A look inside The Muscle Beach International Classic. Venice, Ca.
It was ten years ago this week that Hurricane Katrina almost wiped America’s most interesting city right of the map. I remember watching the drama unfold on TV, in disbelief with each day going by and still nothing seeming to be done. In all honesty, like everyone else, I never really thought it would get this bad and was kicking myself that I hadn’t found a way to get out there sooner, but after a couple of days I was relieved to get a call from People Magazine and I was on the next flight to Houston. I’ve been fortunate to cover many important human interest stories for People over the years and love working on current events with the deeper perspective a weekly magazine can offer, and with no story being bigger than this, I was excited to be a part of the team.After a few days in Houston I drove down to New Orleans proper, along with my buddy and longtime colleague People correspondent Ken Lee (which was an adventure), where I was shocked to find a city completely deserted and literally under martial law. One sight in particular that sticks in my mind from my first day there; a pick-up truck casually pulls onto the freeway ahead of us, pretty normal, until I notice a passenger sitting on the flatbed, scanning the horizon, brandishing a shotgun, cocked and looking for action!It was an unusual time to say the least and very grateful for the experience. There’s really nothing quite like witnessing real life in action; the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve been back to New Orleans quite a few times since then, and happy to say it doesn’t seem to have lost it’s charm, or its edge. Hallelujah!
Earlier this year I spent a few days in Arizona on a controversial and emotionally charged Death Row story for Der Spiegel. Debra Milke, from Berlin, was convicted of the murder of her son Christopher in 1990 and had been awaiting her death until March 23, 2015, when her case was formally dismissed. I spent those final few transformative days with her, from going through the dismissal process, to facing the media and finally tasting true freedom again, as if for the first time.
As a photographer, this assignment called on all my skills; as portrait photographer, reportage photographer and news photographer. An intense and hectic combination, but I love to immerse myself in shooting real, honest situations with depth, and it doesn’t get much more real than Death Row. But it was a delicate situation and there was an awful lot of skepticism, doubt and questions flying around about her acquittal in general. This poor lady was literally out of the frying pan and into the fire with the world’s press! So they’re was a lot going on.
But none the less, we had a job to do to tell this story, and on top of that we needed to shoot a cover on a tight deadline, so we created a location studio in her house, as the rest of the world’s press was on her tail. Debra was clearly overwhelmed and emotionally taught with the whole thing. Not an easy situation, but with great help of my local assistant in Phoenix, Madison Kirkman, we pulled it all off.
In the end, our cover didn’t run as it was a busy news week in Germany and sadly a crazy German pilot decided to fly a plane into the side of a mountain. But here’s a mock-up of one option we were working on; Debra Milke before and after a long visit to the big house. To see more of my latest work go to gallagherphoto.com.
Very excited and proud to be a part of the inaugural NeueJournal, an art-book project published by NeueHouse. A beautiful piece featuring some amazing artists including Brigitte Lacombe, Richard Burbridge, The Edge, Frances McDormand, oh, and me! I collaborated with Taylor Steele, a legend in surf-filmmaking circles, on the story ‘Surfing in Iran’.
Go whoop that sucker, Manny!
What a team these two make. It’s clear when you see Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao working together that not only are they a great team, but have a genuine friendship too.Freddie has Parkinson’s pretty bad, but the astonishing thing is, once he’s in the ring, gloves on, pads on…it’s gone. Not a sign of it. Clearly he’s operating on another level.Much respect to him and his life’s work…. Manny the Pacman Pacquiao. Poetry in motion.
It makes for an interesting life when one day out of the blue an email can come in and the very next week you’re off to a South Pacific Island for a few days to tootle around and shoot beautifully inspired pictures. What i love specifically about travel photography is that in its very essence it’s your job to immerse yourself in the travel experience. You have to feel it to capture it. That does mean long hours though, as you’ll always be top and tailing the day (shooting at sunrise and sunset) which means up at the crack for the best light, but it does make for a memorable experience!
This assignment was with esteemed writer and columnist Andrew O’Hagan, who was a great travel partner and portrait subject. Like me he had no problem getting into the zone!
And as an extra added bonus to myself, I managed to wangle my return flight at my own expense……
Flight change fee: $100
Extra nights stay on Tahiti: $150
Rubbiing lime juice on hand, feet and butt after getting dragged over the reef surfing Taapuna: priceless!
I’ve always dreamed of surfing Tahiti, so couldn’t let this opportunity pass, but definately had no plan as to how to make it happen (there’s nowhere the rent boards on the island it turns out). But after meeting some awesome people within 24 hrs, I was also able to turn an amazing work trip into a fun little surf trip as well. Life is what you make it and take chances when opportunities arise. Oh, and the $150/ night place on Tahiti? The Tahiti Airport Motel. Great place, very clean, friendly and literally right across from the airport. I walked to catch my flight!
With the release of Cesar Chavez , i thought i’d re-visit a personal project i’ve been working on about immigrant farmworkers in California. Maybe it’s because i’m not from here, but this hidden, yet essential workforce has always fascinated me. They may be in America, but it’s certainly not a dream…..
California has long been the land of the migrant farm worker. From the dust bowl migration of the great depression, as depicted by John Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath, to todays countless undocumented border jumpers. With an endless supply of an increasingly desperate labor-force, California’s central valley economy continues to reap the benefit, becoming the main agricultural center in the US and propelling the State to the level of a global economic power.
For many who cross America’s borders illegally however, life can be harsh; some have no option but live in shanty town- like labor camps; some of the women are subjected to rape. Even embezzlement by fellow Mexicans immigrants is a problem, as well as the pure physical exhaustion of the un- regulated manual work, not to mention the constant fear of deportation. All to earn just $6 an hour.
Huron, a small town of 5,900, is a virtual Grand Central terminal for the immigrant workforce. Twice a year, lettuce is harvested in the area, and the population at least doubles in size. Known as the “Heart of the Valley,” Huron, in western Fresno county, lies about 50 miles southwest of Fresno. This is the heartland for what inspired Steinbeck, and where he ultimately set his literary classic.
It’s like a time- warp to a frontier town of the Old West, except the cowboys are all Latino’s and instead of carrying six- shooters, they’re packing lettuce knives! It has been described as ‘knife-fight city’ by some, due to the evening activities of some migrants who descend on the town. There’s a handful of bars, five gangs and a famous drug alley. In 1992, the mayor was shot in a dispute between bar owners and resigned. With it’s undocumented and transient workforce, cash is the preferred form of payment, and robberies are common. Gang members know most workers don’t have bank accounts.In 1998, Huron averaged 15% unemployment, and it’s per capita income was fifth lowest in the state, with 39% of it’s residents living below the poverty line. Many of the migrant workers either live in the labor camps in town for about $6 a night, or in converted garages and back-yard sheds, paying $300 a month or more. There is limited housing available for farm workers, and many live in trailer parks that have sprung up over town, that don’t have permits for even basic utilities. Not much seems to have changed for the impoverished and desperate working man since the 1930’s. As Steinbeck described in Grapes of Wrath; “They ain’t human. A human being wouldn’t live like they do. A human being couldn’t stand it to be so dirty and miserable.”Enrique is a 35 year old undocumented farmworker from San Luis, Mexico. He began his journey north on Valentine’s Day 2006, leaving behind a mother, sister and niece. In his quest to reach California, he paid a coyote $1200 and endured three straight days and nights walking in the Arizona desert. He makes his home for now, which was donated, in an overcrowded and moldy trailer in the backyard of a sympathetic Huron resident’s house. He is lucky, although damp and cramped, he manages to find privacy and safety over the choice living in a shared room at the labor camps.This photo- essay examines the daily life of the undocumented immigrant, picking food for our tables at minimum wage, whilst we debate whether we even want them here.
This month marks the fiftieth anniversary since that fateful day in Dallas when John F. Kennedy was brutally gunned down in broad daylight. A day that etched so much into the public’s lexicon…. grassy knoll, Texas School Book Depository, “back and to the left” and of course the Zapruder footage. Drop any one of these into a sentence and everyone knows what you’re talking about. And yet, fifty years later, the conspiracy theories and obsession with the assassination has not waned. If anything, since 9/11, suspicions have increased.
I too have fallen victim to fascination with those events, even simply about the very place where history unfolded. Dealey Plaza remains pretty much unchanged, almost a living time- capsule to November 22, 1963, and so it should. It is fascinating to walk around, stand on the same spot seen all around the world, and try to put yourself in the shoes of those standing there that day. What thoughts must have been going through there minds from one moment to the other? And then, glance around, perhaps to that grassy knoll, and ask yourself, who was standing there, if anyone, and what exactly did happen?
On my first trip around the US, traveling like any good European, and not a single American, i chose to travel by train, which was a great way to see the country, if not a little laborious at times. However, on the slow pull into Dallas, late at night, i was fascinated to keep an eye out for anything recognizable, particularly Dealey Plaza. I’d known that the famed grassy knoll backed onto some rail yards, so i wondered if i might travel near by. Not a moment after having that thought, i seemed to cross over a strangely familiar underpass, that was in fact Elm Street. Dealey Plaza was right there in front of me….the single most dramatic and tragic location of American, if not world history in the last century or so! It was a breathtaking discovery. I knew from past stops the train would wait for about ten minutes or so at the station, so as we crawled to a halt not more than a couple of hundred yards later, i seized my opportunity (of course i wasn’t to know i’d again be in Dallas years later to shoot Tony Romo, quarterback of the Cowboys!). Anyway, so i jumped off the train, into the balmy Texas night air, ran down the street, guessed a left, followed by another left, and soon found myself in the same spot where the mysterious ‘umbrella man’ put up his brolly, just before the first shots rang out. JFK…. may he rest in peace.
One of the most outspoken conspiracy theorists, filmmaker Oliver Stone, is taking the opportunity to look back by releasing a collector’s edition of ‘JFK’ on November 12th. The box set includes a director’s cut, a Kennedy-themed portion of Stone’s Showtime documentary The Untold History of the United States and another full-length documentary on the assassination. In addition, Stone and Warner Bros. are re-releasing JFK in New York, Los Angeles and Washington from November 8th through the 14th.
I decided to make a trip to Democratic Party Headquarters in Inglewood, South Central Los Angeles, a notoriously tough, yet deeply- rooted African American neighborhood, where i knew the Obama fervour would be high on the eve of such a historic day; the possible election of the first black US President. What a day it promised to be.
At the barbershop across the street, a popular local hangout, while still open for business everyone kept one eye on the TV with the other on the buzzcut, until the word finally came and the drinks began to flow.
But when the official results came through, and it finally seemed safe to allow oneself to truly believe what you’d previously dared not to, the emotions back at Democratic HQ were truly palpable. It was indeed a day in history. I’d like to thank everyone at Inglewood Democratic Party HQ for letting me witness it with them.