Christmas in Florida

On the West coast of Florida, we can still be comfortable wearing shorts and sandals. I'm soaking up the sun before heading up north after Christmas and my internship. I know I'm used to it, but I'll probably miss the beach and palm trees when I'm scraping ice off my car.



Here's a photo I should have posted a long time ago. This is from the last night on Andros Island. Using some free time on the beach with a strong wind and cameras, we "made" a couple of photos.

Legend has it that this is the ghost of Archie Forfar, the passed founder of the research station we stayed at for the week. We we're lucky to have him pose there this long with a starry, Nassau-lit backdrop.


Rubber Band Ball

After organizing most of the things I want to get rid of in the hallway outside of my door, I found my rubber band ball. With years of rotting rubber bands, I decided to take it to the street and bounce the age out of it. Upon a few bounces, it exploded, leaving rubber bands scattered across the asphalt road.



Yes, I haven't lived up to my promises once again. Excuses such as...my card reader broke...don't quite cut it. Anyways, I'll try keep up. I was unexpectedly offered an internship at The Deseret Morning News for the spring and decided to take it. I figured I'd be able to shoot for Hearst, build up my portfolio and keep from becoming sluggish...as I tend to do here in Gainesville. So, I'm in the middle of moving out of the house I've been in for the past three years that has grown to symbolize some sort of period of my life. I can't quite put my finger on it yet, but packing up my belongings (even though I will return for a semester to graduate) holds some sort of significance.

So, with my new snazzy card reader, I hope to publish more often...



Whenever I go to a conference like the one in Atlanta this weekend, I'm always inspired to get back out there and keep shooting. It's an extra little kick that every photographer needs every once in a while. So, hopefully, I'll be able to take the inspiration/skills learned there and continue producing. For a starter, I'm going to try to at least post a photo a day. Just to give me something to keep my thoughts and eyes on photography .



I hope everyone had a good holiday. I spent the week in Missouri with my family on a lake. Here's a slideshow I made on the airplane home - detailing our wacky adventures from mother-son beer pong to hat night.


Family Fun Day: The Sky is Falling

I didn't think that there was really such a thing as Family Fun Day. I always seemed like an American dream thought up for sitcom TV. But, to my surprise it actually exists! I was sent to cover it on Sunday and with a less than excited sigh, I biked over to the parking lot dotted with booths with games, food and family support information. It was one of those days where I was almost content shooting the generic equivalent to a face painting photo. I stuck it out for a while and came up with this one of a kid about to catch a football. I think it's interesting, but apparently the paper didn't and went with a less apocalyptic photo.


Catching Some Light

Every so often, when we have one of those random holidays off, UF hosts a free concert for us on campus. Last night, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish and Pepper played. I'm not sure that I've put my camera through that much dust and impact, but she came out stronger than before.


Get in my Belly

It got a good laugh at the paper, but would never see the light of print. A bit of social commentary...maybe. At least it was fresh (and delicious) view of the homecoming parade...

Happy Shooting

I sometimes find myself shooting dark pictures for the sake of shooting dark pictures. But on a beautiful fall day with a bright blue sky and temperatures in the mid 70s, how could I help but to look at the lighter things?


Underage and Undercover

I went out with the GPD Thursday night during a special operation. They got two underage girls to use to get into clubs and buy beer, then went in and arrested the bar tenders that sold it to them. It was quite an ordeal. One of the girls quit after the first sting due to a guilty conscious, so the other girl had to do it solo. I felt pretty bad for the bar tenders. The officers told me not to worry and to shoot as much as I wanted, but they didn't seem feel sorry for these people either. I guess that's the nature of their job. Regardless, it was hard for me to witness (and photograph) these people in their lowest moments.


The Fest

Last weekend, Gainesville was infiltrated by tight jean black shirt wearing, cigarette smoking, PBR drinking, tattoo covered scensters for the 6th Annual Fest. Over 180 bands came for the weekend and played at most the venues in town. I was assigned to cover a house party on Saturday morning, the second day of the Fest. It started at 11 a.m. When I got there, people were already swigging out of a Jager bottle and sumo wrestling with sleeping bags over their whole bodies. I have to admit, there are worse assignments...



This is Jackie. She is the owner of a small bar/restaurant in Red Bays. It's a place where locals hang out all day and night to socialize. They got to know us pretty quickly as we often took breaks there from the heat. Pete, with a somewhat racist tone, says that the people of Red Bays are only nice to tourists because we give them money. As that may be true with some, but I didn't see much of that. Jackie even refused our money for most of the drinks we bought. We were more than happy to pay for what we got, but despite the poverty of the town, they still show a love that transcends money.

For me, it showed what a place without an abundance of material possessions can do for human compassion. Living in a place that puts such an importance on material possessions for my whole life has caused me to forget about that. I'm grateful that the people of Red Bays could remind me of this invaluable idea.


Pete's Face

Aside from his moods, godfather-like control over the town and his "girlfriends," Pete's face grabbed the attention of my camera in the down time. There's so much life in those deep wrinkles. It is especially weathered after getting gangrene from eating a poisoned barracuda some years back.


Tarpon Springs

I spent the last couple days in Tarpon Springs, Fla. to experience the processing of the sponges for sale. Pete Skaroulis' grandson, Nicholas, works in their processing warehouse in Tarpon Springs. I spent a day with him to capture the process with an attempt to bring the story full circle. I grew up about 15 minutes from Tarpon but never really appreciated what was happened there until now. It's the largest population of Greeks outside Greece and they came over to sponge dive due to the lack of work in Greece. Nicholas said the situation is still the same, and Nicholas said that he only goes back to Greece to visit.
This is the main strip in Tarpon Springs, where merchants sell sponges and other tourist items.


A Hard Life

One of the spongers who was the most help to us was Sydney. By chance, he was the first guy we talked to when we arrived at the dock, and he was the one to take us out as he dove for sponges. Here, he met us on the second day and talked a lot about how poorly the workers are payed. He held a sponge in the doorway of his father's old house, which now holds his equipment, and talked about how Pete "squeezes" the workers. What the natives make from the sponges is insignificant in comparison to how much they sell them in Tarpon Springs and abroad.



After Pete's wife died a couple years ago he moved out of the apartment next door and made a "closet" of a bedroom in his office area. He also got a puppy named Spoogy. So he spends most of the day sitting in this chair smoking at his desk talking to the many people that come by each day for money or jobs. I was surprised to see how hard he works despite his age.



Throughout the trip, Prof. Kaplan kept saying that photography is literal. I know I'm a victim of trying to look into photos beyond the literal. So, while doing this story I tried to keep in mind the literal aspects that tell the story. Beyond the odd suggestive looks, "meaningful" light and "purposeful" juxtaposition is the man pulling a sponge out of the water. I love all that intellectual photo ish, but sometimes it helps to forget it.

This one's for Kohl.


Fortunate Circumstances

When we arrived to the one dock in Red Bays on the first day, we got pretty lucky. Some spongers had just arrived with bags full of sponges, waiting for Pete to pick them all up. This only happens once every couple weeks. If we went there any other day, it probably would've been dead. So right away we were able to get a start and some leads into the story. Also, these kids were diving off the dock for a couple hours, giving me something to shoot in the down time.


A Morning Smoke

This is one of the guys I met that would just hang out on the street most of the day smoking. A lot of the men on Andros don't have much opportunity to work, and when the weather is bad they can't sponge or fish. So they literally just end up sitting around all day. He, like the rest, were really nice to us and seemed generally happy.


Morning Light

I found some kids messing around outside before school one morning and photographed them for a while. Among the many photos of kids being kids, this one stood out to me from the rest. It was the quiet moment in the midst of chaos.


School Children

There was a small primary school near where we worked in Red Bays. So on a couple days, we went over there for recess and poked around the school. The teachers gave us all the access we wanted, which would generally not happen in America--at least not until you fill out some paperwork and talk to half the administration. So I was taking some portraits of the kids and they all started fighting their way toward the camera, pulling each other away to get to the very front. Also, they all wore blue uniforms and the school was painted solid yellow and green. Everything in Gainesville now looks so bland compared to the color there.


Pete "the Greek" Skaroulis

This is Pete "the Greek" Skaroulis. He's was the focus of my story in Red Bays, Bahamas. He employs a majority of the males in Red Bays, by organizing boats to go out sponging and crayfishing. Once they get back from their 1-3 week long expeditions collecting the goods, he buys them from the workers at an extremely cheap price and sells them abroad. He's connected to Tarpon Springs and supplies them with all their sponges. He also sends sponges to Europe and Greece. Without him, the people of Red Bays would have a very hard time selling their sponges, so many of them cherish his presence. He is 76 and still going strong. He is missing half of his feet from barracuda poisoning and still uses Viagara. He's quite the character.

In this photo, he is dropping off a crew to go out to fix one of his boats that broke down.


Yellow Eyes

This is Dencil Knowles. He said his eyes are yellow from drinking and smoking too much. When I first met him, he was already drunk at 7 in the morning. He was even pouring out some of his rum for Pete's puppy to drink (I'll introduce Pete, my story subject, later). The dog loved it.


To Andros and Back

I spent the last week in Andros Island, Bahamas as part of a journalism class called Florida FlyIns. We worked hard all week, waking up at 5:30 am and working until the evening on stories around the island. I worked with Dominick on a story about sponging in a small town called Red Bays. In the short period of time we were there, it seemed like we developed a routine in the town. We got to know who was who and got to the point where the people knew us and we knew them. They were all very open and honest. What struck me the most was how they can be so happy while struggling to feed their families. Being used to a place where material possessions are so important, this trip really put some things in perspective. I shot constantly all week, so I'll try and post a new photo each day.

In this photo, Kendra Gibson says goodbye to her boyfriend Jackson Russell moments before leaving for three weeks to go out on a crayfish boat.


A Russian Wedding

I shot a wedding this past weekend between a Ukranian and an American. They were a very open and fun couple, and most the guests were speaking Russian the whole time, which made it quite interesting. Here, Mariana got some pollen on her cheek while shooting the picture below. I always like the moments that happen in between setting up portraits.


Sunday Morning

I went to a baptist church this morning for the religion section of the Guardian. They cover something like this every Sunday morning, and it's always an interesting crowd. Old women dressed in their finest garb with fancy hats, singing, dancing and a fair share of "Amens."


Plummers Published PDFs

This is how the published article and photos came out. I think it looks really nice, and I know Bryan pushed it as hard as he could.


The Plummers Published

The Plummers photo story I had been working on in the last month of my internship was published in the Monroe Evening News on Labor Day with photos, a story and an audio slideshow. I haven't seen how it looked in the paper yet, but I'll post the PDFs once I get them. But for now, here's the slideshow:


Pig Feet and Blood

I know I haven't updated in a while. But when you go from working 40 hours a week to working virtually none, you tend to produce a bit less. I'm working on getting back into the groove here in Gainesville, so hopefully I'll be posting more frequently from now on. I went to Kansas City over the weekend to visit my family and went to a butcher shop there.