these two little girls I photographed at the Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue in 2010. This is the oldest and largest Holocaust memorial service in the
Midwest and one of the largest in the United States.   After seeing that it was Holocaust Memorial Day today, I couldn’t get these girls out of my head and wondered if I still even had the photo.  After digging through old folders and files I’m glad I found it.   It’s bad enough reading about all of the people I didn’t know that were killed in the Holocaust, all I have to do is think of my beautiful Jewish sister-in-law, her family, and my many Jewish friends being loaded onto a train bound for Auschwitz and well, I’ll never forget.

Job “Fair” ?

As a social worker and later as a photographer, I entered schools and homes in just about every demographic of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.  From the South Side to the North Side, I feel like I saw it all.  Every place had its benefits and drawbacks and there were many times I’d leave wanting to live in the more economically challenged neighborhoods because of the people that lived there and the sense of community that outsiders don’t usually see or experience.  One thing my co-workers at the newspaper can attest to is my outrage when I would come back after covering high school job fairs in different neighborhoods.  They’d always say, “Do a project on it!”

Let’s just put it this way – the job fairs on the North Side not only had variety of job opportunities, but they were filled with mentors.  Parents, the friends of parents and other local families were there to offer internships and job opportunities in architecture, law, medicine, business….and the list goes on.  The job fair on the South Side?  The best thing there was the Army and Fed Ex.  Balloons were plenty, but opportunities and mentors were nil.  I remember a few days later, I was sent to cover a child on the North Side who set up a lemonade stand to raise funds for Tsunami victims.  Cute, nice, great.  I watched neighbors get out of their expensive cars and come over to gush and give money. Deep down I’d be thinking, ” I’d be more impressed if you all just got back in those cars and drove across town to offer your time.”    Cynical and judgmental?  Perhaps.  And hey, maybe they did,  but for some reason I never covered it or saw it.

I tried to do my own project on the disparity, but it was shut down by a high school on the West Side because they suspected something.   After moving to Seattle, I found JUMA while searching for organizations that helped high school students in economically disadvantaged communities.   They mentor and help high school students with employment, job skills and academics.  After doing a shoot for them, I decided to follow one student to his job at Safeco Field as a vendor.  Carliss (CJ) Bussey is a student at Franklin High School in Mt. Baker.  He’s an outstanding basketball player, student, and one of the hardest workers I’ve seen.  Last week I followed him from the end of his day, to his basketball “workout” (the season is over but he still plays), to his home, then to Safeco Field, and back home again.

It was exhausting,  and I didn’t even have to get up for school the next day, so I can’t imagine how he felt!  All I have to say is that this kid is an example of what JUMA can do for students.   Not only was he managing all of his business and work affairs with ease,  but you could tell he had unbelievable social skills and an independence/ responsibility you don’t see in a lot of teenagers.  He was greeted by random people at the train station and on the train. They’d yell out “CJ!” and then they would embrace.  At the end of the game, he gave part of his tips to a musician and he told me, “Oh yeah, I always try to give something away to them on the way out.”   I could tell that this was not for my benefit.  At the end of the day, he walked up the stairs to his father’s home and turned around and said, “Thank you Suzanne.”   But  JUMA is the one to thank.  Don’t thank me until I walk the talk and become a mentor myself  ( which will be happening by summer).

– I will be producing a short multimedia presentation on CJ in the next few weeks.   CJ will be making a decision on college and which team he will play for.

– If you are ever at Safeco Field, or any ballgames in New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco or New York make sure you buy something from these kids and support this great organization.

The Best Tramp in Town

I took a little weekend excursion to Astoria, OR last week and while driving around the quaint hillside overlooking the Columbia River, I noticed a family in their yard.  Behind them?  A trampoline.  I could see that trampoline had a quite a nice view and I thought, “Any kid who jumps on that must feel like they are flying over Oregon.”  Then I pictured it.  I dove by a couple more times because I just never like to bother people unless I think it’s going to be worth it. It’s sort of like life, you might picture something so perfectly in your head, but then reality hits and it just ain’t that great.

It turned out to be 3 year old Kayla’s trampoline and the family was more than willing to indulge me.  Kayla couldn’t quite get the height, so her daddy Nick helped out.   I say when in doubt, always go for it.  Sometimes it turns out better in reality.

Chicago Students Thaw Out in Seattle

Had the privilege of shooting Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business Spring Break Immersion trip to Seattle a couple of weeks ago.  There is something about visitors that always make your home city feel new again.  Had a blast tagging along with them while they visited Pike Place Market and rode the Seattle Great Wheel.  Thanks for a great Friday Chicago homies!

A student thankfully only pretending to taste the great wall of chewing gum.

First oyster shooter reaction shot!

Outside the first Starbucks


Photographed Foster High School during the 2014 WIAA 2A Regionals against Hockinson.  Foster fought until the very end, always trailing just a few points behind.  The players and the “volunteer” cheerleaders showed nothing but heart, but it wasn’t to be after Hockinson prevailed with a final score of 64 to 53.

Mamas Don’t Let your Babies Grow Up to …

Follow Cowboys.

Well sorry mom, I did.   But it all turned out okay.  I followed horse trainer, Matt Zimmerman, from his win at the “Extreme Mustang Makeover” in Albany, Oregon, to his adoption of his new horses in preparation for the biggest competition of them all: “The Mustang Million” in Ft. Worth, TX.

I randomly picked Matt at his first competition and he ended up taking first place out of all of the finalists.  When I stopped shooting and got a chance to chat with him,  I learned he had survived a near fatal fall from a horse  – the 1500 pound animal had actually fallen on top of him and impaled him with the saddle horn.   After weeks in the hospital, he adopted and trained his horse Diamond and went from not being able to walk, to leaving Albany a winner.

He was one of many mustang trainers in the country who decided to pack up their horses and hit the road for “The Mustang Million” in September, and I was fortunate that my trek across the desert wasn’t in vain.  Hemispheres magazine sent me to Texas to follow Matt.  When I arrived, Matt had ripped off his cast from a newly broken arm because he felt it gave him less control over  his horse June.  I remembered June from the adoption, and she was a hopeful, but according to Matt, his pilot errors from not being able to steer her correctly hurt her.  His last hope was  Mojo, a beautiful black gelding that was new to me.  The other horse Matt adopted had suffered a head fracture at the roundup and they gave Matt Mojo as a replacement a month later.  With one month less training time than his counterparts, he managed to finish 38th out of 191 (18 away from the top 20).

There were other, more “obvious” contenders at the Million.  Some very well known, some very flashy, and some were even followed by The National Geographic Channel for a recent documentary.  There were times when a crew of large cameras and lights mowed me down, and I had to worm my way through to shoot Matt near the arena. It was just me and writer Eric Benson following the man I had come to know as the talented, gutsy individual who was not going to back down. The most important part  –  he has  a very  real,  imperfect life –  just like yours and mine – but that doesn’t get in his way.  He just gets through the pain and moves forward.  That’s what I love about photojournalism and following a hopeful all the way into the desert:  sometimes the “not- so-obvious” is the more interesting choice.

Here are some of the photos during my journey with Zimmerman….

Matt when I first met him in 2012 and his win with Diamond.

The adoption of his new horses for The Mustang Million in Burns, OR.  Mojo was not yet a part of things.

The Mustang Million, Ft Worth TX  (Not published by Hemispheres)

The published version of the story at this link. ..


You Just Might Miss It

I always love covering state swimming.  In the past I would have to cover about 20 teams (with another photographer) and it was hard to focus on anything else except the action shot.  This year all I had to cover was Mt. Rainier High School so I was able to get some shots out of the water as well.    In the words of one of my favorite “Chicagoans”  Ferris Bueller, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, life moves pretty fast and if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile you just might miss it.”

Bye Ball!

When my brother was little he used to say to the setting sun, “Bye ball!”. We’ve had a very foggy week here in Seattle, but Tuesday night it burned off before this beautiful sunset. I was at the Columbia Tower Club shooting some Seattle CEO’s at a gathering for the Puget Sound Business Journal.  I would take photos of them and then turn my camera to the sunset. (Not to say a CEO isn’t visually interesting – they are! But wow, it was hard to compete with that view). If you are ever in Seattle and you want to see just about every angle of  the Emerald City  FOR FREE go to the Columbia Center Skyview Observatory.  If you don’t mind skipping the novelty and high prices of the Seattle Space Needle, go to Columbia Center and you too will be like a drooling, wonder – struck child pointing and saying, “Bye ball!”.