel safer. But that being said, there are some disturbing facts around gun control that I cannot get past, like the correlation between very strict gun laws and gun deaths in amongst the G7 countries. The UK and Japan have some of the tightest gun laws in the world and they also have very low gun death rates. 

    Much like almost every problem in history, there's no one answer, no magic bullet (excuse the pun). I went to Dallas, TX to talk to the group Open Carry Texas to try to gain some perspective on the other side of the story. I believe through listening we can build compassion and understanding thus leading to a solution. 

    Open Carry Texas is a group that publicly demonstrates their second amendment rights in cities across the state of Texas. 

    From their website:

    "Our purpose is to:

    1   Educate all Texans about their right to openly carry rifles, shotguns, and black powder revolvers in a safe manner;

    2   Condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to open carry;

    3   Encourage our elected officials to pass less restrictive open carry legislation;

    4  Foster a cooperative relationship with local law enforcement in the furtherance of these goals with an eye towards preventing negative encounters."

    What I gained from my experience is actually the curiosity surrounding the means by which we draw conclusions. I went seeking answers but what I found were more questions. I wonder how a group can want peace, just like me, and arrive at that end goal via completely different means. I found that both sides of the argument are rooted in the worst case scenario.

    "If a bad guys wants to kill me..."

    One side would say, "I want to be safe so, I want it to be nearly impossible to get a gun, and we need stricter laws for that."

    The other side would say, "I want to be safe so, I carry a gun and if I can't carry a gun, I am vulnerable to the bad guys." 

    Which side is right? We all have our opinions, but the one thing we share, the one thing we can agree on is the bad guys. How do we get to the root of the problem while both protecting our citizens and our rights? This is the conundrum. This is what demands a closer look. Hatred of guns and of gun restrictions are surface issues. Let's dig deeper.

  • Skybell: The anatomy of a still life shoot

    Skybell: The anatomy of a still life shoot

    As my buddy Mark Madeo says, the smaller the object, the more stands you're going to need. It's easy to take a still life image for granted, not knowing how precise and intentional each move is. Often it looks like someone just threw up a light and called it a day, but in fact there's much more that goes into shooting these tiny little objects. Here's a little BTS from my shoot with Skybell last month.

  • Sugar Cane Harvest - Budondo, Uganda

    Thanks to Steller Stories for featuring my story in their Stellerverse! 

    This is a visual story of sugar cane harvest in Budondo, Uganda. Some children work in the fields, harvesting sugar cane to help support their families. Not your average summer job, no doubt! 

     

  • Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-Founder of AirBNB for Tecnología Magazine

    Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-Founder of AirBNB for Tecnología Magazine

    Technología Magazine asked me to go out to AirBNB HQ here in San Francisco to photograph one of the co-founders, Nathan Blecharczyk, for their cover and a spread on the inside. Nathan has been through huge swings in the company's success, from selling cereal to keep it afloat to now being worth $1.1 billion and counting. He lists a room in his house on AirBNB under a fake name. Good luck if you're on the hunt to find it!

    Makeup by Nessa Nemir

  • Tesla Factory for The Good Life Magazine

    Tesla Factory for The Good Life Magazine

    Back in March I had the pleasure of travleing out to the Tesla manufacuring plant with writer Sophy Caulier to do a story for The Good Life Magazine, out of France. Visiting the factory was so incredible! The robots and humans working peacefully together (for now ;) ). It was a truly unforgettable trip. Here's the story if you read French, otherwise just enjoy some pretty photos.

  • Startup and Tech Mixer

    Startup and Tech Mixer invited me to shoot portraits for their event at the W hotel here in San Francisco last Friday and oh what a night! They had prestigious speakers from the tech world, and plenty of booths where people can connect on a playful level, breaking down the social barriers we install at a typical networking event. It's hard not to like someone when you're in a bouncy castle with them, or when you go neck-and-neck at a friendly(ish) game of skeeball!

    The portrait area was popping off and I was able to share some beautiful moments with people not expecting to even have their photo taken! We made wonderful, genuine portraits of 62 people in 5 hours! Here's a sample of my favorites from the evening.

  • Millions March

    Nationwide protests took place on Saturday, December 13th to call attention to the police state, excessive police brutality, and institutionalized racism in America. Thousands marched from the San Francisco Ferry Building to City Hall demanding justice for the recent murders of unarmed black men by law enforcement. The air was thick with sorrow, pain, strength, and determination. The emotion was palpable, and nearly brought me to tears as we all gathered in front of City Hall. 

    I am privileged because I am a white man in America. I'm aware of white privilege. Even though I came up from poverty, I know that my path in life was not without it's share of easy outs. Feeling progressive in that thought, but not knowing where my place is in all of this has been an ongoing battle for me. 

    I want to fight for equality but I don't want to disrespect the communities I'm supporting by overstepping my bounds. However, equality and compassion are what is most important to me in this world and anything I can do to help, I must. Silence is complacency. 

    I speak best with my camera, so I joined the protest on Saturday and made portraits of individuals united by the common cause - love. We want peace, we want an end to racism, we want prosperity for everyone, for the human race.

    Read more about the Millions March movement at http://www.millionsmarchnyc.org/#!demands/cjg9

  • Unthanksgiving Day (Indigenous Peoples' Sunrise Gathering)

    Unthanksgiving Day (Indigenous Peoples' Sunrise Gathering)

    Indigenous people gather every year on the island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay to honor indigenous tribes, to raise awareness of the history of the island (epsecially the occupation of 1969), and as a call to action for peace. This year, 5,500 people gathered on the island, many not of indigenous decent, but stood in solidarity with them.

    Atzec dancers performed adorned with beautiful headdresses of feathers, drawing connection to one of the most revered Aztec gods, Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. Quetzalcoatl had the ability to fly up to the Sun God and down into the underworld. 

    Here's a small paragraph about the Alcatraz occupation of 1969:

    "California: From November 20, 1969, to June 11, 1971, Native Americans took over and held Alcatraz Island as Indian Land. The Occupation of Alcatraz Island" was led by the Native American group, Indians of All Tribes (IAT). The take-over lasted 14-months and ended when the Indians were forcibly removed by the federal government.

    Indians of All Tribes claimed the island by citing the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) between the U.S. and the Sioux. The treaty returned to Native peoples all retired, abandoned and out-of use federal lands. When Alcatraz penitentiary closed in 1963, the U.S. declared the island as surplus federal property. So Red Power activists reclaimed it.

    On March 9, 1964, Richard McKenzie and other Sioux occupied Alcatraz for four hours. 

    On November 9, 1969, another group of activists returned.  A boat carried Richard Oakes (Mohawk), Jim Vaughn (Cherokee), Joe Bill (Eskimo), Ross Harden (Ho-Chunk) and Jerry Hatch close to the island. Then the men jumped overboard, swam to shore, and claimed the island by right of discovery. The Coast Guard quickly removed them. Later that day, a larger group made their way to the island.  Fourteen stayed overnight. The next day, the group proclaimed the island by right of discovery. Then they left the island.

    On November 20, 1969, American Indians again landed on Alcatraz-- despite an attempted Coast Guard blockade. The 79 Indians included including students, married couples and six children which included actor Benjaman Bratt and his siblings." (http://www.nativevillage.org/Inspiration-/Occupation%20of%20Alcatraz%20and%20the%20Alcatraz%20Proclamation%20alcatraz_proclamation.htm)

  • PDN Announces Winners of Ultimate Music Moment

    PDN Announces Winners of Ultimate Music Moment

    Photo District News annouced the winners of the Ultimate Music Moment a few days ago, and I am so happy to annouce that my work was chosen to be displayed in the winner's gallery and will be printed in the forthcoming issue of PDN! Keep an eye out!

  • Dia de los Muertos 2014

    Dia de los Muertos 2014

    In my home town, a predominantly industrial, predominantly white, predominantly unadorned city in Ohio, cultural events like Día de los Muertos are just plain nonexistent. When I moved to San Francisco, I became very curious about the holiday, and I did some research into the reason for the celebration. The tradition is rooted in indigenous Mexican cultures that had been unknown to much of the world until fairly recently. It is a day to pray for, remember, and celebrate the passing of loved ones when the membrane between two worlds is thinner, to encourage visits from spirits.

    The reverence for life passing and respect for those that have come before us touched me in a deeper, and far less creepy way than that shirtless Tarzan dude at Ghost Ship on Friday. I was compelled to explore the holiday with my camera, so I went out to 23rd and Mission last night, made the street my studio, and pulled people from the procession for a quick portrait session. 

  • Seeing Double

    Seeing Double

    National Twins Day brings a special crowd to Twinsburg, Ohio every year: about 1800 fraternal and identical twins. Having family and friends in my life that are identical, I've always been interested in the curious bond they share, and so I thought I'd go to the hub to talk with some of them while I made portraits. 

    They conversed about labor times, alpha (first born) twin-isms, family history of multiple births, and so on. One pair of twins that come to the festival every year told me that it's the only place people don't look at them funny. I immediately had flashbacks to my younger years, and it dawned on my that everyone had something to say about the twins. There was always some joke about mixing them up, or really actually mixing them up. I realized what a relief it must be to gather with others that share that blessing and curse. 

    This year's theme was "Twinstock - Groovy in Twinsburg"

    Click below to see more!

  • Golden Hour - Northern Nights Music Festival

    Golden Hour - Northern Nights Music Festival

    Northern Nights Music Festival sold out it's humble 4,000 person venue along the Eel river, resting in the giant redwoods on the Mendocino/Humbolt county line. The main stage was bumping to The Floozies when the night was born. Thousands stomped in the dust, creating this incredible, tangible atmosphere that left it's residue on my camera, in my hair, and in my heart.

    Click here to see the full series!

  • Juicy Gems

    New Work for Waffles and Honey

    I recently had the pleasure of teaming up with Waffles and Honey to photograph their summer collection, combining wonderful summer fruits with this beautiful, handcrafted jewelry resulting in sunshine and smiles.

  • Boogie-Down

    Local San Francisco DJ, J Boogie has continuously made heads bump worldwide for over 20 years. He's always keeping it fresh, mixing tracks across a huge set of genres including downtempo, dub, hip–hop, soul, reggae, funk, African, Latin, bhangra, dancehall, disco, electro, bass, tropical, dubstep and house. 

    Needless to say, I was stoked when we were able to get together and collaborate on this photo shoot! When you've got great talent in front of the camera, great photos happen. 

    Thanks to J Boogie for kicking it with me!

    Check out his website: http://jboogie.com

    and his Soundcloud page: https://soundcloud.com/jboogiedubtronic

  • Baroque meets B-Boy

    B-Boys were out in full effect at the 'BRKN International - Bay Area V2" battle hosted by MVMNT studio in Berkely on Saturday night! I was stoked to get in there and collaborate with Seth of MVMNT to create these Italian Baroque inspired images of some of the dopest B-Boys around! 

    Special thanks to MVMNT studio, Squid Rock, Profo Won, Madd the Villian along with all of the amazing talent on the floor!

    Click below to see more!

  • Austin Kleon

    I had the pleasure of listening to three-time New York Times Bestsellers author Austin Kleon at Flax Art & Design in San Francisco last week. He gave an inspiring and witty lecture covering some big picture moments from his latest book Show Your Work!

    His incredibly relatable breakdown of complex ideas that arists struggle with is beautifully composed and super fun! After discussing some concepts of the book, he fielded questions from the audience, and artfully dodged my question (which he fully admitted). Hopefully it got him thinking about his next book!

    One of the stand-out concepts for me was a concept of a "Scenius," essentially a collective genius. Your Scenius is made of like-minded people with similar goals and drive that you can steal inspiration from, while also feeding into the collective pool. He mentions that he stole this term from Brian Eno (maybe part of Austin's Scenius??), famed producer and musician. Nonetheless, it's a powerful tool, surrounding yourself with those that will push you towards your creative goals. You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Fact. 

    Check out his books Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work!, and Newspaper Blackout Poems.

  • Fresh is Life

    With his lively dreads and neighborly smile, I knew when I met him that I had to get him in front of my camera. FRESH, the lead man for the band Afrolicious, brought his incredible charisma out to Ocean Beach and we vibed on the rays and spray, made some fabulous photos and shared some great stories. 

    You can catch FRESH and the rest of Afrolicious at Elbo Room on Valencia street every Thursday night.

  • Happy St Valentine's Day

    Most often "Saint" is dropped from the utterances of the February 14th holiday, the feast of Saint Valentine (in the Catholic church). He was victim to the slaying of Christians by the Romans in the 3rd century, during the rise of the Catholic church. Emperor Claudius sentenced him to a three part execution: beating, stoning, and decapitation for his part in marrying couples in the church. 

    This holiday has transformed into what it is now because of love and human's inate, primal sense of caring and affection. Saint Valentine probably wouldn't have approved of the consumerism attached to his feast, but I'm sure he'd be elated to see that people take a day to celebrate love in all different ways. So whether your Valentine is a lover, a friend, or both, I hope you celebrate love on this day, and carry that love forward to everyone, everyday.