blogpostI’d like to say thank you to the following organizations for including my work in their exhibitions, festivals and publications throughout fall 15 and spring 16.

University of Missouri Kansas City Gallery of Art Sonance II Show Cologne Short Film Festival New Aesthetic Series Artfutura, 22 City Tour NHK television Tokyo, Japan TOKYOVISION television, Japan Gestalten, Berlin based international Arts and Design Publisher San Diego City Beat magazine The Fargo Film Festival San Diego Art Institute Mass Attack and BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) art shows The Torrance Art Museum Look3 Festival

I’m really honored to be part of all of these. The two big surprises were being listed next to Semiconductor in the Cologne SFF’s program and being curated by Nicholas Felton for Gestalten. Wow!

20 Minutes of Kite Flying Time Collapsed: San Diego Study #6

This new video was shot on June 28, 2015 in an area of San Diego County called the Tijuana Slough. It is the most southwestern corner of the continental U.S. where the U.S. meets Baja Mexico. The landmass in the bottom left of the frame is a neighborhood of Tijuana called Playas de Tijuana and just before that area is the international border. The area is historically rich and politically complex. During the 80s and 90s the border exchanges, of Mexican workers, drugs and sewage became central topics in heated local and national debates that continue today. In the national dialog the border is always depicted as a simple binary system but this is not at all the case. The exchange between the environments, the communities and economies has always been nuanced. Any dialog that reduces the relationship to simple “us and them” is suspect.


Is this a metaphor about the complexity of the border? No. I’m just trying to make something I’ve never seen before that says something about the region. I injured my shoulder last summer and couldn’t surf or swim all year so I started flying kites at the beach for fun, that’s the source of the idea. In the previous videos I looked for large scale events but for this one I was curious to see what could emerge from something really simple. We shot at the border because it has predictable wind and the area doesn’t attract crowds, so it’s serendipity that I made a video about hidden complexity in a place with an enormous amount of hidden complexity.


A note on the gray sky, these weather conditions are called June gloom by Californians. Throughout late spring, low altitude stratus clouds are produced over the ocean and brought inland, usually late at night, by prevailing winds. For people from more intense climates, these weather conditions are very mild but for many southern Californians it’s like deep winter and there’s an art to complaining about it. The clouds are a sign that our waters are cool, not warm like much of the east coast. The cool waters make it impossible for hurricanes to reach us and produce an incredibly stable climate, for now.


Tech notes, the video was shot on a BMCC camera in 2.5k RAW with an 80mm full frame lens and cut in After Effects. The kite separations were done with a combination of the Luma Key, key framed masks and the Soft Matte effect to clean up the edges. The most difficult tech problem was finding the right shutter angle to balance strobing and motion blur. For this particular kite speed we found a shutter angle of 72 degrees (1/120) at 24fps worked best. In the near future, you will be able to make a video like this with computer vision. You’ll just tell the computer to separate the red kite while you eat a sandwich. If I were you, I would wait till then to make one cause they take forever my way.


A big thanks to Alex Graham for his time and expertise on the camera. Thank you Danie Darisay, Bear Guerra and Freerk Boedeltje for putting your eyeballs on it.

The San Diego Studies is a series of short videos that manipulate time to reveal otherwise unobservable rhythms and movement in the city. There are no CG elements, these are all real kites that have been separated from their original shots and compiled together.

The rest of the San Diego Studies videos:







To request permission for distribution and licensing contact: (the skateboarding video is owned by Micosoft corp)

If you enjoyed the flocking visual then I recommend you watch Dennis Hlynsky’s work, it’ll blow your mind:

copyright © 2015 Cy Kuckenbaker





Skateboarding Time Collapse with Cory Juneau

I spent the summer working with Vimeo, Microsoft and the talented Cory Juneau to put this new video together; what an amazing opportunity. A very big thanks to Alex Graham, Melissa Cabral, Preston Swirnoff, Dave Gallegos and Danielle Darisay for helping me out! Hope you like it:

Skateboarding Time Collapse: Shot with the Lumia 930 from Microsoft on Vimeo.

Skateboarding Time Collapse shot with the Lumia 930: Behind the Scenes from Microsoft on Vimeo.

One Hour of San Diego Surfing Time Collapsed: San Diego Study #4

“The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.” Joseph Conrad

One Hour of San Diego Surfing Time Collapsed: San Diego Study #4 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

When I was 17 I got lost on Mount Moffett on the island of Adak in the Aleutian chain. Adak is where I went to high school and my friends and I had great adventures snowboarding there at a time when the sport was brand new. No one knew how anything worked, we were just figuring it out from pictures we saw in magazines. When I was 17 I got lost alone late in the day during a white out. I slipped off a ridge and during the slide dropped my board, which I never saw again. A half hour later, lost and blind in the storm, I had became a committed, practicing, believing animist as I begged the clouds and the mountain to let me out before the sun went down - and they did. The only time in my life since when I’ve felt similar and even greater fear of the environment is while surfing. Cold mountains can be incredibly frightening but big surf is, for me, even heavier: cold mountains that move.

I shot this swell twice. First on a holiday and again on a weekday and the level of surfing was much higher on the weekday presumably because the regulars were in the water. To them - hats off. There are a lot of good surfers on this break and I was especially impressed by the stand up paddle board riders. If you look closely you’ll see the same rider two or three different waves owning this spot. Here he is right behind himself:


There are no CG elements in the video. It’s all documentary footage arranged and collapsed together with After Effects. Compositing water is difficult. The basic strategy I worked out is to have the clips roll behind one another with the leading edge of the hind wave fitted frame by frame to the contour of the wave in front of it. The compositing was done using masks in After effects, which are key frame animated. Here’s a peak at the process:

Making Of: Surf Time Collapse AE Edit from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

And a sample of the raw footage:

Raw Footage San Diego Study #4 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

I call this idea of removing the time between events without altering the speed of the subject(s) a Time Collapse video. Many people were calling the earlier videos in the series time lapse, which is similar but not totally accurate. Hopefully time collapse will make sense to others.




Making these videos has given me a hint at what animators do and the extraordinary discipline it takes. During the process of assembling this one a new thought began to occur to me about perception and how quickly it breaks down. I got some great insights from a fellow video artist/filmmaker working in Berlin named Gabriel Shalom (@gabrielshalom) that got me thinking about contemporary art’s connections to cubism and the deconstruction of imagery but the place my mind really went to was Dali and surrealism. This was a surprise to me because I was never very attracted to that movement. Somehow I associated it with psychedelia and Dali’s anteater walking made me tick him off the list of possible role models. Now older and wiser, I spent some time reading about the movement and looking more seriously at what Dali and his contemporaries did and found it deeply resonant. The piece that really blew me away is Dali’s Crusifixtion (Corpus Hypercubus)

With it he transforms a motif that’s been repeated endlessly by pressing a new dimension into the composition and the result is an incredible combination of old nd new. By this time in his life he’d become interested in math and science and I feel like he would be fascinated by the code art that’s emergent now. More personally, I feel like I’ve begun to understand what the surrealists were aiming at for the first time, which is the fragility of human perception and the proximity of dreams and…not-dreams.

This project is supported by MOPA San Diego and The San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Fund: Individual Artist Fellowship Program. If you don’t know MOPA be sure to check them out on Facebook + Twitter and more importantly stop by the space in Balboa Park. Something I didn’t know until I started my residence with MOPA is that they have an incredible library of photo related books and journals that you can easily access by appointment, here’s the link.

Big thanks for the valuable feedback from Danie Darisay, Bear Guerra, Pablo West and Freerk Boedeltje.

Shot on a Canon C100 + Atomos Ninja in CLog, with a Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5 L lens at 24p. The post work was done in After Effects. I don’t usually hype gear since that conversation is so dominant already but I have to say the C100+Ninja is remarkable.

Update Sat May 24th:

The Youtube version is up: made a nice gif:


The rest of the series:

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

Departures from San Diego Int Airport Dec 27, 2012 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

Shout Out to New Media Rights

NMR_SHOUTOUT Well it's been a very exciting couple of days. It's rewarding to have my work noticed and shared on all these great sites, by commenters and by facebook friends new and old.

While the traffic is still high I'd like to make a shout out on behalf of a friend. Without a small non-profit called New Media Rights that's based here in San Diego there's no way I'd be able to complete my projects. NMR has become a really critical player in our online ecosystem by ensuring that small players like myself have access to legal advice and support that is otherwise out of reach.

Please check their website out. Follow them on twitter or facebook. They do great Youtube legal guides so you can follow them there as well. If you've got a little more, make a tax deductible holiday donation. It took me five minutes to give a couple hundred dollars to NMR earlier this month. I gave because they've helped me tremendously but also because I think they're doing very important work for all of us.

A great example of the work they're doing took place earlier this year when Lionsgate took Johnathan Mcintosh's ( remix video down without warning or regard for Johnathan's careful adherence to Fair Use. NMR got involved and Johnathan's amazing work is back up where it should be. We have to have players like NMR in the system to keep this thing healthy, to let creators create and keep the internet open.


Youtube Version Up + Gatorade Bottle Found

Youtube version is up:

AND engineering student Steven Buccini ‏(@StevenBuccini) from Cal Berkeley found the Gatorade bottle in the video. Nicely done Steven! Steven's prize is 25,000 chest bumping pixels that will bring Oski the bear out of hibernation.


And here are those pixels I owe:


Give a hoot.


VICE/Intel Creators Project Vid and a Vimeo Staff Pick

I've been watching the Creators Project videos for years now and I find them very inspirational so I'm at a loss of words to really express how happy I am to have my project featured in one.

And a vimeo staff pick to boot!

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

A quick shout out to the filmmaker at Vice that directed the piece Jordan Kinley. He's got some really innovative projects but you've got to see his series Stand Your Ground, it'll make your palms sweat in the best way.

San Diego Study #3: San Diego Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Car Color

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

Finally! It's done. In this new video I took a four minute shot of state highway 163, which is San Diego's first freeway then removed the time between cars passing and reorganized them according to color. I was curious to see what the city's car color palette looked like when broken down. We are a car culture after all. I was surprised that the vast majority of cars are colorless: white, gray and black. The bigger surprise though was just how many cars passed in four minutes of what looked like light traffic: 462 cars. I invite my fellow arm chair anthropologist to parse out what those car colors say about us. Do twitter if you can. I think what it says about Caltrans is pretty clear. I had never really considered how many cars the freeways have to support but if you do some conservative math - at the rate captured in the raw video (below) you'll hit 125,000 cars in 18 hours. If I had a nickle...that's how much I'd need to fix the road.

A quick note on the colors. They're ordered by prevalence or popularity within the sample: white, silver/gray, black, blue, red/orange/yellow, green. The group that is actually the largest is silver/gray but I put that group second to white because the silver/gray group is really a set of tones and colors that we don't have language to easily parse but are visually obvious. In other words, it's the biggest group linguistically but it's not one discreet color.

There are no CG elements in the video and none of the cars have been moved from their original lanes or had their speeds altered. The gaps in traffic are due to the different volumes in the lanes. For the tech curious the way I did this is conceptually simple but labor intensive. With After Effects I cut out each car frame by frame and saved it as it's own new video. Then I grabbed a still shot of each lane when it was empty, laid those over the source video, which produces an empty freeway and then put all the cars back in on top of that. Each car took an average of fifteen minutes to cut out and save x 492 cars, which is around 120 hours. I'm not entirely sure how long it took to put it all back together. Here's the entire raw shot I sourced, which was taken from the Washington St. Bridge in the Hillcrest area of San Diego looking north.

Raw Footage San Diego Study #3 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

I’ve started to call this idea of removing the time between events without altering the speed of the subject(s) a Time Collapse video. Many people were calling the earlier videos in the series time lapse, which is similar but not totally accurate. Hopefully time collapse will make sense to others.

There is a discrepancy between the time collapse and the source footage. For technical reasons some car shapes and movements were unworkable and those cars were dropped. I only counted this once but here's the breakdown:

Lane 1 (far left): 111 cars passed 107 appear Lane 2: 82 cars passed 71 appear Lane 3: 143 cars passed 137 appear Lane 4 (far right): 134 cars passed 127 appear Overpass: 22 cars passed 22 cars appear Total cars lost: 28

That means that the real traffic in that four minutes is actually about six percent heavier than the time collapse depicts.


Dupont does a Global Car Color Survey every year that correlates to my results in the video except for one difference. In Dupont's 2012 North American survey red is more popular than blue nationally but in my sample blue is more popular than red in San Diego. If my video is accurate, that would make sense to me. Red is thought of as an aggressive color and blue is considered a calm color. If you know San Diego, you know this is a (notoriously) laid back town. So I think if the video reveals anything really novel about San Diego's preferences, that may be it. We're way more blue than red...bro.

A few frame grabs: 1_WHITE






Here's some trivia - can you find the empty Gatorade bottle in the video? I didn't notice it for weeks but it's featured prominently in every frame of the video. Tweet me if you find it and I'll ask Gatorade to send you a case of coolant.

A few making-of notes: While I cut this I got hooked on audio books. During the edit I listened to Revolution 1989 by Victor Sebestyen, How Music Works by David Byrne, Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Super Sad True Love Story by (hero) Gary Shteyngart, 1493 by Charles Mann, 1491 by Charles Mann, With the Old Breed by E. Sledge, The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera all of which reminded me, happily,  that I'm doing something preposterous with my life. I liked all of these book but 1493 reorganized my understanding of the world. It is remarkable.

I tried to use an app called IOgraphica during the long edits. It's a mouse movement tracker. Computer work is so odd because it can feel almost motionless at times, it's hard to understand why it's tiring. The app is free and it's an interesting way to visualize the physical activity behind a project. The images below represent about a third of the total for this video. The app helps further prove that I'm, happily, spending my life making digital yarn balls.

2013_11_26_IOGraphica---8.3-hours-(from-9-50-to-23-25) 2013_11_27_9.5-hours 2013_11_29_6.5-hours 2013_11_30_8.7-hours 2013_12_01_7.6-hours 2013_12_02_9.6-hours 2013_12_04_10.4-hours 2013_12_08_14.1-hours 2013_12_09_10.5-hours2013_12_15_10.5-hours2013_12_16

This project is supported by MOPA San Diego and The San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Fund: Individual Artist Fellowship Program. If you don't know MOPA be sure to check them out on Facebook + Twitter and more importantly stop by the space in Balboa Park. Something I didn't know until I started my residence with MOPA is that they have an incredible library of photo related books and journals that you can easily access by appointment, here's the link.

Big thanks for the valuable feedback from Bear Guerra and Freerk Boedeltje who looked at early versions and thanks to Luis Guerra for his deft audio touch.

The video was shot on a Canon C100 in CLog with a canon EFS 17-55 f/2.8 lens at 24p

I drive a green car known as The Pickle. That's true.

Fraction Holiday Print Sale

I'm happy to be part of Fraction Magazine's Holiday Print Sale.  I'm offering a 10"x10" print of the image below for 100 dollars. Click the picture below to jump over to Fraction's page. 2013_11IRAQ-5

Over the Wall at Night

Night was my favorite landscape in Baghdad. The dust mixed with the glaring lights around the base and was cut by the concrete walls as if consciously imitating film noir. This photo was taken beneath the T-wall in the Sully Compound near the Baghdad International Airport where I lived and worked for 21 months.

aPhotoEditor Blog Mention

I'm honored to be mentioned along side some incredible photographers in a post on the aPhotoEditor blog. Take a look. They ran a couple pictures from a new series I'm working on called So Your Friends Will Really Know It’s You. That's the prompt facebook gives you to upload a photo when you create your account. Again, credit goes to the Medium Festival of Photography for bringing all these great photographers, editors and curators into town. KUCKENBAKER28

Title: Kristina and 32 others like this.

Room #4 Baghdad Photo Series Published In Fraction Magazine

AAAAAfractionB I'm honored to present selections from my photo series Room #4 Iraq in the Dec 2013 edition of Fraction Magazine.

Fraction Magazine features the best of contemporary photography, bringing together diverse bodies of work by established and emerging artists from around the globe. Each monthly on-line issue focuses on a central theme, creating an implicit dialogue between differing photographic perspectives.

I met Fraction's editor David Bram during the Medium Festival of Photography portfolio reviews here in San Diego last month - an event I would strongly recommend to other photographers.

San Diego Studies: Final Shoot At Green Elementary School

Many thanks to Craig Wilsie and the after-school-care team at Green Elementary School for working with us on this. We lucked out and got just the right weather to eliminate the shadow issues we had on the test shoot. A sincere thanks to Alex Graham and Oscar Velasquez who helped me grip this thing. The video below shows the set-up. This project is being supported by the San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Fund and MOPA San Diego.

When the series is complete I want it to work like a mural. This piece will show the number of kindergarteners who ride the swings in a day. Broadly speaking, I'm interested in creating images of this city in our time. I can only imagine what this will look like to these kids once they're grown up.

San Diego Studies: Test Shoot At Green Elementary School

Sequence 01.Still001 There's a saying in film to never make anything with kids or animals but I disagree. I had a blast yesterday with a few kindergarteners who showed us how it's done on a swing set. We were at Green Elementary School in Del Cerro (a San Diego neighborhood) to run through the set up for a new San Diego Studies video. The idea is to show the number of kids that use the swings over a period of days in a few seconds. I've started calling this idea/effect a Time Collapse Video. The picture above is a frame grab from a hasty post prod run to look at the various challenges. The shadows are really stretched out this time of year - that's the dark blob you see on the right side of the frame. I have to solve that still.

I had no idea kindergarteners could get swings going so well. A big thanks to Mr. Wilsie for having us out to the school.

A quick look at the set up:

This project is being supported by the San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Fund and MOPA San Diego.

Mouse Paths.

photoTRAFFIC163 2013_11_11_2.8_hours_163FREEWAY1-

Today felt like June in San Diego, just with a much lower sun. I’m making progress on the 3rd SD Study video, which reorganizes auto traffic on 163 according to car color. The abstract art above is my mouse path from three hours of After Effects work I did this afternoon. These are fun to look at - I’m always surprised  by the shear quantity of movement at a task the FEELS like it has no movement at all. A blow-up below:



April 17, 2007 My dreams have changed. I sleep deeply, but the images are harsher than usual, they’ve got an expressionistic slash that’s not typically there. Last week a suicide bomber attacked a cafeteria in the Green Zone and killed several people. I saw it on CNN and had to turn it off and leave the room. All this back and forth, there are days when I have a hard time keeping track of my own life. Two years in Peace Corps, two years at grad school, one more year in Lithuania, one more year of grad school, three months in San Diego and three months in Malawi. Now out in front of me - 12 months in Baghdad.


June 9, 2007

Flight was delayed out of DC because of thunderstorms.  Missed my connection to Jordon, so spending the night in a hotel near the airport in Paris.  Feels strange to be in such a renown city before plunging into...

This means that I have to take a commercial flight into Baghdad instead of a military flight.  I don’t want to think about it.  The last couple days of training in DC we learned how to ram a car out of an ambush and watched too many violent videos of American soldiers being ambushed with IEDs.  In the worst, an armored HUMVEE with a top turret slowly rounds a corner on a highway.  We're told to watch the concrete divider where a shape charge is hidden. The video plays in super slow motion. The charge goes off and there is a moment between the start of the blast and when it makes contact with the vehicle. It looks like a piece of golden broccoli is growing out the side of the divider. From it's core emerges a bright straight finger of light and plasma that stretches gracefully toward the HUMVEE. The finger passes through the side armor effortlessly and there is a pause while it fills every inch of the interior with its touch. The vehicle bulges out like a balloon expanding and hot liquid begins to squeeze through every joint in the armor and body panels. The top turrent is the only opening so the pressure finds its passage there. A perfectly vertical geyser of plasma erupts straight out of the top. The soldier on the turret gun is lifted skyward. Frame by frame he flies higher into the air like a diver in reverse. He's so far above the HUMVEE I feel vertigo. The body and the flames wrap one another and dance ever further up when the instructor pushed the pause button. He was using the video to illustrate some detail about the dangers of moving by ground in Baghdad. It was too much for me. I put my face down on the table as he cued up more.


2013_11IRAQ-1 1

2013_11IRAQ-2 2     The side gate to go to the chowhall.

2013_11IRAQ-4 3     C130

2013_11IRAQ-3 4

2013_11IRAQ-79 5     John: border patrol agent.

2013_11IRAQ-87 6     Big Lee did private security in Afghanistan early in the war. He was winging it out in the streets with AK47s and wits. He got out when another company had their headquarters blown up.

2013_11IRAQ-88 7     Lee's wife lives in Columbia. He's from Baltimore. He has a gold front tooth with a heart shaped cut out.

2013_11IRAQ-89 8     Lloyd is a recently retired Marine Master Sergeant, the highest ranking NCO. He knew the system in an out.

2013_11IRAQ-90 9     Lloyd making a call home. The walls blocked phone reception and the shelter top was the highest accessible point in the compound.

2013_11IRAQ-91 10     Danny K. picked me up at the airport in this up-armored suburban. The windows are three inches thick. At this time Danny was on a diet and had begun drinking Arizona Ice Tea instead of soda.

2013_11IRAQ-92 11     Foreign Service Officer

2013_11IRAQ-93 12      A State Dept contractor, James was out on a Forward Operating Base Delta near the Iranian border working as a governance expert. 2013_11IRAQ-101 13

2013_11IRAQ-100 14

2013_11IRAQ-99 15     Ed

2013_11IRAQ-98 16     Ed

2013_11IRAQ-97 17

2013_11IRAQ-96 18   The flashlight I'm holding cost the US tax payers $100+. Everything was expensive.

2013_11IRAQ-95 19

2013_11IRAQ-94 20

2013_11IRAQ-86 21     The supervisor of the compound: Johnny Bright. We threw those brand new chairs away.

2013_11IRAQ-85 22

2013_11IRAQ-84 23

2013_11IRAQ-83 24

2013_11IRAQ-82 25


25 B

2013_11IRAQ-81 26     Ed met his wife in China. He was a Marine she was in Foreign Service admin. They had two sons and a failing marriage. Ed was the responsible parent and it killed him to be away from his sons for a year.

2013_11IRAQ-5 28     T-wall at night.

2013_11IRAQ-6 29     Through our front gate.

2013_11IRAQ-7 30

2013_11IRAQ-106 31

2013_11IRAQ-105 32

2013_11IRAQ-103 33     Rick from USAID. A water systems engineer working in a southern province to restore a city water system.

2013_11IRAQ-16 34     Lloyd's room at night.

2013_11IRAQ-15 35

2013_11IRAQ-14 36     Looking toward the airfield - a cauldron of noise from Blackhawks, c130s, C17s and Russian built cargo aircraft.

2013_11IRAQ-13 37     Guest room.

2013_11IRAQ-12 38

2013_11IRAQ-11 39     Danny K heading home.

2013_11IRAQ-10 40

2013_11IRAQ-9 41     Stacks of body armor.


41 B     Ugandan private security.

2013_11IRAQ-78 42     Innocent, the night-shift leader on Dining Facility security.

2013_11IRAQ-77 43

2013_11IRAQ-76 44

2013_11IRAQ-75 45


2013_11IRAQ-74 46 2013_11IRAQ-17 47     Rick reading the Trucker News.

2013_11IRAQ-22 48     Rick watching TV in the Storage Room.

2013_11IRAQ-21 49

2013_11IRAQ-20 50

2013_11IRAQ-19 51     Rick's up armored SUV.

2013_11IRAQ-18 52



2013_11IRAQ-23 53

2013_11IRAQ-49 54     Johnny's desk

2013_11IRAQ-48 55

2013_11IRAQ-47 56

2013_11IRAQ-46 57

2013_11IRAQ-45 58

2013_11IRAQ-44 59     The compound practically ran on pornography.


2013_11IRAQ-41 60

Mr. Lee runs the chowhall for KBR.

2013_11IRAQ-40 61

2013_11IRAQ-39 62

2013_11IRAQ-38 63

2013_11IRAQ-43 64      Mr. Lee's ostrich skin boots

2013_11IRAQ-42 65

2013_11IRAQ-37 66     The Diesel Mechanic

2013_11IRAQ-36 67

2013_11IRAQ-35 68     A Translator's Gift to Andrea

2013_11IRAQ-34 69

2013_11IRAQ-33 70

2013_11IRAQ-32 71

2013_11IRAQ-31 72     The Cold War between the day and night shifts. Each refused to pick up after the other.

2013_11IRAQ-30 73

2013_11IRAQ-29 74

2013_11IRAQ-28 75

2013_11IRAQ-27 76     3am. Ed going to exercise.

2013_11IRAQ-26 77

2013_11IRAQ-25 78

2013_11IRAQ-24 79     Comm


May 15, 2008

Another sandstorm hit.  It’s completely dusted in again.  It’s horrible.

Sandstorms here aren't like the ones in movies.  The wind doesn't pick the desert floor up to snap it out like a bull whip.  It's more like a surprise sneeze.  A little gust of wind and a squint of the eyes is all it takes to raise the deserts’ infinite hills of talcum powder into the atmosphere.  Different diffusions of red and brown roll in like fog banks.  It’s like being swallowed slowly.  How long will take for the billions and trillions of tiny particles, finer than talcum, to find a gentle landing?  Last year they only lasted a day.  This year, because of the drought in Iraq, they last for days.  It sticks to the TV screens.  It coats nostrils and sinus cavities with a thick crust.  It fills the windshield wipers until they look like they’ll droop like old eyeballs.  It fills the carpet, and turns the floor of the shower red.  It sticks to the walls.  It lays gently across the soap bar.  It creeps effortlessly through cracks.  It spews through air conditioners.  It invisibly grips every thread of the bed sheets waiting with sly joy to crawl onto tired faces.  It explores every crevice of the body with grimy curiosity.  It creeps through skulls into the consciousness where it smoothers patience and salts imagination.   It's in everything.  It's everywhere.  It creeps and curls and corkscrews and connives its way into every crack and seam in life.  It turns the world red.


2013_11IRAQ-50 80

2013_11IRAQ-55 01

2013_11IRAQ-54 82

2013_11IRAQ-53 83

2013_11IRAQ-52 84

2013_11IRAQ-51 85     Sand storm. Expecting incoming.

2013_11IRAQ-56 86     Ambassador Krajeski's body armor

2013_11IRAQ-57 87     Khagandra at the coffee shop.


April 13, 2008

It’s an Amman flight day.  They only happen twice a week and most of our incoming people arrive inbound from Amman.  On some of these flights we’ll have as many as fifty people to organized and move.  The flight came in six hours late.  As soon as we got everyone inside the receiving room and seated, the power went out.  So I yelled my shpeal in the dark with the jet engines roaring just beyond the doors.

"Hi everyone, I’m the rep from Sully Compound, I’ll give all the civilians a briefing!  First thing, please don’t leave this room until you have your I.D. card back.  If you leave without your card no one will track you down to return it.  If you need a military helicopter, the desk is straight across this hall under the sign that says helicopter desk.  There is a DSN and VOIP phone line just outside the door immediately on your left.  The bathrooms are out the front of the building, break right on the wooden path.  The luggage yard is straight out of the building between the tents, then break hard right and it will be right in front of you.  For the shuttle bus that goes to Slayer, Striker and Liberty, continue in the same direction until you hit asphalt.  At the corner is a small wooden structure, that’s the bus stop; the bus comes once per hour on the half hour.  Are there any DOS, USAID, or Federal affiliates here…"


I picked up a guy who just came in from Kartum, Sudan named Francis.  A young guy.  I walked him across, and then we took the van back over to pick up his suitcase.  In the car I asked him if he had a family:

“Yes, I have a wife and two children.  A boy and a girl.  And you, do you have a family?

I said, “Nope, no family no wife.”

“And what do you do with the money you make here?” he asked.

“I’m paying off debt.  I finished my education a couple years ago, so now I’m paying the loans.”

“Ah, yes.  I seeeeee.”  “Have you always been a soldier?”

“Oh, no sir, I’m not a soldier.  I’m an artist really.”

“Artist is very broad, it’s a very broad term.”

“I’m a filmmaker really.”

“Ok, I see, I seeeee.  Can I give you some advice?  We are all going to be old some day.  We are young now, but we are all going to be old some day.  If you have children, when you are old they will take care of you.  If you have no children, then when you are old it will be very difficult.”

“I can see that.”

“So you should find a nice girl, one with a good character and after one or two years you should marry her.”

“I’ll definitely think about that.”

When we got back to the compound I showed him how to lock his body armor and helmet together and attached it to his suitcase so no one walks off with it.


2013_11IRAQ-72 88     One of the human tragedies that unfolded daily in Baghdad was the large scale labor abuse. The pipeline that has fed impoverished men from S. Asia into middle eastern petro-nations was tapped to support the logistics in our war. The chain gangs inside our compound were supervised by Air Force cops.

2013_11IRAQ-71 89     Constructing the 1.2 million dollar road to nowhere.

2013_11IRAQ-70 90

2013_11IRAQ-69 91

2013_11IRAQ-68 92     This is a Porta John that we rented in case we had a water system emergency and lost our bathrooms. No one used it in the 21 months I was there. I photographed it because it struck me one day that it made more money for a day's labor than the Nepalese men working in our compound. I got the invoice from the service and it made about 30 percent more than a man doing labor for 12 hours a day.

2013_11IRAQ-67 93     All the men paid in the range of $5,000 to get these jobs. Brokers in S. Asia recruit out of the poorest villages. The men put their farms up as collateral to loan sharks who charge %30 on the loan. The bitter irony is that I learned the rules of human trafficking by reading docs off the State Dept and DOJ's website. Our compound was run by the State Dept and DOJ. They all looked the other way.

2013_11IRAQ-66 94

2013_11IRAQ-65 95     These men were our cleaning crew and worked for the single worst contractor I had contact with: Prime Projects International. They have no idea what the employees names are, they only know them by numbers.

2013_11IRAQ-64 96     Subway also used indentured servants.

2013_11IRAQ-63 97

2013_11IRAQ-62 98    Outside Subway. This man wanted a picture to send his family.

2013_11IRAQ-61 99

2013_11IRAQ-60 100

2013_11IRAQ-59 101

2013_11IRAQ-58 102

2013_11IRAQ-108 103    Building a hard cover over Sully.

2013_11IRAQ-113 104

2013_11IRAQ-112 105

March 1 09

I feel severely sleep deprived. The construction on the hard cover over the trailers has been going all day every day for a couple weeks. It's already loud here but add concrete saws and jackhammers to the airfield noise. Plus I’m trying to sort things out to mail home. I’m absolutely worn out tired.

2013_11IRAQ-111 106

2013_11IRAQ-110 107

2013_11IRAQ-109 108

2013_11IRAQ-114 109     Flight Check In

2013_11IRAQ-116 110     A soldier returning from R&R

2013_11IRAQ-115 111     Headed home

March 9, 2009

Tonight is a bad dust storm with a little fog and rain mixed in. The rain has lots of dirt in it. I’m desperate to leave. Desperate. A rocket hit an area outside the base. Big one.

2013_11IRAQ-117 112     Last Flight Out

Green Elementary School Collaboration

I'm working hard this week to move my new San Diego Study vid forward. The new one will reorganized traffic on the 163 freeway according to car color to reveal the city's preference. I'm still very surprised that so many people drive silver/gray cars in San Diego. It's such a sunny town you'd expect a little more color. I'm in my fifth week of editing with a few to go. When I'm done will someone please throw a bucket of Gatorade on me? I'm also excited to move forward with a new community collaborator: Green Elementary School. We're just starting to work the details out but what I hope to do with the school is show the total number of kids that use a swing set over the period of five days. I visited a class recently and was blown away by the kids. They're a savvy crew with big ambitions. There are a couple of girls who want to be pro football players, which is incredible. The princess narrative that's laid on young girls is so unbelievably lame and limiting, it was really neat to hear these girls talk about their ambitions without limits.