Not quite a TTD shoot…

•November 24, 2008 • 1 Comment

So, on Saturday we were supposed to have a Trash the Dress session at a forest preserve north of Chicago. Three other photographers and I were up early, doing some scouting, getting our gear ready, and then headed to the restaurant where we were supposed to meet our model. Then we waited for her.

And waited.

And waited… for about an hour and a half.

Turns out that while driving down from Wisconsin, she got into an accident with an SUV, spent the day in the ER, and lost her phone in the process. Yes, she’s fine, thank God.

However, we didn’t know about any of this until she was finally able to get a hold of me that evening.

So, what do 4 photographers do with no model? Improvise! We headed back to the forest preserve, got out our gear, and just took turns modeling for each other. All things considered, I think we got some fun shots. Here are a few of mine:

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Real Conversations

•November 21, 2008 • Leave a Comment

It never ceases to amaze me how big of a difference between having a conversation with a group of guys, and talking with just one or two of them.

On Monday, during my normal hang-out with the guys, there was a lot of fighting going on outside after school. The police had been VERY active the week before, and on Monday they were just pushing high schoolers from one block to the next. I had talked to the guys earlier, but when I went to meet them, I could neither find them, or get them to answer their phone. I wasn’t sure if I should keep looking, or just give up and call it off.

As I was weighing my options, I noticed an army of police with flashing lights just a few blocks up the street. Somehow I figured that, where there was trouble and a crowd, I might find my guys.

I was right. I ran into two of them a block later, looking for the brother of one of them. I grabbed them and took them away from the action, both to get food and just to get them off the street until things cooled down. Between eating and joking around, we were able to have some real conversations about the fighting, how they and others deal with it, and thoughts on how the police address it.

Tonight, after I was kicked out of the house because of our senior high girls’ group, I went to McDonald’s for some dinner. Yes, I apparently have a long-term death wish. While I was waiting for my food, one of my guys came in, and we got to talk for few minutes about his week, a field trip, Thanksgiving, a guys’ group, and life at his house. All within 5 minutes.

There’s not really a point to this, or a grand moment to tell you about. I just want to say that my guys are pretty smart. They think, they have things to say, they want connection. They don’t always do right, but most of them sure to try. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of all that when I’m frustrated with loud and inattentive groups, or my guys getting caught up in stupid things like stolen eggs.

It’s nice to have a reminder occasionally. I kinda need it.

Lincoln Park Portraits

•November 19, 2008 • 2 Comments

A few weeks ago we grabbed some Josh and Cindy, some good friends of ours, and took them down to Lincoln Park for a couple hours of portraits. When Josh got a new job and they had to leave our church, we offered them this chance to get pictures of them looking cute and in love. Thankfully for me, they are so in love that it’s pretty easy to get pictures like that for them. Anyway, enjoy!

And, just a heads-up, I’m shooting my first-ever Trash the Dress shoot this weekend… keep watching for them to show up!

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Stealing from the Children

•November 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I want to say up front that things have been going pretty well these past few weeks. Potluck has been relatively calm, and some new people have been stepping up to help out and lead or work on small projects with the kids. Good things are happening.

Sometimes it seems like whenever I talk about my youth work on here, particularly with the neighborhood youth, most of what I say is negative or frustrating. It’s important to acknowledge that that’s not always the case – a lot of good stuff is happening, too. And most importantly, the small good things happening now are continuing to build the foundation for bigger good things to happen later.

That having been said, let’s talk about some kids.

Since the school year started, I’ve been meeting regularly with a group of Jr. High boys. Mostly I’ll just look for them after school and chat for a little bit, but also we always go out for food after school every couple of weeks. Some of the guys I’ve gotten to know through potluck, but most of them have previously been involved with the church through other programs. Needless to say, they are known, and they are generally trusted.

That is, until, last Wednesday. Things were pretty quiet at potluck, and kids were eating and not lingering in the building for too long. But my guys, with some friends, had something else in mind.

Our master chef for the After School Program was planning to cook scrambled eggs for the kids the next day. His plans, however, required 4 or 5 dozen eggs that were waiting in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, this was also two days before Halloween, which is when teenagers all over America look forward to their ritual of throwing eggs at each other. You can see where this is going….

I’m really not sure who actually took the eggs. There was a group of 4-6 boys who snuck them out of the kitchen, and of all the ones I’ve talked to… supposedly none of them actually took them, or knew that someone else was stealing them, and no one knows, or will identify, who actually made off with them. Right. Whatever the case, they all took off through the back door (which they aren’t allowed to use) as soon as they had them. After I found out what happened, I went outside to find plenty of eggs already broken around the sidewalk.

I was pissed to know that some of my guys were part of this. I managed to find a few of them later that night, and made it very clear how upset and disappointed I was with them. Not for stealing, but for being so weak that they would follow someone else in disobeying the rules, and not just let, but run away with, someone who had stolen from us. I was upset that they weren’t even going to think for themselves when it came to whether or not they were doing the right thing.

Although we are still deciding on what the consequences will be, I went ahead and had my meal with a couple of the guys today. I spent a lot of time hoping and praying beforehand. It was a smaller group, which was good to hang out, and it was easier to use Wednesday’s events to open some avenues of conversation that it’s been hard to reach. We were able to talk about what it looks like to be a man, and the tight rope they’re walking between being responsible kids with programs, jobs, and bank accounts, and kids on the street who have already been arrested a couple of times (for minor stuff, thank God).

We didn’t get too deep, but it’s still a big step. We’re getting there…. and it always makes me joyful to see God use a crappy situation like stolen eggs to make good things happen. But then, it seems like that’s often how God works best. Weird. But awesome.

I just hope they don’t think that having a real conversation means they can get off without any consequences, though…. heck no!

New website and headshots

•November 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Hi everyone! It’s been a little while since I’ve updated. Life gets busy.

First of all, in case you haven’t seen it, my photography website has been resdesigned! Again. I finally think I have found a format that I’m happy about, and that I’m proud to have it show off my work. If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and check it out at http://www.fiercelyalive.com.

In other news, I’ve been doing a lot of headshots lately. So, here’s a taste of what I’ve been working on. Thanks to Eric, Mike, and Megan. Enjoy!

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So, about that goal…

•October 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Y’know the whole “writing 2 posts a week” thing?  Yeah, obviously I’m off to a great start with that one.

This school year is off to a great start… I’ve hit the ground running with several things, but I’m a little concerned about my lack of real direction with it all.

The youth group has started well.  Our new group of freshmen have really changed the dynamic of senior high, and while there’s still a bit of split between the new and the old high schoolers, I think it’s a good change.  We’ve also had a number of very new immigrants coming to our youth group… new enough that they don’t speak much English, if any.  I’m happy to include them, but it does add a very different dynamic… how do you teach a lesson and create a community with the kids when half of them have trouble communicating with the other half?  Games and activities are a great way to start fostering relationships, but that will carry things only so far.

Neighborhood outreach has been fun.  I’ve started doing bi-weekly lunches with a group of Jr. High guys.  Most of them were from last year’s Junior High after school program, but they all attend Wednesday potluck regularly now. It’s been a good way to keep in touch with kids from the now-defunct program, but it started rather spur-of-the-moment, as my consolation for not having a program this year.  It’s been good to interact with these guys in a different context, outside of the church building. Being in a place where I don’t have the same authority, and don’t enforce the same rules, is an ongoing battle…. how I do I speak to them and support them in their context, more as a friend instead of a teacher or leader?  Right now, I’m just spending a lot of time listening…  I’m excited to be taking more of an “incarnational” approach to reaching the guys, but the nitty-gritty of how to do it is definitely a subject of a prayer.  Probably should be even more…

In a larger outreach sense, things are at a little bit of a standstill.  The amazing woman who has been leading the church’s efforts with these kids is leaving the country for 3 months, leaving me and whoever else steps up to keep things going.  I’m also working on finding funding for her to be hired by the church in March, so she can do a much more focused job of outreach and constructing broader, multi-organizational programs to work with the kids that we’ve come to know and love.  We’re looking for money, talking to kids, exploring options… but I’m really waiting for someone to has the TIME to take the lead on making these bigger dreams and visions a reality.

Until then, I’m just trying to keep up, and going through the doors that God opens when they appear.  Things don’t really ever change much, do they?

Too much to say

•September 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So, it’s been almost a month since I’ve blogged anything. It isn’t because there’s nothing happening – it’s because there’s too much happening, too much thinking, too much to write about. I often walk away from a day thinking I should write about it and process it…. I put it off until the next day, except then I find something new that I need to write.

In an effort to limit that, I’m going to make it a personal goal to write twice a week. We’ll see how well it goes…

Until then, here’s a snapshot of the past month…

My sister-in-law moved into college here in Chicago last weekend, and the in-laws got to visit. Good times, and I’m really glad she’s going to school here.

I shot a wedding a couple weeks ago, headshots two days ago, and am in several conversations about weddings and portraits. Busy time for photography. I’m glad.

Started the new year for youth group a few weeks ago. The new crop of 6th graders is pretty cool, and the mix of new and old high schoolers will be…. interesting. I hope the freshmen will be able to put some new energy into the senior high. Unfortunately, we also lost two very awesome leaders who took a job in another church. On the bright side, we gained two more awesome leaders.

Things continue to be go on with the local kids in the neighborhood. After school program has started, but only for the elementary-age kids. I’m trying to meet with the junior high kids outside of the building, but nothing official. We’re trying to foster for more interaction between church and neighborhood kids, making connections with hard-to-reach kids, gaining trust with some of them, and yet realizing how little influence we have with there are tons of fights during the week.

Oh, and looking into grants, trying to balance what is essentially 2 different ministries, save time for photography and general sanity and people and growth….

Life’s very busy, there is a lot going on, but at the moment, I really have no idea what is actually happening and what we’re accomplishing long-term. I do well with some kids and get hugs from them, I’m encouraged with other kids just hold their tongue, and I have others threaten to beat me up and break our windows. And those are just the ones I’m trying to bring INTO the church, to say nothing of the ones who are already here.

How’s that for tons of info with nothing specific?