The Browns

I spent some more time with Russ and some with his family this evening. Russ was rummaging through his burnt down house for a while trying to find anything that survived the flames. A couple things of interest made it. The bible, Book of Mormon, Sim City CDs and some wedding photos. I was then able to go by their hotel for a short bit. I didn't want to bug them too much and didn't want to scare them away, so I'll go back and spend some more time at the hotel tomorrow. I think it will be interesting to see how they recover from this. It will be hard, but I think it is already making them realize how family is so much more important than possessions. I think they will learn a lot out of this experience, and I'm hoping to share that with the community.


House Fire

As I was on my way to my first assignment today I was called to shoot a house fire. Luckly, no one was home when the fire started. The family was at work and school. The dog, though was home and didn't make it. I had to shoot two other assignments, so I left shortly after they put the fire out and stopped back by on my way back to the office. The family was there. I talked to them a bit, offered my condolences and shot some photos. I tried to be as sensitive as possible to the fact that their uninsured home just was burnt to a crisp, but they didn't seem to mind me shooting. Here's a gallery


back in SLC

I'm back in SLC now. Here are some photos from graduation at Brigham Young University. When I first got here, the paper was working on developing multimedia skills and getting the tools and training needed. At first, it was up to the photographer to decide when or when not to do multimedia. Now, it is assigned. So, I did a soundslides piece on the graduation: HERE

It snowed.

I was called to shoot this overturned bus on the way. This woman, Jaquie, was on the phone with the driver when he rolled over.


Yearning for Zion - Court Ruling

Today, Judge Barbara Walther ruled that the state keep custody of the 416 children taken from the Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas. This is the start of a long process of appeals, etc. It was another 10 hour day at the courthouse. I was surprised that she was able to make a decision so soon. We'll see what happens. I'm leaving tomorrow morning, but I'm sure this isn't the last we'll hear of this story.

Gawkers came out in mass today to watch the circus.
This woman testified in the hearing. I get some sick guilty satisfaction from joining the heard chasing these people down.

I was finally able to go into the courthouse to listen to some of the hearing. We sat around a lot waiting for breaks in the hearing, so I decided to ditch my camera gear and watch for a while. Luckly, I just caught when the judge made the hearing. Suprisingly, though, there wasn't much reaction from the women in the courtroom. I think they knew it was coming.

I felt somewhat guilty of shooting this couple while they were trying to find a private moment. I shot a couple frames until he asked for a minute. I thought that it was important to show a more human side of the intimacy that they wouldn't show in front of cameras. Even though, they probably weren't excited about me photographing them right there, I thought it was important. So, I left for a second, grabbed a longer lens, and stood down the street to shoot the hug above.
Cultural contrast.

my eyes start to wander after 11 hours outside the court house

Today was the first day of the hearing for the 416 children the state took from the Yearning for Zion ranch. Unfortunately, they didn't allow cameras in the courts so we all camped outside the whole day.
Each time we would hear it might let out soon, it dragged on for a couple hours longer.

It was quite the spectacle for locals.
The swarm.

Mike gathers his genius together in a big bundle.
Felix talked to us yesterday about his feelings on the whole situation in his town. Video HERE.
Texans know how to make some thoughtful marquees
Keith's reaction to missing his flight yesterday by 2 minutes.
It's Texas, don't ever question that.


Yearning for Zion Raid

A lot has happened in the past 6 days. But let me back up to the beginning. The paper sent me and another photographer Keith Johnson out specifically for an exclusive on the ranch. Our reporter, Nancy Perkins, has been working with the polygamists for over 12 years and was able to use one of her contacts to get us on the ranch. No media had ever been invited on the ranch. Now, as I'm sitting on the bed in my hotel room in San Angelo, Texas, I'm watching Larry King interview three polygamist women at the ranch. We sure broke that door open.

I'll talk about our first day on the ranch, but these photos are from a couple days later when they allowed all media on the ranch. I only shot video on the first day...

Essentially, they felt like they needed to have these women tell their side of the story. Media had only been reporting on what the Child of Protective Services and other Texas authorities have told them. The FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) generally stay out of view of society. They have been receiving scrutiny from society for a long time and have tried to avoid it for a while. That's why they moved out here initially--to be alone.

So it was a big deal for them to allow us on the ranch. So, we pulled up to the gate at the ranch to be let in. A four-wheeler sped down the long dirt road to the ranch and opened the gate for us. There was so much mystery in everyone's mind as to what exactly it was like on there that I was jittery to even be on the soil. We drove up past the first "guard tower" to meet our contact. He led us to one of the large log homes, where our reporter discussed what we would be doing with some of the church leaders and their attorneys. As we were driving, we caught the first glimpse of the way of life on the ranch without children. We saw an old woman load two large boxes from a golf cart and carry them up the stairs to her home. As we drove, we passed another cart full of young women in their solid color dresses. We were kicking ourselves at the photos we couldn't shoot. Essentially, we were invited on their terms and didn't want our visit to be cut short because of our trigger happy fingers.

Once all was discussed and the parameters were laid out, we went into one of the spacious houses and sat in a meeting room with a couple of the sect leaders and the attorneys. We talked about genealogy with Merrill Jessop, the main religious leader of this particular sect since our reporters and photographer have Mormon backgrounds. As we waited, an elderly woman brought trays of tuna melts, potato salad, homemade chips and salsa and golden apple juice into the room and laid them on the table. After a traditional FLDS lunch with a Mexican twist, we got started.

The women came out of the house one by one we. We talked to each for about 15-20 minutes. The men were scattered around the porch and were enthralled at what these woman had to say, leaning against wooden posts concentrating on these women's words. As Keith said to me many times after we were done, we were kicking ourselves at the photos we couldn't take. I can only report what I saw, but the whole time I've been with these people they have been the most cordial, polite, soft-spoken and accommodating people. After the interviews, we went into one of the man's homes where he showed us around and talked with us further.

We wrapped up after about 6 hours on the ranch to get back to the hotel to file on deadline. No one knew we got access, so we knew we were breaking something big. I had 2 hours of video to sort through and stayed up till 4 am editing. I hadn't had anything to eat since that tuna melt but lost my appetite anyway in my frantic mindset. I slapped it together, cutting a version for our sister station and it's affiliates (NBC and CNN) and finally got some sleep. I was unable to watch TV and find out where the video actually ended up, but I did catch a short snip with our snail speed internet at La Quinta on cnn.com. My editors told me the phones were ringing all day at the office, with media outlets across the nation wanting to get a hold of it. Unfortunately we weren't able to release it to everyone until after a day or so, so our Web site would get the hits our editors drool over. They attempted to reach us directly and many stations were so desperate for something different they wanted to interview us. I know my mom might get excited, but I wasn't ready to talk to any broadcast reporter. I guess my 15 minutes of fame will have to wait.

A couple days later, after the CPS workers and Texas authorities took women with children 5 and over and sent them back to the ranch. At that point they felt like they needed the national stage to cover the story. They let all media who showed up onto the ranch to interview many of the women who were separated from their children. It's essentially a plea by the church to get attention and garner sympathy for the women and children. Both sides seem to be twisting it to their favor and it's fascinating to watch it unfold.

Tomorrow is the main court hearing for the 416 children taken from the compound. It should be a long day. But finally, Mike Terry came to relieve Keith and will help me shoot video. So, hopefully I'll be back to stills. More to come.


YFZ Ranch Raid

Yesterday, the Child Protective Services made the women with children 6 nd over leave the shelter where they were keeping all the children. Authorities gave them the choice to go back to the ranch, so all of them did. In a hasty decision to get their story out there, the FLDS ranch decided to let all the media on to interview the women who felt like they wanted to talk. Although there were many who just watched or didn't come out, about 30 women shared their experiences. I was there to shoot video, but I was still able to shoot some stills. Also, there are three separate videos I did that are a more in depth view of what I did initially. Those are on the Deseret News Web site right after this one.


Yearning for Zion Raid

I'm down in San Angelo, Texas working on the Yearning for Zion polygamist ranch raid. We we're able to be the only journalists in decades to be invited on a ranch like this. It was quite the experience. The exclusive interviews/video now has TV stations across the nation hounding us for footage.

More to come later, but here's one of the videos I put together for it. Background if you haven't been following: supposedly a girl called the "outside" world with allegations of physical and sexual abuse, so cops raided the 600 member ranch, taking all their children. These people's lives were turned upside down. They haven't found this girl that called yet, but they are still working on the case. More to come. I'll give a more personal account once I have time.



The community held a "night of healing and hope" concert tonight to help the residents of South Parc apartments and Hser Nay Moo's family recover from their loss. They brought the angelic voices of a local children's choir to the church where Moo's funeral was two days ago. For the first time the family seemed at peace, as though they found some solace in their faith for a better world beyond this one.
Cartoon Wah, the father of Hser Nay Moo holds his 1-month-old baby, the first of his born in the US. Also, I had an editorial decision I'd been mulling over since this was published today. A Salt Lake Tribune photographer was there with me to cover the event. He basically had the same pictures as me and the paper chose to run his version of the children silhouetted. The Deseret News chose to run 2 pictures, that as the dominant and the one of the father holding the child as a secondary. For me, the story is not about children singing, it is about how the community and family are healing. This image for me says it all. The only way the family is moving on is through each other, hope for the future (baby), and faith. For something like this, I don't think the event matters as much as the story telling. But, the SL Trib generally makes good editorial decisions, so I might be wrong.

The story behind this girl is somewhat interesting. When I first heard of Moo's missing from the apartment complex, I immediately thought of a weather feature I took in January. I met a Burmese family walking through the snow back to their apartment and followed them. They eventually invited me into their apartment, where due to the language barrier we exchanged few words and mostly expressions. When I heard that Moo was missing, I searched through my notebooks for the names of the people I met that day. This girl's name was written down as Hser Nay Paw, also a refugee that recently moved to the US. I had been wondering if I had written down the wrong name the whole time and the girl I really met was the one that was kidnapped. Finally, in probably the last assignment I will shoot on this incident, I met the girl I intially though was gone.


final farewell

I went to Hser Nay Moo's funeral Monday for the paper. She went missing last Monday and was found the next day slain in her neighbor's apartment. Tons of people showed up to support the family. It was pretty emotional, especially seeing the family trail the casket. They seemed so out of it, emotionally drained. The father seemed especially distant as people hugged him and gave their condolences. Even the chief of police was personally affected by this, showing his emotion in front of the family and media. It was hard to see, but I think the family was very thankful and encouraged by the widespread continuing support by the community. The funeral was donated and a trust fund was set up at a local bank for people to donate more money.


ninja roll

I stopped by the park today. There were a bunch of hooligans gathered for a drum circle. Randomly a couple kids yelled "ninja roll" and dove down a hill, rolling violently to the bottom.

hold me closer tiny dancer

bored at a dance


General conference was this weekend, an annual gathering of Mormons from around the world to try to be better Mormons. I walked down to temple square after work and grabbed a couple shots.

Running to conference.


artistic demolition

A local building owner let artists decorate his building before it was torn down today to make was for Utah's first "all green" mixed-use loft condos. They spent about a year canvassing the whole building and all gathered today to watch their work be destroyed. I guess it's some sort of massive performance piece--with one guy operating a big machine and everyone else watching.