The 18th Annual Webby Awards Honors "God's Ivory"

I am honored to announce that God's Ivory has been nominated for a Webby in this year's awards competition in the Documentary: Individual Category. Presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS) the Webbys have been dubbed, "the Internet's most respected symbol of success." Receiving over 12,000 entries from across the globe, I am humbled that the film has been selected to be amongst the best. 

The winners of each category will be announced by the Academy at the end of this month. In the meantime, each nominee is also a contender for The People's Voice Award. Voting began today, and will conclude on the 24th. Please help support us by casting your vote online for God's Ivory. It only takes a second, and we could definitely use your support since we're up against some power houses. 

Congratulations to Brent Stirton and Bryan Christy for their tremendous reporting on the illegal ivory trade. 

The November Review

The title of this post sounds like I've had a "November review" before, but really it's just a snappy title. November is always a great month when the trees lose their leaves, the winter begins to bite, and we eat too much on Thanksgiving. This year it was filled with events like the launch of "Blue Chalk" and the screening of The Long Night by my good friend and mentor, Tim Matsui, and MediaStorm. On this end, I am excited to announce the publication of two long-term projects I've been working on for Reportage by Getty Images and the Open Society Foundations

Girl Soldier, a short film by Reportage photographer Jonathan Torgovnik, is an intense testimony about the atrocities committed during the Sierra Leone civil war, and the role that female child soldiers played in the 10-year conflict. Released in mid-November by The Telegraph Saturday Magazine, the film is the result of a close collaboration between Jonathan (who was initially commissioned by the Telegraph to shoot a portrait series) and myself. It was truly an honor to work with Jonathan, who is one of the most thoughtful photographers I have had the opportunity to work with, and truly dedicated to his craft and his vision. 

Bringing Justice to Health is a series of four videos produced for the Law and Health Initiative by the Open Society Foundations (OSF). The series examines four legal empowerment models in Kenya, Macedonia, Russia, and Uganda, and how they facilitate access to public health care to marginalized communities. The videos will be featured on the OSF website, released over the next couple of months. As of mid-November, only the Macedonia video had been published. Please stay tuned, as the remaining three become publicly available, keeping your eyes out for, "Until That Time Comes," the story about palliative care in Kenya.  

Thanks Y'all!

Had a great turnout last week for the penultimate day of the DOC NYC film festival at the IFC Center where I had the honor of screening Follow My Steps as part of the shorts programming night, "The Kids Are All Right". Tony Reuter, one of the film's subjects, made it down to NYC from Syracuse for the evening. I'm very thankful to DOC NYC for the opportunity to have shared the film with a theater full of people, and all my friends and colleagues who came out in support. 

In a world where we share and view videos on computers, and iPhones it was an amazing opportunity to see the project on the big screen. With the prevalence of internet and digital platforms I increasingly find the viewing experience to be solitary. Sitting in  a room full of people was a unique experience to hear the audience laughing at the same parts where I laugh, and crying at the same parts where I cry. It truly emphasized this idea that I've been chasing and that I've been taught: the greatest stories are universal. These are the stories that every human being can empathize and relate to. The stories that transcend race, language, and borders. The stories that help us understand our own human experience. 

As part of the programming, Follow My Steps was filmed alongside four other short films. One of the films I would highly suggest you take the time to watch is Eagle Boy, by director Gry Elisabeth Mortensen if it should pass through your city. 

Thank you again to everyone. This has been a tremendous journey. 

The Fall Workshop 2013

Last month I returned to my alma mater to help out at The Fall Workshop. Every year for 12 years, graduate and undergraduate students from the Multimedia, Photography & Design department at Syracuse University dedicate 4 days to intense, hands-on production work. For the past two years, the workshop has been based around the theme of "Families," with this year specifically focused on the idea of "New Families." Returning for the second year as a coach, I had the unique opportunity to return the instruction and knowledge that I walked away with during the two workshops I participated in as a graduate student. The Fall Workshop is a fundamental component of the curriculum. Coming only a few weeks into the beginning of the semester, students learn shooting, editing, and storytelling from professionals (mostly Syracuse alumni).

This year I worked with Maura Lisson and Ethan Backer (graduate students), Chris Janjic (a senior undergraduate), and Chase Walker (a visiting fellow from Liberia). Coming from a diverse set of backgrounds each student set off to tell a story about a "new family" in Syracuse, in their own way. 

Ethan Backer was a former freelance photographer in Massachusetts who returned to graduate school to learn the necessary skills for multimedia storytelling. Video was still very new to him where the mechanics and technique were not yet familiar. However, as the weekend progressed, his comfort with the camera grew. He was able to focus (literally), started to see light again, and was able to be more deliberate about his composition and framing. Unconditional is a wonderful story about a family whose love far outweighs its needs. The storytelling is elegant as he slowly reveals the story through deliberate pacing. 

Chris Janjic, a senior undergraduate, began his project on Friday. Typically most students begin the workshop with having shot some of their story, but Chris had the added challenge of starting from scratch on day one. Having just gained access to a halfway house, his greatest hurdle would be to develop and nurture relationships with the female residents in a compressed timeline. Putting away his camera and simply hanging out was a test of patience that ultimately rewarded Chris with an open door into the lives of these women. Halfway There is a sensitive look into three women's lives looking to start over, shared through poetry and deeply personal experiences. 

Maura Lisson, who holds a bachelor's degree from SU's school of Visual and Performing Arts, focused on a middle school cross country team. With a background in fine art photography, Maura wanted to take a non-traditional approach to storytelling. Her portrait of these young girls is both reflective, and active. It is a universal story that we can all relate to: a vignette of the adolescent experience through the lens of team, sport, and family. 

Finally, Chase Walker, a visiting fellow from Liberia and extremely talented artist, hunkered down to explore the story of a Liberian family who have been refugees in Syracuse since 2006. Contrasting the themes of the "American Dream" and the "Liberian Dream," Chase tells the story of a family seeking a better life in America in hopes of returning to their country with this. Through the eyes of the eldest brother of four, Lawson Townsend pursues this dream through soccer for his entire family.