Character Profile of RonDell Pooler

Last spring I met RonDell Pooler, a field coordinator for an organization called Washington Parks & People. He told me a story about a turning point in his life that has taken him on a journey to find his true self and transform communities that he says he once "helped destroy."

I returned to D.C. two months later to capture his story with a good friend and producer, Ugonna Okpalaoka. His story was one that we both felt very passionate about telling, and it was also an intentional exercise in creating a narrative from a character’s perspective. 

Get More Than Just a Portrait

When I called senior citizen activist, Ann A. Stewart, to schedule a portrait shoot of her for a New York Times article, she shared with me that she would be attending a meeting for her civic engagement group the following day. Little did she know, she had just peaked my appetite for visual variety. Although the assignment was to simply capture her in her residence, I asked her if I could attend the meeting and photograph her interacting with her fellow activists. She agreed and I captured both a portrait at her residence and a candid moment at the meeting. The extra effort paid off and the Times published both moments.  

While a portrait is nice, capturing the subject interacting with their environment, as an editor recently mentioned to me, is often, "a much better picture than a portrait."

Ann A. Stewart. CREDIT: Mylan Cannon for The New York Times

Ann A. Stewart. CREDIT: Mylan Cannon for The New York Times

BOSTON, MA – MARCH 13, 2014: Community activist, Ann A. Stewart, 89, attends a monthly Massachusetts Senior Action Council chapter meeting held at Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Dorchester neighborhood. CREDIT: Mylan Cannon for The New York Times.

BOSTON, MA – MARCH 13, 2014: Community activist, Ann A. Stewart, 89, attends a monthly Massachusetts Senior Action Council chapter meeting held at Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Dorchester neighborhood. CREDIT: Mylan Cannon for The New York Times.

Fundraising Video For The Boston Marathon

I recently worked with a friend who is running this year's Boston Marathon to create a fundraising video promoting her goal of raising $10,000 for victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. We spent a Sunday shooting and then I tackled the editing the following day. 

The shooting was a bit impromptu but thanks to our concept meeting a couple weeks prior, we were pretty clear on the message and visual approach we were aiming for. 

If you're interested in supporting my friend Cecille please visit this link to contribute as much as you can:  http://www.crowdrise.com/OneFundBostonMarathon2014/fundraiser/cecillejoan

Concept meeting over a disappointing milkshake at Trident Cafe in Boston.

Concept meeting over a disappointing milkshake at Trident Cafe in Boston.

Location Portrait in Cambridge Apartment

A friend recently asked me to make a portrait of him in his Cambridge apartment. He's incredibility personable and fortunately for me that comes across easily in front of the camera. He's also quite the scholar so layering that part of his character into the image was important. 

The key light I used was a hot shoe flash in a 90 cm octa softbox - my go-to light. But getting that to make the subject look nice was the easy part. 

The challenge was highlighting the personal library in the background just enough so that it would complement and not compete with the foreground. To do this, I introduced two additional lights: a Lowell hot light and the lamp you see in the background. 

 

My subject was great, and even patient enough to double as my photo assistant – Yup that's right, I used my subject as my photo assistant! 

My subject was great, and even patient enough to double as my photo assistant – Yup that's right, I used my subject as my photo assistant! 

Innovation

(Mylan Cannon for The New York Times)

(Mylan Cannon for The New York Times)

It's moments like this New York Times shoot at the Harvard Innovation Lab that make me consider going to business school one day... Then I look at Harvard M.B.A's like the co-founders of HourlyNerd and wonder if I would be able to keep up. Rob Biederman, Joe Miller, Pat Petitti, and Peter Maglathlina co-founded a company that serves as a marketplace for companies to hire M.B.A's for consultancy projects. After a couple of environmental portraits and candid shots, the shoot took no longer than an hour, and would have probably took less had I not pestered my poor subjects, out of my own curiosity, with a barrage of questions about their work. I'm not sure if I fully followed all of their responses as I nodded along to unfamiliar business terminology but the whole experience felt like a lesson from an entrepreneurship class. I love seeing creativity and innovation intertwined with technology and competence. I wonder if one of these guys will ever be the subject of my favorite Times feature, Corner Office.

This story, Starting a McKinsey for Small Businesses, was written by Eilene Zimmerman for the Times small business blog, You're the Boss

Harvard M.B.A students who co-founded the consulting company HourlyNerd pose at the Harvard Innovation Lab in Boston, MA. From left to right: chief financial officer Peter Maglathlin, co-chief executive officer Rob Biederman, co-chief executive Officer Pat Petitti, and chief of operations officer Joe Miller. (Mylan Cannon for The New York Times)

Harvard M.B.A students who co-founded the consulting company HourlyNerd pose at the Harvard Innovation Lab in Boston, MA. From left to right: chief financial officer Peter Maglathlin, co-chief executive officer Rob Biederman, co-chief executive Officer Pat Petitti, and chief of operations officer Joe Miller. (Mylan Cannon for The New York Times)

Mylan Cannon for The New York Times

Mylan Cannon for The New York Times

Learning the Process of Advocacy in Chicago

One recent project I filmed in Chicago for the C5 Association of Youth Programs documents a four-day trip where youth learned about the process of advocating for issues in their communities. The video serves as both an internal and external communication about a trip that the association funded and piloted for the first time.

 Launching a pilot national initiative, the Association of C5 Youth hosted its first National Youth Summit. 16 students representatives from C5 sites across the country explored the process of advocacy at work in the corporate, governmental, and non-for-profit domains.

Find out more about the C5 Youth Foundation here http://www.c5leaders.org

My Toughest Client; My Father

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These days during my returns home to South Carolina, it's rare not to be asked by the family to photograph a reunion, a birthday, or a newborn. Every family has one token photographer right? 

 For my time-off during Memorial Day weekend, my father asked me to take a new business portrait of him. When it came down to presenting him with the selects, he insisted on seeing more. I argued with him for a while assuring him that my aesthetic judgement needed no second guessing. These were the best from the batch, I maintained. He didn't concede, so I turned over the computer with all one hundred frames on the screen. He looked through each one. And even though in the end, he went with the one I had originally chosen, the process reminded me of how much my father isn't fond of letting others make decisions for him... And when I think about, neither am I.

 

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Samurai at MFA for NY Times

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is currently running an exhibit on a collection of Samurai artifacts. The New York Times recently asked me to capture the scene of the space and some of the main pieces of art. It's an impressive display of the samurai's mastery of both his aesthetic and combat sensibilities.

Art critic Holland Cotter wrote the review of the collection in the Weekend Arts section of the paper.

SAMURAI: Samurai exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

SAMURAI: Samurai exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

SAMURAI: Samurai exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

SAMURAI: Samurai exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

SAMURAI: Samurai exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Read the review here Fighters With a Wardrobe to Match

Non-for-profit Video - Krystal Edwards' Profile

I was recently commissioned to produced a video for Crossroads for Kids, a youth development non-for-profit, for their annual spring fundraising event. Working closely with the director of communications, Caitlin McGillicuddy, I spent about three days filming one of their graduating students, Krystal Edwards. The goal was to illustrate the story of her five-year experience as a participant in the organization's leadership development program, C5 New England. The video was later screened at the fundraising event as an introduction to Krystal's keynote address.

Meet Krystal, Crossroads Class of 2013. Spend a few minutes with her story, her accomplishments and her goals and you will spend the rest of the day inspired by this incredible young woman.

 

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Wyoming Youth Challenge - C5 New England

I just spent two weeks working in Wyoming with a Massachusetts based youth leadership program called C5 New England. The five year program works with inner city youth guiding them toward leadership competence and community engagement. Every year the third year teens participate in an eight day hiking trip through the Big Horn Mountains. The experience is no small matter and is meant to challenge the teens in a new and stressful environment. The end result is hard to express in words or pictures. These teens leave this experience with a whole new perpective that will, no doubt, influence them for the rest of their lives.

Gospel and Soul in the City of Lights

When thinking of Paris, gospel music isn't usually among the first thoughts that colors the imagination. But over the past few weeks, I've had the wonderful pleasure of spending some time with an amazingly talented French gospel group ,Generation Gospel, as they prepared for a concert in June. When they asked me to make their portrait I was thrilled. The final product, though not perfect, turned out great. And fortunately I was able to execute the shoot somewhat comprehensibly in French...whew.