I spent a day in Iowa last month for @nytimes with Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand (current senator from New York.) Being in Iowa was fascinating to me. Geographically, it’s so similar to Ohio. But at a restaurant, someone said to me “you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Presidential candidate in Iowa.” Many expressed how lucky they felt to be able to listen to so many different platforms and “shop around” for candidates. I followed Gillibrand to many quaint diners and coffee shops around the state. I always enjoy watching the periphery in politics— you can tell a lot about a candidate from the people who show up. From the story by @asteadwesley “Asked if a Woman Can Win, 2020 Candidates Offer an Easy Answer: ‘I Have.’” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York had a request: Before anyone mocked her claim that she was the Democratic presidential candidate best positioned to take on President Trump, at least listen to the evidence. Ms. Gillibrand won her first House race in an upstate conservative district that had “more cows than Democrats,” as she likes to say. She ran on Medicaid expansion as early as 2006, long before it had become a litmus test for the progressive flank of the Democratic Party, which often derides her as inauthentic. In her 2018 Senate re-election campaign, she flipped 18 counties that had voted for Mr. Trump just two years earlier, and in 2012 she received a higher share of the vote in New York than any statewide candidate before or since — better than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, better than former Senator Hillary Clinton, better than former President Barack Obama. Ms. Gillibrand specifically alluded to Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. O’Rourke, saying, “I don’t think either of them have won red and purple areas. I have.” Ms. Warren, Ms. Gillibrand, Ms. Harris and Ms. Klobuchar can all claim an interesting distinction: They have never lost an election in their political careers. All of the most prominent male Democratic candidates, including Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg, Mr. O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, have lost at least one. Thanks as always to @tannercurtis for the assignment! Swipe ➡️➡️➡️
Joe Biden in Pittsburgh yesterday at his first public rally since announcing his candidacy for President for @nytimes. Photographing politics is funny. Sometimes you have all the room in the world to move around, get close to the candidates, and shoot in beautiful light. Other times you are crammed on a 4 foot long riser in a dark room with 10 other photographers, sick as a dog, and hoping you are in the right place when the action happens. It can definitely be a challenge but is a fun way to try to see a little different. I feel lucky to get to experience all of it up close and first hand. Thanks @tannercurtis as always for the trust. Swipe ➡️➡️➡️
I followed @berniesanders around Ohio and Pennsylvania earlier this week for @nytimes. Hard to believe campaigning for 2020 has already begun! Thanks as always to @tannercurtis ✨✨ swipe ➡️➡️ to see photos from Lordstown and Pittsburgh
I photographed the @kingjames I Promise School in Akron, OH this week for @nytimes. This time last year, the students at the school - Lebron James’s biggest foray into educational philanthropy - were identified as the worst performers in the Akron public schools and branded with behavioral problems. Some as young as 8 were considered at risk of not graduating. Now, they are helping close the achievement gap in Akron. The academic results are early, and at 240, the sample size of students is small, but the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district. The school has a fully stocked food pantry for families whenever they need it, as well as classes for parents to receive their GED. Unlike other schools connected to celebrities, I Promise is not a charter school run by a private operator but a public school operated by the district. Its population is 60 percent black, 15 percent English-language learners and 29 percent special education students. Three-quarters of its families meet the low-income threshold to receive services. “These were the children where you went and talked with their old teachers, and they said, ‘This will never work,’” Dr. Campbell said. “We said give them to us.” They are called the “Chosen Ones,” an ode to the headline that donned Mr. James’s first Sports Illustrated cover when he was a junior in high school, and which he later had tattooed across his shoulder blades. The school’s culture is built on “Habits of Promise” — perseverance, perpetual learning, problem solving, partnering and perspective — that every student commits to memory. The slogan “We Are Family” is emblazoned on walls and T-shirts. Nataylia Henry, a fourth grader, missed more than 50 days of school last year because she said she would rather sleep than face bullies at school. This year, her overall attendance rate is 80 percent. “LeBron made this school,” she said. “It’s an important school. It means that you can always depend on someone.” Swipe ➡️➡️➡️
I photographed Edith Espinal and Miriam Vargas recently for @newrepublic. Espinal has spent 18 months hiding from ICE in a church, and is one of about 50 people currently living in public sanctuary in the United States. Her security at Columbus Mennonite is based largely on the assumption that ICE officers won’t enter a church building. The number of people seeking public sanctuary increased significantly after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Through a series of executive actions, Trump has bolstered the power of ICE and limited legal options for undocumented immigrants like Espinal, who has no criminal record, has lived in the country for two decades, and has raised a family here. “Now this is my life,” she said from the church. “It’s very difficult to live in sanctuary because you feel very depressed, the first months, the first days,” said Espinal. “You don’t know exactly what’s going on.” Espinal cannot leave the church, for fear of being deported. In June, one of her sons landed in the emergency room for appendicitis, and in September, he was injured in a car accident. Both times, Espinal was unable to be with him in the hospital. Miriam Vargas and her two young daughters are living in a church across town. Vargas, who grew up in Honduras and came to the United States in 2005, is undocumented. She was first picked up by ICE officers in 2013, but was released because she was six months pregnant with her second daughter. In 2018, she was given a final deportation order. “The goal of the new sanctuary movement is twofold: to stop such deportations, and to bear witness to a system so broken and inhumane that it is driving people to live in churches. If ICE officers begin bursting into churches, the contemporary sanctuary movement could start to resemble the Civil Rights Movement, where it took violent state response to nonviolent resistance for white American lawmakers to begin changing policy.” *This post is dedicated to Rubén Castilla Herrera, pictured in the last photo, who passed away unexpectedly this week. He was the passionate leader of the Columbus Sanctuary Collective, and a giant advocate for both women. Thank you for your kindness. Swipe ➡️
I photographed Belle Shefrin in Cleveland recently for a @nytimes section that followed up with young teens captured in photographs on the front lines of politics during the 2016 election, and how the Trump era is molding the next generation of voters. @heislerphoto captured Belle in the front row of a Clinton rally in Akron in 2016. She waited for hours to be in the front row, and had her figurine of Hillary Clinton signed by the Presidential hopeful. She was even invited to the White House to meet the Obama's after the rally. “I believe very much in equal rights and I believe everyone deserves to be able to vote and to have jobs and to have all the same opportunities.” It was cool to see a young woman care so much about the world around her at such a young age. Swipe ➡️➡️➡️ for photos (the last one is Todd's image of her from that rally)
I photographed Ansly Damus in Cleveland recently for @motherjonesmag. In Haiti, Damus had taught ethics at a professional school and math and physics to middle schoolers but said he fled in 2014 after a local gang beat him for criticizing a corrupt politician. When he started his journey to America, he imagined that upon arriving at the border, he would spend three days in government custody before being released. Instead, he was sent to a county jail in Ohio, a state he had no connection to or intention to visit, for two years. Damus languished in the jail, a mild-mannered former teacher among criminals, for three months, then six. For one year, then two. All the while, he was never allowed to step outside for recreation. Criminals in the jail were sometimes allowed to leave for work, but Damus, as an ICE detainee, was not. He was humiliated, ashamed, and cut off from his wife and two young children in Haiti. Damus compared his experience to showing up at someone’s home and asking for help. America let him in and then treated him like a robber, he said. All across the country were people like Damus who’d followed the legal procedures to seek asylum and ended up isolated in jail cells in places where they’d never planned to be. “I have not been outside for more than a year,” Damus said. “I have not even glimpsed natural light. I have not breathed fresh air or felt the sun on my face, and I never know if it is cold or hot outside, if the sun is out, and if the seasons are changing.” 768 days after he was first detained, Damus walked out of the Cleveland ICE office as a free man. The government told the ACLU it was willing to settle if Damus agreed to wear an ankle monitor and live with his sponsors, Melody Hart and Gary Benjamin. Now that he is out of detention, his case will likely be a lower priority for the Board of Immigration Appeals. Hart and Benjamin have been told to be prepared to have Damus living with them for two years. The Board of Immigration Appeals has ruled against him twice, and there is reason to believe it will do so again. Thanks as always to @ickibod for the edit and trust. Story by Noah Lanard. Swipe ➡️➡️➡️
Frankie Norris of Albany, Kentucky, was 47 when he began driving bulldozers, track-hoes, and fuel trucks at the site of the coal ash spill. After six months he began having trouble using the bathroom. His blood pressure spiked, and he got burning sores on his skin. After four years he was laid off for his illnesses. In 2016 his colon ruptured, sending him into the ICU for 19 days, where he almost died. "Was it dusty? Lord yes," says Norris. "Every time those air brakes went off it'd blow dust in your face. I was in dust constantly for 10 to 12 hours a day. I went up with some other guys and we asked for dust masks. They told us there wouldn't be no dust masks. Safety guy told us we'd get fired for even asking for one.” Norris says he thought about quitting, but he had a wife and three kids to support. It was the depths of the recession, and the cleanup jobs paid more than $20 an hour. There were men standing in line for them. "I needed the work," Norris said. "I wanted to get my kids through school. But I didn't expect TVA to kill us.” For Jeff Brewer, 44, of New Market, Tennessee, he and his coal-ash coworkers were little more than expendable guinea pigs. He started working on the Kingston cleanup as a healthy man in his mid-30s, and after four years in the pit he was on two blood-pressure pills, a fluid pill, and a steroid inhaler; he was getting a testosterone shot every two weeks. He's been diagnosed with liver dysfunction and obstructive lung disease. Every few minutes he's racked by a harsh barking cough. "It was like sucking the life out of you," Brewer says. "If I knew what I know today, I'd have picked up cans on the side of the road. But I had a wife and three girls and I needed to provide for them. And they told us it wouldn't hurt us. You could eat a pound of it every day.” While photographing Tommy Johnson, we had to stop many times while he broke out into violent coughing spells, struggling to breathe. His wife would fetch his inhaler and some water and he’d take long puffs of it with tears in his eyes. It’s like this every day, he says. For @NatGeo. Story by Joel Bourne, editing by @samanthabrandyclark. Swipe ➡️➡️➡️ for photos
Very excited to share my first story for National Geographic (@natgeo)! I spent a few days in Tennessee at the end of December to photograph workers who helped clean up a coal ash spill that occurred in Kingston, TN exactly 10 years ago. The spill poured more than a billion gallons of toxic coal ash into the Emory River. The 5.4 million cubic yards of sludge that broke through a 57-foot earthen dike at Kingston was the largest industrial spill in the nation's history.
When cleaning up the spill, the workers were told they'd be fired if they wore a face mask to protect themselves. They were told coal ash is so safe you could eat a pound of it every day and it wouldn't hurt you.
So far 36 workers have died from brain cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, and other diseases from cleaning up the spill. The survivors are living with blistering sores all over their bodies, cancer, trouble breathing, heart arrhythmias and more. "TVA has given my husband a death sentence," says Janie Clark, whose husband Ansol Clark built the cross for the memorial this past December. "They gave him an incurable blood disease and destroyed his heart. Coal ash is a dirty dark secret that has gone on in this state and this country way too long. It needs to be brought to light.” Read this heartbreaking story by Joel Bourne. And many thanks to @samanthabrandyclark for being an amazing and supportive editor! Also very thankful to everyone who opened up to me about their struggles during my time in Tennessee. First of two posts — more photos to come soon. Swipe ➡️➡️➡️ for photos.
Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans have fled the U.S. territory’s struggling economy in recent years. While they mostly concentrate in traditional landing spots like New York and Florida, a number are venturing to the Midwest, where jobs in many places are more plentiful than people. A factory in Sidney, Ohio, offered full-time employment at $12 an hour, with benefits, so many packed up and moved. The community, which like much of the Midwest needs workers, is welcoming, just often uninformed about Puerto Rico, the newcomers and some locals say. “They ask me if I have my immigrant card,” says Mr. Vázquez. He explains he is a U.S. citizen. “They begin to get mad because I don’t know too much English.” On the island—where the unemployment rate was 8.3% in December, the most recent data—Mr. Vázquez, 28 years old, said he held three part-time jobs and struggled to pay bills. Today, he is a machine operator making $15.50 an hour. In the past decade, Puerto Rico has lost roughly half a million people as its economy deteriorated. Nearly 160,000 residents relocated to the mainland in the year after Hurricane Maria. @ailworth and I visited on a bitterly cold week, a vast difference to the 70s they are used to in Puerto Rico. We also met many people in the Ohio community who reached out to help the newcomers get housing, furniture, rides and potential jobs, too. Story by @ailworth for @wsj. Thanks so much to @parkre! Swipe ➡️➡️➡️
I photographed JemCom this summer for @rollingstone. Jem was an 80’s cartoon show about music company owner Jerrica Benton, her singer alter-ego Jem, her band the Holograms, and their adventures. I was a little nervous when I first arrived because there were only a couple dozen participants in a dark and nondescript Double Tree Hilton conference room with tungsten lighting. But the common thread was brightly colored hair, Jem dolls they customized, sparkles, and extremely loyal fans. There were people who flew in from Europe and drove cross-country to be there, couples who had met at a previous JemCon and got married in a surprise ceremony at JemCon years later, and folks who had large Jem tattoos on their arms and legs. It turned into a fun challenge (and I still need to watch this show!) Scroll ➡️➡️➡️
I had a blast spending the afternoon with @coyotepeterson recently for @buzzfeednews. Coyote, also known as "the King of Sting", is a YouTube star and wildlife educator. He gotten tens of millions of views by traveling the world, sharing exotic animals and frequently getting stung by them. He just signed a contract with Animal Planet for his own TV program. And he is THE nicest guy. We had a great time wandering through the woods, climbing trees (him, not me) and as we were driving away he slowed the car, told me to look to the left and in that moment we watched a giant hawk scoop up a squirrel and fly away. It was pretty cool and reminded me to be more aware. Swipe ➡️➡️➡️ for photos!