A year ago I joined writer and author Steve Friedman at Hiker Heaven, an “angel” rest stop at mile 454 on the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail. The assignment: create beautifully real portraits of the hikers coming through and capture the feel of this unique rest stop on the PCT. Hiker Heaven is legendary on the trail. Thru-hikers arrive to hot showers, soft cots, laundry service, shared kitchen, boxes and boxes of gear and clothing to swap, bikes to check out, laptops for check-ins and a general ambience to enjoy a “zero day” or two or three before heading back into the mountains. Run by Donna Saufley and her husband Jeff in the small town of Agua Dulce at the base of the San Gabriel mountains and at the beginning of the long climb into the Sierras, this angel stop sadly closed it’s doors for this 2015 season. Donna and Jeff are hiking the trail themselves this year – and giving Hiker Heaven a break. Possibly it grew too successful? Was it creating a bottleneck on the increasingly popular PCT? Just this past year the number of hikers increased 50%, many spurred on by Reese Witherspoon in the movie Wild.Whatever the future holds for Donna and Jeff and the army of volunteers that supported all hikers, no questions asked, I feel lucky and honored to have spent days with this motley crew of amazing people: teachers, students, drop-outs, doctors – all walks of life walking a hell of a long way. Check out the June 2015 issue of Backpacker magazine for over 60 of my photographs and a very well written story by Steve…
UPDATE Here’s a link to the Hiker Heaven Backpacker feature online
Update: June 21 – Here are some of the tear sheets from the ads: Last month my crew and I spent a few days creating lifestyle shots for a Laguna Beach luxury resort. Known for being the closest resort to the water’s edge, we slept to the sound of waves crashing on the sand and enjoyed golden sunrises and pink sunsets. Assistants Sara Bielecki, Sara Samario and Aidan Steele helped keep everything looking great along with the models and the team from the ad agency and client. Here are a few shots from behind the scenes of us all working together along with some outtakes:
Out in the current issue of AOPA magazine is actor Chris Meloni, photographed for the magazine back in late November. I have to admit that not owning a TV means I missed a lot of TV shows, Law & Order being one of them. I don’t think Chris holds that against me -he’s a really nice guy and we talked quite a bit about his time in NYC with his family and now his time here in LA. Beyond his jump to fame with Law & Order he’s been busy with lots of film projects – from Man of Steel (!) to White Bird in a Blizzard.
An avid aviator, he earned his full page in the pilots’ go-to magazine.
Here are some additional unpublished outtakes and behind the scenes:
Melvin Sokolsky is an inspiration: creative, dedicated and a man of strong convictions. Along with Irving Penn and Richard Avedon he defined fashion photography in the sixties. But beyond Penn and Avedon he pushed the creative envelope with his surreal and original ideas. The Bubble series created in 1963 for Harper’s Bazaar with model Simone Daillencourt is legendary.
I had the pleasure of visiting him in his Beverly Hills home on Valentine’s day. Melvin is curating an exhibition for a professional photography organization that I’m involved in (I’m the chairman of the LA chapter). APA = American Photographic Artists and was formerly known as Advertising Photographers of America before the name change 2 years ago. Each year APA solicits personal work for an exhibit: 100 images are selected from the thousand plus entries. Called “Off the Clock” it’s work that is done for purely personal reasons, not commissioned or created for a client – truly personal work. Previous curators have been from LACMA or the Getty, this is the first time a photographer will select the 100 images. After a one night show that draws close to a thousand guests the exhibit travels to the lobbies of top advertising agencies in LA over the coming year.
After Melvin brewed coffee for Heidi, Lisette and myself we went downstairs to his office where books by Dali and Rene Magritte shared shelf space with Einstein and Gunter Grass. Melvin has strong opinions and a unique point of view – he was given free reign at Harper’s at the age of 21 and never looked back, moving from fashion to advertising work to film and commercials. We talked about gesture, about people, about the changes he’s seen. Melvin will dive deep into a conversation and just as you feel you’ve moved into a different thread he will bring it back to the original thought with fresh insight: always exploring, always thinking, always looking, ever curious. He and his wife Button were gracious. Melvin definitely charged the creative batteries for me.
Sara’s now on board and helping drive the bus – we worked together a few years back on an opera ad campaign and her enthusiasm, energy and organizational skills are so welcome as we get busy. Her direct email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Terminal Cancer: what would you do if your doctor delivered those scariest two words? Andy Lyon went for a hike: 2655 miles from Mexico to Canada.
I was fortunate to be a part of Andy’s world in a small way: I never knew Andy but felt his spirit powerfully from Casey’s story – from the backpacking forums and cancer communities – from connecting tearfully with his family at home in the hills of northern California. A home where I photographed, from boxes brought out from tender storage, that which was such a core part of his life on the Pacific Crest Trail from border to border. Emotional portraits of objects. Objects with meaning.
It just came out this week in Backpacker magazine and I’m standing in the airport terminal’s magazine stand, waiting for my flight tonight, looking at the glossy green cover and realizing the power of the story that’s inside. There are a lot of powerful stories in those magazine racks I’m sure, but this one’s close to me – it touched me as I’ve dealt with death and loss this year and it touched me as I’ve followed the forums and conversations that are alight in the wake of this being published.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 19, he was optimistic: 90% of those treated survive. But in time Andy learned his fate was different and a few years later with a looming terminal date he believed he would rather “thrust himself into the heart of hardship and beauty to seize control of his fate and challenge his disease in fight to the death.”
Please read Andy’s story in Backpacker. Word is it’s the best story they’ve ever published. It will stay with you.