Thursday, December 27, 2007

two days late, far too short.

it's two days after christmas. two days after the most emotionally taxing holiday i've experienced so far. spent most of the day cleaning house to bide my time and distract myself from thinking too much.

so now it's taken two days before i could gather my thoughts enough to make this post.

this post is a belated christmas gift, of sorts, to my foster brother, anthony.

the last time i saw anthony was christmas of 2005. i was home from college for a few days, and for the first time i felt brave enough to tell my father i was spending most of that time driving around with anthony. exploring los angeles with my 6-foot-tall hispanic transvestite foster brother. my brother who'd legally changed his name for the last ten years to Marie Antoinette, and who only let a few select people refer to him by his birth name. my brother who'd battled with homelessness, drug abuse, alcoholism, sexuality and discrimination, but who still lovingly called me "little sis" when introducing me to his friends after sneaking me into a gay bar when i was less than a year shy of my 21st birthday.

we spent those few days doing nothing and doing everything. i met his friends. his manicurist. went with him to the clinic to get prescriptions and re-start hormone treatments so he could get back on track with his yet incomplete sex change. drove him around the east side to every liquor store, where he would buy single-shots and down them before getting back into the car. stood at the doorway of the house where they filmed "six feet under" - his favorite tv show - on christmas eve, arguing if it would be rude to knock when the family that lived there was likely in bed. hung out at his apartment with his roommate and their many cats, thumbing through photo albums of his friends, many of whom died in the 80s during the AIDS epidemic. talked about the years we'd missed in-between, and how proud he was that i was in college and on my way to a "real career." told me he was glad i'd moved to san francisco, because now i would understand him more. told me he loved me as if we were blood.

and the whole time he let me take pictures of him and his life, of our adventures, because i'd had my archives and computer stolen days before, and had to start my college career from scratch.

so this post is dedicated to him. yes, sappy, i know. but i hadn't seen anthony since christmas 2 years ago, hadn't heard his voice since a phone conversation last christmas, and this christmas he's gone.

michael anthony soto passed away in march of 2007 at the age of 42, and this was the first christmas in my life that i couldn't do our annual catch-up. with no family around, this year was the hardest yet.

the pictures don't do him justice, but this is anthony. you are dearly missed.

Monday, December 24, 2007


in response to a recent blog post by fellow photographer jared soares, here are some window light portraits. well, portraits and candid portraits.

i thought i'd shot a ton more of these, but then realized i actually rarely utilize the simple window-light portraits because everyone does them, and usually they do them better than i can think to in a pinch. but there's something really soft and beautiful about the quality of light... maybe i should think to try it more often.

...because sometimes window light is the best light. and you can bet it's usually the cheapest.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

isolated view.

it's the end of the year, and that means digging through about 70 DVDs of archived photos to compile a year-end photo gallery for the paper.

editing is always the hardest part for me. much harder than taking photos. there's always attachment to the shots you work the hardest to get, even if they're not the best. there's the photos you really like, but no one else really sees why. and there's the "artsy" photos where you think you really pushed the envelope and did something different, even though paolo pellegrin or eugene richards did it long before you were a twinkle in your parents' eyes.

either way, it's interesting to go through a year's worth of work and see what i did wrong and where i've grown as both a person and a photographer. and it always jogs my memory for all those stories i put on the backburner all year long that i really should investigate further.

so here's a couple from just the last few months that i really liked. still haven't decided if they have a place in the paper's web gallery, but it's nice to know they have a place here, for me.

two of the cover shots for our monthly alternative-entertainment, let's-get-young-hip-readers tabloid:

from a story about a Katrina survivor living in Stockton:
soccer practice:
from 20 minutes at a high school band competition:
from a largely unpublished series of prep sports portraits:
so that's it. we'll see what happens as this gallery deadline approaches.

Monday, December 10, 2007


north american wrestling matches at the fat cat in modesto on sunday night. it was a good ole time, let me say. with a ring littered with metal thumbtacks and fake blood everywhere [*edit: THE BLOOD IS REAL! strategically placed razorblade cuts that bleed but don't scar. crazy], it was not an event to be missed. hopefully i can get back to do a piece on it. so enjoy.


photos to come from punk rock wrestling of sorts.

but for now, here's an outtake from a fire at a tomato plant this afternoon. folks from the neighborhood hung out in the empty lot next to the plant to check out the ruckus.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


today i shot the most difficult assignment i've ever shot.

i had to cover the funeral of a two-year-old boy.

i have never felt so unsure of myself and so obtrusive. there's no way that i can see to turn everything off and do my job. every movement, every weak smile of apology, every click of the shutter that echoes through the entire church.

it's so hard.

to watch a family grieving over a tiny casket, even when no one is telling you to stop watching, stop clicking. it was impossible to press that button. i think i only took 30 frames, but they were the most difficult 30 frames of my life so far.

my chest hurt. my stomach hurt. my lungs would not breathe. my eyes watered, on the brink of tears. but this was not my grief, not my place to grieve. i was there to photograph, and i think i failed. and i went to the office and cried in the photo studio.

now i have to photograph my next 2 assignments like any other day.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

this day is bananas. b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

that's right. the one. the only.

equipped not with pink hair or braces, but instead with several japanese dancers.

a little of what i felt like trying to shoot the show from the floor when everyone in the audience stood up:
...and the best part: the little asian dancers dressed in costumes that made them look like cupcakes. little, dancing cupcakes.
if only i were asian enough... ahem, i mean awesome enough.... for gwen to take me on tour as a backup dancer.

halloween continued.

so i had the pleasure of spending almost 4 hours on halloween photographing kids in costumes trick-or-treating. well, not really. apparently nowadays kids go with their parents to malls or storefronts in their costumes rather than go door-to-door. at least, that's how they seem to do it around these parts. when i was a kid, all the excitement was about the surprise at each house. it seems like such a waste to put so much effort into a costume just to walk up to a lady in her store with a basket and have her dump 2 lollipops and a handful of candy corn into your plastic pumpkin.

but maybe that's just me. either way, you can't go wrong with kids in costumes outside before sunset. makes for some good picture-taking situations.

i was pretty stoked to get these two photos, mostly because it involved me pulling myself out of this slump i've been in lately with daily work. all the stores on a main drag in stockton opened their doors for trick-or-treaters, but mostly it was kids and parents in the street. i was walking by a dress shop, and i saw a little girl dressed like minnie mouse playing with a couple chihuahuas.

at first, i thought, no no no, i'm not going to walk into that store. so i took a couple steps then told myself to suck it up and walk in. i got in there, and this girl was watching the dogs while her friends got dolled up in their costumes in one of the dressing rooms. a little different scenery from the rest of the shots, and i never would have known if i hadn't forced myself to walk in.

so happy halloween... a day late.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


don't OD on candy.

more to come later.

it's time for diwali.

one of the best assignments i've gotten in a long time. i got to photograph the annual diwali show in stockton, and it was incredible. i was bummed that the only assignment for the holiday was a performance, but it turned out pretty sweet. every year, about 90 kids in the indian community get together with friends and family to learn traditional (and sometimes not-so-traditional) dances and musical instruments, and around the time of diwali, they perform what they've learned about their culture in front of an audience of friends, family, and community members.

i got there about an hour before the show started, and spent most of the time shooting backstage. you couldn't ask for a more visual assignment! everyone was in costume, backstage rehearsing, running around... it was madness, but a calculated madness.

and i can't believe that it's all kid-driven.
makes me think this could be a pretty sweet little photo story for next year if i can find a group of kids rehearsing through the year, and follow them through until next diwali show... but we'll see.