Photograph by Rebecca Skinner
Photograph by John Lloyd
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado
Current City: Laramie, Wyoming
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I grew up always knowing that I wanted to explore.
How did you get started in your field of work?
In the fall of 2010, I won a grant from my university to travel to New Orleans to photograph the five-year difference from Hurricane Katrina. That trip was really life-changing, and it started turning the wheels that maybe photography is something that I would like to do for the rest of my life.
What inspires you to dedicate your life to photography?
Studying social work in school has made me really passionate about giving a voice to people who feel they cannot be heard. Through both my tsunami and Hurricane Katrina photo projects, I've realized that post-natural disaster communities are often forgotten about or pushed aside in wake of more recent news stories. I strongly believe that how a community recovers (or does not recover) is just as important as the disaster itself. Photographically documenting these communities and individuals seems to give personal stories and experiences a voice through an artistic and tangible venue.
What's a normal day like for you?
The only thing consistent in my life currently is that I like to drink a large cup of coffee every morning. Past that, I tend to stay away from routines.
Do you have a hero?
My uncle, Todd Skinner, who was a professional rock climber. He always encouraged us to push our own limits, to explore the wild places of the Earth, and to be a storyteller. He once said, "You cannot lower the mountain, therefore, you must elevate yourself." Those words have been ingrained in my mind since I first heard them. Also, I might be biased, but I have the most incredible parents in the world. Their endless support and love amazes me.
What has been your favorite experience in the field?
The most challenging? My favorite field experience thus far was getting to fly a kite (that looked like an American flag) in the middle of a rice paddy with all the villagers that we had been living with while in Sumatra. The sun was setting and everyone was laughing and trying to communicate even though we were speaking two different languages. It was like something I've dreamed or read about in books.
The most challenging part was trying to photographically document seven years of rebuilding in one short month of being in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. There has been so much happening in the area within that time, at times it seemed incredibly overwhelming to try and capture it all. I owe a serious "thank you" to my expedition partner, Chris Michael, for helping document all our experiences during our time there.
What are your other passions?
I grew up rock climbing, so I really enjoy being in the mountains. I also love biking and traveling. In my house, we have replaced the television with a bunch of instruments, so on any given day you could find me playing music with friends, too. I have a dog, Vedauwoo, named after the climbing area here in Laramie, who I spend a lot of time with as well.
What do you do in your free time?
Between balancing school and working two jobs, I don't have a lot of free time. But when I do find myself able to, I try to go take photos just for fun—not for any specific purpose but my own enjoyment.
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In Their Words
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