Blogs > News-Herald In Focus

News-Herald photographers share what they're capturing and give the stories behind the photos.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Teeba's Transformation by Maribeth Joeright

One of the most rewarding stories for me over the course of my career has been covering the journey of Teeba Furat Fadhil Marlowe. She was badly burned by a roadside bomb in 2003 in Iraq when she was just 19 months old. After seeing a photograph of Teeba in newspaper in 2006, Barbara and Tim Marlowe stopped at nothing to get Teeba here for treatment. One year later, Teeba arrived in the United States from Iraq in the summer of 2007 and took up residency with the Marlowes in their Concord Township home.

When I met Teeba, she was horribly scarred and painfully shy. But she was inquisitive. She stared at me as I started to photograph her. She spoke not a word because she did not know our language, only her native Arabic. But like young children, she learned English quickly. She attended Goddard School and took an interest in karate and gymnastics. She made friends easily, despite her obvious handicap.

Over the last five years Teeba has endured numerous reconstructive surgeries, 16 of them to be exact, at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland. More often than not, tissue expanders were part of her daily wardrobe, as noticeable as the bright colors she liked to wear. Teeba had to put up with stares from strangers and unwelcome questions about what happened to her. Even at her young age, Teeba handled the situation with grace. Barbara has always maintained that throughout her ordeal, she has never complained.

Teeba, now 10, will be in fourth grade at Andrews Osborne School in Willoughby. She is a gifted artist and passionate about fashion and international dance. She has close friends who love her as much as she loves them. Her shyness has dissipated just like most of her scars and what has emerged is an engaging, witty and confident young lady.

It's been amazing, watching Teeba's growth and transformation over these last five years and documenting her story through the lens of my camera. I've been inspired by her resilience and sense of humor through all her hardship -- she's endured more in her short life than many of us will in a lifetime. I'm grateful to Barbara and Tim for welcoming me into their home and into their lives from day one. They allowed me to be with them day and night, often during difficult and heart wrenching times. The selfless love of this couple is an example for all of us. The Marlowes and many others behind the scenes have altered the course of Teeba's life for the better. As a journalist, I love a good "making a difference" story.

Read about the latest update on Teeba.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Covering President Obama proves cool and refreshing by Michael Allen Blair

         I had the opportunity last Thursday to cover President Obama's stop in Sandusky.
I couldn't help but draw comparisons to the differences in attending an Obama campaign stop compared to a similar event held by George W. Bush in Kirtland back in April 2005.

The seemingly laid-back atmosphere of the Obama event quickly put my mind at ease that I wouldn't be dealing with many of the issues I dealt with during the Bush visit.

Let's start with the cool factor. Cool music playing and ice cream, now we’re talking. This compared with having to beg for water from a holding pen while covering Bush. I truly was treated like an animal by his staff. The Obama event stood in stark contrast. Although security was obviously still a huge deal and a bit of a pain, everyone was friendly and I was treated with a tremendous amount of respect and dignity. The mere access I was given was head and shoulders above the Bush event.

I was actually close enough to take some cool photos with my iPhone.

After the event was over, Obama even made a stop at Ziggy's bar in Amherst for a cold brewski, how cool is that. The event was held in a city park, again, very cool, lots of shade and did I mention ice cream? In closing, I'm including below a video slideshow of my experience.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Photojournalism in the new news ecology by Michael Allen Blair

There’s been a lot written this past week regarding Advance Publications’ decision to scale back to publishing several of their daily newspapers to three days a week. As you can imagine, this is an unsettling topic among journalists who make their living documenting the daily news.

As a 20-year staff photographer/multimedia journalist, I can more than relate to many of the fears my fellow journalists harbor in an ever-changing industry.
In many ways, I feel like the industry has reached a major crossroads where the decisions that are made now will ultimately result in the success or failure of local newspapers as we know them. One of those decisions will involve the direction of news photography and videography and the work flow issues associated there in.

As consumers of local news turn increasingly toward the Internet for information, local newspaper organizations are faced with the challenge of producing visual content on par with local television news websites and large metro dailies.
Although still photography is still undoubtedly a valuable tool, the web offers the ability to tell stories visually with much greater sophistication than traditional photo pages or slideshows.

As consumers’ web use increases, so too will the demand for sophisticated visual story telling. Moving pictures will become the norm, whether in the form of audio slideshows or short timely videos. The pace at which the majority of people now consume news and information is not conducive to spending significant amounts of time with single still photos on a web page. In many ways it’s a chicken and egg workflow dilemma for photographers.

 In keeping with the our corporate digital first mindset, I believe multimedia journalists need to think video first and still photography second. Sporting events maybe the exception to this when the desire to freeze motion is paramount. With the increasing capabilities of HDSLR  cameras, frame grabs and greater Internet band width, still photography will play an increasingly smaller role in the web world. I envision a day where the majority of images on a web page will be clickable and stream a corresponding video.

While some stories may be suitable for a one-man band approach, others merit a thoughtful team approach. Visual and audio problem solving is typically second nature for today’s photojournalist. The increasing demand for social media and real time, live news coverage has created an opportunity for photojournalists and reporters alike.

It’s through well equipped teamwork that local newspaper organizations will provide the sophisticated visual story telling that will be the rule not the exception in the new news ecology.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

A personal journey home by Michael Allen Blair

Last week I embarked on a personal journey that pushed me to my limits emotionally, physically and professionally.  When I learned that the 2012 National Press Photographers Association Multimedia Immersion workshop was being hosted at Syracuse University, roughly 35 miles from where I grew up in Sherrill, NY., I knew I needed to attend. You see, my relationship with my hometown has been strained lately to say the least.

When my mother passed away in March from stomach cancer, I lost my last physical connection to the city where I grew up. Grasping for something to hang on to, I turned to my childhood memories and the many good times I had growing up in New York’s smallest city.  One such memory involved a surrogate big brother of sorts who used to play baseball with me in my yard. He was my sister’s boyfriend for a short time. I always admired him and thought how nice it would be to have a big brother like him especially in the absence of having a father present. As kids, we grew older and drifted apart, then became great friends in our adult life only to drift apart again.  His name is Nathan and he had such a profound impact on me that I named my first born son after him. 

As I prepared to attend the multimedia workshop, I started to contemplate the possibilities of  focusing on a story from the area in which I grew up. I reached out to Nate and his wife Toni to see if they would be willing to host me for a couple days as I tried to explore the ghost of my past and the technologies of my future.  As always, they were gracious and welcomed me into their beautiful farmhouse in Vernon, NY.
I was always in awe of the success of the couple just a few years my senior. They seemingly had everything going for them, great jobs, a beautiful family, a grand estate with horses and a sprawling property in which to grow the seeds of their future.  I was a little surprised when they agreed to allow me to focus my lens on their life together and the love they have sewn in the once fertile soil of the horse farm.
You see, Nate is a first generation farmer, he didn’t inherit the farm from his parents as many young men do. He did however seemingly inherit glioblastoma brain cancer, the same kind of cancer that killed both of his parents, just years apart.

When I talked with his wife Toni about telling their story she had indicated that the tumor was shrinking and I arrived at the farm with a sense of hope and optimism for my friends. On the second day of filming, Toni returned home and informed me that the cancer was terminal and that my friend had little hope of survival. Suddenly what I had envisioned as a story about renewed hope and optimism was turning into a story about loss and despair.  The video below is a testament to their love and struggle against this horrible disease which has systematically picked away at them like a vulture feeding on the skeleton that was their idyllic life together.
As I drove away from the empty horse barn that day, I was left with a new sense of what’s important in life. It’s not  the things we surround ourselves with in life or our physical connection to a place, it’s the love we have in our lives and our memories of that place called home that are important.