All posts by Brian Feulner

Brian Feulner is the visual editor at the Bangor Daily News and a photographer in the state of Maine. Feulner frequently freelances for a variety of publications and companies and operates Feulner Studio and Gallery in Bangor.

S.I. Says Goodbye to Photo Staff

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Sports Illustrated announced that they fired their entire staff of 6 remaining photographers on Friday.

Bottom line, bad idea. By putting good photographers out of work in the name of saving money from cutting things like benefits and a steady revenue stream, S.I. is hurting the same industry that made them a publishing icon.  When photographers have to start worrying about where there next pay check is coming from, their images will ultimately suffer.

Materially, there are a lot of costs behind the production of the stunning sports photographs we’ve all ogled at. Expensive lenses, lighting, digital workflow equipment, etc. doesn’t just pay for itself and putting that cost onto freelancers that maybe will get work this week is a catch 22.

For a while,the editorial industry was at rock bottom and situations like this made more sense. Over the last decade, because of the advances of how our photos and video can be displayed cross-platform it’s hard to believe that cutting staffers is a smart decision.

S.I., like all the other printed and digital media out there, should be thinking of how they can hire more staffers, or some alternative solution, instead of heading in this direction.

Scenes from Searsport

 

Searsport, Maine is a small community between Bangor and Belfast. Nestled on the northern section of the Penobscot Bay, it’s known as a town built by sea captains.

Photographer Gabor Degre and reporter Abigail Curtis recently covered a story about the town’s struggling future and its residents’ resiliency to change. 

As a photographer, dropping into a town to illustrate a story like this can be difficult. You have to get a feel for a town and people you’ve never met and you have to share with readers an entire story in just a few frames.

Here are a selection of photos from Degre’s take.

Inspirations from El Capitan’s Dawn Wall ascent

Yvonne Chouinard, Lewiston native and founder of Patagonia, coined the phrase “conquerors of the useless” in reference to the personally rewarding feats that he and his compatriots tried to tackle during outdoor adventures decades ago. Those feats included climbing El Capitan, a 3,000 foot monolith and one of Yosemite’s most sought after big wall rock climbing ascents. Chouinard probably never imagined that a pair of climbers  would ever ascend El Cap’s Dawn Wall, which was thought to be unclimbable.

But Wednesday evening, just a few hours ago, climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson did just that.

Along the way was photographer Corey Rich, who made this photo of the duo’s embrace after following them on the 19-day climb. 

The story is nothing but inspiring, a declaration of the abilities of humankind  and a testament to the importance of photography, even adventure photography, in documenting history.

It also got me thinking a lot about Maine and how blessed we are as a state to have recreational opportunities so immediately available to us. In honor of Caldwell, Jorgeson and the photographers that captured their journey is a collection of adventure images from our own BDN photographers.

Gabor Degre: 2014 year in review

At the BDN we try and encourage our employees to integrate their self interests into the work they do as much as they can. It turns us into specialists in our field and at the end of the day, the work is just better. As an avid white water kayaker and outdoorsman who also happens to love Maine’s farming community, photographer Gabor Degre is no exception to that rule

This year he covered a story about white water kayakers who run Smalls Falls, a series of six waterfalls on the Sandy River. He spent a few days on the Martin Farm in the county photographing the back breaking work of hand picking potatoes during harvest. Degre also joined an expedition to trace Henry David Thoreau’s route he took through Maine 150 years ago.

These are examples of the perks of our jobs and the reasons why we do it. There are a lot of people in the U.S. that are unhappy with their jobs and to that group of americans our advice is simple.

“Do what you love and love what you do.”

Here are a few of Degre’s images from throughout 2014.

Freezing photographers: How we deal with winter

If you work as a photographer in Maine, for at least 5 months out of the year you’re going to be working in the cold. Once nature’s air conditioner comes on there’s a lot to think about before heading outside.

First there’s our comfort.

We’re constantly going from a 70 degree building to sub zero temperatures, then into a chilly car, then back out into freezing temps. I often don a pair of long johns, wear a bunch of layers and stuff heat packs into my socks before heading in to work. You can immediately single out the photographers in the newsroom because our hair is usually a mess from wearing a beanie, snot is hanging from our nose and our hiking boots usually leave a messy melted snow trail right to our desk.  Suits aren’t our thing and we pretty much look ragged all winter long.

Then there’s the gear.

Taking expensive electronics from cold to warm is never a good thing. If your gear is less than watertight, condensation will form inside, especially in lenses and camera bodies.  That can wreak havoc on the electronics inside. Not only that, but I’ve known several photographers to drop equipment into snowbanks while fumbling around with their gloves. Usually the gear is never seen again and the only hope is that a winter thaw will come sooner than expected.

Finally, lets not forget about the assignments.

Our readers love weather stories. I mean, who doesn’t? Unfortunately, that’s to the photographers’ detriment, because believe it or not, someone needs to actually go out in that 2-foot snow storm or on that -13 degree day, like today, to take photos. The photos are not taken from a car and we don’t have a robot or a drone. Instead we have shivering photographers trying to be artful in a New England “tundra” who love nothing more than having their photos on a news site or in print delivered straight to you and your warm and comfortable office desk, living room or kitchen table.

Above is a selection of images from the BDN photo staff’s encounters with the cold.

On the front lines of Ebola. QnA with Maine photographer Michael G. Seamans


Michael G. Seamans is a photojournalist based in Waterville, Maine. He traveled to Sierra Leone from Maine in December 2014. The below questions were asked by visuals editor Brian Feulner as part of a QnA with the photographer.

As a photographer what was your goal of this trip?

The goal of this trip was to understand the issues driving the spread of the Ebola virus in Kono district, Sierra Leone. I volunteered two weeks to photograph the response efforts by Wellbody Alliance. Wellbody is an NGO which has been providing healthcare and other social services for the people of Kono district for the past 8 years.

I came to know the organization during a previous reporting trip in Sierra Leone with author/journalist, Greg Campbell, who is best known for his book Blood Diamonds, that exposed the world to the ugly workings of the diamond trade in West Africa.

How difficult was it to travel to Sierra Leone from Maine, and get access to the aid area?

It is not easy. However, the Ebola epidemic has streamlined it a bit. Before the outbreak there were two layovers leaving from JFK in New York City. One 16-hour layover in Casablanca and another quick stop in Monrovia before reaching Freetown.

The trip becomes a bit more tricky once in Freetown. A bus ride and a ride across one of the most dangerous harbors in the world in a small water taxi get you to Freetown proper. The taxis are sketchy and people are warned ahead of time that these boats sink often. And this is done in the cloak of darkness. No flights land during the day at Lungi airport.

Access to the aid areas is difficult depending on which aid areas you are trying to get to. I was working in Kono district, in far eastern Sierra Leone along the border with Guinea. Traveling to this district is easier during the day. I made the trip at night. I was traveling to the district after the government locked it down due to a spike in Ebola related deaths.

They closed the district border on the 3rd of December allowing only government officials and NGO healthcare workers through. And even then they would only let select vehicles through with the proper stickers and identification after 5 p.m. If you did not have the proper identification you would be held up until 8 a.m. the next morning.

Luckily, I was in a vehicle with the proper identification.

The roads are fine for the first 100 miles. Fast speeds on smooth roads made the first part of the trip rather easy and comfortable stopping only for the checkpoints set up by the government and certain villages. We passed through about a dozen in the first 75 miles where each vehicle occupants’ temperature was checked with an infrared thermometer. I was traveling with two people. Alaji and Ali. They work for Wellbody Alliance.

The rest of the road after Port Loko, one of the hardest hit regions in rural Sierra Leone, was slowed to a crawl. The roads became teeth-chattering kidney-bruising rutted roads that slowed us to under 5 mph at times. They resembled off-road trails more than they did roads. The rainy season left the roads in horrible shape passable only by 4-wheel-drive trucks in most parts. The final 100 miles took us nearly 7 hours to drive.

The real trouble arose once we entered Kono district. Every village had a checkpoint and villagers manned the ropes with flashlights and a strong sense of authority. We were searched several times to see if we were carrying dead bodies. We made it to Koidu City by midnight.

Some of your photos show deep sadness in an area that is in need of dire help to fight this virus, what was the emotional impact on you as a photographer while there?

It was difficult to see the Sierra Leoneans deal with this new disease. They have been crippled with infectious diseases for as long as they have been a country. Dying young is nothing new to these people.

They boast the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. Half of the population has malaria on any given day. And they are still dealing with Tuberculosis and leprosy in addition to typhoid fever and yellow fever.

The toughest part of all of this is that they are incredibly rich with natural resources such as diamonds, precious gems and natural gas. They should be the Saudi Arabia of Africa with this natural resource wealth. But corporations and government corruption have shortchanged the people for decades.

The Sierra Leoneans are very gracious and hard working people. So it is very difficult to see them stuck in this situation. Ebola is a horrible illness that thrives on compassion and care. It spreads most easily to those who offer comfort and care to the afflicted. And those people who are infected are family members, healthcare workers and doctors. The family is the first line of care in their culture.

There are few alternatives in terms of healthcare for these people. It has no prejudice as to whom it infects. But the irony is that those who are infected become infected because they are caring for someone who is sick with the virus and the ugly cycle continues.

That is the hardest part to see. And knowing that if there was a stable and reliable healthcare system in place this virus would be stopped in its tracks. It just highlights the need for healthcare. Not just a cure for Ebola.

Talk a little bit about what the aid workers are going through to try and deal with Ebola. 

Time Magazine was right to name the Ebola fighters Man of the Year.

What these healthcare workers are doing is nothing short of heroic. Ebola is a very scary disease that is easily transmitted when a patient is showing symptoms. And they become more contagious the more infected they become. The people in the direct line of fire are those people who offer direct care and comfort to the infected. It is the ugly truth of this virus.

These healthcare workers are working in incredibly difficult conditions where the slightest mistake could mean death for them. They know this and still walk in to those Ebola Treatment Units and offer comfort to the infected. It takes a special person to do this for a complete stranger in a strange and dangerous part of the world. They deserve the respect and admiration of their nations.

Were you concerned for your own safety and did you take any precautions?

My rational mind and irrational mind were constantly at odds. I am not a healthcare worker. My contact with Ebola infected people was from a safe distance. I was not walking in to the ETU’s and offering direct care to the infected. Yet, I was still constantly paranoid that I could contract the virus by touching the wrong door, rubbing against the wrong wall or bumping into the wrong person.

There was one day that I was photographing the mallei at Kono Government Hospital in Koidu City. It was complete confusion and utter chaos. A woman lay on a paved walkway between the Ebola isolation unit and another building. She was in dire shape and other people were just stepping over her as she lay on the ground. Helpless. Only feet away another woman wandered out of the Ebola isolation unit. I had to point it out to a healthcare worker that was following for the day. He and other healthcare workers corralled her back into the isolation unit carefully. That was when I realized just how dire the situation was in Kono.

A report had come out that 82 bodies were piled up in a building at the hospital that day. I was very concerned and never really mentally recovered. Even though I knew that I didn’t touch anyone or come in contact with anything that could be infected. Even though I was constantly washing my hands and gear with a chlorine solution, I couldn’t get the notion out of my head that I had somehow contracted the virus. I was reassured by American doctors that I was staying with that it was highly unlikely that I had come in contact with the virus; my irrational mind was taking over my rational mind.

A couple of days later I was following healthcare workers and the Sierra Leone Royal Armed Forces as they conducted a surprise sweep of two remote villages in rural Kono district near the Guinea border in search of hidden Ebola infected people.

Once gain my irrational mind and rational mind were at odds. I suppose it is healthy and smart to be on guard. It offers a level of heightened awareness that as a non-healthcare worker, I needed.

I was not armed with the in-depth knowledge of understanding infectious diseases like the doctors and nurses that are there working. My understanding of Ebola transmission is limited, much like the majority of Americans. It was a challenge each day to maintain composure. Every little symptom I felt was magnified under the threat of Ebola virus around me.

It is nearly impossible to go to Sierra Leone and not feel sick or a little off. It is an incredibly taxing trip just to get there. If you get there and remain healthy you might as well buy a lottery ticket.

The precautions I took were simple. Lots of hand sanitizer, washing my hands with chlorine solution every chance I had and checking my temperature 10 times an hour. Avoiding contact with everyone and keeping my hands to myself.

Don’t touch anything.

If you can do that you will be safe. And even if you don’t, just remembering that you have to have direct contact with someone who is infected and showing symptoms in order to contract Ebola. That is the biggest thing. No one has ever been infected by indirect contact. It is always traced back to a moment when they have touched someone infected or touched a dead body.

Has this trip changed your view on how Maine has dealt with the recent Kaci Hickox situation in the county?

Yes and no. I understand now that there needs to be time for Mainers to understand how this virus spreads.

If it were as infectious as the average American thinks it is, then the numbers would be far higher in West Africa than they are. Sierra Leone’s population is just under 7 million people and yet only 9,004 total cases have been reported. This is a country that has dire poverty with very little infrastructure. Clean water is hard to find and people live very close to one another. If Ebola were as contagious as we are treating it here the numbers would be through the roof in West Africa.

We need to understand the virus on a practical level. I understand the fear, because my mind succumbed to those fears at times while I was there. Like I said earlier, my rational mind and irrational mind were constantly at battle. Now that I have some distance from it I can once again see it clearly. I was in the middle of it and did not contract it. At least not through the first 15 days of self-monitoring under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why? Because I didn’t come in contact with anyone that is infected with Ebola. A person has to come in direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluid. It is not transmitted like the common cold or flu.

Can what photojournalists do in documenting global health issues have an impact?

Yes. There is nothing more powerful than seeing what is happening. There is no interpretation needed to understand an image. It is simple, direct and to the point.

 


 

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ABOUT MICHAEL

Michael G. Seamans is an award-winning photojournalist whose work has been recognized by the National Press Photographer’s Association, Colorado Press Association, Colorado Associated Press Editors and Reporters, and the Maine Press Association. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Usa Today, The Atlantic Online, Daily Mail London, and many other publications worldwide.

Mike’s professional photojournalism career has brought him from the front lines of the Ebola epidemic to the rebel operated diamond mines in Sierra Leone to the steep rock and ice of the Moose’s Tooth in the Alaska Range. His documentary work has covered issues ranging from poverty and terminal illness to high angle adventure projects in the world of climbing and mountaineering. Mike is currently a staff photographer for Maine Today Media and has interned at newspapers The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., the Jackson Hole News & Guide, Wyo., and worked as a staff photojournalist at the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Photo editing and domestic violence

Last week, the bodies of Christina Sargent, 36, her son, Duwayne Coke, 10, and her daughter, Destiny Sargent, 8, were found strangled to death at their mobile home in Garland, Maine.

The suspect, who later confessed to the killing, was Keith Coleman 27.

Maine is no stranger to domestic violence. So much so that we at the BDN strive to find ways to raise awareness about it and have made it a goal to eliminate it from our state. It’s a goal that we may never achieve, but we all work very hard to find ways of telling stories that will bring us closer and closer to that goal.

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BDN photographer Linda Coan O’Kresik went to the Penobscot Judicial Center for Coleman’s arraignment. One of O’Kresik’s images shows the suspect in his orange jump suit, staring directly back at the camera. The stare is blank, his eyes almost lifeless. It was a photo that would engage readers directly and my goal, drive this crime and the issues surrounding domestic violence home.

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During our p.m. print meeting we mulled over the photo and how the front page would look. We also had school photos of Coke and Sargent, by contrast photos showing childhood innocence.

All of this content was worthy of A1, but was leading with the suspect in his orange jump suit the right way to go? At the moment he and his day in court was the focus of the news day.

At first, and before much thought, we were going to lead with Coleman. But what should we do with the photos of the children? We threw around the idea of not having Coleman on the same page and putting either his photo or the kids photos inside. The problem was that all the photos were very impactful in their own right and their inclusion was necessary to drive the story home.

We decided to talk to Erin Rhoda, our Maine Focus editor at the BDN, and after some discussion we came to this conclusion.

When covering these domestic violence stories the emphasis should be on the victims and the layout should reflect that. If our goal is to end this, glorifying the arraignment of a lead suspect is skewing the focus to become a story of criminals, lawyers and the court system. Whereas leading with the kids, keeps the issue of domestic violence at the forefront and in our reader’s minds.

The hope? Our community will say “no more” and more and more Mainers will try to find their own way of reaching the goal of ending this violence in our state.

In 2014 so far there have been 19 homicides in Maine, 12 of them have been deemed the result of domestic violence.

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A giant moon, storm devastation and Maine islanders: Brian Feulner’s photos of 2014

2014 was an incredible year to be a photographer at the BDN. We produced several digital projects and had the opportunity to experiment with different ways of telling stories in a constantly changing digital landscape.

Two of my favorite digital projects from this year were The Good Life and Six Miles Out.

As photographers, our focus isn’t just about the moment anymore. In today’s world, our jobs have become a cocktail of brainstorming, setting up assignments, shooting photos and video, gathering audio, editing, updating that to a post or into a project that’s a collaboration with a handful of other editors and reporters, then sharing it all out to the world on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, among others.

After all that, we review what we do and look for different and unique ways to present our work. The editors and management at the BDN have made it a priority to innovate so that we can continue to be leaders among news media.

It’s a job that involves constant change and, at its heart, is about sharing stories. Although it’s not for everyone, I love it and thrive on the constant fluidity of what we do.

Photojournalism through still photography is the reason I started in this career and the part of this job that is most dear to me. Over the next week or two you’ll see some great work by all our photographers on staff at the BDN. The slideshow above shows some of my favorite photos that I had the opportunity to make this year.

 

Cuba, through the eyes of BDN’s Bob DeLong

In April 2000, the Bangor Daily News sent photographer Bob DeLong to Havana along with reporter Gordon Bonin to accompany a group of Maine educators organized by Let Cuba Live on a one-week tour of Cuba. The trip happened about the time of the famed Elian Gonzalez international custody battle. Gonzalez was the 6-year-old Cuban boy whose family in Miami tried to take custody of him while the U.S. government and his father battled to keep him in Cuba.

Nearly 15 years later, Cuba and the U.S. have vowed to re-establish diplomatic relations, which were originally tainted by the Cold War cuban missile crisis. 

During his visit, DeLong took photos of children playing baseball in the streets, where roosters also roamed. He showed a country full of color and decaying Spanish architecture.

BDN cartoonist George Danby, who worked with DeLong, said he was usually relaxed and quietly observant while shooting. Danby said he was in the background, but always with a keen eye, looking for a photo that wasn’t obvious and unusual.

“His photography was always a part of him.” Danby said.

DeLong retired from the paper in February 2002 after 22 years as a photographer for the BDN and a total of 34 years with the company. Just a few years later, he died of an illness at the age of 68.

Former Bangor Daily News Executive Editor Mark Woodward was quoted in DeLong’s obituary as saying “Bob DeLong was the epitome of the professional newspaper photographer.”

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Bob DeLong, courtesy of Monty Rand

In The Moment: Curling

The beauty of what we do as visual journalists is that sometimes we are given free-range to go out and find something that interests us and photograph it.

I wanted to photograph something that was winter related. My co-worker, Gabor, suggested checking out the Belfast Curling Club, Maine’s only curling club.

I sent an email to the club to see when a good time for a visit would be. Steve McLaughlin answered pretty much immediately and we set up a time to meet later that week.

Being from Ohio, I’ve never seen curling in the flesh, only occasionally on tv during the Winter Olympics. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. The basics of the game I knew, but I wasn’t sure about where I would be able to shoot from.

Originally, I thought the sheets (the ice section the game is played on) would be spaced further apart from one another allowing me to photograph in between the sections.

No dice.

The sheets at the Belfast Curling Club were touching each other. In essence, it was one sheet of ice with three different playing fields drawn on it. The fact that the sheets were so close together, and that I didn’t have a pair of shoes to go on the ice with, meant I was stuck shooting from the carpeted deck or the observation “warm room” upstairs.

But this is why I love this job, it keeps you on your toes. It makes you throw out your original idea of how you were going to document something and adjust on the fly.

That’s what I did.

Do I wish I was able to get on the ice and shoot from there? Of course I do. But sometimes the challenges are good, and they make you push yourself a little bit more than you would have normally.