Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST: Blog en-us (C) Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST [email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:37:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:37:00 GMT Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST: Blog 90 120 The Ohio University Second Amendment Club Many months ago I had a chance to meet, photograph and interview members of the Ohio University Second Amendment Club, a student organization at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. The focus was to talk about each participant's personal association with firearms. In this gallery you can view, listen and read each individual's response to six central questions.

Wes Gilkey, President, Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club. Athens, Ohio. 

A full interview with Wes Gilkey can be read here.


Logan Shumaker, Vice President, Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club, Athens, Ohio. 

A full interview with Logan Shumaker can be read here


Val Espinoza, Secretary, Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club, Athens, Ohio.

A full interview with Val Espinoza can be read here.


Ben Taylor, Member, Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club. Athens, Ohio.

A full interview with Ben Taylor can be read here.


Thomas Stierhoff, Member, Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club. Athens, Ohio.

A full interview with Thomas Stierhoff can be read here.


Kaitlyn Cedoz, Member, Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club. Athens, Ohio.

A full interview with Kaitlyn Cedoz can be read here.


Corey Bland, Member, Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club. Athens, Ohio.

A full interview with Cory Bland can be read here.


Andrea Adams, Member, Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club. Athens, Ohio.

A full interview with Andrea Adams can be read here.

[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 06 Nov 2015 21:05:14 GMT
Interview with Wes Gilkey - Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club Wes Gilkey – Interview Transcript – 3.12.13

(The following is a transcription of the interview in its entirety. The interview was organized, conducted and recorded by Zach Nelson while speaking to Wes Gilkey on 3.12.2013)


Name: Wes Gilkey

Age: 18

Hometown: Athens, Ohio

Occupation: Farmhand and Veterinary assistant who studies Molecular and Cellular Biology at Ohio University


Question 1 – What is your personal connection with firearms?


Wes Gilkey: “I got involved through hunting when I was very young. My dad used to take me hunting with him, and I never actually used any firearms. I would go with him, and one of my earliest memories of me and Dad going out was when we were squirrel hunting. We would take the dogs out, and he would have the rifle and everything. I never actually used – I did some plinking and stuff some small rim fire rifles and stuff like that when I was real young. I’d say [the] only time I really got into it and started actually hunting on my own was probably when I was 13 years old. I would go out and [shoot] mostly groundhogs around the barn. I would take my shotgun out and go down there with Dad. I guess that’s what I really started to get into it.”


            Q - What age did you own your first firearm?


Wes Gilkey: “I was given my first firearm for my 16th birthday. I got a rimfire 22mm Long rifle, Winchester Wildcat Bolt-Action rifle. That was my first rifle that I had.  Technically my grandparents actually got us all shotguns when we were born, New England Firearms, little single shot, 20 gauges. Basically, we didn’t use those until we were a lot older obviously. Technically I became a firearms owner then.”


Question 2 – Why do you choose to have firearms?


Wes Gilkey: “The main reason that I choose to have firearms is for hunting. Hunting is my favorite thing to do. Out of all the activities I have always been involved in – ice hockey, 4H, all those – hunting has always been the thing that I have always wanted to do. So really what I try and do with firearms is hunt. I use them obviously for target shooting. I am with some clubs and stuff like that, and we do shooting. Really the main reason I really have them and enjoy [them] and try and work with them so much, and have my own little firearms I really can modify, and play with and things like that, is for hunting.”


            Q – Hunting is where you got your start.


Wes Gilkey: “Yeah, that was what I solely did. Since then I have gotten into firearms, like, I buy and sell to try and make a little extra income. I have a pistol, and we will go out to the range and we’ll shoot the rifles that I have. Some things I have, for instance I have a Mosin Nagant, in Ohio you can’t hunt with that legally. So the only thing I would use that for would be like varmints, like groundhogs and things; and I just use my 22mm for that. So I do have firearms I just use for shooting with friends. But really why I am into firearms and why I continue to [be] into firearms is because I like the sport of it. I like hunting and providing for my family by doing so.”


Question 3 - What makes you most proud as a firearms owner?


Wes Gilkey: “I do like the history of it. It’s funny how you use the word ‘pride,’ because that’s really how I would describe it. When you are all sitting around the table and whatever you have got on the table is … whatever is on the table I have gone out and harvested during the season, and here it is on the table and the family is enjoying it. I guess that’s when I sit back and I really feel proud about being a firearms owner. Having that opportunity and having the knowledge and skill and the talent to be able to go out [and] do that. It’s something I really enjoy, so I guess that’s what I have the most pride in.”


Question 4 – What is the hardest part about being a firearms owner for you personally? Are there any negative stigmas or connotations you wish were different?


Wes Gilkey: “I would say yes, that there are definitely negative stigmas out there. I am not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you that there aren’t bad people out there that can have firearms, that can acquire firearms. Because firearms are not inherently bad, just like anything else is not inherently bad. There are some people who are bad. That’s one of the things that do put a negative stigma. When accidents happen, that outs a negative stigma. When people are unethical in the way they harvest animals if they’re hunters, that puts on negative stigma. I guess me personally, the thing that I am most concerned about as a firearms owner, is portraying a positive image. The number one goal is always safety. My main goal is the safety and portraying a positive image for firearms and for other hunters and people who aren’t hunters but just firearms users. In many ways they are the same,  so I make it a personal priority to make sure that I’m always being safe, that I am always aware of my surroundings, whether I be hunting or target shooting that I know what’s beyond my target. There are always going to be evil people in this world, and there are always going to be evil people who are going to acquire firearms. It is also a priority of mine that the public know that there are people like me out here who are just average Joe’s, who use firearms for recreation, we use them for food, we use them with our friends and no one ever gets hurt. We are good people and we would never do anything that would be with evil intent. I guess that’s what makes it the hardest part of being a firearms owner is that there are always other people out there who don’t care. Who maybe don’t put as much thought [in], and don’t make it a priority to shine that positive image. I guess it’s like with anything else: you have the good and you have the bad. Something with firearms that can be dangerous, I guess, is that the bad just shines a little bit more. So I guess that would probably be the hardest part. The hardest part for me is the public image and just trying to make sure you’re being good and trying to make sure that when bad happens, people realize that it wasn’t the firearm that was bad it was the people who were bad. You have to realize that there are good people like me that are out there doing our best to make sure we are being safe and responsible.


Question 5 – What do you do as an individual to make sure you are being a responsible gun owner?


Wes Gilkey: “That’s a really important question and one I actually consider often. Because it is so important that I as a firearms owner provide that positive image for other firearms owners, because I also want them to have that enjoyment and that pride with firearms. Really, it comes down to behavior and common sense when you’re around firearms. You don’t have to be a super genius to be able to shine a positive image and behave with common sense to be able to properly own a firearm.  I would never go out and treat them like they are anything less then something that’s dangerous, because it is dangerous. Anyone who tells you that that they’re not dangerous is wrong, quite frankly. They are dangerous, the point is that you have to have the common sense and you have to have the knowledge and you have to be literate enough to make sure that you can keep that from being dangerous to someone.  Literally 100% of all firearms accidents could be solved if people were just more literate, if people watched their behavior, used their common sense. Firearm incidents, I would think, would be pretty low compared to other injuries from other sports. Me being a hunter, a lot of the times I also feel as though hunting plays a large role in that. I think bad hunting practices often play a part in the negative image of firearms. 


I guess it’s important also for people who use firearms to remember what they are using them for and how to properly use them for those tasks. Because when you are out at the range, there are safety guidelines that you follow; when you are hunting, there are safety guidelines that you follow, and they can be different depending on what situation you’re in. It’s important you don’t take a deer that’s bloody and put it on top of your car and go driving down the highway with it. It’s not ethical. You don’t take two or three shots to down a deer, you take one and you make sure that’s a good shot. You don’t take that shot unless you know that you can make it, unless you know that it’s a good shot, unless you know that you can be ethical. It’s those little things that you always have to have in the back of your mind: When I do this what are the consequences? Because when you own a firearm there is always that chance that you do something, that you don’t use that intelligence, that you don’t use your common sense with and it can have horrible consequences. You have to make it a personal vendetta that you are a person who is literate, who is knowledgeable, who has the common sense.


Question 6 - What do you wish was different about being a firearms owner? Looking towards the future what would you change?


Wes Gilkey: “ To tell you the truth I think the thing I would like to see change about firearms is that I would like to see more people involved with them. And I am not just saying that because I like guns. And I am not saying that because I like things that have to do with firearms, but to tell you the truth. You just mentioned a lot of things. You mentioned public perception, you mentioned the way that people treat firearms, things like that – you know I come from a culture where I use firearms, my dad used firearms, my grandpa used firearms, my great-great grandfather used firearms, all the way back. And someone in the city, their great grandfather might have used a firearm, their grandpa might have used a firearm, their dad might not have and they may have never even handled one or seen one in real life. [An] issue that affects me also affects them because they are American citizens. And laws that have to do with firearms affects them too, and affect the rights that they have. I think a lot of problems could be solved and people would become more knowledgeable and be able to make better decisions when it comes to firearms if everyone had that chance to be with them and understand them and realize what they are capable of and not capable of. And what people like me use them for. People say ‘Oh you don’t need those to have food on the table.’ But we do use them to have food on the table, and have the right to use them to put food on the table. But the problem is someone in the city cannot relate to that, or someone who has never had a firearm can’t relate to that. I’ve grown up with firearms all my life, it seems like a no-brainer. But to someone else coming from a different culture, it’s not. So I guess education and that ability to be around firearms is something that I would change.


I guess another thing I would like to change is the fact that there are bad people who get ahold of firearms. And as much as I would love to change that – I hate it when bad people get ahold of firearms, I hate it when people die because of firearms, – to tell you the truth, I don’t think that you’re ever going to be able to change that, because there are always going to be firearms here and there are always going to be people who have that ill intent. Really it comes back to I think everyone should be more educated. I think everyone should be more involved. I think everyone should have a greater understanding so that we are all on the same page when it comes to firearms. It’s kind of a unity thing I guess, among Americans, because in some areas like that we are just not as unified as I would like us to be.”



[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 06 Nov 2015 21:04:48 GMT
Interview with Logan Shumaker - Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club Logan Shumaker – Interview Transcript – 3.12.13

(The following is a transcription of the interview in its entirety. The interview was organized, conducted and recorded by Zach Nelson while speaking to Logan Shumaker on 3.12.2013)


Name: Logan Shumaker

Age: 19

Hometown: Sycamore, Ohio

Occupation: Pre-med Biological Sciences major at Ohio University.


Question 1 – What is your personal connection with firearms? How old were you when you first operated a firearm?

Logan Shumaker: “I’d have to say I was about 8, about 8 years old.”


            Q – Who introduced you?

Logan Shumaker: “My father. Started with target shooting, then moved to skeet, then hunting and all that stuff.”


Question 2 – Why do you choose to have firearms?

Logan Shumaker: “Well, it’s recreational; it’s definitely a fun sport. A lot of people don’t think of it as being a sport. And then self-protection: I am going to be a concealed carry instructor soon. So I am going to be teaching that, and I also have my [conceal and carry] certification. And also hunting, that’s a big aspect of owning a firearm.”


            Q – When did you start? When was your first hunt?

Logan Shumaker: “I was about 12 when I went out deer hunting for the first time. I went through the hunter safety course and got my hunting license. Went out in the woods that year with my dad for a youth hunt, and it all started from there.”


Question 3 - What makes you most proud as a firearms owner?

Logan Shumaker: “Just the aspect of being able to own a firearm and being able to go out and shoot and have fun.”


            Q – Now you have been doing it since you were 8, is there any part of that that contributes to what you are proud of?

Logan Shumaker: “Yeah, I guess from grandfather to father to son. Yeah, I’d say so. Learning your first safety from your dad, all your basic range rules: keep your gun down range, keep your finger off the trigger, safety always on, always treat a gun as it’s always loaded. That’s just basic stuff that you pass down from father to son. I guess you would take pride in teaching your kin that importance.”


Question 4 – What is the hardest part about being a firearms owner for you personally? Is there a stigma or negative connotations you wish you could change?

Logan Shumaker: “Yeah, I mean, it’s not the gun that can hurt people, it’s the person behind the gun. That point needs to get put out more to the public more. Because it seems that that is what everybody fears is the gun, when it should be the person behind the gun that can do harm. That’s a major thing that’s a bad mark on gun owners.”


            Q – What about for you personally in your dealings with people?

Logan Shumaker: “I have been fortunate and not had any run-ins with anybody. I haven’t had anybody come up and say, ‘Oh you’re a gun owner, you shouldn’t own a gun.’ I haven’t had that experience with anybody that way. Our county is pretty gun friendly, I mean, everybody hunts, everybody pretty much owns a gun. ”  


Question 5 – What do you do as an individual to make sure you are being a responsible gun owner?

Logan Shumaker: “You have to be smart about it. I guess just follow your basic safety rules like I said before: keep your gun down range, keep your finger off the trigger, safety always on, always treat a gun as it’s always loaded. Don’t be idiots. Don’t be an idiot about your gun. Don’t do stupid things. Be a responsible gun owner; [do] what you’re supposed to do, follow the rules.”


Question 6 - What do you wish was different about being a firearms owner?

Logan Shumaker: “Just the negative aspects, that everybody thinks stereotyping gun owners as a dangerous activity or sport when, if you’re safe and responsible, there shouldn’t be any black marks or bad vibes about gun owners. People should respect firearms and respect the owners, I mean it’s our right.”


            Q – What do you want to see change about Gun ownership in the future?

Logan Shumaker: “Well, I would like to see more respect shown to firearm owners, that we are actually responsible and safe firearms owners. I would like to see most of the laws stay the same, that way everybody does stay safe.”

[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 06 Nov 2015 21:04:29 GMT
Interview with Val Espinoza - Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club Val Espinoza – Interview Transcript – 4.6.13

(The following is a transcription of the interview in its entirety. The interview was organized, conducted and recorded by Zach Nelson while speaking to Val Espinoza on 4.6.2013)


Name: Val Espinoza

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Age: 19

Occupation: Biology Major at Ohio University


Question 1 – What is your personal connection with firearms?

Val Espinoza: “I was raised in a very pro-gun household and we have always been very strong supporters of the second amendment. And so when I came to college I met Wes, who is our president [of the Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club]in a Biology class, and he was talking about the 2nd Amendment Club and how great it is, so I came and I kept learning and falling in love with him.”


            Q – Back to the more personal stuff, you were raised with a family that owns firearms. What about that aspect of growing up with it, let’s look at that part.

Val Espinoza: “My mom and dad, my mom not so much, we’re all very pro-gun. My dad owns guns, but he does it more like for collecting a little bit. Actually my involvement in the 2nd Amendment Club has really reinvigorated them, like I am the only one out of us to have my conceal and carry [permit], so I’d say it’s really like me becoming involved in the 2nd Amendment Club has really reinvigorated my whole family to become involved in it. And we have always been really strong supporters of it, mainly for personal protection, you know, it’s our right, too, and I feel it’s the best way to protect yourself, especially being women.”


Question 2 – Why do you personally choose to have firearms?

Val Espinoza: “I choose to have firearms mostly for self protection. Being a woman, we’ve got a lot of disadvantages, [those] being, height, strength, you know, just even upper body strength specifically. There’s no way I can take on a guy who is 200 pounds. So my firearm is absolutely my weapon of choice because if I have a 45mm handgun, that guy is not gonna mess with me; and I absolutely feel confident in that.”


Question 3 - What makes you most proud as a firearms owner?

Val Espinoza: “I’m most proud (it’s probably the most simple), I’m most proud of it because it’s absolutely alright. I just feel like a fully liberated American, like, being able to own a gun and practice it, practice my firearms use. I just feel really privileged because, you know, America, we pride ourselves on being the most free and I feel that this is one way I can say, ‘I am fully using my liberties,’ you know? The ones that I was born with I guess.”


Question 4 – What is the hardest part about being a firearms owner for you personally?

Val Espinoza: “The hardest part would be age for me at least right now, ‘cause I am only 19 – There is a lot of stuff that I cannot do still. Even being an American, it’s a really hard position to be in where you’re fighting for all these rights and you’re really a supporter of concealed carry, concealed carry on campus, and I can’t at all. I have to wait two more years. So I would say the hardest part is actually just waiting around until I can actually do it while I am still fighting for it now.”


Question 5 – What do you do as an individual to make sure you are being a responsible gun owner?

Val Espinoza: “I always want to be conscious of other peoples’ opinions. Because I love that the 2nd Amendment guarantees your right, but it doesn’t mandate it. So I absolutely wanna own a gun, but if someone else comes up to me and says, ‘I don’t feel comfortable with it, I don’t want to use guns in any way,’ I love that we have the ability to choose whether we do or do not use it. Now, I love using my gun, but I love that no one has to – it’s not a mandate, you don’t have to.”


            Q- So responsibility to you is being able to advocate and understand other peoples’ opinions?

Val Espinoza: “I’d say my responsibility would just be: Be a responsible gun owner in the sense to not judge non-gun owners. I think that’s the biggest turn off for people who are anti-gun. They feel like all gun owners want everyone to have a gun, and I don’t want that. So I think keeping other peoples’ opinions in mind when talking to anti-gun people is probably my biggest responsibility, ‘cause I never want anyone to say, ‘well, this person was pro-gun, and they really turned me off.’ I never want someone to say that to me.”


Question 6 - What do you wish was different about being a firearms owner? Looking towards the future what would you change?

Val Espinoza: “I wish I could modify the stigma with it. A lot of people think that we are just a bunch of gun nuts and that we like to go out shooting things like water fruit and water bottles and bowling pins and stuff – which is always fun, but I wish people didn’t think we were so crazy about it. We don’t go out to hurt humans; we do it really to preserve life. We’re all about protecting our lives and each other’s lives. Like, if one of my friends was not carrying and I was, I would absolutely protect them, even a stranger on the street. I always want guns to be seen as a form of protection, not aggression.”




[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 06 Nov 2015 21:04:05 GMT
Interview with Ben Taylor - Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club  

Ben Taylor – Interview Transcript – 3.22.13

(The following is a transcription of the interview in its entirety. The interview was organized, conducted and recorded by Zach Nelson while speaking to Ben Taylor on 3.22.2013)


Name: Ben Taylor

Age: 21

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio.

Occupation: Athens County Sheriffs Deputy.


Question 1 – What is your personal connection with firearms?

Ben Taylor: “I first got involved with firearms when I was about 12 years old. I went hunting with my father and I have just been addicted to shooting ever since.”


Question 2 – Why do you choose to have Firearms?

Ben Taylor: “My personal attraction to firearms kind of stems from not only the ability to own them but the sense of security they provide. I obviously carry one every day for my job as well as off duty. It’s nice have the security there that if somebody tries to take my life I can at least try and defend it in some way. I really enjoy owning firearms as it’s a pride to me, its kind of like something my family has done as long as I can remember. We go out and shoot together and its always a great thing to do is get together and throw out some clay pigeons, pull out the shotguns and just have fun as a family.”


Question 3 - What makes you most proud as a firearms owner?

Ben Taylor: “I take pride as a firearms owner in the sense that I can use my rights as I please, that have been granted to me, and protect these rights the ways that I see fit. And not only protect myself but others from harm way. Obviously part of the job is making sure that everybody stays safe and that everybody’s well being is secured, and one way we are able to do that is through firearms.  I take great pride I having that responsibility and that trust bestowed in me to keep the county of Athens as safe as possible.”


Question 4 – What is the hardest part about being a firearms owner for you personally?

Ben Taylor: “One thing that I wish could be different about firearms or the firearms community in general is the general stigma that comes with it: That people who own firearms are irresponsible or are not necessarily handling firearms in the right way. I believe that it’s almost like a one-percenter type deal where nighty-nine percent are handling them effectively and safely and then you have one percent who is abusing that responsibility and ownership and that kind of just give’s everyone else who is obviously maintaining their use of firearms properly and keeping everything safe and responsible a bad name and gives them a bad rap. That’s the one thing I would like to see change with firearms, is people be more aware that like anything else you’re going to have one person that makes everybody else doing the exact same thing responsibly look bad.”


Question 5 – What do you do as an individual to make sure you are being a responsible gun owner?

Ben Taylor: “I believe that if more people had a professional attitude with firearms that it would lead to an overall more safe and conducive group responsibility which would lead to a more viewed safety by the public and more viewed safety by groups who are trying to target firearms owners right now.  I believe we have a big responsibility on our shoulders and its something we need to address and make people see that not all firearm owners are bad. That doing it as a group we can do it safely.”


Question 6 - What do you wish was different about being a firearms owner? Looking towards the future what would you change?

Ben Taylor: One change I would like to see as a firearms owner is everyone who applies for a firearm has to do some kind of firearms safety course.  I believe that although being 18 your are seen as being responsible, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how handle a firearm properly. You are not given a drivers license when you are 16, you have to go through a test and required classes, etcetera.  I believe the same thing should be done with firearms that way there are a lot less incidences with them and a lot less accidents associated with firearms 

[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 06 Nov 2015 21:03:37 GMT
Interview with Thomas Stierhoff - Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club Thomas Stierhoff – Interview Transcript – 3.21.13

(The following is a transcription of the interview in its entirety. The interview was organized, conducted and recorded by Zach Nelson while speaking to Thomas Stierhoff on 3.21.2013)


Name: Thomas Stierhoff

Age: 22

Hometown: Bucyrus, Ohio

Occupation: Engineering Technology Management Major at Ohio University


Question 1 – What is your personal connection with firearms?

Thomas Stierhoff: “Honestly, it started when I was pretty young just because both my parents were cops. So by the time I was born, my mom was taking care of me and my dad would come home everyday and he would have a gun with him, so honestly it was pretty normal for me just to see a gun every day, like no big deal for me. I started shooting when I was pretty young, just a BB guns for the most part. My dad was very cautious as to exposure, so I didn’t really shoot a whole bunch [of] –I don’t want to say real guns—but I didn’t even shoot a 22mm until I was in late elementary school maybe, and that was only with my dad. Safety was always the most important lesson instilled upon me at a really young age. Knowing that it’s something that could be potentially dangerous if you do it irresponsibly.”


Question 2 – Why do you choose to have firearms?

Thomas Stierhoff: “The interesting thing I find about firearms, like, ever since I was young I was fascinated by the science of it. I thought it was interesting. Like, a round of ammunition and just the energy, and if you do certain things to it correctly you can have a projectile travel a thousand feet per second, and you can still do that 100 times and have it still be accurate. I found that part fascinating and how it works: all the mechanical parts, and I am an engineer so I kind of like that stuff. After I joined the [Ohio University] 2nd Amendment Club, I started getting into the actual shooting parts of it, which – I was always shooting, but I never really did it correctly. So then, I started shooting correctly, and after a while, I kind of got into teaching other people how to shoot, which I found out I actually like doing that. It’s always neat teaching other people new things and seeing them get better. After being an officer of the club I kind of started getting into the politics of it which I never really liked, but it’s kind of interesting seeing how two people can see something happen and have two completely different opinions on what should be done.”


Question 3 - What makes you most proud as a firearms owner?

Thomas Stierhoff: “I wouldn’t say there is much of an aspect I take pride in as a firearms owner. I don’t know, honestly, it isn’t something I want to walk down the street and be like ‘Hey look at me, I own a gun ‘cause I am born and raised all American’ or whatever. But if I can say there is anything I am proud of as an individual it can be that being a responsible firearms owner is something I can be proud about. As an American, it’s something to be proud about just for that fact that not all countries give their citizens rights to own a firearm. We have a lot of freedoms we take for granted.”


Question 4 – What is the hardest part about being a firearms owner for you personally?

Thomas Stierhoff: “I’d say the thing I am most concerned about as a firearms owner is discretion. I feel like that’s a big part. It’s not apparent, ‘cause you know I am getting interviewed right now. But it is always a good idea that you don’t want anyone to know that you own a gun, if you can help it, unless you trust them. I am doing this [interview] just because I am in the [2nd Amendment] Club. I feel like a lot of people, if they have no exposure, or have never shot a gun or might have had a bad experience…it’s kind of easy to label. I guess a lot of irresponsible people kind of ruin it for a lot of us. My brother doesn’t really actually believe in guns, which is interesting because both of my parents do. But my brother, he lives in Chicago, so you can blame the city. But it’s interesting seeing how – he always says, like, ‘I don’t know why you go out with your redneck friends and you’ll got shooting,’ and I tell him it’s what I enjoy. If I want to do it, why not?”


            Q - You brought up the point about discretion and I have never heard anyone talk about this, can you elaborate?

Thomas Stierhoff: “Yeah. You could say that a lot of gun owners are misrepresented because a lot of people don’t want anyone else to know that they have a gun. Like my father, he really keeps to himself. He told me a story randomly about how so-and-so from work were talking about guns. They had a similar interest as my dad. So I asked him, “What did he say when you told him you did this?” and he told me, “Oh, I didn’t join the conversation because I don’t want them to know.” I feel like nothing good can come from other people knowing that you have guns. I don’t know, one thing at college I am really concerned about is obviously being able keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have access to them. I have a gun safe in my room; if I can’t fit it in the safe I put a [trigger] lock on it. I will take out parts of it that will make it impossible to fire. The only people that do know it are my brother and my roommates, who I tell because I feel like the have a right to know. “


Question 5 – What do you do as an individual to make sure you are being a responsible gun owner?

Thomas Stierhoff: “I feel like one of the things that get a lot of people in trouble is always remembering how important a lot of these [safety] things are. The way I try to be reasonable and help teach other people in my club to be responsible gun owners, really as a large part, just know what you are talking about; having the knowledge to back up your standpoint, your beliefs. I feel like a lot of people might like to shoot guns or like certain aspects of guns, but if you ask ‘Why do you believe that way?’ they might have no reason, like, ‘oh it’s fun’. I feel like if you have a little knowledge as to why you do what you do, you might be able to have a better conversation with other people. You will always meet other people who don’t have   similar beliefs as you, and if you don’t know what you are talking about, you will get run over.”


            Q – What are the irresponsible people doing to ruin firearm ownership for you?

Thomas Stierhoff: I feel like some people who do conduct themselves in an irresponsible manner – honestly, it always starts with some basic safety thing. You might go to a range and someone is doing something you know is wrong, [and] even if you ask them to stop but they still keep doing it, it shows disrespect to other people and it makes everybody look bad.”


Question 6 - What do you wish was different about being a firearms owner? Looking towards the future what would you change?

Thomas Stierhoff: If I could change anything, other than the prices right now, I’d say it’d be nice if it was more common. Like right now usually when I talk to someone they’re like, ‘Oh you shoot guns? That’s cool!’ I don’t know. I wouldn’t say it’s uncommon, but not maybe at my age group [is it] the most popular thing right now. I couldn’t tell you why that is. If I could really change anything I would have gun safety in school, it’s kind of off topic, but basic safety courses when you’re younger, so it’s not so foreign. Exposure. I feel like a lot of people are not exposed, so it’s foreign, so they might just draw a conclusion without any knowledge and say, ‘Oh I don’t like that,’ or ‘that’s bad.’ I feel like some positive exposure [would do] a lot of people some good, ‘cause not everybody is a gun nut. Just because I have a gun doesn’t mean I am gonna shoot somebody, ‘cause I am a pretty mellow guy.” 

[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 06 Nov 2015 21:02:52 GMT
Interview with Kaitlyn Cedoz - Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club Kaitlyn Cedoz – Interview Transcript – 4.6.13

(The following is a transcription of the interview in its entirety. The interview was organized, conducted and recorded by Zach Nelson while speaking to Kaitlyn Cedoz on 4.6.2013)


Name: Kaitlyn Cedoz

Age: 19

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Occupation: Undergraduate student at Ohio University


Question 1 – What is your personal connection with firearms?

Kaitlyn Cedoz: “My personal connection with firearms is that I think it’s a huge equalizer. So I am really into handgun competitions. So you go out there with the boys and it doesn’t matter if they’re 6’ 7” - you are equal, you have nothing against you, you are equally just as skilled if you work hard at it. No matter what: doesn’t matter the size, how high they can jump, or anything; it’s an equal platform for everyone. ”


            Q - What was your start? How did you get Involved?

Kaitlyn Cedoz: “While growing up my dad and my brothers would hunt, but I had always been separate and I never worried about it. And then I got to Ohio University, and for the most part the campus has very different views on stuff. So I got here and some random kid in a cowboy hat [Wes Gilkey] asked me to join this club. So I joined [Ohio University’s] 2nd Amendment Club and started shooting and I fell in love with it immediately. I love the confidence it gave you, because you instantly have this power, you feel so safe and so protected once you get to fully use and understand and be safe with a firearm.”


Question 2 – Why do you choose to have Firearms?

Kaitlyn Cedoz: “I choose to have firearms mostly for protection. You always feel safe with it ‘cause I have used them many times, so I am not scared of them at all and I understand the power that they have. So they keep you safe if you know how to use them and use them properly and you are safe with them, then you are definitely protected by using them.”


Question 3 - What makes you most proud as a firearms owner?

Kaitlyn Cedoz: “It’s just the small group of people. You get to know them and everyone is so willing to help everybody, and you just really get into this little clique with everyone and you just feel so comfortable. There is always room for improvement so you never get bored with it and there is always somewhere to go with and become more and more comfortable with them.”


Question 4 – What is the hardest part about being a firearms owner for you personally?

Kaitlyn Cedoz: “Just the lack of education forums for the general public. People tend to fear the unknown, and I feel that firearms for the most part are very unknown to people, so they are just scared naturally. If there is one thing I can change about it, it would be the lack of exposure that everybody has. Because once you get out there and you shoot it and you understand it and you are the master of it and you don’t let it master you, it’s completely safe and completely comfortable.”


Question 5 – What do you do as an individual to make sure you are being a responsible gun owner?

Kaitlyn Cedoz: “I would say a huge thing with being safe with firearms is you have to be safe with them. You have to realize that it’s a tool and you are the one with the power with it. And that it’s just there to assist you if you need assistance or you need to be protected; and just keep them away from people who aren’t exposed to them, who don’t have the knowledge for them. You know how to master it, and if you know how, make sure you keep going out there and shooting and keep understanding and learning as you go.”


Question 6 - What do you wish was different about being a firearms owner? Looking towards the future what would you change?

Kaitlyn Cedoz: If there is one thing I could change it’s definitely if people haven’t shot, then people aren’t exposed to them, so they tend to be offended or upset with them. So if you just take people out there and get them to use them and experience what it is like to shoot a firearm and the purpose they’re there and to educate people towards it, that would definitely be a great direction for firearms and that’s the only thing I would change.”


            Q – As we have been sitting here talking about this is there anything else you would like to add about your personal connection with firearms?

Kaitlyn Cedoz: “I think firearms are excellent for women because anyone who goes out there, you might feel uncomfortable in certain situations and this keeps you safe. If you are living alone, I mean you hear so many horror stories of, like, girls in a house together. So it keeps everyone safe if you know how to use it properly. And that’s [the] main thing, you have to shoot constantly and frequently so you know what you are doing and you don’t make mistakes and you are trained properly.”


[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 06 Nov 2015 21:01:49 GMT
Interview with Corey Bland - Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club Corey Bland – Interview Transcript – 3.22.13

(The following is a transcription of the interview in its entirety. The interview was organized, conducted and recorded by Zach Nelson while speaking to Corey Blandon 3.22.2013)


Name: Corey Bland

Age: 21

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Occupation: Reserve Deputy for Athens County Sheriff’s Offices


Question 1 – What is your personal connection with firearms?

Corey Bland: “The way I got started with firearms was basically just with friends, friends who taught me how to shoot. Eventually I took some Concealed and Carry classes, took some training and stuff like that. But originally just got into it with friends.”


            Q - How old were you when you got started?

Corey Bland: “Probably about 15.”


            Q - Was it hunting or target shooting?

Corey Bland: “Target shooting with shotguns was how I started out.”


Question 2 – Why do you choose to have Firearms?

Corey Bland: “I have firearms obviously for my job; it’s something we have to have. I also like to hunt and love to target shoot, I get a lot of fun out of recreational shooting. They’re just great.”


Question 3 - What makes you most proud as a firearms owner?

Corey Bland: “I take pride in being able to protect myself and my family. Shooting firearms is fun, but you still always have to think about having to protect yourself, and that’s what they were originally built for. I just take pride in being able to protect the people I love.”


Question 4 – What is the hardest part about being a firearms owner for you personally?

Corey Bland: “I believe the hardest part about owning a firearm definitely is the stigma of it. A lot of people, you know, if you have a concealed and carry permit people will say, ‘Oh you’re paranoid. What do you need to carry that for?’ Mostly that’s just people who don’t understand firearms and I think are actually afraid of them. I think people just need to learn more about them and they would be more accepting of firearms.”


Question 5 – What do you do as an individual to make sure you are being a responsible gun owner?

Corey Bland: “There are responsible people out there. The right steps need to be taken for firearm ownership. I think its definitely a fun hobby, I would like to see more people get into it and I would definitely be okay with more training too.”


Question 6 - What do you wish was different about being a firearms owner? Looking towards the future what would you change?

Corey Bland: “I would fully support having more background checks. I don’t think certain weapons need to be banned, whatsoever.  There are responsible people out there who could own any weapon. The first weapon I ever bought, I would have no problem with waiting longer to have a more extensive background check. So I definitely would support changing that in the firearm community.”


[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 06 Nov 2015 21:01:06 GMT
Interview with Andrea Adams - Ohio University 2nd Amendment Club Andrea Adams – Interview Transcript – 4.2.13

(The following is a transcription of the interview in its entirety. The interview was organized, conducted and recorded by Zach Nelson while speaking to Andrea Adams on 4.2.2013)


Name: Andrea Adams

Hometown: Nelsonville, Ohio

Age: 20

Occupation: Student in Civil Engineering at Ohio University


Question 1  - What is your personal connection with firearms? How were you introduced to them?

Andrea Adams: “With firearms, I started out with a family thing. My whole family hunts, they all target shoot and all that stuff. I started out at a young age of about three; I started with BB guns.”


            Q- You have been target shooting how long now?

Andrea Adams: “17 years. I have been shooting BB guns since then, just target in the yard, then moved from that to actual, like, pellet guns to 22mm-Rifles to trap shooting starting at about [age] 15.”


Question 2 – Why do you choose to have firearms? Why is having a firearm an important factor in your life?

Andrea Adams: “I mean, shooting firearms in part of my heritage, so it’s something that’s really dear to me. It’s something that I share with my family. Along with that, I find great enjoyment in shooting, like, it’s a very good stress reliever. I deer hunt as well as shoot targets, so when it’s in season it’s cool to go out and shoot a deer and then bring it home. And we do eat our own deer; we don’t just throw it away or anything, so we actually use that. We have a lot of Indian in us so it’s kind of pulling that [aspect] in.”


Question 3 – What makes you most proud as a firearms owner?

Andrea Adams: “Wow, that’s a hard question. Probably when I see other people coming to it or see other people I have introduced to firearms and really enjoying it and breaking stigmas from them and, like, showing them how to do things properly. And that there is a lot of enjoyment to it and that it’s not just something people just want to do versus…like it’s kind of one of those things that after you get doing it you want to do and it’s not always bad thing.”


           Q – Can you just say again what you take pride in, like the intro part, because you sort of rushed into it.

Andrea Adams: “I take a lot of pride in showing other people firearms and getting them interested in it, and I take a lot of pride in shooting well as well. Like, honing a skill, basically.”


Question 4 – What is the hardest part about being a firearms owner? You had mentioned yourself that there is a stigma, so is there a stigma or negative association that you wish was different?

Andrea Adams: “There is definitely a stigma and there are definitely negative associations depending on who you are talking to. I think the hardest part about being a firearms owner is people - who don’t have the knowledge and aren’t there - that have this like, ‘big redneck, you’re just going out there shooting everything and tearing things up’ and the media also portrays that as well. And you have all these people throwing out things like, ‘It’s a semi-automatic assault rifle.’ Well, the shotgun I was using is a semi-automatic but it doesn’t have the capacity that, you know, an AR-15 has. So I think just false information and people think they know what they’re talking about or hear the things from media and just go crazy with them without realizing [that] what they mean is a big part of it. And the stigma - it’s basically a stereotype, you know? You have to introduce people to it, and then make them realize that it is a stereotype and that it shouldn’t exist.”


            Q- So how does that make you feel when you feel like you get pigeon holed?

Andrea Adams: “It really offends me and really upsets me when people are using things, like the ‘semi-automatic’ term for example, and are like ‘all semi-automatic weapons should be banned.’ It’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa! Like, you clearly don’t understand what the term semi-automatic means and it should be… you know, some people think that AR-15s should be banned but again referring back to my 12-gauge shotgun, it is a semi-automatic weapon, but it only holds 3 shells when it has a plug in it. So, it obviously does not have the same capacity. So it really upsets me and really offends me when [people] jump straight to conclusions. From being around this area I also still have the stigma of being the redneck person who is just going out shooting guns like crazy and that is just not me. I try to refrain from getting really upset about it, and talk to people and be like, ‘Hey look, you know, this is what this is, and if you ever want to go shooting sometime…’ You know just try to be informed and not just jump straight to conclusions.”


Question 5 – What do you do as an individual to make sure you are being a responsible gun owner?

Andre Adams: “To be a responsible gun owner, I think spreading knowledge is extremely important, trying to break that stigma, trying to get people more involved. And if they are not interested in being involved at all, [then] trying to make them realize that while they don’t have to be involved (because that is a choice), but they shouldn’t just jump to conclusions. If they don’t want to be involved and they want to be an advocate against it, then they should have all their facts right. So just, you know, being a person that you can come to and talk to about it and if you have question[s], I will answer them honestly and then you can use that against me in the argument if you want, but that’s how I feel.”


Question 6 – What do you wish was different about being a firearms owner? Looking towards the future what would you change?

Andrea Adams: “That’s a hard question because I don’t feel like there’s anything that I would personally change significantly other than maybe just having more of a positive light on it, like, having the situations where you have the school shootings that have been happening recently, not putting such a negative connotation on something that expands way past there to legitimate things. Like, there’s a lot of people, not necessarily around here, that have scholarships from shooting, trap shooting and stuff, and there [are] a lot of legitimate sports that are involved. Shedding light on that and getting that out of like an underground culture would be something I would like to see happen.”



[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 06 Nov 2015 21:00:12 GMT
Look Back - Exiled in Florence Leather, leather and more leather. That's what you will find on display in all forms in Florence.


I am stuck in Florence, Italy. Some would say I have arrived, but to me I feel like I have been exiled here. It's not that this place devoid of historical and cultural significance. It is. It was the seat of the Medici clan. It’s home to the Uffizi museum. Michelangelo's most famous sculpture of a naked boy, David is here. And the marble-encrusted cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, completed in 1436 after 140 years of construction, still stands. But now Florence is also a place lousy with tourists and chain department stores offering what amounts to expensive crap you could buy in any other European city. This makes me feel like a grumpy cat. I contemplate why anyone would want to spend their money to be in this den of commercialism dressed up as historical and cultured. “Aha!” I exclaim to myself. “It's like Boston: people like the idea of it, but in actuality it just sort of blows.” It’s one of those cities with a rich history, but lacking in true, modern-day character when compared to New York, Rome or London. Florence just doesn't impose a feeling that people really live there. Rather, I get the impression, they’re moving through it.


I am roused from this contemplation by the fact that I am wandering across the ever-popular and crowded Ponte Vecchio bridge. This is the famous span where shops sell all manner of jewelry and other forms of bling. This is the bridge so striking and iconic that the master of Evil and tragic facial hair, Adolf Hitler, decided not to bomb it.



I am trying to find a cobbler. I am excited to be shooting someone instead of something. I have been in Italy for a week and have only been snapping pictures of places, rather than telling stories of people. It's what my client wants, pictures of notable places, culture and food. "Make sure people are not identifiable," myself and my fellow photographers have been told. Womp, womp, I say.


I manage to extricate myself from the throngs pouring off the Ponte Vecchio and make my way down a less-traveled side street. I find my target, a small shop with large glass windows and a work bench facing the street. "Mannina" is emblazoned on the door in gold lettering in a classical sort of font that harkens back to the 1940's. I exhale deeply and wonder if these people are in fact expecting me, or, if I am walking into another "appointment" arranged by my client where no one has any idea who I am or what I am talking about. This wouldn’t concern me if I spoke Italian, but I am terrible at learning languages, and now find myself trying to recall the Italian word for “shit.” I can't think of it and conjure up the only profanity I do know, "stronzo." Yes, Italian for “asshole.” This seems fitting for what I feel like at the moment.


I open the door and find a few people hard at work on making shoes. There is a middle-aged Asian woman and a classically Italian old man. This is Francisco Mannina, the fabled cobbler who has been making shoes here for almost 50 years. I introduce myself and explain that I am here on behalf of my client and that I was hoping to make some photographs. He listens, giving me an understanding look, smiles and nods thoughtfully, and then replies in Italian. I stammer that I know very little Italian, in Italian, an exercise in futility itself. He disappears and comes back with the Asian woman I had seen moments before. I explain myself and she informs me that Mr. Mannina doesn't speak English, but his young assistant does, and will act as translator as soon as he returns. A small victory for me, and therefore America, I think to myself.


A man in his twenties bustles in through the front door. He moves quickly to a workstation to grab his apron and is informed by Mr. Mannina why there is a strange and somber looking man-child in the corner armed with a camera. I smile like an idiot while this exchange goes down, trying to look friendly, but not too friendly. The assistant does in fact speak English! I go through the same song and dance once more about who and am and why I am here. He relays this back to Mr. Mannina, who agrees to let me shoot while he works.


Shooting craftsmen and artists is especially fun because it's very easy to show up and immediately fall into picture-making. They have things to do, you have things to photograph, and for me it's always a lot of fun to observe people as they ply their own trade.


Cobblers that will make one a a kind shoes from scratch can be found in tiny shops across Florence, crafting a pair of shoes just for you.

Mannina was indeed deserving of his mythical status as a man who can make a fine shoes for both men and the ladies. Each pair is built from the sole up, so no two pairs are truly alike. These shoes are made mostly with hand tools. The only electric-powered tool I saw Mannina use was a shoe buffer. I spent just a few hours watching Mannina and his assistant create shoes from raw materials, and I became transfixed. Just a short hundred years ago shoes were made by craftsmen just like this, but on a much larger scale. Our shoes were made with more elemental and tangible materials, crafted by skilled hands. The process seems so basic. Take this cow, tan its hide, use that skin to make these shoes.


As the day nears its end, the assistant tells me: "Mr. Mannina wants to know if you would like to get caffè with him before they begin work tomorrow morning." I was surprised and flattered that this man would want me to come have coffee with him, so I accepted and go on my merry way.



I enter a perfumery and am confronted by opulence and an oppressive smell of hundreds of different soaps and perfumes. It stings the nostrils and makes my eyes water. I am grateful that people are no longer allowed to smoke indoors and in restaurants in Italy, because I am fearful a loose spark or open flame will cause the place to explode like a car crash in a Michael Bay film.


I find the manager, Andre, and during the course of our odoriferous chit-chat, notice one unsettling detail: He smells very strongly of B.O. Either that or he has just crushed some amazing Mexican food. I decide my initial assessment of body odor is more plausible.


After a formal tour by my smelly companion, he says I am welcome to shoot my heart out. I begin to work an old room with patterned marble floors, walls with amazing stucco work and a high ceiling adorned with old frescoes illuminated by a crystal chandelier. Around the room are various stations, behind which tall Amazonian women loom, ready to show off fancy scented oils or soap. One woman is manning an impressive circular podium lined with large bottles of colorful, back-lit perfumes. As a photographer, I am naturally drawn to shiny things, so I don't really have a choice. I move closer and begin shooting this strange shrine to perfume with its solemn caretaker.


After working with a few customers, the lady of the many scents beckoned to me from behind her perfume-laden fortification. I assume she will ask me to stop photographing, thinking that I was a creepy and lonely man who roams perfumeries. Instead she asks me who I am working for. I explain that I am working for a travel guide and she seems hopeful. She is curious: do I know anyone in fashion in New York City? Could I make sure she was put into the publication? She seems to think she has discovered some well-connected photographer that will help her break into the modeling career she has always dreamed of. I consider knocking a bottle of perfume to the ground in order to create a distraction and make my escape.



Apparently my chat with Andre went well, for when I make to leave, he gives me a bar of soap made right there at ye olde perfumery. This is a thoughtful gift, but I find myself thinking, "does he think I smell worse than him?" I take my bar of soap and bid Andre and the perfume lady farewell.


That evening after some wining and dining with my associates we return to our rented apartment. We must prepare for the much-dreaded night shoot. It’s not that I don’t like shooting at night, but when you have been shooting all day and running around the city like your hair is on fire the last thing you want to do was carry around a tripod. The upside is that in Italy it’s totally kosher to drink in public areas. This means you can walk into any corner pizzeria, buy a beer the size of your head, and then carry it around and imbibe as you prowl the streets with a tripod slung over your shoulder.


Florence at night is a much quieter and more lonely place. The rush of people and din of their talk is replaced by a dark and ominous calm that can make one feel uneasy after being up to your armpits in rolling waves of humanity.


We make our way across town, shooting the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, lit up and reflecting its visage across the river below. We travel down the main promenade, via dei Calzaiuoli, where shops are closed and caged up. Mannequins imprisoned behind their protective gates watch our procession with lifeless gazes as we march towards the Duomo Cathedral, our final destination of the evening.


The cathedral is the epicenter of Florence, and many of its main arteries flow towards this massive structure. It is a mammoth site to behold, and at night appears on a much more personal scale. The space around the cathedral is no longer crowded with passersby and tour groups, crashing against its exterior in an ebb and flow. There are only a few people who pass under its shadow while couples linger in its proximity. We work to set up shots that incorporate the whole building in a manner that conveys its massive size.



As we work, I notice an impending change in the weather. Like storm clouds signifying the deluge, umbrella merchants began to materialize. These men are migrant workers, living a world away from their own home countries. They come to Europe with aspirations of better wages and steady work. Many of them end up on the streets selling toys, knock-off purses and utilitarian objects like umbrellas and mini fans in highly touristed areas. I like to imagine that these umbrella merchants have some sort of union. Their leader, who has an old knee injury, feels a storm brewing when his joint begins to ache. He notifies his men, who fan out across the city and provide cover for those in need of this most useful of devices.


As predicted by the presence of these umbrella merchants the rain begins to fall, and people begin to approach, barter and buy. I decide I am in need of an umbrella and approach one man. He is running dangerously low on product. I ask “how much” and he tells me something that seems a little steep, I offer him a much lower number and he refuses. He offers a higher one and I refuse. It appears we are at an impasse. The main issue is I don’t have many euros on me. I express this by pulling out the euro coins I have, showing him my small sum. He seems to understand and decides that my seven euros will suffice. He takes my coins, I thank him and deploy my defense against the rain.


As we pack up to leave I notice my umbrella salesman has managed to sell all of his umbrellas and is now umbrella-less. He walks into the dark downfall of the rain and, as he fades away, takes off his stylish leather jacket and props it above his head for cover. Here is a man in the shadows of opulence using his leather jacket to shield himself from the storm, not saving an umbrella for himself when there is money to be made. “It’s a living.” I think to myself.

Florence: where fashion and opulence are always at the forefront. A Mercedes Benz touring race makes a pit stop in front of the Pitti Pallace where onlookers ogle super cars and rare vintage cars cruising by on a tour through Europe.
[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:55:04 GMT
TatAway Tattoo Day

Phil Marandola stands, noms on a piece of pizza and chats with his sister, Maia, meanwhile his mother Carmen laughs bodily as she shaves Phils lower back.

Phil is getting a tattoo he doesn’t even want, and he is getting it in a place because the irony and hilarity of it is too good to resist. Phil is getting a lower back tattoo, a “tramp stamp” if you will. The message that will be emblazoned above his hiney is not “swipe here” or “mind the gap” but rather TatAway, the name of the business that he, his mother and two sisters have built from the ground up. Their business is laser tattoo removal, now with locations in Boston and New York City.

Today Phil, his mother Carmen and his two sisters Chelsea and Maia are so confident in the quality of the process their PicoSure Laser tattoo removal system achieves that they are all getting TatAway tattoos in order to have them removed -- all for the sake of science of course.

“ We all started kicking around the idea of it as a joke but the idea developed into something. We want to develop case study on different age groups and genders possibly the effectiveness of the Revlite (Qswitched laser) VS. the  PicoSure.” explained Phil.

Tattoo removal is a well developed science but also an unpredictable mistress. “There are several variables that factor into the tattoo removal process. The laser breaks down the ink but does not remove the ink from the body. Your body is what in all actuality is doing all the work, if you are really healthy the process will go faster.” Although TatAway has been open for two years and done over 5000 treatments, the team at TatAway is still looking to delve deeper into developing their own specialized knowledge of best practices with the best tools on the market.

It’s easy to see that the team at TatAway is all about serving people. They are all people-people. During the tattoo festivities that were going on in the TatAway office in Boston a client showed up without an appointment. It was no problem for the team. It was as though another friend had popped in for a visit and within minutes Chelsea and the client had donned their protective eyewear for another quick treatment of an upper arm tattoo. Its took longer to prep and numb the area than it did to laser the tattoo. There were no tears and no cries of horror or the smell of burning flesh, it’s insane how quick and efficient the process is.

The most interesting fact about all this is that once the process is done your skin is wiped clear, no scarring, a clean slate. This is why people are coming to TatAway, not just to have a regrettable tattoo removed but also to free up fresh canvas for a master work they will be proud to display in the light of day.

[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Fri, 21 Mar 2014 17:35:41 GMT
Look Back - The Parisian Bird Market

        This flower market has been in the same hallowed spot since 1808, and is usually populated by flora vendors who peddle all varieties of plant life. On this Sunday, though, the floral attractions have been exchanged for fauna, and the myriad colors that line the street now sing, chirp and squawk as they peek out from behind the pinstripes of their confinement. This is a bird monger paradise: welcome to the Sunday ritual that is the bird market at Marché aux Fleurs.

        The men here are of the same group you find at car shows, BBQ grill-offs and Magic The Gathering club meetings. They are mostly older white gentlemen who all share a passion for birds. Although the Marche aux Fleurs is a bird market, today, there is not a lot of actual bird selling going on. Occasionally a man with a small child passes through the throng and inquires about buying a parakeet or the infinitely less interesting and more annoying wren. Meanwhile the bird mongers chat excitedly and smoke their cigars and cigarettes. So, for the most part, it’s just these guys and their birds and the occasional outsider like myself who sidles around and gawks.

        The atmosphere draws a small but familiar crowd. Most of the market goers are men, many have graying beards and thinning hair. They make small bird-talk as they man their makeshift stands that showcase their tiny dinosaur prisoners. It’s strange to think that these are the descendants of the creatures who once dominated the earth with their giant alien forms, and who now find themselves imprisoned by substantially less impressive and badass evolutionary products of poo-hurling apes. Time, she is a bitch. But I digress.

        I am not the only gawking outsider here today, though; from time to time I find myself transfixed by pigeons landing right next to the cages of these birds, peering in as if they’re on tour at the zoo looking at a long lost relative. Does the pigeon sympathize with the plight of the blue parakeet? Is he stopping by to give his condolences, or pass information through the bars like in a TV prison drama? Maybe the pigeon is dropping by to ask how he can get such a sweet gig. I imagine the pigeon asking, "You mean you get free housing and free seed and you never have to worry about being run over, kicked or eaten? What’s the catch?"

“Nothing,” his imprisoned brethren replies, adding in an existentialist tone, “just your freedom.”

         Seeing all these birds reminds me of a time I met a large white macaw in a pet shop in the States. I recall a sign under him warning people not to let this macaw touch you. As I approached this large white dino relic, it made eye contact and hailed me, saying a soft and sweet "Hello." It slowly extended a large, leathery foot towards me as if to shake my hand, and as I reached my hand close to its talons, the macaw grabbed my fingers and tried to pull my hand towards its mouth and take a bite out of me. As I quickly drew away, it stared and cackled at me like the Wicked Witch of the West.

         As I returned from this old memory, I pondered some troubling parallels. How was it that one being can so rely so heavily on another for support and survival, only to scorn and mock it with such bravado? Must have been a French macaw, I decided.

         As I came out of my strange and deluded pondering I spot a bird monger attempting to catch a small wren in a cage, his sausage-thick fingers ambling through the cage in pursuit of a reluctant volunteer. Again I find myself wondering if these little birds ever consider banding together and lashing out at their human jailers. I wonder if Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds is an awkward subject amongst this group. I find myself compelled to test the theory, but remember that I speak about as much French as these birds speak Yiddish.

         In the end I decide not to make an attempt at setting them free, imagining my own version of animal emancipation inspired by Free Willy. No, instead I simply document this strange scene of possible injustice, so that others may know and be warned -- don’t be a pretty bird in Paris. They’ll put you in a cage and slap a price tag on you.

[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Thu, 13 Mar 2014 20:00:38 GMT
Vermont Town Meeting Day Roland Potter, 83, oversees the ballot box as Cora Swanberg casts her first-ever vote on Monday at the Sharon school meeting. I have been coming to town meeting as long as I can remember. I don't have TV so it's better than sitting at home. The past few years I have been becoming more interested." explained Swanberg.

View the entire  2014 Vermont Town Meeting Day gallery here


I have never seen a higher concentration of people knitting in a public space until today. It is town meeting day, when citizens across Vermont  debate and vote on topics we don't think much about the rest of the year. Road projects, trash pickup, and other less sexy aspects of life become the focus of tension and consternation among those gathered in this state’s town halls. At times it is like church, but the religion of God has been replaced by the religion of bureaucratic tradition. And knitting is just another way to pass the time when debate drags on.


I am dressed in what I imagine to be fitting Vermont attire: A plaid shirt, a long brown Carhart jacket and sunglasses with an American flag print covering the frames. I must shoot three town meetings today, two of which start at the same time, 9 a.m. I choose to start out at Strafford’s town meeting. Every year it is held in the historic old town hall building that sits atop a small hill overlooking the green, a public square fenced in by an assortment of homes.


Strafford’s white, wooden town hall is one of the oldest buildings in the town, founded in 1761. It is - 9 degrees outside and it doesn’t feel much warmer inside as I enter with a throng of Straffordians. (I assume this is the proper spelling. Anyone who prefers “Straffordiites,” feel free to speak up.) I introduce myself to a woman handing out name tags just inside and explain I am working with the local newspaper. “Just don’t get in the way, make sure you…” she says, making a hand gesture and trailing off in a search for the right words. “I will make myself small,” I assure her.


Unable to find a seat inside the historic town hall in South Strafford, Becky Proulx took a seat on the floor and knitted as she listened to the proceedings at the Town Meeting in Strafford, Tuesday, March 4th, 2014.


A crowd of about 100 people act as a furnace, eventually warming the room to a bearable level. As it fills to capacity I am scanning for moments and compositions, my brain working to take in this place and its people. Once in a while a bald island sprouts from the ocean of white hair I see around me. Older folks seem to make up the majority of the crowd. Maybe they’re the only ones who can make this event -- their retired lives creating a schedule that allows for weekday morning rituals like this one -- or maybe they’re the ones who most appreciate this tradition, going back more than 100 years.


Greg Lewis raised his hand and waited to be recognized by the moderator, Kurt Albee, in order to voice his views during the long a tenous debate over Article 2, at the Starfford Town Meeting, Tuesday, March 4th, 2014.


But Strafford is just one town among many partaking in today’s meetings, so I make haste for my car and sprint across dirt backroads that snake their way through the hills and woods between Strafford and my next stop, Chelsea. Once there I know I’m close to the action, but am still unsure which historic building is home to this town’s meeting. A young man at the cash register of a general store and a farmer answer in unison when I ask them where the meeting is being held.

“That brick building over there.”


A cadre of older women and young girls selling mountains of baked goods greets me inside Chelsea’s Town Hall. I exchange pleasantries and make my way to a set of double doors, squeaking them shut behind me. Inside, a moderator is droning on about an article -- an issue to be discussed before being voted on. In the back of the room, rugged looking menfolk stand, possibly because sitting is for wimps. Meanwhile, children are sprawled out at the men’s feet playing with iPhones and tablets. A sort of knitting for the next generation. Their way to pass the time comes on a digital screen.


I creep up the stairs to a balcony to get a higher vantage point of the proceedings. A mixture of seniors and youth are haunting this upper level, quietly observing from above and avoiding the din of debate below. I find myself enjoying the elevated position and the angles it provides, being among these ghostly observers in a dusk-like light. As the proceedings carry on, the differences in procedure each town adheres to become apparent.


Hayden Stumpff, 12, stands and watches over the proceedings of the Chelsea Town Meeting "I like town meeting, I find it interesting." said Stumpff. Tuesday, March 4th, 2014.


Here, no one is wearing name tags. Instead their hands are stamped to signify they have signed in, and are therefore allowed to speak and vote. The select board, a group of local officials moderating the discussion, is not sitting above the crowd on a stage like they were in Strafford. Here, they’re on ground level, in chairs facing the townspeople.


It’s an interesting dichotomy between the board members and the crowd. Most of the officials don’t seem happy to be here engaging with the people they serve. They are showing a defensiveness, and a disinterest that makes the atmosphere more adversarial than congenial. But on each board there is a charismatic point man, employing humor in short bursts to counter the seriousness and hostility generated when discussing such seemingly mundane subjects as recycling procedures and the costs of road maintenance.


Chelsea select board member, Michael Button, calls on the expertise of an attendee as Chelsea Town Meeting progresses Tuesday, March 4th, 2014. Frank Keene, listens intently as a select board member explains how they wish to save for future road projects during the Chelsea Town Meeting, Tuesday, March 4th, 2014. Keene is also the towns Cemetary Commisioner "I am very interested in town affairs. I want to make sure the money is spent wisely."


The point man in Chelsea is a board member. But in Vershire, the next town on my day of documenting bureaucratic tradition, the responsibility of smoothing ruffled feathers is handled by the moderator David Hooke. He is Mr. Charisma.


Vershire’s town hall, where Hooke has been presiding over town meetings for the last 15 years, is a miniature of Strafford’s. With the same woodwork, same white paint, and a similar albeit smaller square spire with a weathervane affixed to its apex, the town hall in Vershire seems close to full with a crowd of about 30 people.


After my third “I’m-here-with-the-newspaper-to-get-photos” introduction, a woman gestures to get the attention of Hooke, a man with a thick beard that small birds could inhabit. “Mr. Moderator, may another member of the press join the meeting?” the woman asks. Meeting attendants turn around to get a look at the press in question -- there will be no being small here.


Vershire Town Moderator David Hooke, reads the description of an article during the Vershire Town Meeting, Tuesday, March 4th, 2014. Hooke has been moderator in Vershire for 15 years. "The most important thing is to keep everyone on board…and having a sense of humor about it." Said Hooke.


The hot topics of debate here are trash and recycling. People raise myriad issues, questions and concerns about all aspects of the subjects. Some sort of consensus is reached and the meeting is adjourned. As I wait to gather names of some of the people I photographed, a few older women introduce themselves and ask me about my affiliation with the paper. They invite me to stay for the after-meeting lunch; I immediately hear the voice of my photojournalism professor at Ohio University, Marcy. “Never take anything the people you photograph offer you.”


This ethical stance has always been interesting to me. As photographers we take so much. We take people’s time, their stories, their moments and make them into something tangible that we slap our name on and make our own. But we’re not allowed to accept their invitations to lunch, or coffee, or a beer after work. At least according to Marcy and scores of other old school photojournalists.


"Bare feet coming though" exclaims Carter, 4, as he gets into the community spirit during his first town meeting by helping move and stack chairs at the Vershire Town meetings conclusion, Tuesday, March 4th, 2014.


I don’t have the heart to say no to these kind people, so I assure them I will take a gander at the lunch downstairs after I get my caption info. Then, I make my escape without notice. Having dodged a free lunch, I think my deception would have made Marcy proud. It’s a strange task to be the eyes and ears of a place and interact with its people so intimately, while also not partaking in some of those rituals of community.


As photographers and journalists we walk a fine line between being an insider and an outsider. Someday I hope to strike the proper balance. But for now, I’ll just have to be satisfied with observing the knitters and the debaters, and documenting life’s moments as they come across my lens.



[email protected] (Zach Nelson - PHOTOJOURNALIST) Sat, 08 Mar 2014 21:33:27 GMT