Tag Archives: camera

Art Rage

February 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Editor’s note: Cassils is a gender non-conforming trans-masculine visual artist. Cassils uses plural gender-neutral pronouns (they, them, their) and asks that journalists do likewise when referring to them. This plurality reflects through language the position Cassils occupies as an artist. For more about gender non-conforming issues, go to: glad.org/reference/transgender 

Powerful art does not need to be explained, though for the uninitiated, sometimes it helps.

Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Cassils thrives on the power of art. The artist (who prefers to be referred to in plural, gender-neutral pronouns) launched their latest exhibit, Cassils: The Phantom Revenant—now on display at the Bemis Center— Feb. 2 with a thrilling live performance called Becoming An Image.

Cassils’ performance involved the transgender, body-building artist attacking a 2,000-pound block of clay using only their body, in complete darkness, with the occasional flash of a camera that illuminated both artist and object, burning the images into viewers retinas.

It was a blend of performance, photography, and sculpture. “I use all parts of my body—my fists, my knees, my elbows,” Cassils says. “I beat this clay to the best of my ability, blind, until I’m basically compromising my ability to hit it properly.”

At the performance, the only sounds were those of Cassils’ labored breathing, as the artist kicked, punched, and even jumped on the earthy clay, accompanied by the click of the camera as the photographer blindly tried to capture the “full-blown attack.”

Becoming An Image was originally conceived of and executed for ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, the oldest existing LGBT organization in the United States, which also happens to house one of the largest repositories of LGBT materials in the world.

“I was asked to make a piece in relationship to the missing gender-queer and trans representation in that archive, because like many archives in museums, it’s filled with the work of, in this case, dead, gay white guys. So rather than making an artwork that spoke to the one or two subjectivities that perhaps matched this description in the archives, I decided to make a piece about the troubling mechanisms of what makes it into the historical canon and what doesn’t.”

Cassils’ Powers That Be installation—on display through April 29—presents a six-channel video that is a simulation of violence, a staged fight that could be taking place between two, three, four, or five people. But in this fight, Cassils plays the role of both victim and perpetrator. “If you have two people doing stage combat, it looks really realistic, but if you take one person out, and the other person’s doing it well, it really looks as if they’re fighting a ghost, or a force.”

Cassils says “Any work is about responding to the socio-political circumstances that we’re living in …  Art doesn’t change things like laws do, but it generates discussion.”

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Larry Ferguson

August 6, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Berkshire Hathaway’s National Indemnity Company was searching for someone to memorialize its home office of more than 65 years before they relocated, they called upon Omaha artist and photographer Larry Ferguson.

“It’s what I do all the time. This is the kind of thing that I’m always involved in,” he says. For the past 35 years, Ferguson has documented the evolution of the cultural and industrial landscape of Omaha as it rapidly blooms.

“That’s just one of those things that I’m really known for—being able to make incredible documents that have an aesthetic sense about them, so that people want to have them. Not just for the information that’s there, but also for the aesthetics that are involved,” Ferguson says.

Ferguson learned that hard work is its own reward from his dad, during his childhood on the family farm near Alliance. His vast body of work is evidence of that. Whether documenting the weddings of Omaha’s elite or being commissioned by the Joslyn to visually capture priceless works of art, his photographic expertise is unrivaled.

He is chairman of the Omaha Public Art Commission, founded the group Public Art Omaha, and spent 10 years working with the Nebraska Arts Council’s artists-in-residence program. He also served as project director on a commission that performed preservation work on the Bostwick-Frohardt photography collection at The Durham Museum.

Ferguson specializes in fine art, commercial art, and social documentation. He describes his take-charge approach to those worlds as “intricately intertwined.” He is also trained in drawing, painting, ceramics, and sculpture. “I love art,” he says.

For two months Ferguson methodically shot every square inch of National Indemnity’s property, located on Harney Street near Mutual of Omaha, working from the outside before the leaves fell and then capturing the interior. He photographed the cafeteria where Berkshire Hathaway held their annual shareholder’s meetings in the 1970s and the tennis courts where former President Jack Ringwalt played.

Where others might see mundane ceiling tiles, Ferguson’s eye finds inspiration for captivating works of photographic art. His rare Cambo Wide camera offers an elongated panoramic format with a two-to-one ratio creating an extremely wide angle not often seen in photography. “For example, this is a little small 10×10 room but I’m able to stand in a corner and photograph almost the entire
room,” he says.

Ferguson’s images convey the values of strength, stability, and integrity on which the insurance company’s founders, Arthur and Jack Ringwalt, built the company. They believed every risk has a proper rate and that risky classes—such as long-haul trucks, taxis, rental cars, and public buses—should not be rejected. In plain language, Ferguson’s black-and-white photos tell the rich story of decades of promise.

“Real art in a work environment changes the workers,” Ferguson says. His photography will decorate the walls of the company’s new office, located in the Omaha World-Herald Building, serving as daily inspiration for the employees and a reminder of the company’s successful history.

Visit fergusonstudio.com for more information. Encounter

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Life Through a Lens

January 10, 2014 by
Photography by Rick Anderson

You have seen his work, although you may not know his name. He’s the man behind the iconic aerial stadium posters of the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the last 20 seasons. Whether it’s his peaceful imagery of rural farm scenes welcoming visitors to Alegent Creighton’s Bergan Mercy Medical Center or his engaging shots of Omaha decorating Mayor Jean Stothert’s office, the work of famed photographer Rick Anderson seems to be popping up everywhere lately.

Anderson travels the world in search of the next big “get.” Success in photography can’t be planned, and it can happen in the blink of an eye—the flash of a shutter. Like the moment lightning strikes. He goes island-hopping on cruise ships that he calls “taxicabs.” “It’s like I’m going on an Easter egg hunt looking for the next egg, whether it’s a flower or a palm tree or a chicken running in the street in the Virgin Islands.” He’s sloshed about in the foamy Costa Rican waters capturing waves next to a volcano. He’s camped out in the Yukon National Forest’s wintery white snowscape and has soaked in the dead silence of the scrubby Sandhills of Nebraska. From the sunny coasts of Hawaii to the glacial peaks of Alaska, there is no trek too far for a man who is truly enthralled by the beauty of the world that surrounds him.

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The sign of a true artist, he admits that he is not even in control of his destinations. He’s just along for the ride, much like a tornado. “Then the wind catches me, and I’m caught up in my own tornado, and it’s turning me and turning me,” he says. “It’s like the wind is taking me on this endless journey. In the back of my mind I’m thinking this has got to surface someday where I see the other side of the rainbow, and it all makes sense.”

Anderson speaks in snapshots. He describes his humanitarian mission to Cuba. “I went on a sailboat. We pulled into Havana at sunrise. I pulled into the harbor, and the sun was coming up, and all the lights were glistening in the water,” he says. “It was one of the neatest experiences I’ve ever had.”

Even as a little boy he was hypnotized by the lens and the eye-catching objects they bring into focus. He remembers being about 8 years old in the mid-’70s and chasing the hot air balloons that would launch near the Miracle Hills area where he grew up, which was the edge of town at the time. “I would run up to my bedroom and get my little 110 camera, run down, hop on my bike, and I would chase those balloons just to take pictures of them,” he says.

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It was later in his life that he would realize photography as his true passion. As an adult, he instinctively picked up the camera after the birth of his son. “I photographed him every day. I had a knack for taking photos.” He next tackled windmills, then sunsets, then sunsets and windmills together. He decided to set up a camera and shoot the lights with the sunset at Gene Leahy Mall. Then he was on to something. His friends were impressed. “They were like, ‘Wow, Rick, this is really good.’ I got goosebumps. I got kind of a high off of that.” It was his “aha” moment. “I had a purpose. I could do something,” he says.

Alaska is his favorite locale to capture the moment. “I have no words for it. You don’t know where to point your camera. There is just so much, whether it was just a simple pinecone or a little trickling stream. I saw 29 bears in three-and-a-half days.” But he is just as happy driving a few hours down the road to the Nebraska Sandhills, where one can hear crickets, prairie dogs, and the occasional cow. “You can hear a meadowlark and a train maybe off in the distance. It’s just a beauty all of its own. People have no idea what they are missing by just going out there and smelling the wildflowers.”

Artists—all artists—have a knack for capturing and expressing magic, but Anderson demurs that luck has at least a little to do with it. “It’s like going fishing. Sometimes you come back with the big one, sometimes you don’t.”

Jim Flowers

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Dapper Jim Flowers, with his trademark moustache and buttonhole flower, is a fixture in people’s lives after 31 years as an Omaha television meteorologist. This husband and father of two has invested himself in the community as a public speaker, Knights of Columbus volunteer, and churchgoer. He and his wife, Barb, are members of Mary Our Queen parish.

It all made the ugly rumors that surfaced about him after WOWT did not renew his contract last December more unsettling. With Flowers suddenly off the air and no official word from station management explaining his absence (due to contractual reasons), anonymous social media speculation filled the information void. The chatter was mostly innocuous, but some alleged Flowers had been caught in a 2012 FBI sting operation targeting a local massage parlor fronting for a prostitution ring. It’s not the image a public figure like Flowers can afford, especially when looking for a new job.

Flowers, who flatly denies involvement in any illegal activity, believes a parlor client used his name when procuring sexual services. Unfortunately, Flowers found his good name sullied when the sting broke.

“…in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility…just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

Despite the cloud, Flowers landed at KMTV. He debuted there June 3 as part of a long-term contract he reached with the station, thus making him perhaps the only on-camera talent to have worked at each of Omaha’s three major network affiliates.

The Ohio native and Penn State University grad came to Omaha in 1982 to work at KETV from a TV weathercaster post in South Carolina. After 10 years, he moved to WOWT. He was there 20 years, the last several as chief meteorologist.

He says he and his wife found Omaha to be “a great place to raise kids.” Even though their boys are now men, he says all the roots he and Barb put down here and all the relationships they built here make it a hard place to shake.

Barb and Jim relaxing at home.

Barb and Jim relaxing at home.

But in the wake of what happened over the winter, he seriously considered moving to another market.

With his exit from WOWT fueling the gossip mill, he posted Facebook and TVSpy responses that reflected his resolve to lay the tittle tattle to rest.

“…I have never been involved in a massage parlor prostitution investigation. I have not been arrested, questioned, or told by the authorities that I am a suspect [a statement confirmed by Omaha Magazine with Omaha Police Department public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney]…those lies have been very hurtful to me, my wife of 34 years, and our family…I appreciate the loyalty of the many fans who have continued to support me, and I want to assure them that there is nothing behind those rumors.”

He more extensively addressed the situation in June 3rd guest spots on the Todd-N-Tyler radio show and KM3’s own, The Morning Blend.

“Doing that interview with Todd-N-Tyler literally put an end to it,” he says.

But when the rumors were still fresh, they stung. “When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing. Some folks want to bring people down, for whatever reason. It’s the human psyche.”

“When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing.”

His initial reaction was to get mad.

“The first thing you feel is anger because you know you’re not a part of it. That’s what’s frustrating. It had an effect more on my wife and my family, especially my two boys. My two boys were angry…They wanted to find out who used my name, how the stuff got out there.”

His wife has had his back the whole way. She offered this statement about the rumors: “I knew it wasn’t true. It was hurtful to me and my family to think that people would believe those rumors about Jim. I would like to thank those that supported us with positive comments.”

Flowers, an outdoorsman who loves fishing, hunting, and chasing storms, isn’t the type to run scared, but there was little he could do about this.

He gained insight into how his name got dragged into the mud when he contacted authorities, none of whom could speak to the specific case, then active in the judicial system. However, they did lay out a likely scenario.

“I was told by the Omaha Police Department’s public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney that, in general, this is the way it works. The guys that go [to massage parlors] wind up on a list. They don’t use anything that will identify themselves. They don’t use credit cards, they don’t use checkbooks, and they don’t use their real names. She said, ‘Obviously, someone decided to use your name and guess what, now you’re a part of it.’ I said, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ and she said ‘no.’”

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He says the local FBI office and U.S. Attorney Jan Sharp confirmed the same.

Unfortunately for Flowers, someone used his familiar name. It comes with the territory of being a
public figure.

“Our exposure to this kind thing is not unusual, but this form and how it took off seemed to have a life of its own,” he says. “The constraints that exist for print, television, and radio don’t exist for social media. There are no checks and balances out there. So if there’s a lesson, it’s that, in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility. But just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

He’s satisfied with how he’s managed the incident. “You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out. The night before I went on The Blend and Todd-N-Tyler, I told my wife, ‘I’m starting tomorrow [on KM3], and I feel really excited about it. There’s all these opportunities. But the one thing that’s still out there is this whole rumor thing. I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”

He says he and Barb put their “very strong faith in God” that this bad dream would disappear. “I’ve had people compliment me and say you handled it professionally.”

KMTV General Manager Chris Sehring is pleased how it all worked out, too. “Jim’s a great guy, and we are thrilled to finally have him on our KMTV Weather Alert team.”

“You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out…I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”

Though Sehring couldn’t comment on what steps the station took or on how much the incident played in its hiring decision, he did say, “Journal Broadcast Group is second to none in its commitment to integrity and the highest ethical standards. I still believe we live in a society where one is innocent until proven guilty…It’s truly a shame Jim and his family have had to endure these unsubstantiated rumors and malicious speculation. After all, it could happen to any of us.”

Both Sehring and Flowers are focused on making KM3, currently in last place in the ratings, number one. Flowers helped bring both KETV and WOWT to the top spot and feels confident he can work magic a third time.

“I’ve been down this road before. I know what it takes to win,” says Flowers. “Whoever wins weather in Omaha wins the ratings; that’s what it boils down to. You can ask every general manager, and they’ll tell you the same thing. It’s not only in Omaha; it’s in a lot of weather-sensitive markets. I didn’t decide that, the public did.”

He feels his experience and attention to detail set him apart from other weathercasters in this market.

So do his fishing skills. Once a competitive bass tournament champion, he takes his boat and fishing gear out these days purely for relaxation. With the rumors behind him, he’s forecasting nothing but clear skies and calm waters ahead.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Jen Edney

October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jen Edney’s motto, “Have Camera, Will Travel,” has led her to such places as Fiji, Suriname, Australia, and Cape Town. She estimates that 10 months of the year is spent traveling with her lens focused on the people of the world.

“My camera and my subject have served as my compass,” explains Edney, “leading me around the world, observing and documenting incredible people with even more incredible stories.” And though she has been to over 30 countries in the past three years, her favorite spot on earth is a little closer to home: her grandmother’s cabin on a lake in Minnesota. “It’s the one place in my life I can truly relax and enjoy time with my family,” she owns.

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Edney working on a shoot. Photo by Jon Nash Photography.

Edney grew up in Omaha, the daughter of John and Pat Edney and sister to two brothers, Chris and Matt, also her twin. She attended Marian High School and then pursued a degree in Graphic Design and Visual Journalism at Creighton University. Her introduction to photography came at her father’s side on a family trip. He taught her exposure and the rule of thirds—eschewing the urge to center your subject—amidst Ireland’s verdant rolling hills and ancient stone walls.

After an internship with renowned nature photographer Tom Mangelsen (also from Omaha) in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Edney attended the Brooks Institute of Photography in Ventura, Calif. She worked at the Ventura County Star while in school. It was an assignment for the newspaper that ironically led to her current career as a freelance photojournalist. Edney was photographing a 16-year-old who set out to be the youngest person to sail around the world. The assignment turned into a school project, which prompted Edney’s instructor to urge her to leave school to focus on the story. Thus, her life as a freelancer began.

She recalls her dad’s advice to “never leave home without duct tape, a knife, or a flashlight,” when she heads out to parts unknown, unfazed by how often his advice has served her well. After all, Edney is not in a climate-controlled portrait studio, photographing high school seniors in their band and cheerleading uniforms. More often than not, she is aboard a sailing vessel capturing captain and crew struggling with masts or treading against the current in an effort to get a water-level shot of a boat in action.

Team JP Morgan BAR racing during the America's Cup World Series in San Francisco, California, 2012. Photo by Jen Edney.

Team JP Morgan BAR racing during the America’s Cup Series, 2012. Photo by Jen Edney.

Recently, Edney was in Newport, R.I., shooting the America’s Cup Series Event. She had the notion of photographing a boat from a fish’s point of view and convinced the skipper of Energy Team France to sail over her while she captured an AC45’s underside on film. “No problem! We sail over you!” skipper Loick Peyron gamely agreed. It was the first time Edney had butterflies before a shoot.

“Keep calm and carry on? No thanks, I’d rather raise hell and change the world,” asserts Edney. It’s this throw-caution-to-the-wind attitude that has earned Edney the nickname “Shark Bait,” and allowed her to build a body of work that has graced the pages of the LA Times, Coastal Living, and YACHT Magazine, as well as the small screen on ESPN, ABC’s Primetime, and CBS Sports.

“I don’t consider it a good day at the office unless I get wet, dirty, or almost run over by a boat!”