Hope Scholarship for The Wall Street Journal

Hope_Scholarship_001

Hope_Scholarship_001

A little while back I worked on a piece for The Wall Street Journal about the Georgia Lottery funded Hope Scholarship program, and the lack thereof.  The program, which originally paid for in-state tuition plus book expenses at Georgia state schools for those maintaining a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, has since increased requirements and cut funding.  A shortage of funds has led to the ongoing debate over whether this and similar programs should base the reward solely on merit, or if need should come into the equation.  For the story, I photographed two young women, one from a high income family who received the scholarship, and the other from a low income family who narrowly missed the requirements to receive the Hope.  It saddens me to see the program that fully paid for my collegiate schooling slipping away, and while I may have certain leanings over the debate of need vs. merit I can certainly see both sides.  Both of these young women were bright, friendly and deserving of the financial aid – it’s a shame they couldn’t both receive it.

Read more about the ongoing debate on The Wall Street Journal’s website here.

Florida: Sense of Place

Florida_Place_001

Florida_Place_001

This most recent trip led me throughout the state, from the magical world of Disney to a small town’s big parade to the sunny shores of South Beach with a great little circus thrown in to top it off.  These early visits on this new project have been broad swaths, whereas the next couple trips will be based around specific events and gatherings.  I feel as though I’m just now beginning to gain an understanding of the topic I will be grappling with, but I’m excited with the nearly endless prospects of images out there waiting to be found.

As I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, I am a biased photographer.  There is a time and place to leave my opinion out of the story, and I understand when and with what clients to check my own attitude and thoughts at the door.  That being said, personal work is not the place for that, not for me anyway.  So in that vein, I approach this new project not in hopes of creating a comprehensive documentation of my subject, but instead a visual projection of my own feelings and views of the place.  I’ll leave it to those outstanding news photographers I know and love who dedicate a lifetime to their communities to document the truth and reality of the state of Florida.  Mine is simply one man’s view, and one interested in more of an idyllic and fantastical viewpoint than that of hard truths.  I’m interested in the lure that draws so many to this small peninsula.

To see and read more check out my first post from this trip here.  Or check out the assignment that sparked my return here and here.

Florida: New Beginnings

Florida_lead

Florida_lead

I recently posted a series of images shot in Florida, commissioned by AARP.  That trip spurred a fascination I’ve always had with the state’s tourism industry, or more so with the places that industry has created, the people it attracts, and those that make it run.  As I reflected on why I was so deeply drawn, the obvious answer relates back to my intense interest of the surreal within our reality and the concept of escapism.  These same fascinations led to my ongoing project, titled The Fourth Wall.  This new study will set my sights on more of a microcosm of that idea by containing the documentation to Florida.  Basically I will be adding a new control to this social study in hopes of gaining more insight.

As I began to do more research, I came across some pretty astounding numbers.  Still waiting on figures from last year, but in 2011 over 87 million people visited the state of Florida, generating over $67 billion in tourism revenue and employing over one million individuals.  If you only look at the domestic statistics on visitors from the United States, the number still equates to 1 in 4 Americans.  So far, I’ve found no solid data to back it up, but by some accounts, Florida is the most visited place on Earth.

This blog post, and the next are the second of a handful of trips I have planned over the next year to document different aspects and events.  Stay tuned for more, or check out the assignment that sparked this trip here and here.

Brenda Hyleman for AARP Bulletin

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Brenda_Hyleman_0002

There are those amongst us who take it up the charge to watch out for those who cannot look out for themselves.  Brenda Hyleman is one of those people.  She volunteers with South Carolina’s Vulnerable Adult Guardian ad Litem pilot program.  The programs’ volunteers work with adults who cannot properly take care of themselves due to age, mental state and host of other causes.  Hyleman does this not for pay, nor any gain of her own, but simply to have first-hand impact on the lives of others.  Unfortunately, without new legislation the well-received efforts may soon end.  Read more about Hyleman and the program on AARP’s website here.

Bryan Norcross for The New York Times

Bryan_Norcross_001

Bryan_Norcross_001

I photographed Senior Hurricane Specialist Bryan Norcross in the studio at The Weather Channel in Atlanta for The New York Times.  To put it in layman’s terms, Norcross is a weather bad ass.  In appreciation for his work before, during and after Hurricane Andrew, Bryan received the 1993 David Brinkley Award for Excellence in Communication. He was also publicly recognized with designations of Bryan Norcross Days in Miami, Miami Beach, and Ft. Lauderdale, among other cities. In addition, he’s the recipient of an Emmy Award from the Suncoast Chapter of the National Association of Arts and Sciences, and lead the team that won DuPont and Peabody awards, the highest awards given in broadcasting.

It’s always great when someone so accomplished is still polite, accommodating and easy to work with.  Though it was a short shoot, Norcross was a pro and had something of a signature pose down to such a science that I hardly had to direct at all.  To read more about Norcross, check out the story here.

My Waking Life: Recent Travel

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Travel_0001

As I constantly remind students and loved ones, I strongly believe it is as important to document our own lives and those around us.  Personally, it’s also one of my greatest sources of inspiration and what rekindles my love for photography again and again.  In recent times, I’ve invested much of this personal shooting into my iPhone, a practice I both condone and question.  While the world of instant cellular image making has drawn me in, and given me an outlet to share that work (instagram, tumblr, etc.), I also question whether I will regret the absence of those files in my hi-res digital stack.  For me, the happy medium between carrying my heavy obtrusive DSLR and going light with only my phone is to opt for my Fuji X100, and all the images in this post are shot with the small rangefinder.  For the corresponding iPhone work, follow me @davidwalterbanks on Instagram.

Caleb J Spivak for The New York Times

Caleb_J_Spivak_001

Caleb_J_Spivak_001

The New York Times estimated that this past Thanksgiving was perhaps the most documented holiday in history, period.  This was due large in part to the rise of Instagram to over 100 million users, securing photography’s essential place in the world of social media.  As an avid Instagram user myself, I find stories of this type to be more than just the typical study of trending in society, but a reshaping of society as a whole.  Whether it is for the better or worse, I suppose only time will tell.

For my piece of the story, I photographed Caleb J. Spivak, 23, Director of Social Media at midtown Atlanta’s Atlantic Station community.  Spivak, like many spent as much time tweeting to his 11,000 followers and posting images of prize dishes on Instagram as he did interacting with those he is with in person.  I photographed Spivak hard at work, and could easily see how he could be the model social media user, and one whose life is intricately tied to the various platforms.  What I was pleasantly surprised about however was Spivak’s ability to seamless switch back from the virtual world and act just as sociable and warm to those around him, including his boyfriend as I accompanied them for some last-minute Thanksgiving grocery shopping.

On the note of Instagram, to take a little journey with me and 16,000 of my closest friends, follow @davidwalterbanks