One Year at the Advance

I can't believe it's already been one year since I've been working at the Staten Island Advance/SILive.com. It has been such a great experience.

 Here are 12 of my favorite stories I've worked on over the past year (one for each month):

1. A personal project that I've wanted to pursue for a long time:

2. The most fun I have ever had covering an event:

3. That time I got obsessed with a vacant prison and needed to know more:

4. The closest I've ever been to a bald eagle and the nicest woman I've ever met:

5. That time I was sent to do a profile on a high school football player, and uncovered a different narrative (and then it was nominated for an Emmy):

6. The weirdest story I've ever worked on:

7. When my manager said "so apparently there's this guy that has a lot of hair in his garage...":

8. When I filmed a dirty beach & Erik wrote an awesome story and then Senator Schumer actually did something about it:

9. The silliest story I've ever worked on:

10. One of my favorite team assignments:

11. The first time I made an on-camera appearance... and had to throw hatchets:

12. And ending on my favorite place I've gotten to explore - the bell tower (and this adorable father-son moment):

Thanks for a great year, SILive.com!

NY Emmy Nomination

I'm so excited to share that God's Plan has been nominated for a New York Emmy award. 

In the beginning of June 2017, I got an assignment to make a video about Amad Anderson Jr., a college football recruit and star wide receiver at Curtis High School on Staten Island. After receiving his contact information, I called Amad to set up a time for me to come to his home and interview him. 

A sports editor at the Advance mentioned to me that he thought Amad's father played football in the past, but he didn't know much information about it. It was one of my questions to ask during the interview.

While I was interviewing Amad Jr. for the first time, I asked him about his motivation for playing football, and he mentioned in passing that his dad was shot in college, but now he is living his father's dream. 

It caught me off guard. You know when you're going to tell one story, and then suddenly in a split second the story goes in a completely different direction? That's what happened.

One minute, I was doing a profile piece on a great high school football player, and the next, I'm uncovering a story about a father who also lived a football dream that came crumbling down when he was shot his senior year of college. It grew into a story about this bond between the two of them, and how Amad Jr. is on his way to living his father's dream. 

I spent weeks filming Amad Jr. at his football games and practices and hearing Amad Sr.'s story of the 1999 incident when he was shot. One day, I called Amad Sr. and asked if he had any photos of him from when he used to play and he said that he only had a few. I told him I'd come over the following day to see them. 

When I arrived at the Anderson residence, the entire living room was covered with photos. He had boxes of photos of his entire football career, award plaques, and Hofstra yearbooks. His eyes lit up when he was looking at his memories.

Then he pulled out an article from the box. It was the 1999 article from Newsday with the headline "Hofstra's Anderson Counts His Blessings." He still had the article about the bullet which shattered his career. 

Even though he never had the opportunity to become a professional football player, he was able to play in college and in an Arena league. 

Amad Sr. pushes and supports Amad Jr. to be the best player and person he can be, but it's ultimately Amad Jr.'s decision to want to pursue this. He loves the game and is very excited to now be playing college ball at Purdue University. 

It's such an honor to be nominated, but out of all of the projects I've worked on, I'm so glad it's this one. Their story deserve the recognition.

 Screenshot from SILive.com's article about the Emmy nomination.

Screenshot from SILive.com's article about the Emmy nomination.

See the full SILive.com article here. 

View all of the NY Emmy Award nominations here. 

First Breaking News Piece

Today I covered my first breaking news story for the Staten Island Advance, along with Eddie D'Anna and Jan Somma-Hammel, about a fire on 75 West Cedarview Ave. 

"The apartment was unoccupied and the blaze was knocked down within minutes. While the investigation into its cause is ongoing, the fire initially appears to be electrical, the chief said."

You can view the article here: http://www.silive.com/eastshore/index.ssf/2017/05/fdny_responding_to_fire_report.html#incart_river_home or in print: 

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Dine Out Against Hunger

Every April 27th, the Staten Island community and restaurant industry join together to fight against homelessness and hunger through "Dine Out Against Hunger." 125 restaurants participate and 20% of their food bills goes towards Project Hospitality. Here's a video I created for the Staten Island Advance. 

Ecuador & the Galápagos: Wildlife Edition

Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands are filled with fascinating and beautiful wildlife. Here are a few photos of the wildlife I encountered during my time there.

 A Hummingbird at the Mashpi Eco Lodge's Hummingbird Observation Center in Ecuador.

A Hummingbird at the Mashpi Eco Lodge's Hummingbird Observation Center in Ecuador.

 The Illioneus Giant Owl (Caligo illioneus) Butterfly at the Mashpi Life Center Atrium in Ecuador. 

The Illioneus Giant Owl (Caligo illioneus) Butterfly at the Mashpi Life Center Atrium in Ecuador. 

Two sea lions lounge on the beach on South Plaza Island, one of the Galápagos Islands.

A Galápagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) on South Plaza Island.

A Galápagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) on South Plaza Island.

 A land iguana climbing a cactus on North Seymour Island.

A land iguana climbing a cactus on North Seymour Island.

 Grapsus Grapsus, commonly known as Sally Lightfoot crabs, are one of the most common types of crabs in the Galápagos. They are born with a black or dark brown color in order to camouflage themselves into the black lava coasts of the Galápagos Islands. Adult crabs are bright orange and red with yellow or pink spots.

Grapsus Grapsus, commonly known as Sally Lightfoot crabs, are one of the most common types of crabs in the Galápagos. They are born with a black or dark brown color in order to camouflage themselves into the black lava coasts of the Galápagos Islands. Adult crabs are bright orange and red with yellow or pink spots.

 A man feeding numerous Pelicans and a Sea Lion on the Santa Cruz Island of the Galápagos.

A man feeding numerous Pelicans and a Sea Lion on the Santa Cruz Island of the Galápagos.

 A lizard sits on the back of a land Iguana on North Seymour Island in the Galápagos.

A lizard sits on the back of a land Iguana on North Seymour Island in the Galápagos.

A rare sighting of a Marine Iguana and a Land Iguana sitting together on North Seymour Island.

 A reflection of a Galápagos Giant Tortoise in the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands.

A reflection of a Galápagos Giant Tortoise in the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands.

 A male Galápagos Giant Tortoise attempting to mate with a female Galápagos Giant Tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands.

A male Galápagos Giant Tortoise attempting to mate with a female Galápagos Giant Tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands.

2016

As 2016 comes to a close, I want to share some of my favorite memories from this past year: 
 

1. Started the year traveling in Peru and Chile with my family


2. Martin Luther King Jr. Unsung Hero Awards Video

Melissa Scott and I had the opportunity to tell Kanisha Ffriend's story of being a disability rights scholar and activist at Syracuse University for the Martin Luther King Unsung Hero Awards. In January 2016, our film was screened inside the Carrier Dome during the awards ceremony and celebration. It was so rewarding to collaborate not only with Melissa, but with Kanisha and the people who she inspires with her work. 


3. Pixels and Print

Working the Pixels and Print design workshop was particularly rewarding for me. I not only worked as the Assistant Managing Producer to Renée Stevens for the workshop itself, but I was able to collaborate with some of my favorite people to create a promotional video for the design department at Newhouse. This was the first time I had a producing role for a project, so it was exciting for me to learn about what that entails. I oversaw the production of the video, assisted with conducting interviews, made sure we had enough footage, and I also was the primary video editor. 

This workshop also was when I discovered my interest in motion graphics. One of the designers was working on a motion piece for the client's website and I was mesmerized watching him work. Later this year, I took a motion graphics class to learn how to create projects in After Effects.  


4. Spent lots of time with my grandma... and got to know her pretty well :)

I always knew my grandma loved fashion, but it was quite remarkable spending time with her down in West Palm Beach, Florida and learning about her history... not to mention seeing all of her magnificent clothes! And while it's always fun to share the video with others so they get to know her better too, the most rewarding part for me is the memory of creating this piece with her. 


5. Skyworks Project

Skyworks Project is a drone project at Syracuse University where creatives & engineers come together to learn about and further develop drone technology. Arland Whitfield, the CEO & founder, and I designed a brand new website for the project and were able to recruit many new members. It has been so much fun working on this because I not only was able to take photographs, manage the blog, and help organize events, but I was able to learn so much about drone tech - and not to mention teaching others how to fly. 

One of our biggest accomplishments this year was meeting the Chancellor and discussing the issues of a potential drone ban on campus. 
 

 Eric Cola, Chase Guttman, Shira Stoll

Eric Cola, Chase Guttman, Shira Stoll

 Eric Cola, Gabriel Ortiz, Will Carrara, Chancellor Kent Syverud, Shira Stoll, Elliot Greenwald, and Christian Merced Cruz at the Chancellors house in Syracuse, NY.

Eric Cola, Gabriel Ortiz, Will Carrara, Chancellor Kent Syverud, Shira Stoll, Elliot Greenwald, and Christian Merced Cruz at the Chancellors house in Syracuse, NY.


6. CORE 4 with Lynn Johnson
I learned more about myself and what I want to do in the future during this summer when I studied under Lynn Johnson. CORE is a 20-day intensive class in which we work on a project, meet guest photographers & editors, ride bikes, eat food, and ask questions about the photography industry. See my blog post from the first 10 days: www.shirastoll.com/blog/2016/6/3/core4-with-lynn-johnson


One of the coolest experiences was the second half of the course where we all went to Pittsburgh and learned how to make tintypes with Jason Snyder in his studio. I fell in love with a Graflex Polaroid camera, my tintype is a photograph of the camera. 


7. Interning in Los Angeles
This summer I had the opportunity to intern in the photography department of NBC Entertainment on the back lot of NBCUniversal where I learned about the NBC photo archives and was able to assist on gallery shoots and Press Tour. 

Aside from interning, my summer in Los Angeles led me to Doris Wise, the founder of Jews Can Shoot & Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, who is the lead character in my Master's Film. I am continuing to work on the short film throughout 2017. 


8. The Fall Workshop

In just 3 days, I challenged myself to tell H Richard Levy's story. Levy was separated from his parents in 1938 when they put him on the KinderTransport to escape Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He recalls his lifelong journey to finally finding home.

It was an honor to win the Nikon Golden Eye: Best Vision Award during the workshop-  and I have to give a huge thanks to my team and my coaches, Amy Toensing & Katye Brier.  

 Right to Left: Cassie Zhang, Jeff Anderson, Amy Toensing, Shira Stoll, Pablo Piedra, Naomi Schware, Katye Brier: my team during TFW16.

Right to Left: Cassie Zhang, Jeff Anderson, Amy Toensing, Shira Stoll, Pablo Piedra, Naomi Schware, Katye Brier: my team during TFW16.


9. Published in Narrative.ly & NY Daily News

 Kim Dadou killed her abusive boyfriend before he could kill her. Then she served 17 years in jail, and now she's taking on the system. Read more: http://narrative.ly/she-killed-her-abuser-before-he-could-kill-her-then-served-17-years-now-shes-taking-on-the-system/

Kim Dadou killed her abusive boyfriend before he could kill her. Then she served 17 years in jail, and now she's taking on the system. Read more:
http://narrative.ly/she-killed-her-abuser-before-he-could-kill-her-then-served-17-years-now-shes-taking-on-the-system/

 Maleatra Montanez was sexually assaulted by police officer Chester Thompson. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/king-new-york-sexual-predator-article-1.2638864

Maleatra Montanez was sexually assaulted by police officer Chester Thompson. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/king-new-york-sexual-predator-article-1.2638864


10. Published in Thrillist for an assignment about pizza... and I really like pizza
 


11. Learned about light and portraiture studying under Prof. Gregory Heisler
Here are a few of my favorite portraits from this year:


12. Finished my coursework at Newhouse
Although I still have my Master's project to complete, in December 2016 I completed my year and a half graduate school coursework. This is my Motion Reel from the year showcasing clips from all of the projects I produced this year. 


13. Ending the year traveling around the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, & Panama with my family


14. The People I met
This year, for sure, I met some of the most sincere and dedicated friends. The Newhouse Multimedia, Photography, and Design department has shown me how much friends can feel like family. I want to give a special shout out to the incredible people I met in MPD, MPJ & beyond.


I'm so thankful for all of the opportunities I've had and friends I've made this year. Here's to a happy & healthy new year! 

CORE 4 with Lynn Johnson

At Newhouse, students have the opportunity to take a summer class with National Geographic photographer Lynn Johnson called "CORE." During the class, we have conversations about the industry that we haven't really talked about before. Some of the conversations include (1) removing the "labels" between photojournalism, photo illustration, fashion, portraiture, art photography, etc. and blurring the lines, (2) balancing personal life and work life, (3) how to tell real emotional stories without getting emotionally invested (since journalists are supposed to remain "objective," and how being objective doesn't exist,) (4) being a woman in the profession, and many other questions that a lot of visual communicators are beginning to address. 

 (l-r) Xiang Wei, Sam Maller, Shira Stoll, Melissa Scott, Viola Wan, Martha Swann, Jasmine Purdie, Vi Nguyen, Kathy Hua, Sophia Little, Xixi Zhou, Elizabeth Krist, Lynn Johnson. Photo by Allie Hootnick.

(l-r) Xiang Wei, Sam Maller, Shira Stoll, Melissa Scott, Viola Wan, Martha Swann, Jasmine Purdie, Vi Nguyen, Kathy Hua, Sophia Little, Xixi Zhou, Elizabeth Krist, Lynn Johnson. Photo by Allie Hootnick.

The class is designed to help us work on a summer-long project (ideally our Master's Thesis project), in which we plan our projects during the 10 days before the summer with her, communicate with her all summer while we're off shooting, and then meet up with her for the last 10 days of summer to show her work and discuss what we learned. We also have daily photo assignments during the first 10 days.

Our first assignment was to photograph an abstraction of light. This was in order to remove the stigma of those labels, blur the lines, and to get back to the basics of photography, which is light. These were my 3 photos:

The second assignment was to take lyrical portraits of strangers:

Our third assignment was to photograph the Multimedia Immersion Workshop as a class in order to get a full-coverage of the event. We each had our own task which was outside of our comfort zone. For example, people who usually shoot eye level, had to shoot high or low, people who normally shoot tight shoot wide, people who normally have very structured compositions had to shoot with their eyes closed, etc.

The Multimedia workshop, while extremely intense for the participants, was not the most intriguing location to photograph. There was minimal "good light," as we were in an auditorium on the 1st floor of Newhouse, and everyone was sitting at a computer editing their videos. So, the challenge was to shoot for 2 hours in this space where not a lot was going on and we had to shoot in a way that we don't normally shoot. Lynn told me that I usually shoot wide and have a lot going on in my frame, so she challenged me to shoot only "tight faces" with a 70-200, which is my least favorite lens, by the way. This was definitely a challenge for me because there was minimal light that I could use and I was only taking one type of photograph. I found myself just waiting and looking for little pools of light that would come in from the window to hit someone's face. 

Here are 6/20 of the images I handed in:

At the end, we put together a final video for the participants of all the photographs that we took:


The fourth assignment was to tell a story in 2 hours and we could only take 32 frames (as if it were taken on one roll of film). We couldn't delete anything and the photos had to be taken IN ORDER of the story that we wanted to tell.

My story was about overcoming a dark time and trying to move forward. The photos literally move from darkness to light, but the subject matter/use of light were meant to hint at undertones of a person struggling with a broken heart and moving towards letting go of what hurt them. It starts and ends with a window, insinuating a new day in both the first picture and the last.

The truth is that shooting this story in order was probably the hardest part. I really had to think about it, and sometimes the photo wasn't exactly what I wanted & I had to move on rather than wait again for the right moment. For this slideshow of images from the story, I cut it down to 24 frames in order to make the story more clear/I took out some of my less-successful frames.

We all were standing in the Multimedia, Photography, and Design Stele Center at Newhouse talking about our projects when Lynn told us to get a giant piece of paper and write down the first 20 words, collectively as a group, we could think of. We shouted them out as someone wrote them down. Once we had all 20 down, she said "ok. now go out and shoot. I'll see you tomorrow." That was at 7 PM and we had to shoot a good, lyrical frame of each of these 20 words by 9 AM the next morning. It was extremely challenging; especially because the main point of all of these assignments were to think less-literally and to really capture the essence of the words. Let's just say, none of us slept that night. BUT - it was amazing. It allowed me to really think hard about photography and how to get through tough assignments. I was researching, brainstorming, looking, and shooting all night. In the end though, while not all of the frames were exactly what I wanted due to the time constraint, I learned something from each experience and I came away with many that I was really proud of. Here are 15/20 of the words:
 

"Power and Control" was the final assignment. We had to find a stranger and take a photo of them that was observed and photo of them that was constructed. The "power and control" name comes from being in control of the photograph vs. being completely observant and not in control of the photograph. It was a good exercise in learning how to communicate with people and also how to understand when it's ok to be in control and when I need to step back and observe a situation. I photographed Bradley Burman, who was putting in hardwood floors in the Park Point Syracuse apartment building during their summer construction period.

Overall, it was an inspiring, informative, and wonderful 10 days where we not only had great conversations and planned our summers, but we also took a yoga class every morning with Jennifer Masters. This allowed us to really think about syncing our mind, body, and breath. Doing yoga (phoga, or photo-yoga) every morning at 9 AM changed the way that I work and the way that I am. It allowed me to be much more present, alert, patient, and relaxed. 


It was a great start to a wonderful summer and I'm excited to see how everyone's projects develop throughout these next few months.

 Core 4. Photo by Lynn Johnson

Core 4. Photo by Lynn Johnson

NKLA Super Adoption

On June 4 & 5, NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles) had a Super Adoption event in which numerous volunteers from animal shelters came together in Griffith Park for people to adopt dogs and cats. NKLA is an initiative led by Best Friends Animal Society, to turn Los Angeles into a no-kill city by the year 2017.

According to the Best Friends Animal Society Facebook Page, 520 homeless dogs and cats (plus 5 bunnies) were adopted.