EF5:: chapter 2 (volunteers)

    There are a lot of elements to what happens in your town after the worst U.S. twister in the last 50 years rips through it. You see literally every extreme of human nature surface. Yes, there are bad things…. there are looters, there are those taking advantage. But far, far more abundant are the selfless folks from within the community and those outside of it who have poured in to help. They have been cooking hamburgers, sorting clothes, delivering water, clearing rubble, and so much more for the past 5+ weeks, and I know they will be continuing to support this community and set it back on its’ feet over the coming months. 

     Here’s the first round of portraits I’ve snapped of volunteers. 

This is my friend, pastor TJ. He brought a crew from Greensburg, KS…. if anyone remembers what happened in Greensburg a couple of years back, there’s some irony there. The entire town was leveled by a twister. Now that those folks have rebuilt and moved on with the help of many, they are passing it on. Talk about close to home.

Pictured below is Misti. At the beginning of all this madness, she made mention that she had a little bit of storage space if anyone wanted to drop off a few donations. Since then, she has become one of Joplin’s largest donation centers. Every time she runs out of storage space, someone brings in another tent or another trailer and on it goes. ‘Misti’s Mission’ is also one of the longer running donation centers… while many other spots are having to close down or stop taking donations, hers keeps running. (If you’re interested in volunteering here, stop by their facebook page… they can always use a helping hand).

Her name tag, written up by one of her volunteers, reads ‘fearless leader’…

Manny is one of the regular workers at the mission. He’s been bouncing from place to place volunteering for the last 5 weeks…. now he’s here every day.

my sisters, sitting on one of the many mountains of bottled water you see throughout the city, nestled between two tractor trailers filled with boxes. They’ve been sorting clothes for the last several weeks.

This is my favorite ‘volunteer’ yet. His name is Eli; I found him patrolling one of the devastated neighborhoods at 6:30 on a saturday morning, watching for looters. I could tell he meant business when he asked to see my ID. This is a guy who doesn’t have a home himself; as a matter of fact, he doesn’t have a pair of shoes (nor would he let me buy him any). Yet he is protecting the belongings of others in the neighborhood he used to frequent. It’s hard to even know how to react to that. 

EF5:: chapter 1 (devastation)

      This is part 1 in an ongoing series that will cover the effects of the joplin tornado. This post contains pictures that deal specifically with the most obvious aspect; the destruction itself. I know you’ve already seen a million pictures that show the devastation caused on May 22nd, but it’s something you have to address as a photographer before you can go deeper; and I tried to focus (yes, literally…) on the surreal aspects.

One building untouched (and still in business); another torn apart right next to it.


some of the strangest sunrise landscapes now.

door with no home.

couch with no living room.

a tree is a makeshift flagpole/street sign…

positive messages left.

not so positive messages let. (and not too meaningful when there’s nothing to keep out OF anymore).

commercial & residential alike.

only a wall left.

Joplin :: 1 month later

    If you follow this blog, you’ll notice I haven’t posted anything for a month. Most of you know why. After an EF5 tore 1/3 of my town apart on May 22, I’ve been re-constructing life for my family. A close up on what was our living room:

And then, from a little further back… (shot by my sister Veronica from her blog)

    That sounds (and looks) pretty dramatic. Ok, it IS pretty dramatic. But when it comes down to it…. we’re ok. My wife, our 2 children, every family member and friend I know personally, is ok- and everything else is just stuff.

    Some of you also know the story of my camera being lost…. it was in that living room- turns out (as we realized later) that a semi went through that living room. So while stuff IS still just stuff, with no home, no camera, no STUFF at all… how do you move on from that? The answer for me is God. I am a Christian and there is no doubt that we have been taken care of by a God with a plan in the midst of what sometimes only looks like chaos. But specifically, God has sent us people to take care of us.

Family, friends, and total strangers from near and far have written us checks, given us their furniture, brought groceries, bought diapers, moved us into a new home, lent their cameras & equipment for my wedding commitments (forever thanks to Will Vastine, Artistic Expressions, and Glenn Landberg) and helped us go through the rubble. A good friend said a little something about me on, and through that blog, enough money was raised to RE-BUY my camera & lenses. Thanks more than I can express to the folks at the gig.

      So it’s a month later. Now what? We are re-settled. New home, new furniture, new camera, new clothes, new appliances, and more toothbrushes than we’ll use in a life time. We’re still a little exhausted from all the moving, sorting, paperwork, etc, but it’s finally starting to die down. That being said, it’s finally time to get back to work… so you’ll be seeing a more steady stream of posts again in coming days as I ease back into the ol’ workflow.

      Some of that work for me is a mammoth personal project to document, in many different ways, the effect that a tornado has left on Joplin. I wasn’t sure how to do that at first, but for sure, every day that makes itself a little more clear. It’s not all going to be devastation pictures, and it won’t all be pictures of flags hanging from rubble… it will be the unexpected, the ironic, the humorous, the beautiful, the terrible, and most of all the people side of things as this city recovers.

   There will be different chapters to this documentary project: they’ll be mixed into the normal kids/wedding/commercial posts, so it might feel a little abrupt sometimes… but really, that’s how life is here in Joplin. Returning to normal life, with lots of strange little reminders of the crazy thing that happened here and the amazing ways people are being given their lives back.