Saying Goodbye to My POYi

•April 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The church bells ringing across the street from this Marriott hotel in D.C’s Chinatown is a not-so-subtle reminder that my checkout is looming. Noon will be here soon enough. And, eventually, my 6:50pm flight back to St. Louis.

Instead of packing—as I should be doing—or working on my masters project proposal—as I’d intended on doing, I decided to sit down and put fingers to keyboard (that will never sound as eloquent as “pen to paper”…) and reflect on my time with POYi.

First, I have to say that I find it highly unlikely that I will ever get to work with someone like Rick Shaw again. There will hopefully be plenty more wonderful bosses in my future, but I doubt I will find one like him. He allowed me the privilege to be a POYi coordinator twice. Because of this, he had a major impact on my education during the last two years of grad school. Rick served as a boss, teacher and friend, and I will always be grateful for what he’s done for me.

When I was a volunteer at the Missouri Photo Workshop in September, I’d approached David Rees after the final presentation of work to thank him for, well, everything. I walked up to him, opened my mouth to say something and instead, I cried. I was so moved by the work and so inspired, that I just stood there, trying to muster out a thank you between the hiccup of tears. I don’t know if it was Luke’s Lobster that I’d just had for lunch or the same feelings of genuine inspiration stirring somewhere deep down, but listening to Barbara Davidson’s presentation two days ago at the Newseum brought that same rush of emotions. Barbara was named this year’s Newspaper Photographer of the Year and was part of an amazing lineup of greats in the industry speaking for the Newseum’s Photo Day (that I’ll touch on in just a moment). I’d had the pleasure of meeting Barbara last year while she was a POYi judge, but I’d never actually heard her talk about her work or her relationship to photojournalism. As compelling as Barbara’s work is, her passion—and compassion—moved me.

Before her, I got to listen to Patrick Smith—this year’s Sports Photographer of the Year—humbly talk about how he’s never shot a Super Bowl or World Series while his photographs flashed across the screen, images that showed a range of unexpected moments and graphic beauty that is sometimes taken for granted in the sports world.

I had the insane honor of introducing the Women Photojournalists of Washington, which included MaryAnne Golan as the moderator and a panel with Mary F. Calvert, Ami Vitali and Annie Griffiths. The first goal was to not throw up while on stage. The second was to try and somehow fit a SparkNotes version of these women’s accomplishments and contributions to the field. They discussed underreported issues affecting women and girls worldwide, but also the outstanding work being done by Ripple Effect Images (Annie is the executive director and Ami is part of the collective of journalists working for REI).

After Barbara came Tyler Hicks talking about his experience while making the remarkable images (which also got him a Pulitzer recently) to come from the tragic Kenyan mall shooting. Similar to Barbara, I was more in awe of his dedication to storytelling that went beyond covering the horrors of that day, but also following up with the aftermath. I felt dignity and respect in the quieter photos of loved ones mourning and burying their dead.

Finally, there was Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, this year’s College Photographer of the Year (FYI, I want to grow up to be Rita Reed, CPOY’s director and one of the most beloved teachers I’ve ever had. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how amazing this woman is). I met her about a year ago in NYC, so it was great to see her again, this time receiving one of many honors for her coverage of Shane and Maggie (a story she’d been working on that took a turn into domestic violence). I’d recently talked to a friend and talented photographer in my program about how I want my peers to have outstanding work that gets me to push myself. This may sound selfish of me, but it’s the truth—there’s something more rewarding about being among folks who help inspire you. Thanks to all of the photographers and editors I met this weekend who do that for me. And thanks to Sara for setting the bar as a peer.

There’s so much more that can be said about my time with POYi. The challenges and rewards played a pivotal role in my educational and personal development over the course of my masters program. And, sitting here reflecting on not only the last two years, but also the past few days, I think the struggles were worth it. Of the three or so of you out there reading this, and if you know me, you know what I mean. POYi was the stage for a few twists in the dark comedy that is my life. But it was also what helped me bounce back. I made dear friends through POYi. And through some of those friends, I also found a little place in the south Bronx called the Bronx Documentary Center, which gave me a reason to get out of bed every morning last summer when I struggled with my own personal heartbreak and demons. And incidentally, at the risk of sounding cliché, I began to truly find myself with the help of my POYi.

Coordinating and Processing POYi

•March 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Rick Shaw, the director of Pictures of the Year International, holds up his cell phone to let Barbara Davidson of the LA Times know she was just selected as POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year.

Pictures of the Year International, as I recently wrote in my updated bio, was a strange, beautiful, emotional whirlwind of imagery, discussions and (most importantly) learning.

This past February marked my second year as a POYi coordinator, and while my job isn’t quite over yet, the bulk of the work—as well as the competition itself—is. But now I have time to look back on both experiences and reflect on what I’ve seen, how things affected me and some of the new, unexpected concerns I find myself wrestling with.

I guess I could start by talking about a few of the things I appreciated and learned from. The multimedia section in particular was a reminder of how the usage of the right tools—or knowing when to let go of certain camera techniques or unnecessary bells and whistles—can help create a captivating story, rich with characters, details and emotion. There was a piece or two that made it to later rounds that bothered me because the camera spun around a little girl in a 360 degree shot about three or four times and it immediately took me out of the piece. I feel bad that I’m blanking on the name since I was the driver on shift (“driver” is the coordinator who projects the work for the panel of judges. Usually, two coordinators work per shift—a driver and a vote recorder). Anywho, I think just because we can use a glide or spin around a character or implement fancy 3D graphics doesn’t mean we should. I usually opt for simplicity. Knowing what not to use is just as important as knowing what to use. Otherwise, it can feel heavy handed and distracting.

Walter Astrada, Randall Greenwell, Paula Nelson and Frank Fournier viewing photographers’ portfolios during POYi judging.

There are a few multimedia pieces I really loved. But a quick sidenote/question: If something is entirely video, does it still count as “multimedia”? I’m not trying discredit it or anything. I guess it’s just another vague term we use to describe…? I guess if a video was combined with an article, it would fit in that it incorporates those multiple facets. Right? Who knows? I don’t care enough to really make the distinction—I care more about quality work and effective storytelling.

I’ll quickly mention three multimedia pieces (all of which received awards) as some of my favorite work. I enjoyed “Hers to Lose” by Brent McDonald and Stephen Maing—about Christine Quinn losing the mayoral race in NYC—and “Spanish Bank Scandal Wipes Out Savings” by Almudena Toral for similar reasons. Neither piece included an issue that directly effects me or hits close to my personal interests, yet they both sucked me in because of great stories and intimacy with characters. For the former, one of the judges said it best in that the piece gives away the ending in the first minute (the entire documentary is about 30 minutes long), so why stick around? Because we don’t often get a chance to see up-close the campaign that lost—especially one that was favored to succeed. The access and the humanizing of a politician—as well as the journey to try and pinpoint where she began slipping—made it all the more appealing. I was sucked in, and not just because I had to be there for work.

Another multimedia piece I enjoyed and could relate to more in terms of style and execution was “A Soldier’s Wife” by Rick Loomis, Spencer Bakalar and Liz O. Baylen. The story was powerful and provided a fresh look on an unfortunate and persisting problem with soldiers returning to crumbling lives in the States. This time, we get to focus on someone else who is affected by the trauma of war.

I wanted to blog about this experience regardless, but I just found out it’s due for my Picture Story class. The class requires a post on a POYi picture story or multimedia piece/section. I’m assuming/hoping I met that requirement above.

Now, I’d like to continue with my reflection as a coordinator and student of photography.

I find myself debating the importance—or purpose—of photo competitions now. And I don’t know what to think of that.

It started with discussions in my Photo in Society class last spring. That class was divided into sections that focused on a range of topics and issues facing our field today. Aside from History of Photojournalism, it has been my favorite class thus far in the Journalism program. For a few days, we discussed the merits of photo competitions. What role do they play in our industry? Do they somehow dictate trends? And—the question I struggled with the most and find myself revisiting—are photographers shooting stories with the specific mindset of entering the work into competitions? How do we determine whether a photographer’s intentions are pure? And what does that even mean?

Despite having the class last year during POYi, the uncertainty hit me more this year. My concerns were quieted by personal discussions with judges. One said he asks students of photo workshops why they want to register. If they say “To win competitions,” he won’t admit them. Another judge assured me that, despite the country or language barrier, “you can always tell an asshole” (this person was one of my favorites). Ultimately, the answer I would hear is that, generally, you can tell when a person has really invested him or herself in a story and the people he/she is documenting. You can tell by the comfort level of the “subject” (a term I’ll tackle in another blog post) and how close the photographer gets.

While I still struggle with what competitions stand for on a whole, I found myself having a difficult time emotionally processing some of the things I saw.

Last year before my fellow coordinators and I even began processing the entries, I feared the possibility of being desensitized. I’ve worried about it before, coming from a household where Al Jazeera would play almost on loop in the background if we weren’t watching CNN or baseball. Al Jazeera Arabic, that is, with the bloodied children and weeping widows. Constantly. I remember keeping it together while processing the entries last year, hesitating a bit longer on some tougher scenes, but continuing to move at a reasonable enough pace to get everything checked. Then I’d have to go through all the images again when building the “shows” or categories that we project for judges. Last year, I didn’t get too emotional until during judging, for a few images, briefly.

This year, however, there were images that stuck with me outside of the POYi processing bunker or judging room in Tucker forum. I felt silly asking the judges later in the competition how they handle being exposed to what is essentially the worst of humanity, day in and day out, for hours on end (those who are editors that are exposed to the masses of horrific images). One judge answered that, basically, certain circumstances such as sifting through hundreds if not thousands of Katrina photos can leave minor symptoms of PTSD. But that being affected isn’t necessarily a negative thing. In fact, it helps as an editor to know what others would respond to. And it keeps us human.

I could go on about this, and there is one image that still haunts me, that still breaks my heart anytime I think about it or discuss it, but that’s another blog post for another time, I suppose.

I’ve got class to get to.


Alone Together at the Waffle House

•March 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Our most recent assignment in Picture Story was the One Day Picture Story.

With so little time or creative juices in me because of the hectic schedule of being a POYi coordinator (see later blog for my reflections after wrapping up the second year at that position), I struggled to find a subject. And I panicked. Shoot a one day picture story that has some substance seemed unlikely, but with the deadline approaching and my professor urging me to “just shoot something,” I went with my original idea do photograph at the Waffle House (on Rangeline St. in Columbia, Mo, if any of you reading this are familiar with the area. I also realize it’s probably just Rita and someone who accidentally stumbled on this post after a “Waffle House” search in Google. Although who would Google “Waffle House”? If that person is you, reader, let’s be friends).

I should backtrack.

My instructor cares about the content of the assignment, but knowing my difficult schedule and the fact that this assignment is supposed to be more of an exercise of sorts, a way to get our feet wet and our minds thinking about visual variation, she encouraged me to go our and photograph so that I could meet deadline and shift my interest to the more in-depth stuff after this.

This is my final semester in the masters program at the University of Missouri. And that’s intimidating. I keep wondering if my portfolio is where it needs to be, not for jobs but for personal satisfaction, a visual record to prove my growth as a photographer. Last semester was nothing short of excruciating. I returned to school in August coping with personal problems, drowning in my own dissatisfaction with the work produced in program until that point, and then added three shooting classes (all of which were across a broad spectrum of “acceptable” aesthetics, ethics, etc., which added to the challenge). So, needless to say, I may be adding a bit too much pressure on Picture Story as my last opportunity to utilize the lessons learned in the past year and a half into three assignments.

But for this first attempt, once I stopped agonizing about it so much, I actually find myself relatively pleased with it. Well, for the fact that this was shot between 4-7:30am on the due date. I wish I had more variation and tighter images, but I’m okay with it overall.

I’ll get to the photos in just a moment. Right now, I want to briefly explain the thought process behind shooting the following series of images. Another instructor of mine, Joe in the Art department (*with a capital “A” to us J-schoolers), often encouraged me last semester to just start shooting and see where the work takes me. I began a personal project—that I’m still working on—and didn’t know what direction it was headed. Going through this edit made me think of him saying that, but also something else I learned in my independent art studies, which is that it’s okay to reflect ourselves in the scenes we document and the images we make. Somewhere along the way, I began photographing more intuitively, if that makes any sense. In my Staff and Micro Documentary classes last semester, I (finally) began to learn how to connect with people despite a lens separating us. But it was my independent studies class that allowed me to photograph what I was feeling.

For this series of images—which I don’t really consider a picture story—I didn’t know what would be a connecting theme. I approached the Waffle House, groggy and uncertain I would even come away with anything worth submitting, with a strange hybrid mentality of a photo essay and a picture story. I entertained the idea of graphics tying it all together—colors or shapes to create a cohesive collection of images. But then a different theme emerged, one that started forming in the later images shot and solidified during the editing process.

The place was quiet and empty when I entered. The fellas you see in the first image exiting the Waffle House were apprehensive when they saw me with a camera in the parking lot. Or at least that’s what Teresa, one of two employees working that morning, told me. No music was even playing at that point. It wasn’t until another two hours or so passed before Teresa made her way over to the jukebox to play some tunes. I don’t remember what she played, but I feel like I may have heard Johnny Cash. One regret of mine was that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the right details—for captions, I guess, but also because those other details stimulate the mind and could potentially lead to other visuals. I didn’t ask the patrons or employees the right questions. I don’t remember the songs that played.

I just got up to find the napkin that I scribbled the caption information on. It’s probably in my wallet somewhere. I’ll find it later, I have the ones I need for the purposes of the assignment on my phone.

Anywho, here are the photos in the order that I submitted for class. I’ll touch on the theme—and a few outtakes—below.

The Waffle House on Rangeline St. in Columbia, Mo., shortly after 4am Monday, Feb. 24. Like all Waffle Houses, this location is open 24 hours a day and sees a range of customers filter in and out. Some are regulars that dine in groups or alone while others are strangers passing through.

Ashley “Ash” Spinder of Greensboro, N.C., prepares eggs for a customer during his overnight shift at the Waffle House.

Bob Heath of Columbia sits with a cup of coffee early Monday, Feb. 24 at the Waffle House. He is a regular known by the staff and often comes multiple times a day with his best friend. For this brief visit, he came alone.

Teresa Thomas of Kansas City transports maple syrup during her overnight shift. Thomas has worked at Waffle Houses around the Kansas City area for over 25 years before coming to the Rangeline St. location.

Barry Heath of Columbia sits with his breakfast and newspaper during the early hours of Monday, Feb. 24 at the Waffle House.

A rare dirty table shortly after 4am. Few customers come through during the late and early hours of weekday mornings.

“Ash” Spinder of Greensboro, N.C., takes a brief smoke break after running out the trash early Monday, Feb. 24. Spinder has worked off and on at the Waffle House since 2006.

That is the order my classmates, instructor and I agreed upon during the final critique. And those are the captions that accompanied the images when I submitted them. The following three images are outtakes that they tried to incorporate but left on the cutting room floor:

And these are ones I’d have liked to incorporate somehow, but decided to go with the overall consensus of the first group shown:

My theme ultimately became one of loneliness. Only, most of the individuals I saw come in would eventually interact with either the employees or other patrons (the two fellas in the second to last photo, for instance, were talking across booths for a while until the one on the right left—their names escape me and are on the napkin somewhere…).

So, for me, it was a place where folks can be alone with others.

And I think this is something I might want to continue for myself. Forgive me, Rita, but I like the idea of not incorporating much caption information (if any) so that these remain more interpretive. I know that’s not really the point of photojournalism, but I think the idea of helping people connect and relate to others lends itself to the concept, no?

School Lunches, Polaroids and Selecting a Subject

•February 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

We’ve been doing a decent amount of reading for Picture Story so far, but my favorite has been Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Although it’s a book about how to be a good writer, it really applies to photography as well. Plus it’s well-written (obviously), filled with humor and useful tips. None of it feels overwhelming or pretentious in any way.

For this blog post, we were required to read the chapters “School Lunches” and “Polaroids.”

Both chapters were funny and focused on attention to detail. “Polaroids” was especially interesting in how Lamott writes about noticing additional details and the overall surrounding once a scene has been captured/written/photographed. I’ve found myself in that position where, despite paying as much attention as possible to the scene at hand as I compose an image, there are often times where I notice additional information in the photo after it’s been developed/processed/exported. More often than not, the task of writing a clever piece or making a captivating image can seem daunting. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed or stressed, but noticing the details can help lead to creating more dynamic visuals. It leads to more information which leads to more material we can work with and so on.

We were also required to write about the reading by Bill Jay and David Hurn titled “Selecting a Subject.” Which seems pretty appropriate for me since I spent the day researching subjects for my one-day picture story for the class. Part of me figured I should just do whatever I could find to get it out of the way given my shortage of availability these days (I’m once again a coordinator for POYi, so it’s consuming most of my time outside of classes). But I think the images would be lacking if I didn’t really care about what I was shooting, just as Jay and Hurn note in the article. If a photographer doesn’t have a burning curiosity or genuine interest in what he or she is photographing, it will come across in the final product. I did also really enjoy the point about eliminating subjects which a photographer knows little about. I think, unless the person is willing to educate him or herself, Jay and Hurn are right to call it exploitation rather than exploration when a photographer wanders aimlessly and unknowingly into new territory.

Picture Story

•January 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

After a long hiatus from blogging, I’m back (as a requirement) for my Picture Story class. I’ll try to catch up on what I’ve been up to and am currently working on, but for now, I was asked to post a picture story I admire.

It’s Rita’s way of getting to know us, I guess.

One of my absolute favorite stories I’ve ever seen was done by Liz O. Baylen called Waiting for Death. I’ve blogged about it before (a few years ago, in fact). But it remains as the epitome of what I think multimedia—and story-telling in general—should be. It’s simple, beautiful, powerful and compassionate. And it was one of the first multimedia pieces that piqued my interest in mixing audio with stills. I once heard Brian Storm talk about how he enjoys adding audio because it gives the subjects a voice in the stories we do about them. I feel Edwin Schneidman in this piece. So for me, that is what makes a successful picture story. It’s not always how we the photographers perceive a subject (a term I’m starting to dislike).


I think it’s more a dance, in a way. A combination of what we are seeing but also what they are showing—or telling—us.

Dear New York…

•July 23, 2013 • 1 Comment


Dear New York,

I don’t know where to begin. I came here needing distance, perspective and inspiration (as I’ve mentioned in the previous post). That’s what I told myself.

How unfair it must be to have so many people project so many expectations on you. Folks trickle into this town every day grasping for opportunities or running from failures. They turn to you for answers, or ways to manifest whatever delusions of grandeur they may have. They come to heal after the first real heartbreak. They come searching for an easier way to feed their families back in the Old Country. They come hoping this time will be different.

Regardless of the expectations—and whether they are met—you are magic.

This trip turned out to be one of the most beneficial decisions I’ve ever made in my life, despite—or maybe because of—the mid-twenties clusterfuck I find myself navigating through. This here, it’s a love letter and thank you note, to the city as well as particular people who’ve made this experience worthwhile.

_DSC2711Aida during my first night at her place in Brooklyn.

Thank you, Aida, for your amazing patience and hospitality. You took me in for a hell of a long stay without ever asking anything in return. I still owe you a million more dinners and then some. Regardless of where you and I end up in this world, I will always celebrate future Egyptian Revolutions with you (hopefully a Palestinian one, too)—and I’ll try to do so as creatively as possible.

_DSC5344Mike Kamber locking up on Saturday, July 20th—my last night at the BDC (for now…).

Thank you, Mike, for taking me on at the Bronx Documentary Center—and for trusting me to help organize the Claremont screening. All of that work paid off as soon as the seats began filling, the laughter floating from the crowd, the kids happily munching on their popcorn at an event I hope happens more often in their neighborhood. Because they deserve it. Thank you for reminding me that good things are being done by good people.

_DSC4538The Manhattan skyline on the walk back to Brooklyn.

Thank you, Jamie, for keeping in mind a lost grad student dropping into a town without a plan—and for helping point me in what ultimately was the right direction.

01This was a portrait taken as part of a short project I embarked on one night to photograph/speak to the people who’d be effected by the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA. Keith listened to my idea(s) and offered encouragement along the way.

Thank you, Keith, for treating me in a way that genuinely makes me feel special. The story of our friendship will forever remain a favorite and is one I enjoy telling on a regular basis. And thank you for providing a proper balance of fun, encouragement, honesty and fabulous meals.

_DSC5444Jonathon, Rivers, Lauren and Art.

Thank you, Lauren and Jonathon, for allowing me to cat-sit for a week, exposing me to Game of Thrones and my choice of James Bond films ala surround sound (and air condition…and the realization that I am no longer a cat person, but a full-on dog lover). And for thoughtful art that hits close to home.

_DSC5346These girls went so far as to affectionately refer to me as their third roommate out in the Bronx—and Katie even drew a portrait of me on their new chalkboard kitchen wall.

Thank you, Katie and Nina, for so many things. There are very few instances in my life where I can recall new acquaintances reaching out the way you two did. Actually, I’ve never become such close friends in such a short amount of time with anyone. Thank you for opening your home and hearts to me. And for being such strong, compassionate and hilarious women. And for being my sisters.

_DSC4793I’m trying to really see things differently, past what’s clearly there. I’m trying for more.

Rick and Jackie, for being as busy as you both tend to be, thank you for always sparing time to hear out (and help) a student employee. You both have been more than bosses—you’ve been friends. Jackie, it’ll be odd having you as a teacher but I know firsthand how much you care about your students. I look forward to being one of them.

_DSC4429Hala inside the New York Times building, designed by one of her favorite architects (Renzo Piano).

Thank you, Hala, for traveling over 874 miles to spend the Fourth of July weekend with me. Thank you for putting up with my “rigid itinerary.” Yes, I hear it now and that’s probably not the best approach to presenting plans to someone on vacation (even if I did schedule time to “meander”). Thank you for being the one standing next to me at Coney Island for my first Fourth in NY. Thank you for being a constant presence in the city even when you weren’t here physically. Thank you for being the best friend a girl could ever hope for in any time zone.

Amy’s still pleased with her Rangers’ victory after our first game at Yankee Stadium.
Thank you, Amy, for being a solid baseball buddy. I will continue to brag about my friend who’s a cool Sports Illustrated intern because it’s an amazing opportunity, one you’ve earned after so much hard work.
Glimpse of Jenn’s surprise birthday weekend extravaganza.
Thank you, Jenn, for the best “When Harry Met Sally” screening I could ever ask for (despite the tears). And thank you for being the eternally optimistic, unrelenting—yet certainly not hopeless—romantic that you are.
Coney Island, July 4, 2013.
Masked subway performance.
Boxed in.
Sunnyside Queens.
Rivers and his pa.
Citi Field.
Katie and Nina prepping for their album cover. During brunch. It’s typical for New Yorkers to multitask.
_DSC2809My pal Keagan.
I ate more Mexican food here in the Bronx than my entire summer in Phoenix two years ago.
Couple watching.
The view from above.
Me. Photo by Katie Khouri
New York, you beautiful, gritty, crowded, lonely, soul-crushing, inspirational vortex—here’s to you. Here’s to us. Here’s to me.

My Personal Escape: Gay Portraits, Projects, Progress

•June 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

01“It’s a monumental step. To be here at Stonewall—in 1969 we had the riots and now in 2013…we’ve come so far. I’m proud of the Supreme Court and the American people, but in Illinois, there is no gay marriage. So it’s odd to think I have equal state and federal benefits in New York, which is great, but if I were to go back to Chicago, I’d have no benefits. I think it’s the next step. We’ll eventually get there.”

– Terry Scudieri, of Chicago but now living in the Upper West Side

I came to New York about two and a half weeks ago, booking six weeks in a town I hoped would provide enough distractions to keep my mind preoccupied. I left the Midwest in order to gain perspective and inspiration, both of which I hoped to achieve with mental and literal distance.

I left the Midwest, temporarily, to forget sadness. I hoped that, maybe with distance, I could be productive. Last night was an attempt at progress.

(**I also realize now I may have overused the word “hope” already in this post, but there is no other substitution. I hoped—and still hope—that my experiences here will benefit to my personal and professional growth.**)

Days after arriving in NY, I began volunteering at the Bronx Documentary Center. It’s been a wonderful outlet for being productive—it’s a place I genuinely feel contributes to the community, and I’m grateful to be involved in something like that. But I still craved delving into a project. I’ve had some ideas, but after the Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), I decided to start a short portrait series, just to see and hear individuals who may be affected by the outcome.

This may sound selfish, but there’s something incredibly therapeutic about getting lost in someone else’s story. Thank you to the folks who allowed me to take their portraits last night and for sharing their insight, feelings and occasional small talk with a stranger from St. Louis.

02“I am excited for the outlook of the future. Hoping the rest of the states will approve of gay marriage. I was very excited, sad and happy. It shows that there’s been progress on their (government’s) views of gay marriage.” – Maria Sui of Spanish Harlem

03“I am married. I got married on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (the papers were signed on January 1st). We get to decide every year. And now it’s not just us.” – Sir Honey Davenport of Harlem

04“In Israel, I’m not allowed to marry another woman. So when I want to get married, I have to go to another country.” – Ruth Attias, of Israel, and Anna Weber of Germany

05“I think it’s important for me because it’s going to give domestic partners health insurance and speed up their citizenship (like) my brother and his partner. His partner is waiting on his green card and has been (here) on a work visa. Sometimes its been really nerve-wracking, waiting for 8 years.” – Kiara Brady of New York

06“Mom, see the people and the government see me as equal as you, too.” – Rosie Rodriguez (second from right) of San Diego. Also photographed (from left to right): Alex Palmour, Tracy Tran and Muriel Bernard, all from Brooklyn, and Cara Maria Austin of Pittsburgh.

07“It effected a couple of my friends who weren’t American but can actually marry their partners, so that’s cool. It’s time for change, honey. That ignorance in America is too big.” – Dee Tranny Bear of Harlem

08“I don’t have any reaction. To each his own. That’s how I feel.” – Brandy B. of Elizabeth Town, NY

09“I just think it’s going to help us with the momentum to push for more equal rights across the board.”
-Natasia Hanratty of New York

10“I just got my citizenship, so right now I can see why this is such an important thing. Families can stay together with immigration rights but we still have a long way to go. It’s not fair for me to have all these rights but people in Florida don’t.” – Vincente Jorge, originally of Venezuela and now living in the Upper West Side

11“It’s a huge victory. It means a lot to my future family—when I do decide to have one. And I’m grateful that this has been achieved. It’s also a great part of history I’m proud to be a part of.” – Evana Class of the Bronx

12“There has (already) been more benefits from my job.” – Liz Arvelo (right), who says she has not been effected. She is photographed with Gigi Vega, both from Florida.

13“I’m pissed the fuck off. I pay taxes and I should get the same equality as every other motherfucker.”
– Diego Bacic of Manhattan

14“I feel that everybody is equal and should have the same rights. We should all share the same benefits.”
– Nay Harris of Manhattan