Friday, April 22

Susanne Bier for the Dallas Morning News

Susanne Bier won this year's Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film for In a Better World.  I had just heard a great interview with her on Fresh Air when I got a call to make the most of our ten minutes with Bier at the W Hotel in downtown Austin.  You can read Chris Vognar's interview with Bier here.

In a Better World explores the themes of bullying, justice, and the cycle of violence in both small-town Denmark and war-torn Sudan, linking the mundane punishments of school children to the cruelty of warlords.

Tuesday, April 19

Cascarones at FIESTA for the Wall Street Journal

Ah, Fiesta time in San Antonio. It's our version of Mardi Gras - 11 days of parades, crowds, adult beverages, delish food, music, revelry, and afterward, mountains of trash.

This year San Antonio's Mayor Juli├ín Castro is appealing to the better nature of the estimated 3.5 million Fiesta-goers asking them to clean  up after themselves with a new recycling initiative and more plentiful trash cans. The recycling program has taken off, but does nothing for the millions of confetti pieces left behind from the traditional cascaronesThere is an app for that, but so far the analog smashing of egg shells remains the most popular.  I'm still finding confetti in my camera bag.

Streets are clean an hour before the gates open on Night in Old San Antonio (NIOSA) in downtown San Antonio.

Edna Jimenez arranges cascarones for sale in a basket on Villita street.  Jimenez has been working the event for 28 years and estimates she sells over 2,000 of the confetti filled eggs each night of Fiesta. 

Kieran Mason, 20, left, holds Tyler Knight, 7, center, as Cameron Toomey, 19, right, cracks a cascarone over his head. Cascarones are empty egg shells filled with confetti and are cracked over the head of friends and loved ones for good luck and the fun of it.

Tuesday, April 12

Spirit of Community for the Statesman

Most of my assignments these days boil down to portraits. As a freelancer, most of my calls come after some big news event has happened and editors need the photos yesterday. Whenever I can, I broaden the scope to include documentary shooting. If the deadline is flexible and some meaningful interaction close at hand, I'm happy to put in the extra time. These are the photos that are the most revealing to me, the ones I love to make.

At a recent portrait assignment, I sat in on an interview with Gilbert Ramirez and his wife Jane. Like many east Austin residents, they're worried about rising property taxes and the loss of community as older families move out and new neighbors settle in. Gilbert told me about his neighborhood's communal tool shed and a commitment to help elderly residents with their yard work. There's community spirit in action.

With a long lead-time on publication, I went back a few days later when a group of neighbors came together to help Maddie Collins get her yard into shape for spring. The paper might still run the portrait, but I'm more fulfilled as a photographer, story-teller, and neighbor by making the extra effort.

The Blanton After Dark

Thursday, April 7

UT Men's Tennis

I do love good jube.  No.2 Virginia swept No.6 Texas 5-2 on the match, but UT senior Kellen Damico had quite a day against UVA. 

Senior Kellen Damico, left, and freshman David Holiner, right, celebrate a match point over UVA's Jarmere Jenkins and Sanam Singh during doubles play.

UT Senior Kellen Damico defeated UVA's Jarmere Jenkins in a hard fought three-set singles match.  Damico prevailed 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.