by J. Rae Chip

The town of Danzig was located about halfway between the towns of Ashley and Wishek in south central North Dakota. In 1898, the Danzig Post Office opened, according to Ghost Towns of North Dakota. It closed and reopened again while the town struggled to populate. The population of Danzig never grew beyond 100 people, and one of the industries in the town, like most North Dakota towns, was agriculture. The remaining buildings of Danzig are two grain elevators (aside from the house of the two remaining inhabitants of Danzig.)

The book Danzig, North Dakota: 1906 - 2000: Gone But Not Forgotten by Geneva Roth Olstad, clarifies that Danzig was not really big enough to be a town until the Post Office's reopening in 1906. Olstad, a Danzig native, was born in 1944 on a farm just north of town. She said that most of the businesses in Danzig had already disappeared by then. She remembers attending a Christmas program at the Salem Evangelical Church. She attended the Danzig grade school and said it is said that she can never go back home again since Danzig no longer exists. However, she says that a piece of her heart will always remain in Danzig, North Dakota.
by J. Rae Chip

I think everyone can relate. 

There's a fine line in life between doing what you love, and doing what you need to do in order to pay the bills. If you feel like I just revealed some secret to you, then I am envious of you.

Seven years ago I left a job I hated - a job where I endured emotional abuse, worked long hours for no extra pay, a job where I was very competitive, but never promoted for alleged sexist reasons I could never prove - a job where I made six digits of pay a year. Money only goes so far in buying happiness, and I was not happy. I left that job and decided to just do what I enjoy for a while to see how it goes. And what a ride it has been!

There are consequences to that, and I discover new ones every day.

Leaving a job with a hostile work environment caused me to make some choices about running my own business. First, I decided I would never treat my employees the way I was treated by my former employers. What my old boss didn't understand was that when your employees feel like you are loyal to them, care about them and their well being, and give them perks for working for you, then like magic, your employees are more loyal to you. Employers can't always afford perks like cafeterias, adult playground slides, or in-house medical care. But employers can at least go to the appropriate lengths to not create a hostile work environment.

With that comes the creation of a job that people actually want to do and enjoy doing. In the arts business, it's especially important to make a position for a passionate artist and hold their passion. There is nothing worse than taking a hobby and making it a job, and then having that suck all the fun out of something that was once a hobby.

There are a lot of complications to my life that come with doing the art I want to do instead of the art that could make me money, but sucks the fun out of it. The artists reading this are saying there's not a lot of money in art, but I disagree. There is a lot of money in art if you are willing to do the kind of art that everyone wants to buy... the thing is though, that artists don't work well that way. Art is an expression of the artist's soul. People don't want to buy your soul in this day and age. They want you to sell them their own soul.
An abandoned KA-Bar paper factory in Brawley, California. This place was torn down, so I can't go back, but I loved running around inside, and I loved making this piece of art.
That's why people expect so much from wedding photographers. I don't shoot a lot of weddings. I don't enjoy them. I end up making my photos look how someone else wants them to look instead of making them look how I want them to look. People are supposed to hire a wedding photographer whose style mixes with their own, but yet I get requests to shoot them. And then when I meet with the bride, she asks for something bright and pretty. I'll take a wedding on occasion if I need to or wanted to, but I don't love shooting them. It's a constant decision between the opportunity to make more money shooting events like weddings, or shooting something I love for less money. Even when you're your own boss, you sometimes need to do things you don't love. I also don't love accounting, but if I don't do it, the IRS would be knocking on my door and asking for money; not only that, but it is unethical to not file your taxes.

Marketing is a challenge for my business. I am sometimes loud about the fact that Facebook and Google Plus make it harder for me by not allowing me to post my best work on their platforms because it has nudity in it (though, for some reason, other people can get away with it, but that is the subject for another time.) That's their choice, as it is their business to make a model for, but it complicates my marketing plan and again forces me to choose between doing what I love and compromising that in order to be able to market my work on social media. It gives other artists what I consider to be an unfair advantage over me in the business world, and therefore, I consider that kind of segregation to be harmful to the consumer.

Social media isn't the only internet source pushing me to make that compromise. One would think that I can do whatever the hell I want with my own site. I can, really, but it's hard to build links to my website. People who focus on search engine optimization know why that is important. A lot of directories or linking companies put a restriction on their sites, saying that anyone under the age of 18 should be able to see what they link to. I have warning messages on my site saying that minors should not use it because I do what I love, and I love horror and macabre. I love the human body, so I do art pertaining to that. I have to find creative ways to market that don't always include the internet. 

I'm still trying to figure out how to do what I love and survive. But for now, I'm surviving.

I am currently working with an author on illustrating her book. I'm working with a cast to make the scenes come to life, and I'm travelling to faraway exotic places, hiking up mountains, and climbing down canyons for pictures. And I love it. I'm working on some horror scenes that will be used as stills for a movie. And I love it. I'm working on some personal projects right now, something I haven't had time for in a long time. And I love it.

Giving good benefits and being nice isn't the only thing that contributes to a positive working environment. When I left my previous job, I also promised myself I would always conduct business in an ethical way. I also love journalism. So in addition to my own business, I was working for a while as the photo editor for a paper here in San Diego. I loved it, but the moment I decided I didn't love it, I quit.

When the editor-in-chief and some of the other editors on the paper needed a photo and we didn't have it, didn't want to license it, and couldn't get a courtesy photo, they pressured me to steal a photograph off the internet and publish it. I decided I didn't love it anymore. I will not steal work from someone, especially someone like myself who is just trying to pay their bills doing what they love. The other editors tried to hide behind a law that is still a gray area and not intended to be used in that way. I was all of a sudden once again faced with a decision to either do something I don't love - something that compromised my moral code, and even jeopardized my reputation and possibly my wallet - or to make less money.

My reputation as an ethical entrepreneur is very important to me, so I chose to resign from that position.

That closed another marketing door for me, so I'm branching out. I decided I also enjoy graphic design elements, and I enjoy producing and making short films. So I'm going to do a lateral branch out, and hopefully I'll be able to market those better than I can market photography because I won't have to contend with no-nudity rules as much.

I'm showing my work in galleries in other areas around my country and the world besides just places that are close to where I live. I'll let you know how that goes, too.

It's a complicated, hard thing... making your living doing what you love, but I'm determined to make it work for me. 

by J. Rae Chip

Some of the photographs in this blog post could be TRIGGERS or considered of graphic nature (none are newer than 2001.)

Photojournalists often go hunting for doom and gloom because that's news, and nobody wants to report boring news (well almost nobody.) Some of the world's most famous photojournalists have taken horrific photographs. 
Shouldn't photojournalists help their subjects instead of selfishly dramatizing the suffering for the sake of a paycheck? 
Let's check the record books...
"Napalm Girl" by Nick Ut, Associated Press 
This Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a girl (Phan Thi Kim Phuc), was taken in Vietnam on June 8, 1972. She was running away from her village after the South Vietnamese forces dropped a napalm bomb on it.

After taking the photograph, Ut took Kim Phuc and the other injured children to Barsky Hospital in Saigon, where doctors said her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive. After a 14-month hospital visit and 17 surgical procedures, Phuc beat the odds and returned home. Ut continued to visit her until he was evacuated during the fall of Saigon.

Today Phuc is a Canadian citizen. Ut still works for the Associated Press and is currently based out of Los Angeles.
Vulture and Kid - by Kevin Carter, Johannesburg Star & NYTimes
Carter photographed this Sudanese boy trying to reach a feeding center when the vulture landed behind the child. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994.

This photograph was the source of a lot of controversy about Kevin Carter because he was rumored to have stopped to take the photo and then leave without helping the starving child. 

The St. Petersburg Times in Florida said this about Carter: "The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of him suffering, might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene." 

The photo was sold to the New York Times in 1993, and the Times was contacted numerous times about the fate of the boy, to which they truthfully said that they did not know if the child reached the feeding center.

On July 27, 1994, Carter took his own life. His suicide note said: "I am depressed ... without phone ... money for rent ... money for child support ... money for debts ... money!!! ... I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners ... I have gone to join Ken (recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek) if I am that lucky."

An alternative account of the scene of this photo was provided by João Silva, a Portuguese photojournalist based out of South Africa, who accompanied Carter to Sudan.

According to Silva, Carter and Silva traveled to Sudan with the United Nations aboard Operation Lifeline Sudan, landing in southern Sudan on March 11, 1993 with only 30 minutes to take photos. Silva went looking for guerrilla fighters, while Carter strayed no more than a few dozen feet from the plane.

After some time, Silva also started to take photos of children on the ground as if crying, which were not published. The parents of the children were busy taking food from the plane, so they had left their children only briefly while they collected the food. This was the situation for the boy in the photo taken by Carter when a vulture landed behind the boy. Carter took a few photos before chasing the bird away.
Is it biased to publish a photo that only shows a portion of the global story?
The short answer is, maybe. But the thing is, even though a photojournalist's goal is to capture the story in one frame, it's not always possible. In the case of Carter's photo, he could have zoomed out to get the adults in the frame as well. Doing so would have probably saved him some controversy, which may or may not have saved his life.

People who argue this were not there when the photo was taken. The fact that the bird flew and landed behind the boy was the story behind the photo. The starving child was lying in a position that even had the bird wondering if the child was deceased. When the adults approached with more food, the bird would have likely flown away.
With all the prestige associated with winning a Pulitzer, how do we know the photos are not staged?
Photojournalists are not allowed to pose an image, add anything to an image, or take anything out of an image after it was taken. That is treated the same as when a reporter knowingly publishes information that is made up.

Even before today, there was always a curiosity about award-winning photos, and whether or not they followed the rules. In fact, this was something that Ut experienced with his photo of Phuc (Napalm Girl). Audio tapes from 1972 reveal that then President Richard Nixon said, "I'm wondering if that was fixed" after seeing the photo. 

After discovering that, Ut commented, "Even though it has become one of the most memorable images of the twentieth century, President Nixon once doubted the authenticity of my photograph when he saw it in the papers on 12 June 1972. The picture for me and unquestionably for many others could not have been more real. The photo was as authentic as the Vietnam War itself. The horror of the Vietnam War recorded by me did not have to be fixed. That terrified little girl is alive today and has become an eloquent testimony to the authenticity of that photo. That moment thirty years ago will be one Kim Phuc and I will never forget. It has ultimately changed both our lives."
Raising the American Flag on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal, Associated Press
Rosenthal was standing on Suribachi, a Japanese observation post on Iwo Jima island in World War II when he made this photo and the two that followed it. This image is the most reproduced image in history and won a Pulitzer Prize.

The third photo in the series, depicting 18 Marines smiling and waving under the flag, is what caused accusations that this photograph was staged.

The confusion about Rosenthal's photo stems from a report from Guam, where the reporter asked Rosenthal if his photo was posed. Rosenthal allegedly thought the reporter was referring to the third photo of the 18 men under the flag, which was posed.
Why do photojournalists take images depicting death (taking advantage of victims), in the interest of getting rich and famous?
One of the "Boston Photographs" by Stanley Forman, the Boston Herald American
Stanley Forman documented a young woman and two year old girl falling from this building that was collapsing because of a fire. He won the Pulitzer Prize for it in 1976.

The two-year-old baby survived this fall, but the young woman, the mother, died.

A lot of people say it is unfair to the victims to publish a photo like this, showing the death of the young woman in slow motion. However, it is what actually happened. One argument was that the two-year-old, when older, would be traumatized by this photo, seeing the death of her mother.

Is it necessary to dramatize the death so publicly? It's not for shock value, and Forman didn't take the image in order to become famous. In fact, he happened to be at the scene documenting the fire. He was not expecting, and surely not hoping that such a tragedy as this would happen. 

Showing images like this, what actually happened, is important. Without the truth of what happened in an image, how is the average American supposed to take anyone's word for it? The old phrase "pics or it didn't happen" holds true more than ever, especially since we have the tools to show the images.

Conspiracy theories happen if people don't get to see what happened with their own eyes, as is evident by the death of Osama bin Laden, where some Americans now say they don't believe he is dead because they didn't see a photo of him deceased before he was buried at sea.

Showing images of death is not new and not old. In fact, it's been happening the entire time that photojournalism has been a profession.
Twin Towers Jumper 9/11 - by Richard Drew, Associated Press
Richard Drew photographed this man as he fell head first toward the ground. The man jumped out of one of  the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Suicide of Evelyn McHale by Robert Wiles, Life Magazine, NY Times
She jumped off the observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York City, falling to her death in 1947. This was taken a few minutes after her death.
Monk Sets Himself on Fire - by Malcolm Browne in Saigon, Vietnam 1963
This Buddhist monk lit himself on fire to protest the poor reforms of the South Vietnam government. Browne photographed the monk as he was dying.
Footage of the tornado in Joplin, Missouri in 2011 seems to have cemented the
guidelines of documenting death. That is the first time I can remember as a journalist or consumer of the media's product, when I ever remember it happening. When one of the reporters from The Weather Channel walked over a hill he took a look, and turned to the cameraman. With a tear in his eye he said, "CUT IT NOW!" 

It's worth clarifying why he did that. Journalists don't like to announce to a person's family that their loved one has died. Journalists like to wait for the police or other proper authorities to do that first. Nobody wants their first notification to be from national television or from the newspaper; it's just not right. Journalists are human beings and follow guidelines that would be expected of other human beings.
by J. Rae Chip

These ten images have become the most popular of mine on social media platforms. Some have caused controversy.


Seriously. Some of my work is disturbing.
In June of 2011, the Las Conchas fire ripped through  hundreds of thousands of acres of forest in northern New Mexico. Deemed a man-made blaze, it screamed toward the town of Los Alamos, New Mexico at an alarming rate. Los Alamos, NM was the victim of another fire, the Cerro Grande Fire in May of 2000, and the damage from that fire actually served to save the city from the hotter, faster, stronger Las Conchas. Some of the only un-burned trees left from the Cerro Grande fire were on Pajarito Mountain, the local ski resort.

Click image to view slide show.
If it were not for the efforts of fire fighters to save this landmark in the New Mexico forest, a large quantity of the people living in the city of Los Alamos would have probably lost all hope in their future in the area. Many have moved away, but some remain in the small mountain town, living their daily lives, and enjoying the parts of the forest that survived.

Los Alamos has a population of about twelve thousand today. Most of the people work a single industry, the science laboratory.
Not in your wildest dreams would you ever imagine losing everything.  If that happened, how would you react?  What would you do?  This blog post is intended to raise money for these wonderful people, and to help those who are going through a similar hardship find hope that it will indeed get better.  

Alice and Alan planned to retire into the mountains near their long-time residence.  After selling their house in town, they began construction on their dream house on the piece of property they purchased.  A handy man by his own right, Alan did a lot of the work himself.  Understanding the dangers of living in the forest during times of extreme drought, they searched for a company willing to insure them on four separate occasions, but came up short.  They could not find insurance on their property because it was not a finished house.  One day, the unthinkable happened!  A fast-moving, crowning forest fire crested the ridge of the mountains by their home, and they had no time to gather many of their belongings on the property.  Alan locked most of them in a metal shed he had outside, hoping that even if the house burned, the metal structure would be safe.  They fled the property, watching whole trees burn behind them.
Charred pine trees as far as the eye can see around Alan’s property.
Upon returning to their property, it was worse than they imagined. Their entire piece of land was black, to include both the pine trees and the aspen trees. Their dome house was also black, and the shed was destroyed. Alice said that had they put on the final coat of concrete and installed the windows, their house may have survived the fire. 
The rain has since washed the soot of the outside of their house exposing the charred polyurethane foam.
Alan estimates the total value of their destruction to be about $600,000.  Among their losses were building supplies: sixteen solar panels ($500 each), three inverters ($3,500 each), 36 batteries for various generators and devices, multiple battery chargers, 24 tires for varies pieces of equipment (including snow tires with aluminum rims), 2 whole palates of Portland cement (70 bags total).  It also included $200,000 worth of tools: industrial shelving units (warped), a table saw, a radial arm saw.  They lost 90% of their household furniture, a camping trailer on the property, a truck, and family heirlooms to include a musket from the Civil War along with a loader and leather possibles bag.
Aluminum melts at 1220.58°F (660.32°C). Alan said that in some places, there was melted bronze. (Bronze melts at 1900-1950°F or 1038-1066°C.)
This is what remains of Alan’s shed where all of his belongs were.
Alan is a gifted photographer, and unfortunately suffered great loss in that department as well. He lost 250,000 slides, three Kodak slide projectors, dissolve units, and all his small photo accessories (filters, lens caps, bags, etc.) Luckily he took his cameras and lenses with him into the car when they left. The photos he has left are ones he has given away or sold, and a few that he had in their rental property in town. He mostly shoots nature and wildlife.

Surprisingly, a tractor, a welder, three shovels, some rakes, a sledgehammer, a sawzall, and a metal swing survived. Even more randomly were the two plastic chairs and a straw hat remaining after the blaze was out.

Despite losing their life savings and a lifetime of dreams and hard work, Alan wants to rebuild. He has not abandoned his dream to retire on that property. The couple has joined a law suit that does not seem to be making headway. They are exploring the possibility of suing the utility company because the fire was started by a tree falling on a power line. It was the responsibility of the utility company to ensure a proper easement clear of trees from power lines.

Alan is now looking for work once again, after retiring. They have purchased a new solar-electronics package. With the help of myself and other friends, Alan has constructed a shed on the property where he can store building supplies and belongings so they don’t get wet.
Alan’s friend is cutting the support beams and studs for the walls of the shed.
Aspen trees are starting to come back into the area, and they are now encountering the problem of having to cut some of them back to keep the forest healthy and not too thick. Elk and deer have returned to the property a few nights in a row to bed down for the night.

There is a lot left to Alan’s to-do list with this property. There is a giant mound of concrete left behind (the fire burned the bags of the cement, and then it rained, and it dried, and now the 2 palates of cement have hardened there). They need to put up new insulation and skin on their home, as well as metal shingles. They lost their windows and doors in the shed, so now they need to purchase new ones.

If you would like to donate to help Alice and Alan rebuild, you have several options:

1) Send donations to our PAYPAL (jessicaraephotos *AT* hot mail *dot* com) and note that it is going toward Alice and Alan. 100% of all donated moneys goes directly to Alice and Alan. 

Everyone who donates will be automatically entered to win one of several non-serialized / autographed prints by Jessica Rae Photography as offered in this album.

2) Purchase a print from our store, and 20% to 30% of the money will go to benefit Alice and Alan, depending on the piece. (You will notice I just raised the prices in my store slightly in order to get them more money.)

Why only 20%-30%? Jessica Rae Photography is not a non profit organization, and therefore has a limit to how much it can help others. This is an option for those who want to be guaranteed a print as something to show for their donation. Feel free to make a donation if you would rather do it that way. Feel free to explore both options if you want.
In May of 2000, the Cerro Grande Wildfire began as a controlled burn originally lit by the U.S. Forest Service. It became out of control because of high winds and drought conditions. The fire resulted in the burning of 48,000 acres of forest as well as the homes of over 400 families of the city Los Alamos, New Mexico. Amazingly and luckily there was no loss of human life (and no danger was posed to any materials inside Los Alamos National Laboratory.) 

As a resident of Los Alamos, I remember that smoke plume looking like a hand reaching up to the heavens as we evacuated, feeling helpless to do anything about it. I remember watching the destruction of homes on the news, feeling as if it were unlikely that we would be able to return to a town at all. I remember the Los Alamos Fire Department working long hours to fight the Cerro Grande fire while the other fire crews deemed it too dangerous to stay. It is because of the LAFD that most of the houses in the city were saved, and many of the firemen fought to save the houses of their neighbors while their own house burned to the ground.

This photograph was taken in March of 2011. Eleven years later the hillside is still barren. This fire taught firemen everywhere how to fight wildfires more efficiently. Because of the mistakes made here, homes were saved from the Wallow Fire in Arizona and then from the Las Conchas Fire in these same mountains in June of 2011. Indeed it is true that from all bad, good is born.

Viewing larger is currently broken. Sorry for the inconvenience. To view this larger please click here.
While visiting Egypt, I remember wondering how the livestock got onto these islands in the middle of the Nile River. Most times I could see a narrow stretch of land making it almost a peninsula, but this one in particular looked to have deep waters completely surrounding it. It was a long way from any of the main shores, yet there were livestock on this island. This photograph was taken from a boat near Luxor.

The shelters pictured are for the livestock and not for people. Most people in this area lived in more-established structures made of bricks.
One of the reasons for the Egyptian Revolution was a poor economy in which most of the income of the country was hoarded by the upper class, which were mostly oil companies or government officials. This man is living in an unfinished apartment in Edfu, Egypt, a common problem within the entire country. The government has no law requiring landlords to complete a building before they rent it out, and unless a building is complete, they don't have to pay taxes. Essentially, it is an incentive for rich property owners to never finish a building they are renting to poorer Egyptians. They are instead rewarded by not having to pay taxes! This is something many Egyptians hope will change with the new regime after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak.  
These two girls live deep in a city of the Jungle of Chiriqui Province, western Panama - I was there in 2005, and they thought I was a missionary and were extremely hostile to me for the first few days. It seems that they had been touched by a group of "gringos" who taught them about God, but the gringos never helped them with any of their daily tasks like fetching water, repairing roofs, or even cook. This village is full of people who share everything: food, parenting responsibilities, soccer balls, etc. and it was off-putting to them that the missionaries didn't even bother to learn about them. "How could they say we were wrong without even finding out what we believed first?" said one of the villagers.

These two girls live in a house that was at one point, converted into a church. But after the missionaries had left, it was turned back into their house. The girls don't understand why their house had to become the church, and their parents were not available to answer the question.

(As a side note... this deep in the jungle, most of the people do not speak Spanish. So our photography team worked with one translator who translated to Spanish, and that guy then translated into the indigenous language.)

This photographer has no inclination for or against church missions and is simply reporting the events as they were presented by the people who were available to tell the story.