Project Showcase Tag

Last June, I headed down to Toledo, WA, my old stompin' grounds where I attended high school. It would be the first of a couple trips down to Toledo, working on a newly birthed project I formed alongside good friend and video talent, Andy Lahmann. It was a project focused on the community, with a lot of the attention going towards the high school students. To get caught up on the story, here are a couple posts to read. Here (click),  here (click), and here (click). Now, if you are up to speed... I spent a day capturing high school students in a number of activities (this series of photos called the "Pride Series"), the photos turned out very well, especially considering the day was a complete run-and-gun operation. I think we teed-up 8 photo shoots during one school day. We'd walk into a new room or sporting location, with never having worked on the photo ideas prior to that moment. Just show up, come up with something real quick, setup lights, pop the photo, pack-up and move on to do it again at another location. The photos received a great response, we made large prints and banners of the photos and hung them in the school. It was predictable that the photos would peak the interests of the high school students, as the photos were of them, however, there was a surprisingly positive response from both the middle and elementary schools. Prints were made for the other schools as well, and the kids loved them. Simply put, the photos did exactly what we wanted them to - generate interest, and ultimately getting the students online, where the website and forum we setup for this project awaited them, and get them talking and involved. You gotta take your information where the eyes are if you want it to be seen, and we all know that today that's online. 

track A pop, a flash, a split second later, a photograph is made. But this photograph... it's got some spice to it, something you can't see with your eyes, and there is a lot more going on than you might think in order to make that photograph. Spoiler alert... it's off-camera flash lighting. Most of us know about flash, and how it "helps" us take photos, but most don't know what you can do with it when you know enough to control flash and manipulate your environment (photographically). I'll spare you non-photographers the details, but this is the method I use 85% of the time I have a camera in front of my face. A literal carload of lighting equipment follows me to every shoot. It's a giant pain in the ass, a couple hundred pounds of equipment, cords, battery packs, etc. to lug around from shoot to shoot, but in the end, all of it is worth it, well worth it. Photos with or without lighting is a night-and-day difference. To light, or not to light, it's not really a question in my book, as I'm lighting my compositions every chance I get. After the first shoot I ever did with off-camera lighting a few years back, I was hooked, and I haven't looked back since. These are the photos that make people stop and look, appreciate the uniqueness that otherwise couldn't have been achieved without some kind of lighting intervention/manipulation.

matty_6.3.11_ 127 Project Showcase made it's appearance last Friday at the Toledo High School as Andy and I spent the day capturing photo and video content and talking to the entire student body at an assembly. We were on a wickedly crammed schedule. Our goal was to come down and create some powerful, dramatic photographs to display in the community, photos of various students in specific compositions, and get everyone pumped up (which it totally will). Somehow, we decided that 11 of these deliberate, high-caliber shoots could be done in one day. That's right, 11 shoots, 11 different locations, situations, students, all with their own specific idea to showcase, and all executed in an 8 hour timeline. No, we didn't scout the day before, we didn't map it all out, but we did have a history of knowing the school from our days as students there, so we felt it wasn't too necessary. All we had was a piece of paper with the basic subject matter for each concept. It was a run-and-gun situation, which gave the day a little more excitement/stress sprinkled on top with such a hefty goal. Oh, if you are totally lost on what the heck I'm talking about, visit So, before the first school bell rang, we were already headed to our first shoot location. Luckily, the school staff pre-selected students for our basic concepts, and the entire school was aware and extremely accommodating of our little circus act going on that day. The staff also appointed us with 5 student helpers for the day. Thank God too, cause I had a stupid amount of gear to lug around... 11 times. Setup, teardown, and packing gets a little crazy with so much stuff, so the extra hands were super appreciated. A little training on the side and the helpers were breaking down my lighting gear and packing by the third shoot all by themselves, it was a well-oiled machine. They really did a great job and saved us a ton of time, making our crazy goal reachable.

toledoClouds No, not "old school" as in an old photograph, or even a comedy movie reference, but literally... old school. Like... driving back to the small town I attended high school at, a place I've maybe visited twice since graduating about 11 years ago now. A defining moment I think is brewing in this old town. It's something you can kinda smell in the air, lots of exciting things just around the corner for this place. In short, the town of Toledo, WA is hurtin'. The community as a whole (including schools, residents, and the local businesses) is slowly eroding away, something Toledo has witnessed within the towns that share it's very boarders. People new and old, past and present residents don't want to see it fade away in the wind, and they are trying to do something about it. They've created "vision: Toledo," a group of community members who are pulling together to see what they can do inject life back into Toledo. Being a past resident and student myself, I found it important to do what I could to join the movement. I think attending a small school, actually getting to call everyone in the school by their first names, literally knowing each and every person in the school, and feeling that true sense of community is a privilege. I've moved a lot in my life and I got a steady taste of larger schools. In the bigger places it seems like you are just another kid in the giant herd, another tally to an already large number of students, and never really getting that sense of community, cause... well that community is just so big you never really get the full scope of things. I made the conscious decision to attend the Toledo school, see what all the small town fuss was about. Turns out it really was a different kind of experience, something that felt more meaningful, more substantial. Everything from having a better relationship with all the teachers, to sports, to not having to use last names with every peer reference... it was nice. I think I turned out different, better than I would have than if I had attended a larger school, maybe even leaving school feeling like I had a better grasp on my own identity.