April has been a hectic month here at the Times Free Press, but I also think it has been the best so far. It began with a bang when I was sent out to Rossville, Ga. for an (almost) exclusive story after undercover police raided a home where the owners were (allegedly) growing around $250,000 worth of marijuana plants. The alleged plants are above.
I couldn’t photograph any of the officers because they were all still undercover, but they took me on a tour through the home. When I walked in the front door, the smell of the plants was overwhelming. Piles of buds sat on the wood floor and tables in the living room next to a plant where the accused had allegedly been picking them when the police burst in to arrest them. Three bedrooms on the main floor of the house had been converted into hot rooms with sun lamps hovering over groves of plants. The original plants, from which cuttings were taken to grow new ones, were in the basement next to a small nursery of tiny marijuana plants. Another room packed wall to wall with full grown plants was also in the basement.
I’ve also been getting a lot of assignments to photograph politicians lately. Between the upcoming Republican primary elections for a local congressional seat and regular visits from Governor Bill Haslam and Senator Bob Corker, they all start to look the same so I work very hard to come back to the newsroom with an interesting take on their visits. I want to move past the smokescreen that is a political appearance and get something with a little more interest.
April also marked the second of my two Moments at the Times Free Press. Moment is our weekly photo column, rotated between photographers, with an accompanying online multimedia component. They are moments in the lives of local Chattanoogans, sometimes important events and other times everyday occurrences that often go unnoticed. My first moment was a bride-to-be making her first trip to try on wedding dresses with her family, and this time I found a family adopting a puppy from McKamey Animal Center. Both can be found at the link above, or in my portfolio section here.
My busiest day came on Saturday of last week. I photographed the first ever Kidz Expo, which was a Times Free Press sponsored event, at the Chattanooga Convention Center. It was a madhouse, with kids and their parents crowding into the large hall for games, activities booths, and inflatables, but it made from some great photo opportunities as well. The big moment of the day was a visit from Victoria Justice, star of Nickelodeon’s show Victorious. Kids and their parents were packed elbow to elbow just to get the chance to glimpse the starlet, and some were lined up for four or five hours to have their photo made with her.
When Adam Poulise and I sat down with her for our interview after it was all over, we found her to be a charming and kind girl who truly cared about her fans. She made the effort to try and get photographs with as many of the kids as she had time for during the photo session, and took nearly an hour of questions from the audience while on stage, ultimately running so far over her scheduled time that she was late for a flight back to L.A. out of Atlanta when she finally left. If only all stars cared so much.