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  • The Tragedy at Notre Dame

    Horrifying.

    That’s the best and perhaps only word to describe the fire that tragically scarred the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday. The cathedral, described as “the iconic symbol of the beauty and history of Paris,” lost its spire and two-thirds of its roof before the fire could be contained.

    The structure was “saved and preserved as a whole,” according to Paris Fire Chief Jean-Claude Gallet.

    My wife, Jill, and I toured the cathedral during a two-day stop in Paris in October 2016. We had never been to Europe together, and took the opportunity to visit the city briefly on our way home from Switzerland. Not knowing if we’d ever return — we want to go to a lot of places as empty nesters — we decided to hit the highlights: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame.

    One of the world’s most important examples of Gothic architecture, Notre-Dame was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is visited by about 30,000 people a day and around 13 million people a year, according to the New York Times.

    We arrived at the cathedral at twilight, about an hour before it closed to tours and walked through it with a crowd of people. No flash photography or tripods are allowed, and the dark and shadows pushed my camera to the limits.

    I’m probably proudest of the shot taken behind the main cross, because I had could only take three handheld exposures at an extremely low shutter speed before we had to move on.

    The cause of the fire is unknown at this time, but extensive renovation work has been ongoing since last year. The majority of the cathedral’s 13th century medieval roof structure, known as “the forest” because it required a forest of trees to build it, was lost in the fire in addition to the spire.

    To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.

  • Places: Theodore Roosevelt Island

    Politics aside, Washington, D.C., was literally built on a swamp. And rising up from the swamp, in the middle of the Potomac River, is an island memorial named for the 26th president of the United States.

    Theodore Roosevelt Island is an 88.5-acre island that is part of our nation’s capital, even though it is only accessible by a footbridge from Virginia.

    Known by various names prior to being dedicated to Roosevelt, the island was acquired by George Mason III in 1724 and owned by the family for more than 100 years. In 1831, the Masons left the island when a causeway stagnated the water. It was owned by two other families and then Washington Gas Light Company before it was purchased by the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association in 1931.

    Today, the island is maintained as a natural park, with a variety of trails and a plaza dedicated to Roosevelt. Architects designed a “real forest” to mimic what once covered the island in honor of a president known as a great outdoorsman and conservationist.

    On Easter Sunday, a perfect spring day, my wife and I took the family dog on a walk around the island and I snapped a few photos. Enjoy. 

    You can see more photos in my Facebook album here.

  • Flashback: The Showboat & Bayou Drive-In

    Thirty years ago, I was working to finish my journalism degree during the day while working nights as the city editor of the Texas City Sun. At the time, I’d been working in newspapers since high school, but knew I had to get my bachelor’s degree to have a shot at advancement (and a salary that paid a living wage).

    The schedule was onerous: Classes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then work (if I was lucky) from 4 p.m. to midnight at a newspaper 40 miles from campus. It was 18 months of hell, and I looked for any shortcuts I could find.

    Segue to my first (and only) photography class. The professor was an adjunct at University of Houston, a photographer who worked for the Houston Chronicle and picked up coursework for extra money. He surveyed the class and told us all that we had two assignments to get an “A.” The first was to get a single photograph published in a newspaper or magazine. The second was to develop a package of photos with a narrative and make it available to one of the local papers in the area.

    Realizing I could finish the 18-week course in only a few days, I was quick to turn in a photo I had taken for a feature story. But the photo package with narrative presented a small, though not unsurmountable problem.

    At the time, I was working on a series of stories about struggling downtown Texas City, which was fading into oblivion as development moved toward Interstate 45. The Sixth Street economy first was hit during the Arab oil embargo in the late 1970s and the opening of Mall of the Mainland that year did the downtown businesses no favors.

    We had a staff photographer working on the Sixth Street package, so I wasn’t able to piggyback off that. But I did focus on one piece of the downtown downturn — the closed and decaying Showboat Theater — and combined it with a separate project: La Marque’s Bayou Drive-In that had been destroyed by Hurricane Alicia some seven years before.

    I’ve always been fascinated by movies and the theaters that show them. The love of film comes from my dad’s side of the family. My interest in the architecture of movie houses and the different pieces of how the film business works was a natural outgrowth of that love.

    As a child, I’d only seen a couple of movies at the Showboat, which closed at some point in the mid 1970s and tried to briefly — and unsuccessfully — open as an adult film house. As a teen, I spent most of my available nights at the Tradewinds Theatre, a two-screen “modern” building on 21st Street near the high school. I never worked there; instead, I watched movies constantly and begged for used posters from the theater’s manager.

    I remember going to a couple of movies at the three-screen Bayou Drive-In, which at its height in the early 1970s could hold 1,500 cars on a huge plot of land off Interstate 45. Drive-ins started falling out of favor with the arrival of home video in the late 1970s and early 80s, so it made sense when the owners did not rebuild after the 1983 hurricane.

    The Showboat was just around the corner from the Sun’s offices on 4th Avenue. At its peak, it was surrounded by local shops and department stores such as JC Penney, which for a long time had the only escalator in town. By the late 1980s, Penney’s had closed and moved out to the mall, and plans were underway to move the Sun’s offices out toward I-45 as well.

    In many ways, The Showboat’s fate mirrors that of many single-screen theaters in towns across the U.S. Closed for more than two decades, the building was demolished in 2000.

    Unlike many towns, however, the theater’s identity is still present. As part of a rejuvenation project for Sixth Street, it was replaced with a smaller replica of the original theater. The Showboat Pavilion, as it is known, hosts indoor and outdoor events.

    When I went to visit my hometown briefly last fall, I took a couple of photos of the pavilion before leaving. That's the only color picture you’ll see here. Thirty years ago, we were just starting to experiment with color photos in newspapers; today it’s commonplace. What’s not common is for people to read on newsprint anymore.

    I remember vividly trying to get permission to take photos inside The Showboat in 1989. A representative for the owners said I could go no further than the lobby due to liability concerns. Two doors had no glass and the lobby was trashed. A half torn poster of “Chinatown” from 15 years earlier was seen with film reels and discarded press kits on the tile floor.

    Walking around the drive-in property was easier, but none of the screens remained and the main concession area had been gutted. The photos you see here — for larger versions, go to my Facebook page — are the best of what I got.

    I wish I could tell you the obstacles from the owners prevented the photos from being better, but that would be an excuse I also thought about noting how I had one camera with one lens and one day to shoot, hoping against hope that I could convince my bosses to let me put the photos on the Lifestyle page.

    They did, and I was able to leave the class soon after with my A. While that was a relief, in terms of my health/quality of life/miserably needy GPA, I left knowing I had given the class the short shrift. I rationalized that photography was not for me, given my lacking skills and general distaste for working with film in a darkroom.

    But as anyone who reads this knows, photography has become my favorite creative outlet thanks to digital, even if my skills sometimes seem rudimentary.

    So, skipping forward too many years and chapters, here we are, looking at negatives that were scanned that provide us with a glimpse of hometown history and a mea culpa from a one-time student who didn’t try hard enough.

    A or no A, I wish I could get a do over so I could do this project justice. But that’s impossible, so I guess I’ll never know.

  • MSA Academy Master Classes

    Katherine Williams, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, and Matthew Gardiner, associate artistic director for Signature Theatre, taught master classes Monday as part of an open house held for current and prospective students at the Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy. The academy is open students who have a serious interest in pursuing careers in the performing arts. For information, go to www.metropolitanarts.org; to see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.

  • Places: Puerto Rico

    Over a five-day weekend that included my wife’s birthday, I had a chance to take photos in Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory still struggling to recover from the effects of a devastating 2017 hurricane that has claimed almost 3,000 lives.

    Most of our time was spent in the capital city of San Juan, which has rebounded faster than other areas because of the tourism dollars it brings in. Like New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, hotels, retail, and restaurants were the first to be rebuilt and are mostly back in operation.

    But off the main streets, many buildings that once housed smaller non-franchised businesses are vacant and covered in graffiti. The primary city park still has not reopened due to lack of running water. Blue tarps still cover roofs of homes in many areas east of San Juan.

    Puerto Rico, which has petitioned repeatedly to become the 51st state, has been a U.S. territory since 1898. Its residents have been granted U.S. citizenship since 1917. However, the territory has been in a freefall financially, and its recovery efforts have become part of an ongoing political battle at the federal level.

    The beauty, culture and artistry that are hallmarks of the island cannot be denied. The people we interacted with, almost to a fault, were unfailingly nice and grateful for those who were putting money into the economy. Hundreds of thousands have moved to the states rather than rebuild, however, and despite the resilience of those still remaining, vulnerability can be seen at every turn.

  • Places: Stuckey's

    When I was a kid, we traveled back and forth from Texas City to Longview quite a bit to see my grandparents. It was the early to mid 1970s, and I always wanted to stop at one of the Stuckey’s that dotted parts of U.S. 59 as well as many highways in the South.

    My mom, who did the driving because of my father’s illness, refused to go because she didn’t want to have a battle with her children over the thousands of tchotchkes, sweets, and knickknacks that we would want and beg her to buy. (And to be honest, she probably would have had the same battle with my dad, too.)

    Now that I’m an adult and a parent, I get it. But I still have a thing for these places and have wondered how they’ve managed to survive all these years. (Buckee’s, the supersized stores that have popped up all over Texas, feel like Stuckey’s on steroids, but they don’t have the same dated charm.)

    The company started in the early 1930s as a lean-to roadside shed in Eastman, Ga., as a way for founder W.S. Stuckey Sr. to sell his pecans. According to a history of the company, Florida-bound tourists on U.S. Route 23 stopped to buy the pecans, and Stuckey’s wife Ethel created a number of homemade candies to sell at the stand.

    As travel on the nation’s highways became popular post-World War II, Stuckey’s expanded, eventually growing to more than 350 franchises across the nation. They frequently were paired with gas stations, restaurants, and nice clean restrooms.

    By the late 1970s, the company had declined to more fewer than 75 stores, but it has slowly grown back to just over 100 franchises.

    Earlier this week, I drove to South Carolina to work on a freelance feature story and saw a Stuckey’s on Interstate 95. While this little franchise was dwarfed by places like South of the Border, the familiar gas pumps and Dairy Queen were still inside. And the bathrooms were pretty clean too.

  • Macy's Parade: A Different Take

    Over the years, I’ve shot a number of parades, from small-town community events to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day spectacle in New York. But I’ve never been part of something like last week.

    Looking back at what I shot in New York, I decided the best way to display it was to combine the two events — the balloons being blown up and the parade itself. It's an attempt to provide a different view on the spectacle many of us know only on television.

    Thursday’s parade in Manhattan was the coldest in the history of the Macy’s event, as temperatures plunged into the upper teens with a biting wind. Despite multiple layers of clothing, I could not take more than a handful of photos — it was THAT cold — because I simply could not grip the camera.

    It was warmer, but not much, on Wednesday afternoon, when I walked through the Upper West Side area with my oldest son and his fiancee to see the balloons being inflated.

    If you’ve never been to the parade and plan to go, get there a day early and go see the balloons being blown up in the area near the Museum of Natural History. Viewing winds around Columbus Avenue, 77th Street, Central Park South and 81st Streets.

    The best part is that it’s all free. But be sure to take hand warmers.

    To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.

  • Side Roads: Cape Cod

    The fourth and final album from this month's New England adventure focuses on Cape Cod, where my wife and I stayed at a friend's beach house for two-plus days. As it was throughout the trip, the weather was flaky, with a beautiful sunset one evening and two solid days of rain that accompanied us all the way back to Boston. These photos were taken in three places: Provincetown, Wellfleet, and Hyannis.

    To see more photos, go to my Facebook album  here.

  • School Photos: Caroline County, Md.

    What I like most about photography is that it gives me a chance to look at familiar things from another perspective. And everyone is familiar with the elements that you see in a school — the playground, the logos, signs, and murals.

    Combine that with an opportunity to collaborate with people I respect and admire, and you have a great time working together on a project, such as the one I did last month in Caroline County, a rural farming area on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

    Just after students were released for the summer, I was hired by Sandi Barry to take photos of the exteriors of the district’s 10 schools. Sandi, who became the district’s public relations coordinator in January, is a longtime colleague and friend from the days when I worked with the National School Boards Association.

    Sandi and I collaborated on various projects during her tenure at the Maryland Association of Board of Education, and it was obvious from the start that we share a number of things in common. One is an interest in photography, and we have talked on occasion about looking for ways to work together since I went out on my own.

    The task at hand was to photograph the school exteriors for use on the district’s website and in framed prints that will be displayed in the board room. The only rule was that no students or staff could be shown.

    As we discussed the project, Sandi said she also wanted me to look for things that “catch your eye” to see what I could find. The challenge was to creatively illustrate the things and places we pass by daily and rarely take time to look at or study. A photographer’s dream job, in my opinion.

    This selection represents just some of the photos; about one-third of what I took is in my Facebook album here. In addition to the school photos featured in the album, I also included a few landscapes, two photos of a church that has been converted into a meeting space, and photos taken of the Chesapeake Culinary Center, a restored building that opened in 1901 as the Caroline County High School.

    I’m curious to see what you think of the result, and grateful to Sandi for the opportunity to collaborate again.

  • The Story of Generation Why

    My oldest son received his master’s degree on Thursday. Less than 24 hours later, a 17-year-old gunman killed eight of his classmates and two teachers in a high school only 16 miles from my childhood home.

    The shooting at Santa Fe High School was and is disturbing for all the reasons you can imagine: Another senseless loss of lives. Another incident of gun violence in a country marred by decades of it. Another realization that, no matter how many steps local districts take, preventing someone determined to come into a classroom with a firearm is perhaps just … not … possible?

    My four children are 25, 21, 20 and 20. Ben and Emma were 16 months old when Columbine occurred. Kate was 2 and Nicholas was in first grade. We count ourselves lucky that nothing like this happened to them when they were in school.

    What does that say about our society?

    ••••••

    This school shooting was the third in eight days and the 22nd since the start of the year in the U.S. It occurred just three months and four days after 17 were slain at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School, which led to two student walkouts and the March for Our Lives events across the nation.

    I was at the March in Washington, D.C., taking photos and working on a freelance story about youth who were galvanized by the movement started by Stoneman Douglas students. I didn’t write the headline for the story, which looked at whether the Florida shooting could lead to a new era of civic engagement, but believe it is perfect.

    It reads: Generation Why.

    “Why?”

    That’s the burning question asked first and most often when something like this happens. We are on an endless search for motive, a trend that will be the path to answers. Camps form within minutes, if not seconds, on social media. The phrase “thoughts and prayers,” no matter how sincere in intent, now is considered a synonym for doing nothing.

    At the March, I interviewed more than 20 students and adults for a series of portraits that would accompany the story. (Some are in the magazine article; you can find the portraits in expanded form here.) I was struck by the kids’ determination not to go through life afraid of going to school.

    Despite our need to understand why something happens, we are stubbornly resistant to one-size-fits-all answers, which leads to an endless round robin of he-said, she-said rhetoric that does no one any good. It’s not guns; it’s people. It’s not people; it’s guns.

    Grieving quickly turns to shouting. Nothing happens. And we wait, knowing that it likely — inevitably — will happen again.

  • Places: National Civil Rights Museum

    The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination prompted me to revisit photos from my 2012 tour of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The museum, which opened in 1991, is located in the Lorraine Motel — where King was shot on April 4, 1968 — and various historically significant buildings in the neighborhood.

    The museum chronicles the history of the Civil Rights Movement from the 17th century to the present. An exhibit that runs through this December, for example, looks at how events in 1968 are connected to today. Examples include sections looking at how King’s Poor People’s Campaign compares to Occupy Wall Street and how the Memphis sanitation worker’s strike is connected to today’s Fight for $15 minimum wage protest.

    King was shot while standing on the balcony outside his hotel room, located one block off Main Street. He had come to Memphis to lead a nonviolent march that supported the sanitation worker’s strike. The hotel, which is located one block from Main Street, was long one of the top destinations for African-Americans to stay in segregated Memphis.

    While I’m certain the photos in this album no longer truly capture the site today, you can see the visceral power and emotion that a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum generates. As we look at King’s legacy and struggles that remain relevant today, it is an essential place to visit if you’re ever in Memphis.

    To see more, go to my Facebook album here and look for a new "Places" album coming soon.

  • Artist Residency: Teaching on Resilience

    On Friday, I started teaching a unit on visual storytelling to a group of 20 seventh- and eighth-grade students at Holmes Middle School in Annandale, Va. The class is part of my artist-in-residence program sponsored by the Arts Council of Fairfax County.

    Irony was in abundance, as my dad taught middle school art for more than 30 years and my wife's first job as an assistant principal was at Holmes Middle School in North Carolina almost 20 years ago. And despite being a parent of four and a longtime presenter, I was more than a little nervous. Middle schoolers can be a tough crowd.

    The first class — others are scheduled through March 1 — focused on portraits and composition using mobile phones. The students' engagement and answers were terrific, and they spent a few minutes taking photos of each other outside. It was fascinating to see how quickly these digital natives caught on to what I was talking about.

    One point I tried to make was that you can get an interesting photo anywhere, even a parking lot where nothing is going on, if you think outside the box about composition. While we were outside, one student asked me to demonstrate and, with my iPhone, I shot the photo below and showed it to him.

    "That's pretty cool," the student said. And with that, we were off and running.

    Tomorrow's class will introduce the theme of the students' project: resilience. I'll have a PowerPoint, videos and my own work to show, and then we'll get down to the nitty gritty of planning what they'll be working on for the next few weeks. I will keep you posted. #artsfairfax

  • Places #15: Nashville Morning

    It's a question I ask often: What happens during those in-between hours in cities that rarely sleep?

    Even though I'm a night owl by nature, I find most of my best shoots take place early in the morning. There's something about getting up before everything that surrounds us starts moving again.

    Last week, I was in Nashville for the second time in four months. The first was to photograph a conference, which combined with the bitter early December temperatures, gave me little time or inclination to roam around downtown.

    Working on a freelance story, I didn't have much time on this trip and Mother Nature again was not cooperative. But I managed to sneak out just before 7 a.m. on a cloudy morning, just before rush hour and the rain arrived, and capture these photos on and around the strip known as Broadway.

    Hope you enjoy these. To see more from this series, go to http://glenncook.virb.com/places.

  • Lone Star Strong Cover Story

    Here’s a good Sunday read…

    In September, three weeks after Hurricane Harvey, I went to Texas to write a story and take photos on how schools were recovering. The result is the cover story of month’s issue of American School Board Journal.

    You can see the story and layout, which includes more than 30 of my photos, by clicking on this link. If you’d like to read just the narrative, go to this page on the National School Boards Association’s website.

    I've also done a narrated slideshow that the accompanies the story. Take a look below:

  • Places #13: Gatsby's Grave

    One of America’s literary icons, the person responsible for high school students around the world learning about the Jazz Age, is buried in a cemetery next to a busy intersection in a Washington, D.C., suburb.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s path to the cemetery of St. Mary’s Catholic Church was as troubled, in some ways, as his life. It took 35 years for “The Great Gatsby” author, who died in 1940 at age 44, to be buried in the Fitzgerald family plot in Rockville, Md.

    Fitzgerald, whose life, marriage and work have been the subject of countless books, films, and TV shows, was a notorious drinker and raconteur. But the reason he initially could not be buried in the family plot was because he was a lapsed Catholic. A parish priest said Fitzgerald’s failure to go to confession and take communion regularly was enough to keep him from being buried in “consecrated ground.”

    His wife, Zelda, paid to bury Fitzgerald at the Rockville Cemetery, which is a mile from St. Mary’s. Then in a sanitarium in Asheville, N.C., Zelda did not attend the funeral. When she died 8 years later, Zelda’s casket was placed on top of her husband’s because she had only paid for one space.

    In the mid 1970s, members of the Rockville Civic Improvement Advisory Commission contacted the Fitzgeralds’ only daughter, Scottie, who was living in Georgetown. Fitzgerald’s posthumous fame had grown to the point that visitors had started flocking to the cemetery and were creating a ruckus.

    Scottie said her parents were meant to be buried at St. Mary’s, which by this time was happy to accept the graves. The bodies of the Fitzgeralds were moved to the family plot at the church cemetery in 1975. Zelda’s casket was again put on top of her husband’s.

    A stone covering the grave has one of Gatsby’s most famous lines: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

    For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.

  • Places #12: Elvis’ Memphis

    Forty years ago today, I was sitting in the lobby of Scott White Hospital in Tyler when I heard the news: Elvis Presley was dead.

    I’ve written about my family’s history with the King of Rock and Roll, but this Places entry is related to Graceland and Sun Studios in Memphis, where more than 100,000 visitors have descended to mark the annual Elvis Presley Week. I made the pilgrimage in September 2012 and took these (and countless more) images while basking in the city’s musical history.

    Elvis-related tourism is worth an estimated $600 million annually to Memphis’ economy. Graceland is second only to the White House as the most visited home in the U.S. Sun Records, where Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash (among others) made their first singles, draws 160,000 visitors a year.

    As Mojo Nixon once said, Elvis is everywhere. Go here to see my 2013 essay, “My Grandmother, Dad, and Elvis,” and here to see the rest of the album.

  • Places #14: Houston’s Blast of Color

    While reporting and taking photos for a future story on how schools in the Greater Houston area are recovering in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, I decided to go to the George R. Brown Convention Center, the primary shelter site for the American Red Cross. Three weeks after Harvey made landfall, then dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the city and surrounding areas, the shelter still houses more than 1,000 people.

    Driving down the Avenida de las Americas, the street in front of the convention center, I was struck by the colorful strips of table cloths, shower curtains and painters drop cloth that are part of Arcade, three separate installations designed by Texas artists Sunny Sliger and Marianne Newsom of The Color Condition.

    The streamer sculptures, dubbed Hopscotch, Double Dutch, and Red Rover, were installed prior to Harvey and will remain up through mid-November. They provide a welcome respite from talk about the hurricane, as visitors can see them create new colors as the light changes and the wind gusts.

    On a hot and extremely humid afternoon, as reporters from Houston’s TV stations prepared to go live with stories on the status of the shelter, I saw a small child ignoring her mother’s admonitions to leave. I talked to another photographer (Mickey Lawrence of Urban Exposure Media) who was taking a break from storm coverage and had brought someone along to photograph the strips of colors and light.

    To see more of what I captured, go to the Places section on this website, or visit my Facebook album here.

  • Following Harvey's Trail

    Earlier this month, I spent a week taking photos and reporting a story on Hurricane Harvey for an upcoming issue of American School Board Journal, the National School Boards Association’s magazine. Having written on the aftermath of natural disasters before, I wanted to understand Harvey’s far-reaching impact on communities and schools in the wake of the late August storm.

    Being there from Sept. 11 to Sept. 18 gave me the chance to follow Harvey along much of its 300-mile path from Rockport, near Corpus Christi, to the Louisiana border. At this point, cleanup was kicking into gear and schools were just resuming in many of the impacted communities, although it will be some time before those near the storm’s eye will be open again.

    In the hardest hit areas, the loss was overwhelming. Contents of family life spilled out into yard after yard and neighborhood after neighborhood, mixed with swollen sheetrock and the growing presence of mold. “Strong” was the byword used in many communities as they demonstrated an unheard of level of resilience in the face of an economic and environmental tragedy. The generosity of others — some fellow community members, some total strangers — was constantly on display.

    The story will appear in the November issue of the magazine, and I’ll be sure to share it here. For now, follow my camera on a day-by-day journey through a state that is injured, but not broken. And check out more photos on my Facebook photography page here.

  • Life on the Road

    In a post earlier this week, I mentioned our crazy travel schedule and how thankful I am to have so many friends and family (biological and extended) willing to spend a little time with us on this journey.

    So here's a small photo summary of the last five weeks. (Roadmap not included.)

  • iPhone Storytelling: Billy Joel

    Continuing what has suddenly become a music thread….

    Billy Joel became the first performer to play three times at Nationals Stadium on Saturday, and he did so despite a torrential downpour that delayed the start of the concert by more than an hour.

    You can't carry a "professional camera" into events like this without a press pass. (I would not have brought my camera in anyway, given the rain.) However, this is one of those times when iPhone photos usually come nowhere close to the images you can get with a regular camera.

    Still, if you're lucky and recognize the shutter delays, you can occasionally get a decent image.

    Let me know what you think of these and the ones on my Facebook page here.

    Joel, as usual, was terrific in concert. He hasn’t written new music since the early 1990s, but embraces one of the best and most popular catalogues with enthusiasm. In turn, the rain-soaked crowd embraced him.

    “What’s it like sitting there with a wet ass?” Joel asked the cheering crowd.

    Fortunately, after seeing the Piano Man multiple times in multiple places (North Carolina, Madison Square Garden), we splurged and bought tickets on the stadium turf. No wet butts for us.

    Unfortunately, we were among the large contingent of the 40,000-plus fans who came to the concert via Metro and were left stranded due to the storms, which delayed the show by more than an hour. Thanks (or not) to “SafeTrack” maintenance, the subway system closed at midnight, and there was no way we could see the encore and make it to the last train.

    Joel even made a joke about the troubled transit system — “Is the Metro running tonight? … So basically, you’re (expletive).”

    With no warnings in advance from stadium officials or Metro — a transit worker at the Navy Yard said they had not even been told about the heavily promoted concert (cough) — we were stuck with a long wait and a very expensive Uber ride.

    The show was still worth it, though.

  • Lifting for Autism

    Fifteen area athletes took part in a benefit Strongman competition Saturday at Gold’s Gym in Lorton to raise money for autism awareness.

    Proceeds from the first-ever event, held on World Autism Awareness Day, will be used to sponsor an athlete at the Lift for Autism competition in Hudson Valley, N.Y. on April 16.

    Organizers Justin Burcham, Kelly Bryan, and Nick Shelton have been teaching local athletes, clients, class members, and friends pieces of the Strongman sport for several years. Saturday’s competition gave athletes an opportunity to compete in the log clean and press, axle deadlift, farmer’s walk, a sandbag and keg carry medley and tire flip.

    Jill and I weren’t able to stay for the entire event because of a previously scheduled trip to New York, but I did manage to capture pictures from the first three events. Congratulations to all involved, and thanks for helping a great cause.

    For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.

  • Winter Storm Jonas: Visual Storytelling

    A photo essay with text about the recent blizzard that crippled the Washington, D.C., area is now up in the Visual Storytelling section. The related Facebook album posted to my business site has been viewed almost 2,000 times, received more than 120 "Likes," and has been shared by 72 people.

  • Abandoned Detroit: A Snapshot

    Like many photographers, I love a good architectural ruin. And there’s no better set of ruins in the U.S. than the city of Detroit.

    Over the summer, Jill and I took a driving trip from the Motor City, Toronto, Syracuse and New York City that served as part vacation, part work for us both. At the start of the trip, while Jill was attending a meeting, I went on a four-hour morning tour of abandoned buildings with Motor City Photo Workshops.

    I enjoy visiting different cities with my camera, shooting the random things I see as I acclimate myself to the new surroundings. But in Detroit, I needed someone to show me around.

    The tour could not make a dent in the mass of vacant commercial buildings, factories, schools, churches and homes in this once-thriving, long decaying industrial city, which has lost two-thirds of its population since 1950. Capturing even half of what is there would take weeks, if not months. And each place a different security set up (or not) and a different view on trespassing. Having a local tour guide was a necessity.

    Our tour consisted of an abandoned Chrysler plant, a vacant church, a rapidly decaying library, and the former United Community Hospital. You could not help but be somewhat captivated — and depressed — by what you found inside.

    These are some of my photos from the tour, which ended just in time for me to take photos of teenage dancers in an abandoned church. (You can see those photos by checking out the “Art & Dance: Detroit” album.)

    I wish we could have gone to more places; these were not some of the iconic tour sites I’ve read about. But perhaps I can do that on another day.

    Hope you like what you see… For more photos, go to my Facebook album.

  • The Last Flight

    My father was a huge fan of the Jet Age-influenced modern architecture that found its way to the United States in the early 1960s. He was particularly fond of the Space Needle in Seattle and loved the design of the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport, which looks like a flying saucer that has landed on its four legs.

    He also appreciated the design of the Trans World Airlines Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, even though he never had the chance to see the famed gull-winged building that was dedicated in 1962.

    On Sunday, two days before what would have been my dad’s 75th birthday, I toured the terminal with Bernadette, a family friend and fellow photographer. The tour, part of Open House New York, was billed as the last time the terminal will be open before it is converted into the centerpiece of a $265 million luxury hotel.

    Designed by the celebrated Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, the terminal is considered one of the masterpieces of 20th-century modernism. Saarinen, who also designed the St. Louis Gateway Arch, wanted it to have sleek and flowing lines that represent a bird in flight.

    New York City was considered the birthplace of the Jet Age, which officially started in the mid 1940s but took off (literally) in 1958, when the Boeing 707 began service on a New York to London route. That was the first year that more passengers crossed the Atlantic Ocean by air rather than by ship, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

    The development of the Boeing 747 only accelerated the pace of air travel, but it also was the beginning of the end for the TWA Flight Center, which struggled to handle the larger planes and additional passengers. On Sunday, for example, organizers for Open House New York expected 3,000 to 5,000 people to be on hand for the tour, and the terminal felt crowded with half that number.

    Fortunately, unlike many celebrated buildings that seem to be randomly razed in and around the city, the terminal was included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Last month, the state approved plans by MCR Development and JetBlue Airways plans to build a 500-room, six-story luxury hotel on the terminal site.

    The Mad Men-era terminal will become the lobby for the hotel, which is scheduled to open in 2018. For generations to come, the hotel owners promise, it will feel like 1962 again.

    Somewhere, my dad is smiling. 

    For more photos, see my Facebook page here.

  • Helping NYC's Homeless

    New York has almost 40,000 homeless people — the population of my hometown — living in shelters around the city. After seeing a number of people sleeping on benches at the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry, I decided to see what I could do to chronicle the state of the homeless here.

    As New York becomes more and more expensive to visit, much less live, the number of panhandlers continues to grow. You can’t walk down the street without seeing someone asking for money.

    But you can help. Got two minutes? Have $1? Then take a look at the website, www.doyouhaveonedollar.org. It's a philanthropic social challenge to see if 1 million New Yorkers can give just $1 each to help the homeless, poor, and hungry of NYC in 40 days, 11/22/2011 to 12/31/2011.

    I donated these and other photos to the cause, and several are featured in a video promoting the project (see below). Please consider a donation of your own.

  • Abandoned: The School Left Behind

    Just off a state highway in rural North Carolina, a school that educated elementary-age children for almost 70 years sits vacant more than a decade after its doors were closed for the last time.

    For more photos and the rest of this essay, go to “Abandoned: The School Left Behind,” a new piece in the Visual Storytelling section.

  • Work Around the House

    I spend a lot of time in and around the Lorton Workhouse, the former prison that is now home to a local arts center. Periodically, I'll walk around and take photos of the slowly changing campus, hoping to catch things I had not seen previously. Here are some of my more recent attempts.

    For more photos, check out my Facebook album here.

  • The Shiner Pilgrimage

    Anyone who knows me also knows of my love for Shiner Bock, a beer made by a family-owned brewery in a tiny Central Texas town between Houston and San Antonio. Knowing I would be in Texas this month, I made plans to take a tour of the small brewery with my good friends Eric Kleppinger (who came down from Virginia) and Bernadette Jusinski.

    We made the 90-mile drive from San Antonio on a drizzly Tuesday morning, took the short tour (the brewery is in the middle of an expansion), then stopped by the gift shop and Howard's all-encompassing convenience store for a sample of the local goods before departing. A pilgrimage well worth it...

    For more photos from the tour, visit my Facebook photo page here.

  • Barns & Buildings

    Living in rural North Carolina, I was always fascinated by the old barns and buildings you see while driving down the two-lane state highways. Recently, on a trip back to the state where I lived from 1993 to 2001, I decided to take pictures of some of them along NC 87 between Reidsville and Burlington and in Rockingham County as well. Here is an example, and you can see more by going to my Facebook photo page here.

  • Baltimore: The Day After

    I’m no longer a news reporter, but I am a storyteller. That’s why I drove to Baltimore on Tuesday, pulled by an inexplicable force to capture what I saw and heard.

    The constant barrage of stories in the wake of Monday’s riots left me navigating a strange mix of anger and sadness. Long fascinated by American history, especially the unrest during the era in which I was born, I could not help but feel we’ve taken a huge step backward.

    What I saw confirmed a long-gestating belief that we’ve not come as far as I naively hoped and thought 10 years ago. As a society, we keep making the same mistakes over and over, doomed to repeat them with each passing generation because things don't fundamentally change.

    ••••••

    I’ve long had a fascination with Baltimore, located about an hour from where we live. The city is a study in racial and economic contrasts, from the beauty of the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards area to the rampant poverty, unemployment and crime in the western part of the city.

    On Tuesday, I drove past the stadium where we took our kids to their first major-league baseball game. No games were being played; when the Orioles took the field again the next afternoon, the stadium was empty.

    I parked on Franklin Street and started walking, almost by reflex, toward the theatre where Ben has performed in two national tours over the past three years. But I was pulled, camera in hand, toward Pennsylvania Avenue.

    I started taking pictures, all the while aware of my surroundings on this beautiful spring day. I smiled when someone told me to be careful, nodded at the two kids who asked if I was going "down there" to take pictures, and watched the helicopters circling overhead. As I walked past the small shops and buildings, many boarded up or closed, I did my best to ignore the occasional person who yelled at me to take their picture. Instead, I took random photos of what I saw as I moved through the Upton-Druid Heights neighborhood and toward the CVS Pharmacy at the intersection of West North and Pennsylvania.

    •••••• 

    The CVS, as we all know by now, was one of the businesses burned during Monday’s riots in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old African-American man whose spine was severed while in police custody. It follows similar incidents in several U.S. cities following controversial actions by police, most notably in Ferguson, Mo., last fall.

    African-Americans in Baltimore have long had a difficult relationship with police. In Maryland, one-third of the state’s residents who are imprisoned come from Baltimore, costing taxpayers an estimated $220 million annually. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun reported that the city has paid $5.7 million over four years to settle lawsuits that accused the police of using excessive force.

    Walking through Upton-Druid Heights on Tuesday afternoon, several hours before the 10 p.m. curfew imposed on the city, I passed groups of people standing on street corners and in front of small markets and mom-and-pop stores. Many buildings and abandoned row houses, once a symbol of stability for African-American families in the city, are crumbling.

    At one point, I overheard a conversation between two women, probably in their late 20s. One was almost yelling about her former boyfriend, saying that he didn’t have work, wouldn’t find work, and was stealing all of her cigarettes. She said she wouldn’t take him back again, no matter “how good he is,” because he tried to stash items stolen during the looting at her apartment.

    Her friend just nodded.

    ••••••

    Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland, the nation’s most affluent state. Since riots in the late 1960s, the city has lost one-third of its population, and manufacturing jobs have dropped by 90 percent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income for African-Americans is $33,610, compared to $60,550 for white households in Baltimore. Almost one-fourth of the city’s residents live below the poverty line, and unemployment among African-Americans ages 20 to 24 is an amazing 37 percent.

    This is difficult to reconcile when touring the Inner Harbor area and parts of downtown. But it’s not hard to see when you walk through Upton-Druid Heights, where half of the people live in poverty and 64 percent of black males are unemployed, according to the New York Times.

    Driving into Baltimore, radio reports noted that the National Guard had been sent to Baltimore. But despite a strong police presence at the intersection of West North and Pennsylvania, where camera crews were set up outside the CVS and a large crowd held up signs and chanted their protests, law enforcement was largely scattered. A gaggle of helicopters flew overhead, circling above in the clear sky.

    The National Guard was protecting the Inner Harbor, several miles away. The police department, who some would say caused the situation in the first place, was stationed in Upton-Druid Heights.

    ••••••

    Just before I reached the drug store, I saw a group of adults and kids painting a mural on an old building. The group is part of Jubilee Arts Baltimore, an organization that provides arts classes to the residents of Upton and Sandtown-Winchester. Part of the Newborn Holistic Ministries, Jubilee Arts is responsible for many of the murals that dot Pennsylvania Avenue, most of them celebrating African-American history and exhorting residents to find community unity.

    One of the Jubilee Arts volunteers told me the adults felt lucky to be working on the mural that day. Their places of business were closed in the wake of Monday’s riots, and schools weren’t open.

    While I understand why many businesses were closed and the Orioles game was cancelled, I have trouble reconciling the fact that schools were not open on Tuesday or Wednesday. For kids living in entrenched poverty, schools offer stability and, often, an opportunity to get a healthy meal. I can see why school leaders decided not to hold classes, given the unrest and tension in the city, but I can’t help but feel the kids were done a disservice.

    “It was good for the kids,” the volunteer told me. “They needed some place to go.”

    ••••••

    Over the past several days, I’ve been reading about Baltimore obsessively. It has affected me in the same way Hurricane Katrina did for many of the same reasons. I can’t help but shake my head and wonder what it will take for things to change.

    What will it take for police abuse to stop? What will it take for people to stop taking advantage of others, capitalizing on legitimate protests and twisting them into moments of violence and destruction? Will we recede back into our pre-established positions and comfortable lives until the next time something like this happens?

    As I drove home, I could not help but wonder: What will it take?

    For more photos, go to my Facebook page here.

  • Nutcracker Dress Rehearsal

    Shooting "The Nutcracker" this year was a different experience than I've previously had. For one, I know my camera and the theater much better. Second, this year's version seemed much brighter and more buoyant than in the past.

    Also, it helped that Emma and Ben weren't in the show — even though I missed seeing them do it and hope they will again — because I was able to be much more objective and wasn't always trying to ensure I captured their work first.

    Finally, I spotted something I hadn't in the past that informed my choices of where to go and where to shoot. Much of the action this year seemed to be generated from the sides, rather than center stage, and by moving around a little bit I could get some fun angles. Also, during the dress rehearsal, I went directly to the stage and shot from there to get a different perspective.

    Here are three images from the shoot. I'll have more from the Sunday performance soon, where I was able to build on the lessons I learned from this performance.

    Live performance: It's never the same twice...

    For more images, go to my Facebook album here. If you'd like to purchase one or more of the images, go to my photo site by clicking on the E-store tab at the top of this page.

  • The Melt

    There is something beautiful about “The Melt,” that brief period following a winter storm before everything becomes muddy, mushy and just gross. On Sunday, Northern Virginia was hit by the remnants of the huge storm that pummeled the middle of the country last week, dropping a little snow and covering the trees and bushes with a thin layer of ice. By mid morning, however, temperatures were above freezing, giving me a chance to catch “The Melt” before the storm hits later tonight.

    For more photos, go to the album on my Facebook photo page.

  • Living With Bipolar

    This has been a passion project for our family, talking openly and honestly about the struggles, challenges and victories of Kate as she deals with bipolar disorder. We are very fortunate — Kate is the most open of all.

    Look through this blog and you will see essays I have written about Kate over the past several years. The most recent, published in February, is from the period described in this video. In the middle of the worst period, Jill asked me to chronicle what we (and Kate) faced in photographs.

    Again, the difference in storytelling between photography and writing emerges. The essays depict a father who wrestles — not always in the best ways — with a daughter who is just as stubborn as I am. They depict a family that is dealing with "It" — as we have dubbed the disorder — lurking in the background at times and taking center stage at others.

    The photography, with minimal written narration to provide context and a beautiful John Hiatt song accompanying the images, provides an even more visceral point of view.

    I hope you will watch, respond, comment, and share your thoughts.

    Thank you for your support.

  • Daily Photo: August 27, 2013

    My grandmother, no disrespect intended, was a paper hoarder. She kept every scrap she received — cards, letters, receipts, pictures, magazines, newspaper clippings. If a distant cousin said he was interested in some arcane piece of farm equipment, chances are he would get an envelope stuffed with everything my dad’s mother found on the subject.

    Vera Cook died 24 years ago — half my life, amazingly — and we are still going through paper-filled boxes that she did not part with. (More

  • A Funeral at Arlington

    A flag-draped casket carrying the body of retired U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas Kelley during a full military funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery. For more pictures and a narrative about the ceremony, click here.