Archive Page 2

An ode to new tools.

View from a place where I felt creative.

This is a horrible statement for a photographer to make — but you know when everything around you starts looking the same? You’ve lived somewhere for a while now, been looking through the same one or two trusty lenses, riding the same escalator in and out of the metro, throwing that same red scarf around your shoulders, pulling on the same black jacket, clicking the shutter in all the usual places? Inspiration starts to wear thin.

Which is why I’m so excited about new projects and new tools. Like a musician playing the same instrument over and over again, or a poet with a static syntactic reportoire, I can’t help but feel that I’ve outgrown my camera, my lenses, my editing tools. I need something new — rather several somethings new — to shake things up and shock myself into creative chaos, expand my toolbox, let’s say.

En fin, here’s to creativity …



Preview of recent work.

“I am a homeless veteran, and I am a jobless veteran, and just the average person right in the middle of every common man story. I am the ordinary downsize. downsize, downsize - nothing. And just let go – just the person to be let go.” -- Marybeth, 60.

Sharing stories

Thanks to a contract with the National Council on Aging, lately I’m out doing what I like most: Collecting stories and conducting interviews. I continue to be amazed by the people who so openly share their lives with me.  Here’s a few photos from this most recent project — eventually you’ll hear Bettie and Joseph’s stories.

[I know, I really need to configure this blog so the images are larger — that will come!]


Under 30 in the Great Recession

See accompanying text here: Under 30 in the Great Recession

I spent the past few weeks interviewing 20-somethings around the country about their experiences in the “Great Recession.”

What began as a personal endeavor — a simple interest in the way the recession is affecting my generation — became a publishable project when I decided to use some of these interviews to create a video for Campus Progress.

My initial interviews left me feeling dissatisfied, however, because I didn’t think I was tapping into something that hasn’t already been reported by major news outlets. A friend told me she was tired the sob-story media framing — The Washington Post recently published an article about type-A kids moving home after college. A BusinessWeek article called us “The Lost Generation.” The New York Times published an entertaining but ultimately depressing piece about Katie and Kristy Barry, twins who can’t find work in New York City.

All of these stories are relevant — in my interviews, I met people swimming in debt, worried about the future and frustrated by their inability to translate hard work into real rewards. Many of them told me that they felt the recession had put their lives on hold. Eddie Smith, a Californian who studied criminal justice in various forms since he was 15, has spent the past two years working odd jobs — a Wal-Mart gig among them — because he can’t find employment in his field. Ben Kreider graduated from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in May but now finds himself overqualified for many jobs and more than $60,000 in debt. Stephanie Mueller, a University of Michigan grad who works in New York City, has entered the world of  “permalancing.” As she explains it, she does full-time work without receiving full-time benefits or any job security.

What I felt was lacking in my story, however, was a way to demonstrate that the recession has not stripped all young people of their agency and their power to act and control their futures.  Then I met Causten Wollerman and Sara Fatell, two twenty-somethings in Washington, D.C., who recently started a baking business. They waltzed into my office to deliver cookies one Wednesday. When I contacted them to ask about the role of the recession in their decision to start something new, Sara told me this: “I think definitely the economy had something to do with this – because if we’d had full-time jobs, we never would have talked about it.”

I decided to focus my video on the two of them. I loved the idea of creativity as the antidote for a depressing economic landscape.

The two launched Grassroots Gourmet, a dessert catering company that delivers to non-profits and political organizations, just a few weeks ago. Their story isn’t one of overnight success — they’ve taken just under 20 orders and are cautiously setting goals for 2010 — but in the video, the two make some excellent points about how the ragged economy can actually affect our generation in positive ways.

Take a moment to watch the video and listen to Sara and Causten ruminate on baking, living green and refocusing our lives as the economic rollercoaster takes us for a ride. It helps that the two are wonderfully charismatic.

And now — on to my next project! For the next two months I’ll be documenting the way the economy is affecting the lives of older individuals. The photographs and stories will be published by the National Council on Aging.


Health care and you …

A note from The Washington Post on the health care bill that just passed in the House:

The House bill

The complex package would affect virtually every American and fundamentally alter vast swaths of the health insurance industry. Starting next year, private insurers could no longer deny anyone coverage based on preexisting conditions, place lifetime limits on coverage or abandon people when they become ill. Insurers would be required to disclose and justify proposed premium increases to regulators, and could not remove adult children younger than 27 from their parents’ family policies.

How has the crisis affected you? A wrap up.

I spent Halloween weekend crowded around a fire with friends. The major topic(s) of discussion — besides the best way to eat burned marshmallows — Who are we? Where are we going? Why is Julie so damn introspective?

As we counseled each other and attempted to finish off Josh’s case of Coors (choice drink for a group of semi-employed post-grads), I decided it’s time to wrap up my “How has the crisis affected you?” series. A bunch of you have written to me (thank you!) and I haven’t responded to all your responses (I’m sorry!). I’m going to post a summary later of my “findings,” but it’s been really interesting to read your contributions.

Here are some additional contributions, a few have been edited for space.

I asked the following questions:

1. How has your life been affected by the economic crisis? What have you rethought, or what have you done differently because of it?

2. How do you think U.S. culture will change because of the economic crisis?

Abby Metty, 23, graduated in May from UNC-Chapel Hill. When she wrote me, she was interning at the Oregonion in Portland. Besides traipsing through Thailand with me, she’s worked on a documentary in Haiti (where, if I am not mistaken, her parents met). Check her out here:

I heard a fellow journalist at the Oregonian say recently that the crisis is a cleansing, pruning circumstance. It helps us cut back, cut out what’s not useful, important, or necessary. There’s also a billboard on my commute home in Portland that looks like a sheet of notebook paper that says: “Recession 101: It’s a test, not a final.” Every time I ride past it, I’m encouraged. I know that however bad it is now, it’s not permanent and that my life and finances are being adjusted in a healthy way, creating healthier philosophies and habits to live by. That being said, I would really like to have a job soon to start paying off my student loans. 🙂

I think this period in our history is curtailing the massive materialism that has grown in American culture over the past decades, especially since the 80s. Technology has wooed us into believing that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want. And now the financial crisis has told us otherwise, has made us think twice and reconsider our purchases. Maybe keeping up with the Joneses isn’t as important as it used to be. Already you can see changes in advertising… all kinds of commercials advertise saving money, getting more for your money, staying closer to home instead of going far away on vacation, etc etc. Seems moderation is returning to American lives and homes. We’ll see if it lasts.

“Mike,” 24, is a self-described “middle class white dude trying not to spend an arm and a leg to live in the Chapel Hill area.” He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2007 and works for the university, so he asked that I not identify him. Save to say, he has a cool beard and good taste in indy music.

I don’t think there’s going to be much of a change in American culture/culture in the U.S. Rather, I think the culture is going to continue the ways it’s been changing in recent years. For several years, we’ve seen people scaling back on spending on some of the fattier parts of their budgets and subsequent industries have suffered. The internet’s given us a lot of “free stuff.” Oeople expect that and with less money and jobs to be had, all that “free stuff” is necessity now. Generally, I think that’s caused us to be a bit  more conscious of what we pay for or what we’re willing to pay for.

Jonathan Ross quit his job in New York in the midst of the crisis, looking for a bit of life experience. At the time he wrote me this e-mail (last month) was working at a winery in Tupungato, Argentina. He’s a beer aficionado and a damn good listener.

Most people were against my idea of NOT going back to my job where it was “Secure” and I was making good money. But I figured this would probably be the best time to take advantage. I guess there isn’t much a I would have done differently. I mean yes it was a concern and I did wonder if I made a mistake, but at the same time I figured, if I failed, if it all went to crap, that I could and would find something to do (perhaps go back to school).

I think that somewhere people need to make a clear choice in what they want…because we can’t have it all (and based on the increased savings rate in the country, it would suggest that the majority of Americans understand this now…finally).  This basically may mean re-thinking how the Federal and State governments act. What services they provide, etc…  I am for health-care reform….big time. For me it should be a right, not a luxury. There are things that are rights…and there are things that are needs….and then there are nice to haves. Somewhere in there the US needs to fight our paranoia about war vs. creating better environments for education, health, and energy. I guess that is how I feel.

Ben Raznick, 24, is a piano player, lifeguard, occasional street singer, former magazine employee, screenwriter and all-around fantastic individual who hails from Colorado but now lives in Buenos Aires.

The Latino Newspaper I worked for in Madison, Wisconsin lost a lot of accounts in sales and advertisements, and I later had bouncing paychecks and the company no longer had enough money to keep me working there. But back in Boulder, the crisis has seemed minimal.

I think families will start reuniting and households will start having multiple generations, something more common in other countries. I don’t know if i came up with that or read it because it seems logical economically. I don’t think the crisis will stop people from eating out or fastfood etc., because those things seem ingrained into our culture. However, after seeing the movie Food Inc., I feel that in spite of our economic crisis, I personally specifically pay more attention to the food I buy and spend MORE money on food if it’s organic/locally produced. I do think that inspite of knowing we are in an economic crisis, many people choose to spend money still on things that benefit their health such as food/gyms/excercise.

I do do think the country will begin a gradual switch to green cars, but I feel as the economy gets better, the green efforts will lose momentum, unless obama continues some other campaign like the clunkers one.

Thank you all for your contributions. My musings to come …


P.S. Bit of shameless self-promotion: Check out Tracy Boyer’s list of “100 Notable Multimedia Professionals.” Obviously I am paying her off …

A diet or a lifestyle change?

Interesting letter in today’s Washington Post. I didn’t read the original article, but this caught my eye:

Time for a lifestyle, not a diet

Oct. 26, 2009

The Oct. 19 front-page article “Frugality falling out of fashion?” achieved little outside of furthering the already distorted mentality of an extravagant and naive America. This mentality is that we are experiencing just a short economic downturn, just a little “extra around the middle,” and all we need is to go on a diet to get rid of it.

Diets don’t work, and neither do “spending diets.” Lifestyle changes and shifts in how we think and behave — that works. And that is what needs to happen to get out of a mess that has been slowly building up for much longer than any of us have been alive.

To the music agent who wants to reward himself for working all the time: try putting in just a few less hours (and, yes, forfeit some financial gain) and use that time to spend with your family and friends, some of the free things in life.

Our happiness needs to begin coming from within our communities and ourselves, instead of from the brand labels of material objects and the false sense of accomplishment that companies have manipulated us into feeling when we buy into their schemes.

Kelly Barrett, Washington


What is this blog?

The "Unstatic Blog" documents the changes going on around you and me. It will ask and answer — and then ask again — how is your world changing? Read and participate in the conversation.


/ˈstætɪk/ –adjective 1. pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary condition. 2. showing little or no change: a static concept; a static relationship. 3. lacking movement, development, or vitality