Saturday, September 22, 2007


She moves effortlessly, her hips swaying back and forth, her arms swinging around her body.
Still, it goes almost unnoticed.
Seduced by its brilliance, all eyes follow the trails of fire that surround her.
The light dances off her body, highlights the edges and gives only a glimpse of her face every other moment.
A thick and guttural whooshing sound is heard as fire cuts through the resistant air, adding to the natural rhythm that the cicadas provide in the woods beyond her yard.
She accompanies this with a whirring sound of her own as she exhales.
DamaDé slows the pace of the Poi, a Maori word meaning ball, or a light ball on a string. In this case, it is a chain with a ball on the end ignited with camping fluid.
A fire dancer for the past five years, she is practicing for a gig in Miami on a dirt patch at her North Naples home.
“My first love is dance,” says DameDé, 35. “I add fire to it to accentuate the dance.”
For her, the movement of her body through space is the most important part, even if the fire is the main attraction.
“It just looks like a bunch of circles and the flow of the fire of is so beautiful,” she says.
She puts the Poi away and grabs another instrument to practice. This time it is a set of “spider fans,” two fans that have five separate flames on the end of each.
She arches backward, moving the fans slowly with her arms stretched up and out in a graceful motion.
“It’s a little like flying,” she says.
DamaDé’s friend and costumer, Lana Foster, 28, has seen her fire dance more times than she can count.
“It creates an exotic and enchanting atmosphere because everybody loves to watch fire ,” Foster says. “It’s mesmerizing. I never get bored of it.”
Making fire dancing look easy doesn’t come without a cost.
“It’s extremely exhilarating and sensual, but it’s very hot and it’s a lot of physical exertion.” DamaDé says. “I can be sore for four days after one gig.”
But, the price her body pays is worth it. That time she hit her eye with the end of a lit Poi was worth it. And the burns and bruises she gets from bouncing the Poi off her legs are worth it.
“I love when I’m giving, giving, giving as much as I can and the folks watching are inspired. When I can obviously see in their faces that they are inspired by the fire.”
“Fire makes people move,” she says.
It also draws people her. The best part of the entire experience, she says, is when people talk with her after a performance. She is able to share with them her Yoga philosophy, which she says goes hand-in-hand with her dancing.
If people listen, she gives pep talks after her shows.
“Where there is lightness there can be no darkness,” she says. “Let it inspire you from the inside out. Go share your light with the world because you have it inside you.”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Iraq Vet: Bobby Joseph

This story just published in our paper today. It is about a local Marine who was hit by an I.E.D. in Iraq in November. Unfortunately, I met him for the first time in June, after the his recovery from the immediate injury. It is very difficult to photograph the past, but I tried my best to show his life now. I really enjoyed doing this story. Bobby was a very open about his life and allowed me in. I am very grateful for that. As always, I see glaring things missing from the complete package of photos. But, it is part of the process of TRYING to tell the ever-illusive COMPLETE photo story. I will continue to try.

These aren't all of the photos, but if you want to see more and read the story, please go to:

Lighting it Up

Friday night I photographed the St. John Neumann High School football game. The school just recently installed stadium lights. It was the first time in the school's history that they played at night on their own field.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Naples summer

I bitch a lot about the heat in the summer. But, nothing beats the summer sky in Naples. It's gorgeous. And today I was lucky enough to see two skies that made me feel very small.... in a good way. (Ideally, some wonderful moment would be happening in the foreground of these pictures, but eh.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two wheeling

I ran across Tyler, 11, right, and Dylan, 13, last night. The light was just getting good and they were cruising around in a couple of wheel chairs that they didn't need, trying to see who could stay on two wheels the longest. The wheel chairs are from the assisted living facility where Tyler's grandma works. They didn't have many cares. Just talked about skateboarding, BMXing, and who's had the most girlfriends. Tyler's in the lead with eight.