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The “C” Word

The “C” word — Cancer.

It shouldn’t exist, yet it does.

The paper did a follow up story last month about a 16-year-old girl battling cancer. Only months before I was assigned to photograph another student athlete with cancer. That day I was prepared for the worst and was instead met by a bubbly 17-year-old girl.

I guess in my subconscious mind I thought this assignment would be similar. I thought I would be greeted by the same type of teenager. Honestly, I guess I was too preoccupied with my own life to fully understand or anticipate what I’d walking into that particular Friday. It was immediately apparent why this family wanted to share one final story. The end, unfortunately, was very near.

A couple weeks before, during Thanksgiving, she and her mother drove to Nebraska to see family. She turned to her mother and asked if they were making a goodbye trip. I cannot imagine, nor do I want to imagine, how I would react to such a conversation. They were going to say goodbye and that she understood.

An assignment like this puts life, family and friendships into perspective. They’re all precious. Life can be unfair. Circumstances can question faith and spark anger, sorrow and sympathy. Nothing, I’ve learned, should never be taken for granted. So, the next time you decide to throw yourself a pity party over something miniscule think of this young woman, as she, her family and friends wanted nothing more than to live together.

She died exactly one week after I made this photograph. And even though I did not know her I suppose a piece of me died as well.

Be well.

A salute to veterans

Sgt. Dane Shockley - Afghanistan and Iraq - U.S Army Medic

Last year our managing editor came to me and a reporter and gave us an assignment.

Next year, he said, Veterans Day will be on 11/11/11. I want a package of stories featuring 11 vets, representing all of the major wars the U.S. has been involved with since World War II.

Easy, right?

I liken this to college, when at the beginning of the semester the professor gives you a task that you’re supposed to work on throughout the semester. Yep, two weeks before finals you’re busting your you know what.

A lot has happened to the newspaper over the last year. We were sold. Our hours reduced. Equipment non-existent. Layoffs. The list goes on and on. But, despite the changes and challenges we still had this assignment looming. A reporter and I sat down in August (actually met between assignments in a parking lot) and made a plan.

He found our subjects. We found the time. We found six stories instead of 11. We found vets from each major war since WWII. We found time to write, edit and produce. We, hopefully, gave our readers something to look forward to all week, as they ran on the front page everyday since Sunday.

Sitting down with these men was an experience. My only regret is not being able to use all of the video interview footage they provided. Out of an hour or so interview I had to get them down to about three minutes. Not an easy feat.

I always find it ironic when a spouse of a veteran comes up to me after and interview and says, “I’ve never heard them talk about that before,” or “I’ve never heard that story.”  This is ironic to me because memories  so haunting, so dark, and  so private that they have never been  shared with a spouse, are shared openly, without coaxing to total strangers.

It’s these times that I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to share the stories of others with others.

There are a lot of extraordinary people among us, veterans definitely included. And to those veterans who say “I really didn’t do anything special,” well you did. Don’t shortchange yourselves.

To these six men, my friends and family (specifically my grandparents) who served, thank you and happy Veterans Day.

 

Jerome Portz - Korean War Veteran - Two Purple Heart Medals

Dan Pineda - Vietnam - Purple Heart - U.S. Army Retired

Capt. Gary Stump - Iraq - Commanding Officer of Combat Outpost in Baghdad

Rick Chatwell - Gulf War Vet - U.S. Navy avionics technician

Lee Springer - U.S. Navy Medic in Guadalcanal during WWII - U.S. Air Force Retired

I’m in my underwear and he’s running for his life

Jeffery Sokol was on the 29th floor of the  World Trade Center's south tower on Sept. 11, 2001. He escaped before the second plane hit the building. Photo taken at his Longmont home on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. (Photo by Joshua Buck)

 

In the corner of our small three-bedroom 1950s bungalow living room at 1261 S. Jackson St. in Denver, Colorado sat a new 32″ television set. We were in Target just a few weeks before and on a whim spent money we didn’t have on something we really didn’t need.

You’ve likely been asked the question or at least you’ve heard the question.

“Where were you on 9/11?”

Me? I was standing in that same living room, in my underwear, trying to shake the previous night’s drinking after my college job of waiting tables downtown. My friend Brian called me right at 7 a.m., which was unusual as he rarely saw 7 a.m. back then. He only called early when it was important.

“Turn on the t.v.”

The channel was NBC and the second plane just flew into the south tower. I remember asking Brian over the phone if this was a joke gone bad.

In New York City Jeff Sokol sat down at his desk on the 29th floor in the south tower of World Trade Center.  A muffin and a cappuccino sat on the desk. Kent, his friend he moved to New York with just months before, ran out of his office yelling to everyone “get out of the building. ” Jeff looks out the window and sees a copy machine fly past his window.

“Literally, a copy machine on fire,” he says again, as though we won’t believe him.

Jeff, along with hundreds of others make it to Liberty Plaza when a massive explosion from the second plane careening into the building rocks from above.

Here is Jeff ducking under a scaffold outside of a Burger King, running for his life, witnessing things I can’t even imagine and I’m standing in my underwear thousands of miles away thinking about people just like Jeff.

We both said the same thing, though.

“A lot of people just died,” I said through the phone.

…………………………………………………………………….

Last Sunday our country recognized the 10th anniversary of the second date which shall live in infamy. Despite your views on the subsequent wars, elections, recessions, political climate or conspiracy theories, remember people like Jeff who live with images of 9/11 everyday. Remember those families who lost innocent loved ones.

Many years ago I started this blog. I named it “When Paths Cross” as a way of sharing with others — who may be sitting in their own living rooms in their underwear — my daily encounters with strangers. And while those strangers and I are often times very different, most often we share commonalities. Take Jeff as an example: Our 9/11 experiences are far different. However, we still share something…we both realize that life is nothing to be taken for granted.

Carpe diem.

My take on Chicago

First things first — I am in no way, shape or form a street photographer.

Last week I set out on a trip to Chicago, basically riding the coattails of my wife as she attended a class for work in Illinois. While she was in class the first part of the week I hit the streets by taxis, the Metra, the CTA and foot. Like a typical tourist, I slung one body and a 50mm over the shoulder and had a pocket-full of cash. When I saw something I snapped one frame and moved on.

Every time I go on vacation (not so often) I always say I’m going to leave the camera at home. Yet at the last minute I throw it in the bag. Actually, it’s kinda fun not thinking about making photographs all the while making photographs. Some are bad pictures and a few I like. But in the end I don’t care about the framing, exposure, or quality. You won’t find me lamenting over ‘what I missed’ like I do every single day. Face it, it’s plain ‘ol fun to let the photo monkey out of the cage every once-in-a-while.

When the wife was done working mid-week we took in a Cubs game, a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry (where we watched baby chicks hatch and of course took the hurried trip through U-505), disliked every moment on Navy Pier, contemplated ordering chicken and waffles from the “Chicken King” at 51st and S. Prairie Avenue while waiting for a bus, and walked…a lot around downtown. We also walked a lot around the five-story Macy’s store? I mean, who can pass that up? Me, that’s who. But they have plenty of chairs for weary husbands. We took a water taxi and ate Chicago-style pizza in bed without caring what the housekeeper thought. We did and saw a lot more, but why bore you? You’re not even reading this anyway!

All said and done it was a much needed trip away from work and the kids (yes, I said it.)

The result? My take on Chicago in 30 frames from 5 days of walking, riding and people watching.

Back to reality.

Whirlwind

Whirlwind.

That’s the only word I could come up with for a title of this post.

Between work at the paper and Joshua & Co. Photography picking up steam, I’ve been busy to say the least. Our first official wedding season as ‘The Joshes’ has been so much fun and we’re looking forward to one more wedding this month, three more in August, and a few fall weddings. Oh, and the commercial work and portrait sessions are mixed in as well.

I thought since I’ve edited the past wedding and have a three day weekend with not much going on, I’d take a moment to add some editorial photography from the past month or so to the ol’ blog. Most of this work was taken when the bossman was out for knee surgery. A lot of runnin’ and gunnin’ before moving on to the next assignment or newsroom meeting. Probably not my best work ever, but it filled some of the blank holes in the newspaper and taken up some bandwidth on the intertubes.

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer…

JB

Rounding up April

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Can you believe I’ve been meaning to update the ‘ol blog for a whole month? Every day I say ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’

Yesterday I said that to myself and today I followed through. I really meant to all those tomorrows ago, too. But life happened, assignments happened, business happened. Today though, has been pretty quiet and here I sit, waiting for a stinger and another newspaper to FTP photos. So I’m making use of my idle time.

April? Good bye. It was fun.

Sports.

News.

Features.

Did I mention,  Sports?

To the guy who holed himself up in his house while SWAT ordered him out? Thanks for breaking up the Sports assignments.

To the people clinging to the underside of your boat? Thanks for breaking up the Sports assignments.

To the couple married 70 years? Congratulations. That’s a long time.

It’s been a great ride for Helen, too. She hit the century mark in April and I went to her party. She looks great. Congratulations.

Oh, I almost forgot! Anytime you can see someone pretending to box while visiting a garage sale it doesn’t hurt break up the Sports assignments. Or is that technically a sport? I dunno.

Now, perhaps in May I’ll find a couple more opportunities to actually login to this sliver of cyberspace and show you what I’ve been seeing.

Enjoy spring, if it ever sticks around.

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Athlete of the Year Portraits

It’s easy to over think.

I like to think that my over thinking skill is one of my best attributes. If I don’t think of all the possibilities how can I make this particular scenario better than the last? Of course, I’ve also learned that sometimes by over thinking I miss the main thing I should be thinking about.

A few times per year the Athlete of the Year assignments start rolling in. This is when I usually start to think hard to myself. How can these be different from last time, or the time before that, or that?

Once upon a time I had a lot more time to think. We had a bigger staff, both in sports and photo. I could plan, scout locations, work around the sun, weather, schedules, etc. But these days the preps reporters pick ’em quick, assign them quick and I shoot them…quick.

So, when swimmer Kaley Wheless rolled in to the studio I had no choice but to wing it. (OK, I admit I thought about different lighting setups all morning.) Ultimately I settled on one light, black background. Ten minutes later wrestler Jordan Martinez rolled in.

Not a lot of time to think.

By the time basketball players Cade Kloster and Jamie Katuna showed up I at least didn’t have to think about my camera settings. Instead, all I thought about was capturing these final photographs of these four athletes that I’ve photographed for the past four years.

When all that thinking is out of the way I can finally enjoy chatting with these young people about their futures, memorable matches, games and plays.

I like that part almost more than taking photos.

This day was a little different, though. When one of these athletes walked by a bulletin board of the best work produced by our staff from the previous week. They stopped and stared. On display was more than one photo of them.

And they were crying in every…single…photo. Can someone say, um, awkward?

I’m sure glad they saw that on the way out and not in.

Enjoy.

It was time to hit the mats…State Wrestling at Pepsi Center

In a way I always dread the Colorado State Wrestling Championships. Long days, endless waits between matches, and oh, the bathroom near the photo workroom gets really rank after three long days of wrestlers making frequent visits.

However, that being said, once it’s all over I really don’t mind. I get to eat at the same restaurant three days in a row, see young athletes toil on the mats, see the agony of defeat and the reactions of sweet victory. I am amazed they get back up after slamming one another on the mats and like the reactions of fellow photographers and reporters collective “ohs and awes and ows” when a hard take down happens.

Enjoy some of my favorites from this year’s event at Pepsi Center. Now, on to basketball playoffs.

I’m dreaming of a white New Year

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This whole “winter” thing hasn’t really panned out in terms of snow this year. Usually when it snows I try to stay away from the “sledding” hill to make photos. However, if the rest of “winter” is anything like the past few months today may be the only time I get to photograph kids and sleds.

This “winter” experience is a far cry from last year when over 70″ fell here in Boulder County and seemed to linger for months. Well today snow happened and I’m pretty pleased to see the white stuff. While the jet stream just didn’t cooperate last week, dashing our dreams of White Christmas, I guess we’ll settle for a White New Year’s Eve.

Let it snow. Let it snow. Let is freaking snow.

Oh, by the way, I wouldn’t suggest washing your car when it’s freezing-ass cold. It turns into an ice cube on wheels.

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I love playoff football

Despite freezing my butt off, crappy light and speeding to make deadline, I can honestly say I don’t mind playoff football. The emotion is real and even better when the no. 15 seed upsets the no. 2 seed.

How cold was it? Well, between plays I had to wipe the eyepieces on my cameras because they were frosting up from my breath.

Fun times. I can’t believe they’re in focus. Until next week…