2018: The Year in Pictures

2018: The Year in Pictures

2018 has been quite a year. It started off quietly but picked up speed with the beginning of the teachers strike, and it hasn’t really let up since. This year I had my byline in almost every major publication across the country for the first time, traveled to South America, made some important personal life steps, met so many amazing people, and had experiences that have profoundly impacted me. Looking forward to what 2019 has in store.

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Thousands braved cold temperatures and sustained rainfall to attend a Statewide Day of Action rally on the south steps of the Capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, February 17, 2018. The rally was done in support of education and public employees in their struggle for competitive pay and benefits.
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Governor Jim Justice stands up to leave a press conference at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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Jennyerin Steele Staats, a special education teacher from Jackson County holds her sign aloft outside of the capitol building after WVEA President Dale Lee outlined the terms for ending the walkout on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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Thousands of teachers and school personnel fill the capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures.
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Kristen Kief of Jefferson County wears bunny ears, an emblem of the ongoing teacher strike at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures.
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School personnel leave the Capitol grounds after WVEA President Dale Lee outlined the terms for ending the walkout at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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From right, Wyoming County’s Mullens Elementary school teachers Kara Brown, Katherine Dudley and Nina Tunstalle, along with Lois Casto of Central Elementary school in St. Albans, react to news of a deal reached between the House and Senate for a 5% across the board increase for state workers at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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State senators acknowledge the cheers of teachers and school personnel after the passage of a bill to increase pay of state workers by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the state Senate approved a bill to increase state workers pay across the board by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Surrounded by Union leaders, Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5% across the board during a press conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; ending the statewide teachers strike after 9 days of school closures.
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Misty Night. Kanawha Boulevard.
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House in a field outside of Belva, W.Va.
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Long Point Overlook. Fayetteville, W.Va.
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Star trails swirl around Polaris, the North Star, in this hour-long exposure at Calhoun County Park outside of Grantsville, West Virginia;
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Rainy Day. New Orleans.
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A woman holds an umbrella on a rainy day amidst fall colors at the Glade Creek Grist Mill inside Babcock State Park near Clifftop, W.Va., on Saturday, October 27, 2018.
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Pumpkin House. Kenova, W.Va.
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Watching fireworks over Appalachian Power Park from the top of a parking lot in Charleston, W.V., on Wednesday, July 04, 2018.
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Fairgoers on a carnival ride are silhouetted against the setting sun on opening day of the State Fair of West Virginia at the State Fairgrounds in Fairlea, W.V. on Thursday, August 09, 2018.
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Sandro Leal-Santiesteban practices with his violin shortly before the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra takes the stage during the 36th annual Symphony Sunday on the lawn of the University of Charleston in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, June 03, 2018
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Sunlight from a skylight overhead illuminates Margot Jogwick as she announces a host of names of those who were murdered in the Holocaust during the 24th Annual “Unto Every Person There Is a Name” Holocaust Memorial Program at the Charleston Town Center Mall. in Charleston, W.V., on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Jogwick was born in 1934, and lived in the Jewish Quarter of Berlin despite not being jewish herself. She was a witness to kristallnacht and lived in Berlin for the entire duration of the war; seeking shelter in bunkers with her family during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945, which ended with Hitler’s suicide and the surrender of Nazi Germany. “It looked like Syria. Everything was rubble” she said. She lived in the Soviet sector of Berlin until 1958 when she emigrated to the United States.
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Larrecsa Cox of Cabell County EMS hugs a client after setting up outpatient care for her and the client’s significant other in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, April 19, 2018. In the first three months of 2018, overdose totals in Cabell County were down 36 percent compared with the same time in 2017, according to health officials. This drop has been credited in part by the Mayor to the efforts of the QRT,
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Bill Ward uses a garden hose to assist firefighters in putting out a fire as multiple engines responded to a house fire along Virginia Avenue in the Longacre neighborhood of Smithers on Sunday morning, October 21, 2018. Ward, who lives down the street, mentioned that the person living at the home came down the street yelling, and everyone grabbed what they could to put out the fire until emergency personnel arrived. No injuries were initially reported and the cause of the fire remained unknown at the scene.
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Protesters are illuminated by police squad cars across the street from Market Street Park, where the controversial statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stands on the second anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, W.V. on Saturday, August 11, 2018.
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Emily Filler attempts to dissuade state police from advancing on students rallying on the grounds of the University of Virginia on the second anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, W.V. on Saturday, August 11, 2018.
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White supremacists, led by Jason Kessler, march to Lafayette Square during the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, August 12, 2018.
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Journalists photograph a type of smoke grenade placed by Antifa-activists in the middle of 17th street during the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, August 12, 2018.
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A Metropolitan Police officer smokes a cigar while standing guard at the Pennsylvania Ave. security barrier on 17th Street where counterprotesters had gathered during the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, August 12, 2018.
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Protesters are reflected in the glass of a White House security checkpoint on 17th street during the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, August 12, 2018.
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The West Virginia State Capitol is reflected in the windows of the pilothouse as Captains Frank Murray, left, and Mike Krollmann steer the BB Riverboats’ River Queen on the Kanawha River in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, June 22, 2018.
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Kanawha City Elementary school student Derrick Johnson, 5, and his brother David Johnson, 3 stand with others gathered on the steps of the Capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 24, 2018 in solidarity with the March for Our Lives rally in Washington organized by survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “After the Parkland shooting I was scared to death to send my son to school” Their mother Carrie Samuels (not pictured) said.
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Henry Owens, 3, leans over a pew to retrieve a pretzel he dropped during an afternoon mass at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston, W.W., on Ash Wednesday, February 14th, 2018.
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Four kids look on curiously at a spin the wheel challenge at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.V. on Tuesday, July 17, 2018.
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Jasmin Ford, 7, bounces on an inflatable horse during the Easter Carnival at the North Plaza of the Capitol Complex in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 31, 2018.
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Evan Kyer, 10, waits to participate in the Novice Goat Showman with his goat Neptune on opening day of the State Fair of West Virginia at the State Fairgrounds in Fairlea, W.V. on Thursday, August 09, 2018.
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From left, Malia Kearns, 8, Elliot Erlmett, 4, and Hayden Grimmett, 8, race down the hallway during a carnival-style book fair at the George Washington Elementary School in Eleanor, W.V., on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.
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Putnam Princess’. Charleston, W.Va.
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JROTC 1st Lieutenant Kristopher Collins of Tolsia High School waits with other cadets for during the state Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps drill competition at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston, W.V., on January 27, 2018. Numerous high schools from around the state participated in the competition which judged their abilities to execute specific drill movements and tasks.
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Joined by Smokey the Bear, West Virginia First Lady Cathy Justice plants a dogwood tree in front of Sharon Dawes Elementary School in observance of Arbor Day in Miami, W.V., on Thursday, April 26, 2018.
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A great pair of socks are seen during a special session of the state House of Delegates in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, August 13, 2018. The Delegates are voting on 15 articles of impeachment against the four sitting judges of the West Virginia Supreme Court.
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Members of the House Judiciary Committee walk by portraits of the remaining court Justices while touring the offices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in Charleston, W.V. on Monday, August 6th, 2018. Justice Menis Ketchum retired from his seat one day before West Virginia lawmakers were to consider whether the state Supreme Court justices deserved to be impeached for corruption.
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President Trump takes the stage at a rally in support of the Senate candidacy of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Monday, Aug. 21, 2018, at the Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, W.Va.
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West Virginia State Senator Richard N. Ojeda II (D – Logan, 07) poses for a portrait in Logan, W.V., on Thursday, February 22, 2018. Ojeda is seeking the democratic nomination to run for the 3rd congressional district.

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Wyoming East students watch a free throw during the WVSSAC Class AA North Marion-Wyoming East girls basketball state championship at the Civic Center in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 10, 2018.
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Redskins cheer as Lindsey Phares runs to home plate after hitting a home run during the Hurricane High School-John Marshall softball game for the AAA state championship title in Vienna, W.V., on Wednesday, May 24, 2018
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Hurricane High School Redskins celebrate their victory over Wheeling Park High School in the Class AAA state baseball championship at Power Park in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, June 02, 2018
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East Fairmont’s team captain Corey Fluharty hides his face in his shirt as Winfield celebrates their victory during the Winfield-East Fairmont AA-A boys State soccer championships at the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex in Beckley, W.Va., on November 03, 2018.
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Former Timberwolves linebacker Owen Porter embraces Tyson Hall (22) after the team’s loss to the Martinsburg Bulldogs in the the Class AAA WVSSAC championship football game at Wheeling Park Stadium in Wheeling, W.V., on Saturday, December 01, 2018.
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West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Reese Donahue (46) kisses his girlfriend Sarah Moore after proposing to her following the mountaineers victory over the University of Kansas Jayhawks with a final score of 38-22 in Morgantown, W. Va., Saturday Oct. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Craig Hudson).
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Monserrate. Bogotá, 
Colombia
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Villa De Leyva, Colombia

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Villa De Leyva, Colombia
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Chingaza National Natural Park. Colombia
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Fall is in full swing at the Glade Creek Grist Mill inside Babcock State Park near Clifftop, W.Va., on Saturday, October 27, 2018.
WVA Manufacturing. Alloy, W.V.
WVA Manufacturing. Alloy, W.V.
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Lightning over the Kanawha River. Charleston, W.Va.
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The John E. Amos power plant is seen from a field outside of Winfield, W,Va., on Thursday night, August 23, 2018. Built in the 1970’s, the plant is the largest in the American Electric Power system. Many of AEP’s smaller coal-fired power plants in Appalachia closed in response to environmental regulations such as the Clean Power Plan in 2015.

 

Imposter syndrome, and the personal cost of a career first mentality.

Imposter syndrome, and the personal cost of a career first mentality.

I’ve been working on this post for awhile, and have thought of writing it for even longer. My hope is that someone reading will relate in some way, and for them to know that they’re not alone in what they’re feeling.

There are conversations happening now that are long overdue in our industry. From the gross lack of representation by women and people of color in our newsrooms to a culture of sexual harassment and predatory behavior that has been tolerated for far too long. Another conversation happening has to do with mental health. I think that for a lot of us, and indeed most of us, this is far more than just a job. It encompasses not just what we do but who we are on a fundamental level. This is often celebrated as doing what we love and loving what we do, but beneath the surface can be much darker. There are aspects of this field that can be toxic and should be addressed.

It’s a well worn stereotype that photojournalists don’t take care of themselves. That we drink too much, sleep too little and often forget to look after our own needs and the needs of those close to us. For some of us, this attitude grows in response to the things we’ve seen on the job, while for others, the job itself may be a means of distraction to ignore longstanding issues in our own lives; or perpetuate them.

I’ve never achieved any kind of balance in my life, and this career only exacerbates that imbalance. Up until this point, I’ve given all of myself to my job. I was constantly seeking the validation that comes from being overworked. It’s only been the past year or so that I’ve started to feel comfortable introducing myself without connecting my identity to my job title. Until now, I felt who I was outside of my job wasn’t someone really worth knowing.

This job can be an especially hazardous if you’re someone who has dealt with addictive tendencies and/or depression, as I have for most of my life.

I was twelve when I had my first panic attack. I have no memory of what triggered it, but I remember the wave of feelings I had never felt before that escalated with every second that went by; fear, dread, despair, an overwhelming urge to run with nowhere to go. The attacks continued for years, becoming more frequent and severe as time went on. They always seemed to come from nowhere, and little by little they consumed the things I enjoyed, as I would avoid any place where an attack occurred for fear of triggering another. Unfortunately, this was just the first step down a rabbit hole that would take me years to climb out of.

Around the same time as the attacks escalated, I discovered porn. While most people watch porn on a casual basis, I used it for entirely different reasons. I started relying heavily on it to cope with my panic attacks and the anxiety they produced in me, and like any unhealthy coping mechanism it worsened over time. It became a substitute for actual human connection and intimacy, then eventually a way to numb whatever stress I felt. I’ve been addicted to porn for 13 years, and while I’m far better now than I used to be, I struggle every day with the psychological damage it has done to everything from my sense of self worth to my very identity.

When you spend large amounts of time doing something most of the people in your life know nothing about, you feel the need to act like you’re fine no matter how you actually feel. After pretending long enough, the person everyone else sees on the outside slowly becomes a stranger to yourself; just a role that you play. You feel like an actor starring in your own life, performing for everyone else around you, when the person you wish you could convince the most that things were okay is yourself.

I felt trapped in my own role, unable to be honest with anyone. I mean really, How do you tell your friends you’re half an hour late to meet up because you were looking at porn for four hours and needed time to pull yourself together? Or your editor who is asking for pictures you should have already sent in but didn’t because you were watching for six? Or tell your parents that you’re yelling at them for no reason because you watched for eight and want to hurt someone that’s not yourself?

It was bad enough that I had such an issue with porn, but around 2012 I was prescribed Adderall. When you can get more done in a day than you would in a week, it’s hard to let that go. I burned through prescriptions and made my own schedule for the pills; going days without them so I could take them all at once. The worst part about my Adderall abuse was that it lent itself perfectly to my other addictions; the pills fueling not just all of my work in the day but porn binges that routinely would last all night. The cycle of abuse would inevitably land me in a deep, debilitating depression when the Adderall ran out; a cycle that lasted almost four years.

Throughout it all, I used the pursuit of my career, school, photo assignments, and all of the accompanying stressors as both a distraction and justification for my self destructive tendencies. Rather than take steps to deal with my problems, I quarantined them as best as I could. It didn’t matter how fucked up my personal life was, so long as I was doing well professionally. I poured as much of myself into my work as I could so there’d be as little of me left as possible by the time I went home; as outside of my career there was nothing to look forward to but my own loneliness, addiction and shame.

I was fully aware that the pain I was feeling was all self inflicted, yet I was unable or unwilling to stop. Because of that, I felt emphatically unworthy of all that I had. I was convinced that I didn’t deserve my family, friends, job or the chances I’d been given. I never allowed myself to feel any happiness from my success, at least not for long. Whenever something, anything good happened to me, it felt alien and frightening. There’s not one happy memory of career milestones I have that isn’t coupled with a number for the hours of porn I watched afterwards; to bury whatever happiness I felt beneath the familiar weight of the guilt and shame I knew so well.

As things got better for me in my career, the worse these feelings became. With every step up I seemed to take, every assignment completed and picture published, the voice in the back of my head that never stopped telling me I don’t deserve it grew a little louder. To the people around me I might have seemed like I was living my best life. The truth was that my addictions and depression were never worse than when things seemed to be at their best. For most of the time throughout it all, I couldn’t have felt more of a failure.

Shortly after my internship with the Chronicle ended I was arrested for driving drunk. The DUI fundamentally altered the course of my career, which I wrote about in a previous post. I’d like to say that the experience changed me, but I continued to struggle with my addictions for some time after. It’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve taken on the slow day by day work of trying to make myself a better person.

There’s a tendency in this industry to romanticize running yourself into the ground for the sake of the job; especially at the beginning of your career. However, there’s a difference between giving your very best effort and being self abusive. It took me a long time to learn that. This career field, with all of the unique pressures associated with it, is easier to do that with than most. Yes, this job requires sacrifices; the willingness to move around, routinely cancel personal plans or risk experiencing trauma that may come from situations you cover. But no job should require your physical or mental health as payment for success. As much as we love what we do, we are not our jobs, nor should we be. We are people first.

Not everyone is going to relate to my struggle with addiction, especially to something like porn. But my addictions have always in part been driven by an unshakeable feeling of inadequacy; that no matter how much work or time I put into photojournalism, it is never enough. I know a lot of shooters who struggle with that feeling, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s because we are all just that broken inside, or if there is something about this industry, or more directly what we have been taught to believe about it, that makes us feel that way? I think that’s a conversation we need to have.

I have a lot of regrets about the person I have been for much of my life. The relationships I’ve neglected, the people I’ve hurt, the time I’ve wasted. I’m doing what I can to try to be more emotionally available in ways I couldn’t be before. I’m seeing a counselor regularly, which has made a big difference. I feel more devoted to my career than ever now, the difference is that my dedication is no longer from a place of desperation but of choice.

For those who might be reading this that are dealing with addiction, depression or both. You’re far from alone. There is a larger conversation surrounding addiction and mental health happening now than ever before. It’s a conversation that’s long, long overdue. There is help, and there is hope. Talk about it. There is professional help available that really does make a difference.

As someone who has failed themselves countless times, and still does, you need to know that whatever personal failures you may be dealing with, you are worthy of happiness. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of being valued, and you are worthy of success. You are worthy of being the best you that there can possibly be. You are worthy of yourself. It’s never too late to be the person you want to be, and it’s never too soon to forgive yourself and embrace who you are.

From the Desk: Notes and thoughts on one year in West Virginia

From the Desk: Notes and thoughts on one year in West Virginia

It’s now been a year and two months since I moved to West Virginia.

When I accepted the job at the Gazette-Mail, I was almost a month into living in my best friend’s loft in DC after moving back from South Dakota; where I worked at the Rapid City Journal for four months before being suddenly laid off. Other than Harpers Ferry, I’d spent no time in West Virginia. “why are you here!?” was a common question. Admittedly, the first time I visited Charleston, I wasn’t impressed. From the height of its population of eighty thousand in the 60’s, the city count barely scratched fifty thousand now, and that number showed itself in the numerous closed storefronts and vacant lots that lined the streets. With the exception of Capitol street, every other one seemed like a random mishmash of drab office buildings and parking garages. I liked my apartment well enough, but I knew it’d take some time for me to warm up to this place.

In a city where the median age is 39, making friends in my age bracket hasn’t been easy. Thankfully, that has changed as of recently, and I’m the happiest I’ve been since I moved here. The scene continues to get brighter as new restaurants, cafes, bars and other businesses pop up around town. I’ve made some great friends, and only grown more comfortable here as time has gone on. Meanwhile, West Virginia itself is undeniably beautiful. I’ve swam in more creeks and rivers and done more hiking here then any other place I’ve lived. Nature surrounds you everywhere, and there are few places in the entire country more beautiful than West Virginia in the fall; when the entire state turns into a sea of gold and crimson.

All too often states like West Virginia are depicted in extremely simplistic stereotypes; coal, trump country, moonshine etc. A lot of people would probably be surprised to learn that the coal industry makes up less than 3% of the state workforce, whereas other sectors of the state economy such as healthcare and tourism combined make up over 26%. While it’s true that all 55 counties of West Virginia voted for Trump in the 2016 election, it’s also true that all 55 counties voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. More than that, Democrats dominated state politics for generations. It’s only been over the past 20 years or so that West Virginia’s legislature has flipped to a republican majority. Moonshining was popular in West Virginia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but moonshine has since been legalized and sold as a commercial product. Marijuana growing has long replaced moonshine as the illicit product of choice in West Virginia, with cash flows far more lucrative to its cultivators than moonshining ever brought to its distillers.

Despite a steady stream of stories that come out of here that focus on the things you’d expect to be covered here, the truth is West Virginia is not the backwards, poverty stricken hell hole it’s often made out to be. West Virginia is a complicated state, with a history that is complex and deeply misunderstood. This isn’t to say this state doesn’t have major problems; Near-colonial exploitation of the state’s natural resources for generations by out of state entities that cared little for what collateral damage they inflicted on the land and people, A drug epidemic fueled in part by pharmaceutical companies that flooded West Virginia with prescription drugs, a steady exodus of young people, lack of opportunities, poor education and infrastructure from lack of proper funding. longstanding political corruption that makes a lot of other state governments look saintly in comparison. The list could surely go on.

But I’ve also met a lot of amazing people here; people who love this state and do their best every day to make it better. For each person that may pine for the “good old days”, there’s another person eager to look to a future beyond the resource dependent, boom-bust cycle economy that the state has largely relied on for much its 155 years of existence. I’ve also seen some pretty amazing things. Thousands of teachers across all counties in the state converged for weeks at the capitol demanding higher wages and a stable state health insurance program; a victory that has turned into a movement across the country. 4th and 5th grade students giving presentations to their classmates about everything from ways of solving the opioid crisis to alternative energies, 3d printers and more. People who’ve started farmers markets and greenhouses to alleviate the food deserts that plague the state. People who left the state and came back to open businesses and help their communities grow. I’ve learned a lot living here, and I’m glad I made the decision to do so. I thought i’d end this post with a small gallery of photos in no particular order dedicated to the people who make up West Virginia and give it the spirit it has.

I hope the reader understands, even just a little, that there’s a lot more to West Virginia then what you’ve read or heard. Thanks for reading!

February & March; The Month(s) in Pictures.

February & March; The Month(s) in Pictures.

Hey everyone. Long time no talk. Sorry I’ve been away for awhile. I’ve been meaning to start writing again. A lot has happened in the past couple months. At the beginning of February it was announced that our paper was declaring bankruptcy in order to be sold; and that wasn’t even the worst part. Our buyer was to be a company that was well known for having a penchant to slash newsroom staffs; often by dramatic numbers. None of us had much hope for keeping our jobs, the only upshot to the whole situation was that the process was to take relatively two months to complete; with the final auction being held sometime in later March. Meanwhile we still had a job to do.

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Henry Owens, 3, leans over a pew to retrieve a pretzel he dropped during an afternoon mass at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston, W.W., on Ash Wednesday, February 14th, 2018.
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George Washington’s Zakarie Bailey is dogsled by teammates Ben See, Nick Graham and Hunter Douglas in between matches during the Kanawha County High School Wrestling Tournament at George Washington High School in Charleston, W.Va., on Saturday morning, February 03, 2018.
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Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader embraces Andrea Harrison, a recovering addict during a panel discussion at the University of Charleston in Charleston , W.V., on Thursday, February 15, 2018 after a screening of Sheldon’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Heroin (e)” which focuses on three women dealing with the drug crisis in Huntington. Harrison who thanked the Huntington fire department for providing Naloxone.
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A man walks across Capitol St. on a rainy day in Charleston, W.W., on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018.
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Benjamin Gross, 2, of Beckley, checks out a model train set during the 13th Annual Train Show at the lodge in Coonskin Park in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, February 17, 2018. The show is put on annually by the Kanawha Valley Railroad Association, a non-profit group.
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Braxton County teachers and other staffers congregate in a parking lot before demonstrating at the intersection of 79 in Flatwoods, W.V., on Saturday, February 10, 2018.
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From right, Joyce Bumbus, C K Dolan and Chloe White protest before conducting a walk in outside of Kanawha City Elementary School in Charleston, W.Va., on Friday morning, February 02, 2018.
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Hundreds of teachers and staffers from schools throughout counties in Southern West Virginia are seen at the Capitol building in Charleston, W.Va., on Friday morning, February 02, 2018.

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Teachers and school personnel preoccupy themselves through many hours of Senate deliberations at the Capitol.

I spent the first half of the month mostly shooting high school basketball; the notable exceptions being groups of teachers were staging throughout the state along highways and busy street corners. I knew almost nothing about the various issues facing teachers in West Virginia; that wouldn’t last for long.

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Thousands braved cold temperatures and sustained rainfall to attend a Statewide Day of Action rally on the south steps of the Capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, February 17, 2018. The rally was done in support of education and public employees in their struggle for competitive pay and benefits.
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From left, Heather Myers, Sharon Cobaugh, Jennifer Kesecker and Ashley Bowman demonstrate in animal costumes at the West Virginia State Capitol on the second day of the teacher walkout in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, February 23, 2018. All four are teachers from Eagle School Intermediate in Berkley County.
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Ivan Weikle makes a face at his father while holding a sign in support of PEIA drawn by Lewisburg Elementary School art teacher Jody Wilber (in hat) along Route 219 in Lewisburg, W.V., on Monday, February 26, 2018 on the third day of the statewide walkout by school personnel.
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Colette Brown (back turned), 6, and Emily Knight, 6, draw with chalk on the sidewalk as their mothers who are also teachers from Nitro demonstrate (out of frame) outside of the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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A protest sign is seen outside of the press gallery at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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Hundreds attend a candlelight rally in support of the ongoing statewide teachers walkout outside of the capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, February 25, 2018.
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From left, Capital High School teacher Susie Garrison, George Washington High School student Amelia Engle and Nitro High School teacher Kizmet Chandler smile during a candlelight rally in support of the ongoing statewide teachers walkout outside of the capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, February 25, 2018.

West Virginia has long suffered from a debilitating brain drain, as workers can often make substantially more money doing the very same job in a neighboring state than they can in West Virginia. Teachers are no exception. When it comes to teacher pay, West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation; second only to Mississippi and Oklahoma, where teachers are now staging their own statewide walkout. As one teacher from a group who came from the Eastern Panhandle told me, “I can drive 20 minutes North and make $20,000 dollars more per year than I do right now, or I can drive 40 minutes South and make $27,000 dollars more”. While it’s true that the average teacher’s salary is higher than the average income of most West Virginians, it’s often still not enough to raise their families and pay off student loan debt accumulated to get the necessary credentials to teach, forcing teachers to take a second job to make ends meet. So for many of the teachers that I talked to, the money was less an end in itself than a means to continue doing what they really wanted; to do their part for their communities in educating the next generation of West Virginians.

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Governor Jim Justice stands up to leave a press conference at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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School personnel crowd outside of the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts while waiting for word of an agreement reached between union leaders and Gov. Justice in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018
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The looks you give when you realize that your rank and file are not happy with you…at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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Jennyerin Steele Staats, a special education teacher from Jackson County holds her sign aloft outside of the capitol building after WVEA President Dale Lee outlined the terms for ending the walkout on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
School personnel leave the Capitol grounds after WVEA President Dale Lee outlined the terms for ending the walkout at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.

Teachers and school personnel were also striking for a longer term solution to their insurance plans under the control of PEIA’s (Public Employee Insurance Agency) Finance Board. As reported by the Gazette-Mail’s statehouse reporter Phil Kabler a few weeks ago, “In December, the PEIA Finance Board approved changes in the 2018-19 plan that would have cut benefits and raised premiums by a total of $29 million — primarily through significant premium increases for family and for employee and spouse coverage for most insurees.” While the Governor froze premiums for the coming year, the measure was deemed inefficient as it offered only a temporary solution to the issues of funding that have plagued the agency for years. Because PEIA affected all other public employees who were not permitted to walkout, the striking teachers and school personnel insisted that they weren’t just striking for themselves but for all public employees in their efforts to stabilize the agency. As it stands, a special task force ordered by the Governor in the midst of the strike has been assembled to address the issues.

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Kristen Kief of Jefferson County wears bunny ears, an emblem of the ongoing teacher strike at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures.
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Thousands of teachers and school personnel fill the capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures.
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Teachers line the capitol grounds after the capitol was declared at capacity and admittance was temporarily on hold in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures.
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From right, Wyoming County’s Mullens Elementary school teachers Kara Brown, Katherine Dudley and Nina Tunstalle, along with Lois Casto of Central Elementary school in St. Albans, react to news of a deal reached between the House and Senate for a 5% across the board increase for state workers at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Teachers and school personnel watch a conference committee hearing in session at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures. The hearing was called as a discussion to end the impasse between the House and Senate regarding pay increases for education personnel.

One of the things that admittedly took me by surprise was just how many of the people I spoke with were not merely supporters of the strike but actual teachers or other important school personnel; cooks, bus drivers, librarians, etc. I’ve been to a lot of rallies and protests, but I don’t think i’ve ever been to a demonstration that was almost exclusively made up of the very people the topic of protest was about; and in such huge numbers. On top of that, none of the people I spoke with hesitated when I asked for more than just heir name. In fact they were proud to mention their position, their school and their county; even continuing to do so after they had temporarily lost their legal protection when their Union leaders called the strike off. Hell, hundreds of them wore red shirts with the names of their respective counties like they were team jerseys.

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Senate President Mitch Carmichael is seen as the Senate approves a bill to increase state employee pay by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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State Senators acknowledge the cheers of teachers and school personnel after the passage of a bill to increase pay of state workers by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the state Senate approved a bill to increase state workers pay across the board by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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State Senate Democrats leave the Senate after passage of a bill to increase state worker pay across the board by 5% at the Capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the state Senate approved a bill to increase state workers pay across the board by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Surrounded by Union leaders, Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5% across the board during a press conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; ending the statewide teachers strike after 9 days of school closures.
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Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5% across the board during a press conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; ending the statewide teachers strike after 9 days of school closures.

Another thing I loved was that despite the seriousness of the issues, there was no shortage of creative signs, costumes and lighthearted moments along the sidelines and halls of the Capitol. For me, those quiet moments that happen while everyone else’s attention is elsewhere can often say just as much if not even more than the loudest ones.

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I shot the strike for as many days and as much time as I could. Because of our paper’s connection to the AP my images started appearing all over the place; major newspapers, some networks and even an appearance on Late Night with Seth Myers, haha. It was a strange combination of emotions; feeling the most successful and fulfilled that I’d felt in years, all the while not knowing if I would have a job at the end of the month. The truth is I had convinced myself I was going to lose it, so I went about my work assuming it would be the last big assignment I’d be doing for the Gazette-Mail. Thankfully that didn’t turn out to be the case, but it motivated me at the time to get as much work as I could out there. I finished out the rest of the month shooting as best as I could for the assignments I had. Last Monday was the day we were supposed to find out if we were staying or leaving, with sealed letters placed on each of our desks to let us know if we’d get a rose or not. I had my editor open mine up, and thankfully most of us in the newsroom stayed on board. We did take some bad losses though, especially the loss of our executive editor Rob Byers, who’d dedicated himself  since joining the paper straight out of college to keeping it as successful and important as it has been for West Virginia. Things are still calming down here, but I’m happy to say that at least for now, I can look past the date of March 31 and start moving forward on some stories I want to do and really dive into this state now that Spring is upon us!

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a cheerleader is silhouetted by an American flag as the national anthem plays during the Mountain East Championship basketball games in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, March 04, 2018.
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Wyoming East students watch a free throw during the WVSSAC Class AA North Marion-Wyoming East girls basketball state championship at the Civic Center in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 10, 2018.
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Central’s Taylor Duplaga, left, and Riley Bennington embrace each other after Wheeling Central defeated St. Joseph with a final score of 67-62 during the WVSSAC Class A St. Joseph-Wheeling Central girls basketball state championship at the Civic Center in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 10, 2018.
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Glenville’s Tayana Stewart and Abby Stoller lunge forward with Notre Dame’s Ciara Reed during the Mountain East Championship basketball game in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, March 04, 2018.
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Glenville State College players celebrate after besting Notre Dame college during the Mountain East Championship basketball game in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, March 04, 2018.
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Alex Cook tries regaining control of the basketball during the George Washington-Martinsburg Class AAA boys state title basketball game at the Civic Center in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 17, 2018.

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Owner, barber and stylist Linda Javins cuts Zandrea Wiley’s hair inside Guy’s Cut-N-Shave along Midway Road in Yawkey, W.V., on Friday, March 23, 2018.
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Chef Noah Miller prepares main courses including the pan roasted halibut, seared sea scallops eggplant wrapped swordfish and beef fillet inside his kitchen at Noah’s Restaurant & Lounge in downtown Charleston, W.V., on March 20, 2018.
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Lunchgoers and wall art are reflected on the bar counter at Gonzoburger in Charleston, W.V., on Thursday, March 15, 2018.
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From left, Paul Howard, Mark Burdette, Greg McCoy and Steve Hendricks of Kanawha Valley Pipes and Drums play outside of Bluegrass Kitchen during the 7th Annual East End St. Patricks Day Pub Crawl in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 17, 2018.
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Brenda young is seen with her home that has been heavily damaged by a mudslide along Cabin Creek road in Eskdale, W.V., on Friday, March 09, 2018.
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The aftermath of a house fire on Quarrier street is seen in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, March 09, 2018.
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Kanawha City Elementary school student Derrick Johnson, 5, and his brother David Johnson, 3 stand with others gathered on the steps of the Capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 24, 2018 in solidarity with the March for Our Lives rally in Washington organized by survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “After the Parkland shooting I was scared to death to send my son to school” Their mother Carrie Samuels (not pictured) said.
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State Senator Richard Ojeda, Joel Mckinney, his mother Linda Mckinney and his wife Melissa Clark speak with a reporter inside Five Loaves & Two Fishes Food Bank in Kimball, W.V., on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
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From left, Gracie Pritt, Kennedy Anthony and Parker Pritt react to bubbles being blown by Caroline Barner and Erin Anthony during the Easter Carnival at the North Plaza of the Capitol Complex in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 31, 2018.
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Layla Collins, 2, of Hurricane plays in a puddle during the Easter Carnival at the North Plaza of the Capitol Complex in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 31, 2018.
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Samantha Stalnaker, 14, aims her marble during a match at the 2018 A. James Manchin Memorial Marble Tournament at the Culture Center in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 31, 2018.

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Steady rain and the return of leaves mark the beginning of Spring in downtown Charleston, W.V., on Friday, March 30, 2018.

2017: The year in pictures.

2017: The year in pictures.

If you just want to look at pictures, scroll down.

For me, I look back on three important things this year. Experiencing the landscape of the West, becoming an honorary West Virginian, and the further embracing  of my visual style. The first one happened rather unintentionally. While I had explored the surrounding region of the Black Hills and Badlands to a certain extent, my work hours prevented me from venturing too far out. Once I got over the initial shock of being laid off I began thinking of all the places I’d been meaning to go to. In those few months I made my way to Montana, Eastern Idaho, Western Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and other closer but still important areas. I still struggle to describe the feelings invoked by the landscape there, everything from its vastness to how light seems to dance across it. I think about that land often and wish I could go back there even for a short time. It never felt like I was in just another part of the states, rather it truly felt like a world unto itself.

Eventually, after being unemployed for four months and living off of my severance,  unemployment insurance and tax returns, I moved back to DC and took back my old job at ProPhoto and applied for jobs while crashing at my best friend’s place. On a facebook job page, I saw an opening for a staff photography position at the Gazette-Mail in Charleston; West Virginia’s capital and largest city. With the exception of Harper’s Ferry and a night trip to Shepherdstown, I had never stepped foot in West Virginia. However, I have always been interested in places that hold ideas and assumptions in the American psyche; places that everyone seems to have an opinion about without ever really having been there. Since taking the job nearly six months ago, I have visited many areas of the state and gotten to know the people who call this place home. I can thankfully say that i’ve only come to enjoy this place more as time has gone on. Yes, West Virginia has plenty of problems and issues it has yet to overcome, but this place has plenty of good in it too, and a lot of people who care deeply for its future.

Lastly, and what has personally meant the most to me, has been the overwhelmingly positive response I have received from people here regarding my more artistic images; specifically my long exposures. Long exposures were the very thing that made me fall in love with photography in the first place; a creative method that could take a scene or moment in front of you and reveal so much more than our immediate senses could perceive. Admittedly, it had been a long time since I had regularly taken long exposures (one of my biggest regrets this year being that I didn’t take nearly as many long exposures in South Dakota as I should have). I decided to take it up again as a means of showing West Virginia from a different take, and the amount of enthusiasm with which my paper has embraced those kinds of images coupled with the responses I have received from others have motivated the hell out of me to shoot, shoot and shoot more. It’s been awhile since i’ve felt so compeltely energized, and I think great things are around the corner for 2018.

So here are, in no particular order, my favorite images from 2017.

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Ruben Moya is shrouded behind plastic sheeting while making his way through construction inside the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral, which is undergoing extensive renovations. Charleston, W.V., on November 02, 2017.
Snowy Day along Capitol Street. Charleston, W.V.
Snowy Day along Capitol Street. Charleston, W.V.
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Fairgoers are reflected in a puddle at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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From left, Ana Collins, Ania Jones, Asan Jones and Joshua Gray cool off at the Magic Island splash pad in Charleston,W.V., on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
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Ballet dancers are seen in a long exposure during a performance of The Nutcracker at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston on Wednesday, December 07, 2017. The production, with performances scheduled for December 08-09th, is put on by the Charleston Ballet Company with dancers from the Columbia Classical Ballet and the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra
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Mountaineer Challenge Academy students move past a mural drawn onto a canvas on the wall in the dining room area at the Governor’s Mansion in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, December 05, 2017.
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A herd of bison roam through snowy fields inside the 777 Bison Ranch in Hermosa. The ranch prides itself on raising their bison completely grass-fed.
Passing storm over farmlands Southeast of Columbia Falls, MT.
Passing storm over farmlands Southeast of Columbia Falls, MT.
Pinnacle Buttes, Shoshone Wilderness. Wyoming.
Pinnacle Buttes, Shoshone Wilderness. Wyoming.
Grist Mill. Babcock State Park. West Virginia
Grist Mill. Babcock State Park. West Virginia
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Judy Blough of Montana gives a kiss to a stallion named Felix the cat at the 40th annual Black Hills Stock Show inside Rushmore Plaza Civic Center on Friday afternoon.
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The setting sun casts shadows of parents and students lining the fence during the Hurricane-Cabell Midland soccer game as part of the Class AAA Region 3, Section 1 soccer finals at Hurricane High School on Wednesday, October 18, 2017. Taken on assignment for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
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Alan Withrow of Poca jumps to block Josh Hoffman during a half court game outside of the Nitro High School football stadium during the Wildcats game against the Poca Dots on August 25, 2017 in Nitro, W.V.
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Dancers are reflected in a mirror lining the wall inside the Charleston Ballet studio during a master class on modern ballet in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, June 22, 2017.
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Arika Jayne of Alderson gives some attention to a pig at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Kylie Robinson, forefront, covers her ears as police cars wail their sirens during the third, “Operation Citation” at the Dunbar United Methodist Church in Dunbar, W.Va., on Tuesday, November 28, 2017. Created by the Charleston Police Department Traffic Division, ‚”Operation Citation” honored four Girl Scouts this evening.
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Hurricane players celebrate going into overtime during the George Washington Patriots-Hurricane Redskins football game at George Washington High School in Charleston on Friday, October 27, 2017.
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fall foliage dots the landscape as the girls cross country run is underway during the MSAC Championship at Cedar Lakes in Ripley, W.V., on October 11, 2017.
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West Chester University Goalkeeper Matt Palmer falls to his knees after University of Charleston Defender Armando Tikvic scores a goal to bring the score up to 2-0 during the UC-West Chester soccer game as part of the NCAA Division II tournament’s Round of 16 at Schoenbaum Field in Charleston, W.V., on November 16, 2017. UC would hold the score at 0-2 and advance to play Cal Poly Pomona in Kansas City.
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Charleston Catholic Forward Jordan Keener, right, celebrates with teammates Mills Mullen, center, and Elizabeth Rushworth after scoring a goal against Byrd High School as Eagles Defender Lura Simons collapses to the ground in agony after failing to block Keener’s kick during the Charleston Catholic-Robert C. Byrd soccer game as part of the State Soccer Championships at the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex in Beckley, W.V., on November 04, 2017.
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Hudson Swafford hides his face after missing a putt on the 12th green at the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs. W.V., on Saturday, July 08, 2017.
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From right, David Thompson, Scott Ratliff, Angel Staten, Greg Miranda, Mike Otter, Paul Nemeth and Tim Bolen of the IATSE Local 369 bring down a large American flag after President Trump’s political rally at the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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From left, James Davis of Huntington, Garry Pauley of Charleston and Donna Childers of Huntington wait for the start of Pres. Trump’s political rally inside the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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Violet Jones, 3, checks out the carved pumpkins at the Kenova Pumpkin House in Kenova, W.V., on Halloween night, October 31, 2017.
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Dusk over New River Gorge.
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Johnny “Tarzan” Copley of Salt Lake City base jumps while dressed as a unicorn during the 40th annual Bridge Day on the New River Gorge bridge in Fayetteville, W.V., on Saturday, October 21, 2017.
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Brigette Madden does a solo act during a rehearsal of “CLASSIC, COUNTRY AND ROCK ‘n ROLL.” by the Charleston Ballet at the Civic Center Little Theater in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, October 17, 2017.
John Amos Power Plant from across the Kanawha River. Poca, WV
The John E. Amos coal-fired power plant operates Sunday night on the banks of the Kanawha River. The plant was upgraded to meet new environmental regulation standards by 2015. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump is attempting to roll back the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.
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Evening commute on I-64. Charleston, W.V.
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Crowds of people gaze and snap photos of totality during the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.
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Runners begin at the Capitol building for the Charleston Distance Run in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, September 02, 2017.
at Dolly Sods on Sunday, September 24, 2017.
Dairy Queen. Buckhannon, W.V.
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Dunk a Wench. Maryland Renaissance Fair.
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Cunningham Memorial Park is alight in a sea of candles late Saturday night in St. Alban
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Lights from a house are illuminated in fog that blankets the road ahead under a starry sky somewhere around routes 39 or 28.
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Truck lights frame a house in this long exposure taken in the town of Daily along the Seneca Trail.

 

The Month in Photos: September.

The Month in Photos: September.

This month was one of those that’s at times representative of what it means to be a staff photographer. One week you’re shooting assignments like marathons and high intensity sports while the next is dominated by court appearances, press conferences (and a golf game). Nonetheless, September was a really good month. Iv’e started pitching and pursuing my own stories for the first time, and have gotten back into shooting long exposures at night; something I used to do a lot and very much have missed. All this combined has had me feeling very good about where I am and what i’m doing. I’m also writing other blog posts that I’ll be putting out soon, including a second part to my post about advice to photographers starting out.

I’ve got a couple trips planned to various parts of the state as Fall sets in and the leaves change.

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Outtakes from the month of September

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The Month in Photos: August.

The Month in Photos: August.

So since it’s now September, I thought I’d make a little post about the month of August, which was a fantastic month for images. Easily the best so far since I started in late June. Shooting nearly every day again after not doing so for almost 5 months has me feeling sharper visually, and with fall right around the corner, a time in which West Virginia explodes in color, the photos will hopefully continue to keep coming.

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Alan Withrow of Poca jumps to block Josh Hoffman during a half court game outside of the Nitro High School football stadium during the Wildcats game against the Poca Dots on August 25, 2017 in Nitro, W.V.
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Landon Coleman, 11, playfully runs a relay around stacked arrows before target practice as part of the Centershot program at St. Peters church in St. Albans, W.V., on Wednesday, August 30, 2017.
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A group of students walk down a long hallway during open house at Herbert Hoover High’s new portable complex in Elkview, W.V., on Friday, August 11, 2017.
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Lightning strikes over a rest stop along Route 240 in Virginia last night.
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Belinda Harnass, Housing Authority director for Mingo County, looks into a room at the Sycamore Inn in Williamson, W.V., on Wednesday, August 09, 2017. The County is moving to turn the Inn into a center for continued sobriety of recovering addicts, to the ire of the local city government.
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Authorities remove cats from a residence in Kanwaha City on Tuesday, August 29, 2017. An estimated 80 + cats were removed from the house.
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Many friends, family and members of the Brother’s Keepers Motorcycle Club, of which Denise Fernatt was a member, gathered for a candlelight vigil in her honor at Hughes Creek Community Church of God in Cedar Grove, W.V., on Friday, August 11, 2017.

Of course, we all know that the Great American eclipse stole the show this month, and for perfectly good reason; It was nothing short of breathtakingly ethereal. I drove down to South Carolina for it, where my good friend Josh Morgan is currently working as a staffer for the Greenville Tribune. It was great catching up with him and our friend Angus Mordant, who does work as a stringer for the NY Daily News. We spent the weekend together and shot the totality, Josh from the top of the highest building in the city and Angus & I down in Falls Park where hundreds had gathered to watch. As totality neared the area began to turn a golden hue as though it were late afternoon, and the crowd cheered with every noticeable shade the area became darker. As soon as totality hit however, late afternoon almost instantly turned to dusk. People shouted and applauded witnessing this unbelievable spectacle; a black orb vivid in a cobalt blue sky where the sun had been a moment ago. Looking through my camera, the corona of the sun was clear as a beautiful and delicate light that seemed to dance around the moon, rolling outward like a shining wave. Knowing time was very short I quickly snapped a few close images before shooting what I could of the surrounding landscape and the people lining the bridge directly above us. I was glad to be able to have some kind of foreground in the image, as it was 2:39 in the afternoon and the sun lie almost straight up above us.

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Crowds of people gaze and snap photos of totality during the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.
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Falls Park goes dark during totality of the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.
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The great American eclipse is seen in totality in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.

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Nathan Kagolanu and Fiorella Tello wait for totality of the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.

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Shawn Anthony, 6, of Charlotte looks through his solar glasses during the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.

This month started out continuing ride alongs with EMS supervisors in the city as they went from scene to scene, with breaks in between at the firehouses on either side of the city. While the focus of the written story was on new mindfulness classes offered to fire & ems personnel, I had the opportunity to speak with them more directly about the effects that the opioid epidemic is having on their resources. I learned that one of the largest issues that they are facing is the avalanche of calls received that turn out to be false alarms, one common scenario being calls from bystanders calling about someone lying on the ground who they believe might be overdosing, only for personnel to show up and discover it’s just a person taking a nap on the grass. While personnel are grateful that bystanders do call in when they think their might be a problem, they are frustrated that most of the time, bystanders themselves will do nothing to see if the person is in fact just someone napping on the grass, instead their first and only step being to call 911. Another issue is that because the epidemic is so pervasive, crimes that in the past may not have been necessarily drug related, from domestic abuse to car accidents and robberies, are now often a factor. It seems, there are few crimes committed now in which drugs are not involved.

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EMS Supervisor Mace and Paramedics tend to a woman believed to be overdosing on methamphetamine on a street in Charleston, WV on August 2, 2017. Paramedics have been flooded with calls related to overdoses, stretching their already limited resources.

 

Paramedic personnel at work in Charleston on July 26, 2017.
Paramedic personnel at work in Charleston on July 26, 2017.
Captain Mark Strickland drives on patrol in Charleston on July 26, 2017.

This month was also the first time that I photographed one of Pres. Trump’s rallies. I think anyone that knows me already is well aware of my feelings regarding him, so i’ll move past this one.

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Wayne County residents Elaina Farr, Sydnie Benson and Emily Robinson hold up a Donald Trump campaign flag as Carla Russell watches outside the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington on Thursday afternoon. Trump, the nation’s 45th president, was scheduled to make a campaign-style appearance in Huntington on Thursday evening.
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From left, Betsy Forester, Sally Roberts Wilson and Charlene Vaughan protests outside of the Big Sandy Superstore arena before Pres. Trump’s rally in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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From left, James Davis of Huntington, Garry Pauley of Charleston and Donna Childers of Huntington wait for the start of Pres. Trump’s political rally inside the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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President Trump holds up a sign handed to him by a supporter during a political rally inside the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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A protester is forcibly removed during Pres. Trump’s political rally inside the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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From right, David Thompson, Scott Ratliff, Angel Staten, Greg Miranda, Mike Otter, Paul Nemeth and Tim Bolen of the IATSE Local 369 bring down a large American flag after President Trump’s political rally at the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.

This month was very varied in subject matter. While July saw mostly tennis and golf, this month had me shooting a little bit of everything. I particularly loved going to spend a day at the state fair, despite having a pretty bad cold at the time. I’d never photographed a state fair before, and I love the visuals they bring about in my head-The stock shows, the carnival rides that turn into a sea of blinking vivid lights in motion at dusk, the cheap food and of course, waves of people from every corner of the state.

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Fairgoers are reflected in a puddle at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Maci Bostic, 5, and Aubree Blake, ride teacups at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Alex Hobbs, 7, of Monroe County sits on a motorcycle ride at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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A bingo booth is seen at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Abigail Okes of Okes Family Farms in Raleigh County shaves Jack, a Yorkshire pig before the showmanship show in the morning at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Edith Wade of Blue Rock Swine gives a wash to a Chester White pig before tomorrow’s show at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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At the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Isabell Vaughan, 11, shares a quiet moment with ruby red, a heifer calf at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Rylan Vaughan, 11, walks ruby red the heifer calf after a wash at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Arika Jayne of Alderson gives some attention to a pig at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Children run inside an obstacle course at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Kaysee Amick helps her nephew Brenten Ritchea, 4, win a shooting game at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Karl Riffe and his son Garrett, 12, enjoy a ride at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.

This month also saw the beginning of football and soccer! Two sports iv’e come to very much enjoy shooting, not only for the action on the field but even mores for all that happens off it!

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Winfield’s Sydney Cavender and Peyton Frohnapfel collide with Midland’s Maddie Meehling and Rayen Ciccollen during the Winfield lady Generals match against Cabell Midland at Winfield high school on Tuesday, August 22, 2017.
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Fans Katie Burns, Lexi Crompton and Maddie Dawson wave the Hurricane flag during the Hurricane Redskins-Winfield Generals football game at Hurricane High School on Friday, August 25, 2017.
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Trevon Scruggs, 10, runs through for a touchdown as Noah Petty and Brycen Orcutt try to block him as they play a makeshift game on a grassy field before the South Charleston Black Eagles -George Washington Patriots football game at South Charleston High School on Thursday, August 24, 2017.
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Jr. ROTC cadet Hydiah White dances to music played over the loudspeakers as Dillon Tucker laughs before the South Charleston Black Eagles -George Washington Patriots football game at South Charleston High School on Thursday, August 24, 2017.
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The South Charleston Black Eagles make their entrance before their football game against the George Washington Patriots at South Charleston High School on Thursday, August 24, 2017.

Well that’s it for now. Iv’e got a number of other written blog posts on the way, so they’ll be coming out soon! Thanks for stopping by.

-Craig H