‘The Unwanted’ : Photographing The Homeless In Vegas

Over the past year, Thilde Jensen has made 3 trips to Vegas to work on her project ‘The Unwanted‘. The first trip she did alone and spent a month living out of a tiny RAV4 with all the seats ripped out and a small bed built so she could sleep on the passenger side of her car. The second trip I went with her and we lived out of a much larger and more luxurious Toyota Sienna minivan for about 3.5 weeks. This spring Thilde was one of twelve people awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography. We talked about it and decided that it made sense to make another trip back to Vegas to photograph the homeless again. Every trip she has made has opened more doors for her and the pictures she has gotten has been better and better. Our last trip spanned almost a month and it was by far the most intense trip yet.

Thilde’s work captures the raw intensity of street life in large format film. Rain and Lost in Syracuse.

When I think about our trips across the country and the time Thilde has spent pounding the pavement for pictures the word that comes to mind is ‘Hard’. I think there is a lot of people who think that anyone can take good photographs and that getting out there and doing the work is somehow easy. Thilde and I woke up every morning at 5 AM so that she could drive into town and be ready to photograph as soon as the sun came up. After dropping me off in Red Rock canyon to hike & freeclimb for several hours, Thilde would drive into Vegas and take pictures until the sun would be too high in the sky, and then we would break for lunch for a few hours. Every evening we would head back into Vegas to catch the late afternoon light for a second session. Our photography routine caused one day to blur into another. Our lack of hygiene and access to showers made both of us feel like we were essentially homeless and living out of our car. People in Vegas would start to make an effort not to look at us and give us a wider berth when walking by us and soon we began to understand how a lot of the people living on the street felt. The most shocking part of our journey was to experience first hand what I can only describe as the accelerated deterioration of our nation.

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In Dust We Trust : Burning Man 2016

Returning to Reno from the Playa this year Doug and I were high on life. This year had been the best burn yet and the desert had left us feeling raw to the bone. We had a bunch of food left over that we wanted to give to a homeless person. The first homeless guy we found could not accept any food as he had just had his last supper. He was dying of cancer and was headed to the hospital to be fitted with a feeding tube. Oh yeah, this is reality. Full of pain and suffering and death. Somehow after 10 days at Burning Man we had completely forgotten about the real world.

dancingflames

It hit us like a ton of bricks.

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Kite Hydrofoiling :My Healthiest Addiction Yet

About 5 years ago I was first introduced to Hydrofoiling with a kite by my good friend Norman McGuire (forum name kiterider) from Montreal, Quebec. He didn’t know me well enough to know what a risk he was taking to let me use his fancy carbon fiber Carafino hydrofoils as I pretty much destroy everything I touch. I first tried it at the Magdalen Islands which is about 15 hours of driving and then a very long 6-hour ferry ride that costs more than most plane tickets I’ve bought. Over the years, I have been to the Magdalen Islands for about 2 weeks in the summer at least 5 times, and each time Norman would show up with a new hydrofoil to try. One year he told me it was time to go strapless. I thought he was nuts, no one is riding these things strapless. After a few hours of flailing around in the water like a Noob, I finally figured it out. I was hooked.

LiquidForceFoil
When kiting with a hydrofoil you ride several feet above the surface of the water. It’s a unique feeling that is nearly silent, somewhat eerie and incredibly addicting.

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Kiting With Dolphins And Stand Up Paddleboarding With Manatees – 2 Weeks On Florida’s NE Coast

Thilde and I were ready for vacation in early October until her car got hit in Syracuse. After months of hell fighting with the insurance company, we finally got a settlement and got her RAV4 fixed and hit the road. By the time we were able to leave it was December so we decided to drive down to Florida since Thilde had never been there and we knew it would be warm. We ended up having one of my best trips yet and found lots of great spots to SUP, hike, bike and kite at. It was a trip to remember and gave me a new appreciation for our southern flat land state.

We were able to drive the sprinter for miles on the beach which made the kiting really nice.
We were able to drive the Sprinter for miles on the beach which made the kiting really nice. The sand control was a nightmare.

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Will Body Cameras On Police Help To Quell Abuse Or Will It Lead To A Police State?

When I read Orwell’s 1984 30 years ago I never felt like it was that unrealistic. When Edward Snowden released information on the spying that the NSA was doing on American Citizens I wasn’t particularly surprised by that either. As more and more police brutality is caught on camera and published on youtube, well that was to be expected as well. In modern times, almost every US citizen has the ability to record anything they are seeing and with only a press of a button can upload it for the world to see. Within minutes, it can go viral and if the abuse is serious enough then the world can raise its voice in outrage. This is honestly a very good thing.

Just because you don't have anything to hide doesn't mean you shouldn't be interested in your privacy.
Just because you don’t have anything to hide doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be interested in your privacy.

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Denmark’s Super Secret Kiteboarding & Cycling Utopia

Love has taken me a lot of places in this world. You could add Denmark as another country that I’ve visited for love, and then afterwards fell in love with. So often in the US I feel that my life is so good and that I am so blessed that I find it hard to imagine that things could be even better. The two weeks I spent in Denmark with Thilde made me feel even better than that, which I didn’t really think was actually possible.

Thilde and her father Lars
Thilde and her father Lars on a typical Danish street

A year ago Thilde and I committed to each other in a beautiful ceremony in the middle of Cayuga Lake with 150 other kayakers and standup paddle boarders in attendance. It was an amazing ceremony which was attended by no less than 6 Danes who crossed the pond simply to support Thilde. They were great company and seemed to laugh and smile a lot more than your standard American. I was more than a little curious to find out if Denmark really was as great as people kept making it out to be. Free universal healthcare for all, 50% of the urban population bike commutes, you get paid $1000/mth to go to college and new mothers can get 3 years of paid vacation time to take care of their babies. It sounded like a fantastic fantasyland that was too good to be true. Although I was skeptical, after spending 2 weeks there I can confirm that it is a real place and the Danes really do live that way. No wonder they are consistently polled as the happiest people on the planet although they were recently surpassed by Costa Rica probably because they have unmolested rain-forests and Denmark doesn’t. Not liking to be 2nd in anything I’m sure the Danes will buckle down and redouble their happiness efforts to beat the Costa Ricans again.

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Why I Choose To Risk It All Flying Racing Foil Kites In Big Surf

I have a lot of quirks about my personality. One of the strangest quirks is my preference for flying oversized high aspect ratio race kites in overhead surf. It’s clearly ‘the wrong tool for the job’ so why would I risk life, limb and overpriced kites by not flying a nice tiny inflatable kite that turns and maneuvers much faster in the surf?

A kite designed just to race, not ride waves.
Sonic FR a kite designed just to race, not ride waves.

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