Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Tokyo, Japan

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lovers In The Night

Photo: Night Club in Sarajevo, Bosnia

What happens when
time stops? 
When the world you 
thought you knew
leads you to a place
inside your heart?
When strangers
become friends?


Life starts
to make sense.
Elbow to elbow
in spontaneity
with the fear
that this moment
will change you
for good.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Walmart Smackdown!

Blogger update: I'm currently on foreign assignment in Argentina with good friend and photog Dan Denardo.  We stopped at a local Walmart in the small port city of Bahia Blanca to pick up some essentials.  Dan captured this photo of me in the parking lot and told me to "stay out of trouble."  He reminded me of an incident I had at Walmart three years ago.  Below is a repost of that day.


August 16, 2009

If readers of this blog ever get the notion that sometimes I'm one tough SOB, then they should consider themselves perceptive. Heck, maybe even take it up a notch and go for 'psychic!'

Yeah, that's right, I'm tough!  I'm just one lean-mean photog machine--out to save the world from the brink of destruction, one frame at a time. I've seen the best of man, the worse of man, the richest and the poorest, the sane and insane.

Speaking of 'insane,' today I met a man that defined every annotation of the word: INSANE!

Walking through Walmart, I cruised aisle by aisle, looking for adventure, deodorant and Powerbars. Pushing my cart, I turned every corner with ease, gliding ever so smoothly from hardware to pharmacy, electronics to canned goods. With elegance and grace, I maneuvered my cart through the gauntlet of Saturday morning shoppers, weaving through crowds of screaming kids and grumpy old men. The air was cool. The smell was fresh.

As a bachelor, I take pride in my shopping abilities. I value my time behind the wheel of a well-oiled shopping cart--because being single and shopping on a Saturday morning is like cruising in your 'women-mobile' down the strip with 'I'm too sexy' bumpin' in the background. Chicks dig a guy with a shopping cart full of protein bars and Old-Spice, beef jerky and AA batteries!  It's 2009, ya know.

So there I was, deep in the midst of going through the camping aisle, backed turned away from my cart, eyes glued on sleeping bags and over-priced tents. I felt a whisk of air brush the back of my neck--the kind you get when a thief runs off with your (man) purse.  So I turned around to see where the breeze had come from--and to my surprise, my shopping cart was gone--whisked away from me within the blink of an eye, a synapse of a moment. It was no where to be seen :(

I looked left, then right , up and down--but to no avail. My whole life flashed before my eyes. I saw sunrises in Indonesia, begging kids in India, amputated limbs in Cambodia, soldiers in Afghanistan. I saw night for day and day for night, felt the air freeze before me and time just stood still. Pinching myself awake made no difference, my body shook, shocked in awe and 'struck'n'stoned.'

Finally, after a lifetime (5 minutes) of searching, in the corner of my eye I spotted a cart full of Old-Spice. I ran to it--and in the midst of chaos, I was able to confirm that it was indeed MY CART. I confronted the man and told him that he'd made a big mistake. He looked at me like I was an alien from Mars. He shook his head and kept walking with my cart. I followed in hot pursuit. In my head I wanted to call the cops, the FBI or even Jack Bauer for back-up. I wasn't gonna let this guy off easy.

"All agents, please be on the look-out for a senior citizen, Caucasian male, 5'6", wearing a red checkered shirt with brown pants and reeks of Bengay and Preparation H."

I confronted him again, this time standing in front of my cart. Like Tina Turner singing 'Stop In The Name of Love,' I put my hand out, had him to a halt and looked deep in his eyes. He gazed back at me with eyes glistening from a high I'd never seen before--maybe recovering from an overdose of his Viagra. Whatever it was, this dood was 'Insane to the Membrane.'

"Boy, you wanna' take this outside and settle it like real men do?" he asked.

Shocked, I replied, "No sir, I just want the contents from this cart. It's mine. I've spent the last hour picking everything out and I'd appreciate it if you took your cart back and give me mine."

"Get out of my way, China-Man!" he shouted.

Oh no he didn't!

Was I really going to get into a fight with an 80 year old geezer--at WALMART of all places?

Was this going to end with someone in hand-cuffs and another in an ambulance?

How would I explain this in court and would any lawyer represent me?

At that point, I didn't know what else to say to the man. I was sad. I had lost all hope in humanity. I no longer saw the light in an evangelical way--but instead, I saw myself wanting to show him the lights of my right fist! I felt as if the devil had taken me over.

But slowly, I just turned around, walked away and never looked back. I had settled for defeat. And like Hiroshima, I felt the baron landscape of my heart sink deep into the depths of the abyss, never again to be spoken of.

With an empty shopping cart, I ventured out again, aisle by aisle. 'Quit Playin Games With My Heart' by Backstreet Boys played softly in my proverbial juke box.

Then, after a minute had gone by, I had the biggest smirk on my face and thought to myself, "this old fart is gonna' pay a fortune for all that shit in my cart."

Thursday, May 24, 2012


  Photo: Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Tsunami Aftermath (Click to enlarge)

The sun will rise. The tides will flow. The winds will blow. 

I will love; it’s the inevitable truth. This love shall spirit me away in a single, sweeping current. It will drown me, and it’s sweet, warm essence will fill my lungs and drive out all but love. This love may take me to another world; some special, uncharted territory. It may be a dark place, with danger lurking; love may wound me fatally. I may sacrifice everything, including my life. But I will not return to the life before love; my arms are too weak and my soul too fragile to fight against the ancient current of passion.

I must go with the flow.

For, what does a writer have if not passion; if not love? Such is a chef without an appetite; a photographer without a lens.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Innocent Stares

Photo: Kabul, Afghanistan (Click to enlarge)

When I was younger, my dream was to one day film in war zones. At night, I'd read extensively about the Vietnam war, about the men and women of Alpha company landing in hot LZ's (landing zones), and how friends and foes would shed their blood, take a life, lose life. But in the midst of it all were the photographers capturing images that gave meaning to life, the living and the dead. It brought the war closer to home--and even as a child of war, it made it real, and forever changed my perception on the price of freedom. I wanted to become one of them--the men with the lens, the dashingly-cool bunch of guys that pointed glass at the enemy, those who saw the world by frames per second.

In retrospect, my dream has come true. I've lived that dream—saw beauty in darkness, found solace in faith, and witnessed the world unfolding in an utterly profound, yet definitive way. I've seen horror through a lens, witnessed the ground beneath me drown in pools of blood and even held the frigid hands of a dying marine I had never met. In war, I found myself. I found the man in me that I dreamt of as a child. In war, I realized that I am a man not because of my bravery or how I find lust with light, but because in the midst of chaos, I am able to still see eye to eye with those who stare at my lens. I see life, not headlines. I see fear and pain. I see hope.

I'll never forget those innocent stares.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Against All Odds

Photo: Christian David Florres, born with only one leg.
Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras

So, I'm guessing you have gone through pages and pages on the internet looking at pictures of celebrities and athletes--wishing you had their looks, their ability to amaze the world. This little boy just wishes for one thing: the chance to live his life.

Do you know what I wish for?

His bravery. His ability to see the world without prejudice or boundaries, determination--and his will to succeed--against all odds.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Preparing For War

Photo: On assignment in Afghanistan

Covering war is the hardest, most dangerous and most exciting part of any photographers career. It's not just a job, it's a way of life. It's the ability to cope with fear, know where to go, what to do, and being able to make fast-rational decisions in unconventional ways.

Friends constantly ask me if I ever feel fear when I’m shooting. In short, yes, I’m always scared. You begin to lose sight of the world when you’re no longer in fear of where you’re at. Any photographer who tells you he's never scared is a fool or a liar, and probably both. Fear is what kept me alive. And I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Under fire, you swear you'll never do it again. But when the dust settles and the shooting subsides, you look upon the faces of the innocent lives around you, and you realize that this is their daily existence. It encompasses every waking moment of their lives. They are hungry, exhausted--exhausted by bombings and gunfire and kidnappings and destruction and fear and helplessness and hopelessness. Exhausted by death. Exhausted by life.

As a photographer, you journey on. You pick up your camera, wipe your lens and vow to make every frame count.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hope is Within

Photo: A little girl living in the rubble of Port Au Prince, Haiti/ Feb. 2010

In memory of the thousands that lost their lives and to the people of Haiti who made me believe in the power of hope, humanity, and the human spirit.


There was a time many years ago, when I first began doing what I do, when I thought I could fake it--you know, cover a story somewhere and go through the emotions, not giving away pieces of myself in return. I tried to push my emotions aside, tell the story and leave when I was done. I'd focus on the mechanics: story-telling and structure. I'd have conversations, conduct interviews, and I wasn't even there. I'd nod, look in others' eyes, but my vision lost focus, my mind turned to details.

People became characters, plot lines in a story I was constructing in my head. Their mouths moved, I heard only lines of track, bites of sound. I listened for what I could use--and the rest, I fast forwarded through, deleted and never looked at again.

When I had what I needed to put a full story together, I'd pull out. Leave them behind and never really stay long enough to let my emotions set in. I thought I could get away unscathed, unchanged. The truth was I hadn't gotten out at all. It's impossible to block out what you see, what you hear. Even if you stop listening, the pain gets inside, seeps through the cracks you can't close up. You can't fake your way through it. I know that now. You have to absorb it all. You owe them that. You owe it to yourself as well.

Sometimes, in the aftermath, when you take the time to realize that hope is within, you find an image--or two, that just makes you smile and wish you had more time to feel for those who make you who you are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut

PHOTO: Gracias Lentera, Honduras

It was a Sunday afternoon in rural Honduras when I snapped this shot. I had just finished my assignment the day before and my girlfriend, Linda had just flown down to meet me there for a quick weekend get-away. Walking down the pebble roads, I had an ice-cream in one hand, holding Linda's hand with the other. The camera was strapped to my shoulder.

Instinctively, as a photographer, you're constantly scanning for details, everywhere you go--looking for things that seem out of the ordinary. When things are normal, you question why--and when things are out of place, you never question at all--because you're too busy capturing the details that make it "different" from the rest.

Carefully watching this rickshaw chugging towards us, I paid close attention to the way it bounced side to side--the way it got louder with every inch it traveled--barely making it up the hill. As it passed, I noticed how full it was and tried to quickly count the number of people crammed inside. Nice picture, I thought--but not worth dropping my ice cream for.

I turned to give it one last glance as it passed and managed to see the little girl peeking through its window. I quickly dropped Linda's hand and went for my camera. With one hand, I held my camera tight, looked through the barrel of my 70-200mm lens and began snapping at 10 frames per second.

Ice cream was still in tact.

As my good friend Dan Denardo would say: "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut, sometimes."

Photographers Note: For all you tech geeks out there, I shot this with a Canon 1D Mark IV using a 70-200mm at 200mm set to f6.3, ISO 1600.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Blind Trust Fund

Photo: Media Team in Port Au Prince, Haiti
L-R: Driver, Bodyguard 1, Dan Denardo, Javier Suarez Martin, Ron Sim, Driver, Emily Lynch, Personal Aid, David Blum, Bodyguard 2

Today, when I watch reality shows like Survivor or repeat episodes of Fear Factor, I have to chuckle. You think building a hut or sticking your hand in a tub of worms is hard? Try treading through a minefield in rural Cambodia moments after hearing one go off; or carrying 50lbs worth of gear up a mountain in the Borneo Jungle while leaches feast on every vein in your body; or sweeping through the Helmand desert in Afghanistan with elite special forces commandos.

When you hoist a camera and a note pad for a living and decide to venture into the unknown--the game you play goes like this: If you lose, you die, and if you win, you get to do it again, and again, and again, and watch as friends die, until you die or retire. Period.

You don't study to become an expert in war zones or how to shoot and survive in remote environments--you just do it, and grow into the role. And as far as survival is concerned, you don't get better at "surviving;" you just keep getting lucky. But make no mistake--for the men and women that do what we do, luck is like a blind trust fund--you can make withdrawals but not deposits--and you have no idea how much is left.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why Should We Care?

Photo: Orphaned boy in Afghanistan, 2008.

I have been on fast-forward for most of my life, racing to keep ahead of the demands of an ever-changing career in the media industry. Writing has given me a chance to pause and reflect a little on myself, but mostly on the dilemmas I have faced covering shattering events around the world.

I am grateful to the many people I have met who allowed a clumsy journalist into their lives. I think about them late at night when I cannot sleep.

What happened to the abandoned boy with the harelip in the Baghdad hospital? Did your mother come back to get you after the siege? And the hungry little boy who followed me all morning in Port Au Prince asking for my pen. I wish I'd given it to you. I only had one. The Afghan orphan I left studying by candlelight--did you become a teacher as you wanted? The boy in Gaza paralyzed by a bullet to the neck--did you get a wheelchair that would go through sand?

If I could revisit the thousands of people I have filmed in the worst moments of their lives, I would apologize for having intruded on their suffering. I would share with them my belief that by telling me their stories they have helped in some small way to make the world a better place.

Hopefully, they would agree.

In a world obsessed with celebrities, leaders, and wealth--one thing I am not ashamed of is the route that I have taken and the direction I've decided to point my camera. I'm determined to shed light on the forgotten, focus on those left behind, those paying the price. And in many ways, I hope to provide an answer to all those who ever dare to ask "why should we care?"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Special Friends

Photo by Dan Denardo
Current Location: Santa Rosa, Honduras
Original Post Written on March 6, 2010.

His name is Christian David Flores--and to me, he's my angel.

Every now and then my camera takes me to places that take my breath away, digs deep into the depths of my soul and leaves me speechless. There are times when I thought I'd never see anything more beautiful, that the bounty before me is served on a silver platter, that God has given me more than I'd ever asked for. Through my lens, I've seen the Pyramids of Egypt, the jungles of Borneo and even the sprawling walls of China's greats--and at those very moments, I'd indulge in sacred beauty. Then, on the brink of salvation, when it becomes all too prevalent, he has a notion of reminding me how beauty is derived, how ultimately, it is not the destination that defines beauty, nor do mountains, rivers and water falls--but through light, he guides me, and somehow, I meet people who confirms his acclamation.

Christian is five years old. When asked what he wanted to become when he gets older, he looked up at me, gave the biggest smile I had ever seen, and in a sweet little voice, he said in Spanish: "I want to become a coffee drinker." We laughed, he jumped in joy with hands in the air, and within seconds, I saw in him something different--something I haven't seen in a long, long time. I saw hope.

Born with one leg, Christian is a symbol of beauty, of love, of humanity and the human spirit. With the help of a prosthesis, he runs when other his age can barely walk up-hill in his village. He jumps and climbs--and like all children, his laughter fills your heart with warmth. Asked what his favorite sport is, he replied, "soccer."

Challenging me to a game of one-on-one, in Spanish, he'd speak words I couldn't understand. All I did was nod and smile--which in return, he nodded and laughed. And so we'd play, kicking the ball back and forth--and when he pointed to his forehead, it meant he wanted to head-butt the ball. For a while, all my worries were gone--my aches and pains from constant travel had vanished, and like a child again, I laughed for no real reason--except at the fact that someone special was laughing with me.

Walking into his bedroom, a small Honduran soccer jersey hung over his bed. With walls made of mud, it was probably the most prized possession in his home. Looking down, I noticed a little teddy bear sitting by his pillow. "You still sleep with a teddy?" I jokingly asked. He nodded and smiled. Grabbing my hand, he showed me the prosthetic limb that he designed for his teddy bear. And just like his, he could put it on and take it off. "Mi amigo," he said. At that very moment, I merely cried.

That night, I went to bed in my hotel room realizing how lucky I am to have met him. I am forever thankful that there are people like little Christian David Flores in this world.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Scars of the Soul

Photo by Dan Denardo

This is a look at what goes on in the mind of a photog in the midst of fear.


Like shards of broken glass, the sharp sound of gun fire cuts through the silence of the night, echoes through the air, and into the abyss. I sat there on that ledge in Port Au Prince that night, surrounded by darkness, engulfed in fear unlike any I had ever felt. There's nothing more terrifying than the sound of ricochet, the possibility of being hit, the utter silence that follows and the heavy sigh that trembles out of your soul. It's a feeling you never forget.

As minutes passed and silence fell once more, I sat there on that ledge--alone, wondering what tomorrow may bring. On the eve of inevitable rioting and political unrest, for the first time in my life, I sat there in fear--not of dying or leaving the world behind, no, but fear of failure--failing in life and the person I've come to be. I had never set out to become anything in particular--only to live creatively and push the scope of my existence--for adventure, through passion. And along the way, either by fate or destiny--or maybe guilt or shame, I've managed to re-focus my lens on those less fortunate. There was a time in my life when I would stare down the barrel of my lens to capture the plight of those who suffer--without even realizing they were human. It's a guilt that is embedded in my soul.

I have seen so much of the world, yet I have felt so little. I have gone to places few can imagine, even parts of the world many never knew existed. I have seen war and death, destruction and despair. I have seen beauty when all was lost, darkness when many seemingly smiled. I've seen between the lines, the silent threats and invisible divides. I've seen, but never felt. I've captured, but never cherished.

And because of that, I am changed. I am not the man I once was. After every foreign assignment, I'd return home to an empty house, bare walls and unopened mail. When I am with my family, they no longer ask where I've been or what I've done. They no longer ask to see my work or hear my stories. It's as if I had never left. And for their own sanity, that's how they prefer it--because to them, I am that son that travels for a living, the one that goes to distant lands and daunting journeys, fending off sickness, disease and most times, danger. I am that son that parents wish they had but never want to know of--the son that parents fear would never return. And with that reality constantly in the back of my mind, I often regret living that kind of life.

As an eerie silence held a city of seven million in rapture, I sat there on that ledge contemplating about the choices I've made and the choices I should have made. The notion of fear and failure, regret and reverie lingered on my mind--making me want to scream.

Gun shots echoed in the distance.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Forever Changed

Photo Credit: Paul Emanuel
Port Au Prince, Haiti

One year ago today, my life changed.

On January 12, 2010, the world was caught in rapture as the plight of millions flickered live on television screens around the globe. And sadly, for all the wrong reasons, for a brief moment in time, a little island known as Haiti caught the attention of billions. Within the blink of an eye over 250,000 lives vanished, crushed and buried underneath the rubble known today as Port Au Prince.

As a photographer, I was instantly drawn to the action--not because I was excited to capture pictures of people in dire circumstance, but for some strange and indescribable reason, I wanted to save lives--just like those heroic rescuers on TV. For a while, I wished that I was simply more than just a man behind a lens, more than a face behind a camera. For once, I wanted to look at something and have it marinate within--to savor something more profound than just an image caught in time. To see life, to feel warmth and the touch of compassion, to hear the cry of those who are silent.

Having been to Haiti shortly after the earthquake, it changed me--and changed the way I view the world. It became my passion. It inspired me to find more meaning in the work that I do, to show more than the obvious, to bring to life some of the issues the mainstream conscience so soon forget.

I know I'm not a doctor, not a specialist or a scholar of any kind. I cannot perform miracles, heal the wounded or comfort the weary. Truth be told, I'm simply a man behind a lens. And what I do know is that the images I capture must do justice--it must convey a conviction equally profound as life itself--HOPE. And because of this notion, I am forever changed.


Blogger Note: I am embarking on a new project entitled ONE WORLD--a five part documentary series to bring to light the need for clean water in Haiti. Please follow me on this journey by clicking on the link below.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The World in 365

Photo: Teenie and Weenie in Shanghai, China
With fellow photographer Dan Denardo

2010 was a record year for me as I traveled to 19 countries within a 12 month period. Here's a peak at some of the places I've gone to, what I saw and the friendships I've made.

To see the full album, please follow the link:
The World in 365