Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Eve

You can read more about my New Year's Eve HERE. I spent it with Greg Kahn and Tristan Spinski. It was so much fun. It involved walking three miles to make sure Tristan could kiss his wife, Sarah, at midnight and a lot of people watching.

Also, please go HERE to listen to some serious New Year's resolutions.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Still thinking about it all

I need to talk this out. So, I'm putting it here.

On October 3, I and fellow journalists at the Naples Daily News covered the Damas family funeral. For those who don't know, it was for a woman and her five children who were found killed in their home in Naples. Her husband is charged with first degree murder for killing all six of them.

Today, I was looking through the photos again to enter them into the National Press Photographers Association monthly clip contest. I enter this contest every month and, normally, I don't have any problem submitting photos I've taken. But, there are times, like today, that it just seems weird to be entering photos from someone else's tragedy for my own personal gain. At the same time, it's an opportunity for the story to reach more eyes, and for the possibility of a greater good. Still, I'm conflicted.

The funeral was one of the hardest things I've had to cover in my seven years at the Daily News. I didn't sleep for days after. Not only because of the emotion and heartbreak that I witnessed from the family, but also because I was reconciling within myself why it was important that I photograph them in their most painful moment. I worried about what the family must have thought of us. Of me, holding a camera up to their pain. Did they realize I wasn't there to hurt them more? Only to show the world how much their six slain family members were loved and how the act of one man can shatter lives of so many. Also, to show what can happen when society does not stand up hard enough against domestic violence.

I was amazed that day at the Haitian community in Florida. So many who didn't even know the family drove from all over the state to give support.

None of the reasons to do the story are very consoling at the time, but you shoot the pictures because in the back of your head somewhere, you think the larger view will emerge later. Hopefully.

As journalists, we are consumed with the story for the weeks between when we first hear of the slayings and the day of the funeral. Then, for the most part, things calm down on our end. We cover the story as more details are discovered or the court proceedings begin, but really, the intensity is over.

I've moved on to other stories and things that are important to the newspaper and to me on the day to day. But today, it hit me all over again going through the pictures. This family is still missing those six beloved people. My heart goes out to them. I wish I could ease their pain.

I didn't feel right about putting the most intense pictures up on my blog. But, I found this one today. I took it before the family arrived to the burial ceremony. These two children were among hundreds to show up and give support. It could have been taken at church or a wedding. It doesn't tell the story of the day. But, that's ok with me for it's purpose here. I liked it. I like the look and the children's faces. I like the way she is holding his drink and his hand. And I love how grown up they look in their dress and little suit and all the while, a little awkward.

Monday, November 2, 2009


A few pictures from a slideshow I created about the Tejano Dances in Immokalee, Fla. Please watch the slide show HERE. And read the story by reporter, Steven Beardsley HERE.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

I had to shoot trick-or-treating tonight and happened upon a really cool haunted house. I accidentally changed my camera settings to monochrome (I didn't even know I could do that). Luckily, I liked the way it looked. And double-luckily for the newspaper, I figured out how to change it back. But, not before I made a picture that I liked in black and white.

Monday, October 26, 2009

'Come and get 'em, folks'

An audio slideshow of my latest photo column can also be viewed HERE.

Over the squeak of the wheels and rattling of carts, over the beep of the checkout counter and the crying of the babies, over the constant noise that is Costco Wholesale in Naples on a Saturday afternoon, a voice can be heard.

Protein bars! Come and get’em,folks. Have ’em on the golf course, folks.
Eat ’em while at the computer, folks. I’ve got protein bars, woo!

“If I wasn’t loud, the customers would think there was something wrong with me,” says Sheila Roughan. “They’d say, ‘Are you ill? Are you not feel ing good?’ ” Roughan, 53, is best known as the singing sample lady at Costco. She works for Club Demonstration Services, a company contracted by Costco to hand out product samples throughout the large box store.

Her sing-song style of serving customers everything from pastries to potato chips can be heard through the aisles. This day, she’s at the front of the store just behind the checkout lanes selling protein bars. It’s a premier spot where Roughan can persuade people they need a box of 18 for $17.49 before they head out the door.

Power bars, they’re chocolate and chocolate always makes ya feel good.
Take some hoooooome.

“She is the ultimate huckster, and I mean that in a wonderful way,” says Jerry Jackson, referring to Roughan’s showy style of pitching the products she sells. Jackson, a middle-aged, frequent Costco shopper, turns to Roughan, “I come here, in part, because I love seeing you on Saturdays.” She thanks him with a smile and tells him it’s her honor.

He proceeds to checkout and Roughan doesn’t miss a beat singing out to the customers moving in her direction.

No one would believe the spunky redhead is shy. But, before she got the job at Costco three years ago, she was.

Roughan has dyslexia and bipolar disorder — two things that have, in the past, made her reserved.

“The job changed her life to a great degree,” said Roughan’s father, Fred. “She was always shy and conscious of her handicap and consequently always stayed in the background.”

Those days are gone.

Roughan calls to everyone. She sings out with authority that they will love what she has to sell them. Customer after customer comes to her smiling and laughing about her delivery. Half of her customers seem to buy the product less because they love protein bars, and more because they love to buy them from her.

Come on over and try some, pleeeeease take some home.

“She’s the best, she’s so energetic,” said Naples resident Sandy Piekarski between bites of a chocolate protein bar. “It’s fun, she’s got great spirit.”

That’s what makes Roughan love coming to work.

“I just have fun, otherwise it would be boring,” Roughan said. “I put a smile on people’s faces.”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

She's One of the Boys

I'm a little late in posting. Life has been crazy. I'll try to update more often.

She hits like a boy, blocks like a boy and loves sports like the boys.

The only thing that gives her away on the field is her ponytail.

Gianna Rose, pictured above, is the only girl on her pee wee football team. In fact, she’s the only girl out of about 120 football players in the Marco Island Eagles Youth Football Organization.

The blonde ponytail hangs just past her shoulders, sticking out from under her helmet, as she crouches until the snap. She fires up and explodes, shov­ing her hands into the chest of her opponent while 20 boys wait their turn during drills on a recent evening at Mackle Park on Marco Island.

“You guys watch Gianna — she’s one of our best blockers out here,” said Jim Prange, the assistant coach whose son also plays for the Golden Eagles. “We need a few more girls on this team.”

The boys groan.

Gianna doesn’t flinch.

“Some girls are afraid to hit, but I’m not,” Gianna said.

The 9-year-old Tommie Barfield Elementary School student has had a passion for football since she was a baby watching New York Giants games from her high chair. Her mom has the pictures to prove it.

“I’ve been around football my whole life,” she said. “I just love it so much and I watch it all the time, so I actually know what to do.”

She plays running back and tight end, but if she had her choice of any position, she would play wide receiver so she could get her hands on the ball and make touchdowns.

“She’s probably a better athlete than 50 percent of the boys out here,” said Joe Bartos, a parent and coach with two sons on Gianna’s team.

The sun sets beyond the park as five teams in the organization — two pee wee, two junior and one senior team — get ready for the upcoming Saturday game. Gianna pulls out her mouth guard and spits. Between plays she scraps in a harmless push-and-shove with her opponents and slaps teammates on the shoulder pads with kudos for a job well done.

“From an attitude standpoint, I wish I had 22 just like her,” said Eagles head coach Greg West.

Her heart for the game shows as she’s one of the first to the line and first to the huddle.

“She has so much enthusiasm for this,” said her mom Daneen Rose, who supports her daughter’s love of the game, but didn’t always like the idea of her being on the field.

“After I saw her play (in the first game) I was much calmer,” said Rose, who helps coach her other daughter, Francesca, 5, on the Eagles cheerlead ing squad.

But, Gianna’s never been scared to play and she knows the boys underes timate her. She uses it to her advantage.

“They don’t think I’m tough,” Gianna said. “And then I go up against them and I nail them, and they’re like ‘whoa.’ ”

Practice is almost over. A few more plays left before the teams head home.

“Hey G, ready to hit a boy?” said opponent Will Glasser, a boy her same age, but a couple inches taller.

Gianna crouches at the line, her green eyes focus on Will with a look that says he better watch out. She wasn’t only ready to hit a boy, she was ready to hit like a boy.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Stop the press

I can't believe it took me seven years of working at the Naples Daily News to go in and talk to the pressmen and watch them in action. Great guys. September 8th, they will abandon the old press at our Central Avenue location and start working on a state-of-the-art press in our new building in North Naples. We are a newspaper that is very lucky to still be investing in our print product, as well as our online product. Please go HERE to watch a video produced by me and videographer Manuel Martinez about the old press.

They are equal parts artist, scientist and engineer.

They receive no glory, little recognition and they have no byline.

Pressmen are sometimes the forgotten but without them there would be no newspaper.

“We’ve never not printed a paper since I’ve been here,” Casey Cote said confidently. “We’ve come close.”

Cote, a 29-year veteran and pressroom manager at the Naples Daily News, got his start at the Daily News when he was 20. He was working on a community press in northern New York when his mom handed him a classified ad that said “Live and work on the sunny Gulf of Mexico.”

Over the years, he and his crew of press operators have prided themselves on their teamwork and being able to set up or fix the press quickly. Cote has sometimes had to sleep in his car in the parking lot of the newspaper, one time on the night of Easter Sunday, waiting to fix what he called a “major break” in the old press.

The Goss Metro press, which Cote refers to as the “old goat,” was acquired by the Naples Daily News in 1993. It was previously owned by The Rocky Mountain News out in Denver.

It’s hard work. But it’s not all work.

“We pulled a lot of pranks when we were younger,” Cote said.

On a recent evening in a breakroom, Cote and several others laughed about experiences in the pressroom — some funny and some not-so-funny. Like when they pulled a prank on Rocco, leaving him with black ink dripping down the back of his head. Or, when Rocco was driving a clam truck carrying five, 2,000-pound rolls of paper and it tipped over sending the rolls into the catwalk of the press.

Rocco Bovenzi, pictured above, has worked on the press for 17 years.

He says you “gotta be half crazy” to work as a pressman.

“Everyone’s home in bed while we’re here doing this stuff,” said the 56-year-old former musician who sports a ponytail and loves the blues.

Long after the reporters have gone home and the page designers have shut down their computers, the pressmen are still in the thick of it.

When you’re in the pressroom, you don’t really know if it’s night or day. It is hard to determine if you’re upstairs or downstairs. It’s a world of its own where time is kept by the papers flying by on a belt.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe you do have to be a little crazy to work in there.

Or maybe you just have to love newspapers.

“My wife says ‘you got ink in your blood,’” said Barry Mundy, a pressman at the Daily News since 1998.

Mundy is a 51-year-old former Marine who started as an apprentice more than 20 years ago in New Jersey. He remembers having to bribe his way in to the pressroom up north with a six-pack of beer.

He loves the history of the press. But he’s also excited about the future.

Mundy and a handful of other pressmen are still working at the old press on Central Avenue, making sure the paper comes out everyday while the operation switches over to the Daily News’ new location on Immokalee Road.

In the next few weeks, they will say goodbye to the press that is more mechanical than technical and say hello to a state-of-the-art printing press called WIFAG Evolution 371.

In the new building, their feet won’t stick to the floor, the air will be better circulated and they may not even need earplugs. Instead of moving the machine themselves, they will tell the machine to move with the touch of a button.

Many things will be different.

Pressmen working tirelessly behind the scenes will remain the same.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summertime ...

... and the livin is easy.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I Heart Savannah

I took my little sis to Savannah last weekend. It was a whirlwind, one-day trip. She'd never been out of Florida so we went to the coolest city nearest to the Sunshine State. Here's a few pics from 10-year-old film used in the Holga.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009


I shot vacation bible school at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church yesterday. The story is about kids getting fed during bible school. This picture doesn't make the cut. So, I place it here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Moving day

The residents of Glade Haven, a trailer park in Bonita Springs, Fla., have until midnight tonight to move out to make way for a 200-unit condominium. I went there this weekend for a daily story to see if anyone was packing up. Here are two of my favorite images.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Living Testament

Please go HERE to watch the mini documentary I've created on three historically black churches in Naples.

I feel incredibly lucky to work at a newspaper that still gives amazing space for stories it deems important. Here is the layout for the story that ran in today's paper. Read Katy Bishop's story HERE

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The devoted

Tanya pulls out a scrapbook with pictures from the past year. Smiling faces of two teenagers in love peer back from the pages. She and her boyfriend, Ramade, are hugging and smiling at Busch Gardens, King Richard’s, from photo booths and swimming pools.

Looking through, you would never know that Ramade has spent nearly half of the past 15 months in the hospital and almost died twice.

Ramade Robles, 19, or Rome to those who know him best, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in January 2008. It was one month after he and Tanya started dating.

“He gave me the option of leaving,” said Tanya Lyristakis, 20, a computer science student at Florida Gulf Coast University. “But, I asked ‘why would I do that?’ ”

Tanya has taken it in stride. The hardest time for them came in December when Rome was sent to the University of Florida Shands Cancer Center in Gainesville for acute pancreatitis, a problem caused by his chemotherapy treatment. Rome was put into an induced coma for two weeks so his body would heal.

“A nurse told me to prepare for the worst,” Tanya’s voice shakes as she remembers. Doctors told her he had a 13 percent chance of surviving. She called his family members so they could come say goodbye.

It has been a tough road. But, in many ways, not as difficult as the road he walked before being diagnosed.

Rome is the youngest of seven but has been in and out of foster care, sold drugs on the streets in Tampa at age 16, has been arrested on more than one occasion and has little family support.

Before being diagnosed, he was cleaning up his life. He landed a job at UPS, where he met Tanya.

For Rome, the physical pain he has gone through since his diagnosis is more manageable than his lifetime of emotional pain.

But the past is not what concerns them now.

Rome started attending a weekly support group on Wednesdays at Cancer Alliance of Naples. Tanya goes with him.

“It helps to know there are other people out there who have an understanding,” Rome said. Talking to people who are going through similar experiences makes him feel normal.

“He’s given hope and helped others to feel they are not alone, and they’ve done the same for him,” said Ellen Harris, a licensed mental health counselor who facilitates the support group every week. “We are all amazed at his ability to have an upbeat attitude about life despite all the things he’s been through at a very early age.”

Harris said the devotion Rome and Tanya have for each other has been an inspiration to the group.

That devotion is what keeps Rome moving forward through his illness.

“I count my blessings that I can walk, hear, see and taste normally,” he said. “And of course, I’m lucky to have you,” he adds looking over at Tanya in their East Naples living room.

“I would have died if I didn’t have her.”