Week 2 of the Tor Challenge

So far in the Tor Challenge I have learned……

…people get used to you snapping pictures in their face, they relax and act like everything is totally normal.

….it’s hard to get the camera in exactly the right place. There are so many well timed images where I wish I could move the camera over just a little bit, wish I taken a step back, wish I had adjusted my f-stop.

Grandpa watches TV

For example, this picture of my grandfather with his artifacts, watching the history channel. He is a big WW2 buff; I haven’t been to their house in a long time and not seen Hitler at some point during my stay. He collects all sorts of memorablia, from Nazi flags to Military food rations. This summer they had a garage sale where he sold a lot of his artifacts, to make money so he could continue shopping.

Grandma finishes her makeup

….then there are those pictures where it works, and you have moment from exactly right angle to make you want to stay and look….

In this image my grandmother has just finished her morning ritual of applying her “mascara” (mask in Spanish). She told me that no matter what, even when she was sick in bed, she takes the time to do herself up for my grandfather. This picture shows her pride, and satisfaction at a job well done. She is enjoying the beauty of her face.

30 Day Tor Challenge

My mom has challenged me to actively “be a photographer” for 30 days. Everyday I must photograph a subject that has been predetermined. In addition to daily shooting, each week must include a photo shoot that will be used to build up a portfolio. My goal in building the portfolio is to be able to have a business where I am taking portraits with a photo-journalist approach. The title the “Tor Challenge” comes from the photographer my mom and her husband, Matt used for their wedding. Tor is a member of the Wedding Photojournalist Association, which states:

“WPJA members should not have more than 25-35% of the wedding images on their web sites from the following combined categories*:

  • Portrait (photographer has control of the posed situation)
  • Set-Up (subjects faking a moment or actions prompted by the photographer)
  • Camera Aware (subjects staring into the camera)
  • Details (flowers, cakes, rings, tables, gowns, shoes)
  • Manipulated Images (pictures heavily altered with software: sepia, selenium or other toning, selective tinting, soft-focus effects, vignetted edges, desaturation, texture overlays)”

While I would eventually like to shoot weddings, my goal here is to become a better story teller. With these guidelines I will be challenged to make family portraits that don’t just say, ‘here everyone was on this day together in front of the camera with well lit faces.’ I want my portraits that tell a story about the person or people I’m photographing.

What will my subjects interaction with the camera be if only 25% of images are posed situations?

I am very excited to take on this challenge. I look forward to looking at images made by other members of the WPJA, to see what their solution to these challenges have been.

Thanks mom for pushing me to work harder!

Tropicos Breeze

Monday evening Ish and I went back to Aurora to shoot.  Luckily, it was another gorgeous day!  We met up around 6:30, and both of us we starving.  We decided to start with dinner at the Salvadorian restaurant, Tropicos Breeze.  The menu advertised pupusas (like a  thick tortilla filled with meat, cheese and veggies), and the prices were right.

Because of the beautiful day, we requested to sit on the patio.  The host looked at us like we were kinda crazy, but told us to go ahead.  As I stepped outside into the roaring sounds of Hwy 99, I understood his questioning.  The sun was out, and we both were looking forward to about dining al fresco, so we sat down.

the sun was so bright they had the shades closed

The waitress came to take our drink order.  We both got beers, and decided to share some kind of fruit juice drink Ish was excited about.  Ish inquired about getting a side of yuca.  The woman nodded her head, wrote it down, and went to put our order in.  “Guess we’re getting yuca to start,” she said.  I love yuca, though I never cook it at home, so was happy for the opportunity to eat it!

Yuca Fries and Drinks

Since we had gone a little over board on the first course, we searched the menu for the best deals…. Pupusas for $2.50, and the $4.99 entree, how can you go wrong??  We couldn’t say enough in praise of the restaurant, and we hadn’t even tried the food yet!  Luckily the food lived up to our expectations.  Unfortunately, everything was so delicious I didn’t get a chance to take any more pictures until we had finished our meal.  Looks like I will have to go back to recapture…….


After drinking a giant glass water, a beer, and half a glass of tropical juice, we both really needed to use the restroom…

Women’s Restroom

Leaving Tropicos Breeze, we realized our leisurely three course dinner had put us behind schedule.  Dark was setting in, so I took the opportunity to work on my homework assignment for my Night Color class at Photo Center Northwest.  Here is the shot we got.  Thanks Ish, for doubling as my assistant and my model!

Ish Smokes the Last Cigarette before Canada

Aurora preview

Yesterday evening the beautiful weather finally got me and Ish out of the apartments and back onto Aurora Avenue.  We scoped out some of our old favorites, as well as discovered some new corners and alley ways.

Ish in the alley between F&E Motor Sales and Tropicos Breeze

At the Georgian Motel, we were told to come back in a few days after they get some of the repairs done.  Many of the motels there are clean and comfortable.  This afternoon I spoke with Susie, a resident of the Shoreline Inn.  “The rooms are clean, with no bugs.  Just nice furniture, and a soft mattress to sleep on.”  She went on to explain her contempt for the notorious Belle Italia and Thunderbird Inn, which had been closed earlier this year because of tax evasion.  Both of those properties brought bad press to the Aurora neighborhood in recent years.  Now many owners are wary of photographers coming to showcase the shameful, dirty aspects of their community.

swimming pool at the now closed Motor Inn

I think I went into this project looking for that gore factor, too.  In a way, it is still there.  There is no way to sugar coat a body wasting to drug addiction.  I want to continue this project with the intention of finding the community, compassion, and lust for life and beauty that can most certainly be found on Aurora Avenue.  I hope to bring the photographic voice to a place that has been misrepresented.


I feel like the images I have here are of a dirty Aurora.  I look forward to seeing where I can take this project with my new dedication.  Will the images be just as dingy?