I'll tell you up front that I'm not obsessed with photography for photography's sake, but because I am in love with stories.

For me, a story well told makes you feel something in your gut, no matter who or what it is about. I'm chasing that feeling you have when you walk out of the theater after a particularly incredible film in an enlightened state of bliss, or when you look at old photographs from your childhood and piece together the pictures from split memories that span across the years. I'm talking about that feeling when you sit down with a friend for hours and just talk talk talk as the clock spins round round round and you go "oh wow is it that late already?!".

In every story that I tell (because really I'm just the messenger), my goal is to re-create that feeling. I hope after viewing, listening to, and thinking about the stories of the people who have been so kind and open to share them, you will feel that enlightened state of bliss that makes you re-evaluate your everyday, recognize bits of yourself in these people just as you do with old childhood pictures, and feel connected to them in that slightly magical way that usually only comes about after hours of uninhibited discussion with a friend.
These are the emotions I try to inspire with the stores I share.

             More than Pain

             More than Pain

           The Exile Identity

           The Exile Identity

      Life in a Changing Burma

      Life in a Changing Burma

    Teen Pregnancy in America

    Teen Pregnancy in America

I'm not about filling up my calendar with "shoots" and "projects" but days and weeks that I get to meet people, create art, and have a really good time doing it. This is about stories, not just about pictures and beautiful documentation. I'm less intrinsically motivated about photojournalism and stories than I am externally motivated - there are beautiful stories all around us just begging to be shared.  Below is a selection of stories that I've been lucky enough to have access to and share with you. 

80% of the world's population lacks access to adequate pain relief.

 

Opioid analgesics, including morphine, are considered essential medicines by the World Health Organization,
yet 17% of the world’s population consumes 92% of the global annual use of morphine despite its low cost of a few cents per unit. In the world's poorest countries, a patient with pain dying from HIV/AIDS or cancer consumes an average of 200 milligrams of morphine, while the average consumption for a patient in the world's richest
countries is 99,000 milligrams. HIV/AIDS and cancer are two of the most common illnesses
we face today: both result in intense, end-of-life pain.

Palliative care is the holistic management of physical, psychological, and spiritual problems faced by people with life-threatening illnesses. Palliative care covers the basics, so that patients can live their lives free from pain. Worldwide, only about 14% of people who need palliative care receive it. It is a fundamental health and human right that gives everyone dignity at the end of life. It can easily be provided at the time of diagnosis alongside curative treatment. One of the primary barriers to widespread palliative care is a misunderstanding
about the medical use of narcotics amongst medical professionals.

 

 

Imagine that you find out that you are dying. What do you want to do before you die? What is on your bucket list?

"The experience of being an exile marks you forever - it is part of
who you are, no matter where you go and what you do...."

 

The Exile Identity is a narrative piece developed in the spring of 2015. It is the story of the Cuban exiles who came to the United States as refugees on the Freedom Flights and Peter Pan programs in the 1960’s and 1970’s through the lens of one family: my mother, her sister, and their parents.

The narrative transitions as it tells two stories: the story of my mother and her family who were able to escape Castro’s regime and live prosperous lives in the United States, albeit as exiles, and the story of their extended family who did not leave Cuba and continue to live under Castro’s regime. The piece examines the differences between an exile and an immigrant to consider how an identity as a Cuban-American can manifest.

 

Think Burma is a democracy now? Think again.

 

When I found out that I had the opportunity to travel to Burma in December 2011 along with several fellow student photojournalists under the mentorship of Gary Knight, I struggled to connect the name "Burma" to images in my head. At the time, Burma was just beginning to fill the headlines with the possibility of elections for democracy. When my flight was booked, I purchased a Lonely Planet Myanmar guidebook characterized by images taken by travel writers who'd been able to gain a visa to travel there.

It wasn't so much the meditating monks and sunset pagodas over Bagan that inspired me, but the faces of the Burmese, golden painted circles on their cheeks, often smiling. I wanted to find out who these people really were, living under a corrupt and dysfunctional dictatorship while the world seemingly carried on just over the border, smiling for visitors' photographs. Descriptions that life in Burma was almost frozen in time were rampant - it was a cliché deeply reminded me of similar descriptions to my mother's birthplace: Cuba. 

Life in a Changing Burma is a collection of photographs profiling the typical working-class family in the outskirts of Yangon, Burma in contrast with images of life and living from around the city.

This project was completed over a two-week trip in May and June of 2012. I spent the majority of my time there with one family, who lived in the farthest outskirts of the capital and lived off the railway tracks. Despite the continuous political shifts in government and the movement towards more democratic policies, life goes on in Burma. The photographs are an attempt to share the the hope, anxiety, and life in a changing Burma.

 

"People always think of teen pregnancy as what they see on TV.
It's not like that at all."

 

In December of 2009, MTV produced a spinoff of its popular show 16 and Pregnant called Teen Mom - the spinoff drew in more than 3.65 million viewers. The producers (one of whom is Morgan Freeman) and MTV claim that the series is meant to educate teens on the realities of teen pregnancy. After each episode, the network provides information and a link to its website to get more information on contraception and teen pregnancy.

16 and Pregnant premiered on television when I was 15. As someone who grew up with the show and its characters while my fellow classmates in high school were beginning to experiment with one another, the "reality" of the show contrasted with the reality of life was quite different. I struggled to see the humanity in the show - it seemed like every single action was simply a reaction for dramatic effect. When I had the opportunity my freshman year to spend 8 months to follow a person (or group of persons), learn their story, and understand how it was representative of a broader story and important issue, my mind instantly jumped to teen pregnancy.

A television show on MTV, despite its best intentions, is meant to entertain rather than educate. When I met Amber in November of 2011 for lunch at a Panera Bread in Arlington, Massachusetts to talk to her about the project, the importance of the project began to hit me. Here was a real live person, not followed by an MTV crew but still going through very real things and coming out above it all just fine.

The problem with television shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom is that it produces stereotypes. But in reality, it's not like that all. This project is meant to break down those stereotypes: to share the reality of a teen mother so that people can hear her story in her own voice.

 

A sampling of everything mobile.

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