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Portrait Studies: Cassandra

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Cassandra is a North Carolina native currently residing in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She moved to NYC in 2013 to pursue acting, screenwriting, and fashion journalism. A precocious woman of Thai and African American descent, Cassandra is deeply passionate about diversifying media representation of women and ethnic minorities.

Cassandra and I met up on a grey Saturday morning at AP Cafe. We chatted about living in Brooklyn, the bi-coastal nature of the film industry and my hilariously short-lived stint as an aspiring screenwriter some years back in LA. Though undeniably outgoing and articulate, Cassandra spoke with a marked kindness and sensitivity that is often exhibited by individuals who have experienced being an outsider. After finishing our coffees we stepped out into the surprisingly dormant residual winds of Hurricane Joaquin (which was only a day previous to this shoot!) and took some snaps. Enjoy.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Dorf: Mile 0-400

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As soon as I climbed into Dorf my face flushed with excitement. Encased in sun-bleached 70s brown leather upholstery, I immediately felt like I had woken from a year-long spell of fog brain and rote living. I melted into the contours of the passenger’s seat, tracing my fingers along the sizeable dashboard, the polished wood paneling, the perfectly tufted leather lining the robust steel framing. I stared on, wide-eyed, like a child – a newfound enthusiasm for life filled me to the bone.

Such is the effect that Dorf has on first-time riders.

Dorf-9Dorf is a ’78 Ford Econoline with a previously decked out wooden interior complete with gnarled deer antlers and skate paraphernalia. Handed down to us from a line of nomadic skaters and surfers, the van likely functioned as a beer-can-infested party vehicle at best, a puke-stained crash pad at worst.

Since purchasing this hunk of a machine, Neil has devoted countless weeks loving on Dorf and making it into a cozy cabin on wheels. There is now a memory foam bed in the back hatch. An antique foot rest doubles as a chair for when guests come over. Gleaming solar panels line the roof, thanks to countless hours of wire-tracing and meter-reading.

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Dorf-3After touching down in Vancouver, we drove up to Pemberton, BC, for a long weekend to take this steel-framed behemoth out for a spin. The elevated body and panoramic windshield unveiled an entirely new road trip experience – one filled with wide-screen views of the snow-capped mountains and curious double takes from oncoming traffic. I smugly leaned back in my leatherback throne. The world is ours.

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Dorf-5First stop: Duffey Lake. After a full day of driving around and an obligatory pit stop at The Pony in Pemberton, it was nearing last light by the time we pulled in. We put on some Tom Waits as the cloudy sky turned an inky grey and the cool glacial water lapped gently against the rocks. It was barely 10pm when we’d grown tired of playing cards under the flickering lamplight and fell into a liquid slumber under the half-open sky light.

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Dorf-27We woke the next morning to crisp condensation and the lingering anticipation that all campers feel leading up to the moment they peel back their tent and take in their surroundings. As I drew open the van door, I was met with a blanket of dense fog in the foreground followed by a crystal clear view of the beautifully marred glaciers ahead, blushing as the pink sun peeked up over the horizon.

We had soft scrambled eggs and crispy bacon – a savory camp staple – followed by two indulgent cups of muddy black coffee. We played another round of cards as the fog lifted and unveiled Duffey Lake in all of its glory. As the lake gradually came to life with soft breaks in the water and flitting Stellar blue jays, we packed up and headed off to our next destination: Joffre Lakes.

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Dorf-17Joffre Lakes is a cluster of striking teal-blue lakes nestled amidst the glacial-laden peaks of the Coast Mountain Range. The traces of glacial silt suspended in the water gives off its hyper-saturated, otherworldly color. We dragged our out-of-shape city dweller bodies up the steep incline to Upper Joffre Lake, where we were met with a looming glacier-encrusted mountain face and quite possibly the milkiest lake water I have ever seen.

“I’ve got a campsite in mind for tonight,” Neil told me as we made our way back to the trailhead. Phew, I thought, as my hamstrings were growing tight. We scrambled down the trail and hopped into Dorf, aching for that icy cold celebratory beer once we reach the campsite.

Dorf-16After about 15 minutes of chugging along on the main road, we both glanced over at a lush turn-off. “Want to check it out?” Neil offered. “Sure,” I nodded. The beer could wait. We proceeded down a rugged path gnarled with tall weeds and overgrowth until we came to a clearing with a fire pit in the middle. “Shoot, we can camp here!” I exclaimed, as I noted the relative seclusion and the babbling creek nearby. I approached Neil who was crouched over the fire pit.

“Hey, she kinda looks like you,” Neil said as he pulled out a piece of paper from the charcoal-laden rubble. He did a double-take. “Wait. It is you.”

In his hand was a copy of my Driver’s License.

Dorf-18“What the fuck?” I shrieked as I frantically began to shuffle through the rubble. My passport tumbled out to the side, face open, with my own face staring up at me. “What the fuck is going on?” Blood drained from my fingertips as I realized that I was, in fact, rifling through my own travel documents.

Meanwhile, Neil put two and two together and checked the back of the van. Sure enough, we had been broken into. The thief had taken my backpack containing my laptop and travel documents, and discarded the potential paper trail in the fire pit before heading off for good with my $2300 machine. I was devastated.

Dorf-30Thoroughly creeped out by the notion that the thief had lingered at that very location, we made a swift exit. We drove to the nearest town over an hour away, Lillooet, to make a couple phone calls. “Do you want to go back home?” Neil offered. He had devoted months of planning and preparing Dorf for me, for this road trip – and now, this. “We can go back to Vancouver if you want, and figure it out from there.” I sank into my seat.

“No, let’s stay.”

That evening, we parked at a clearing by the river. Neil stoked a fire and I took my anger out on the woodchopping block. As I hacked my way through some choice words and way too much kindling, the air grew stagnant and cold. I could not shake off the feeling that I was being watched. After all, my perpetrator – a stranger who had rifled through the most intimate parts of my identity – was still on the loose.

Then again, how unbelievably fortunate was I to come across that rubble? In a fire pit of a campsite that we weren’t even planning to go to? What would we have done if we hadn’t made the turn-off? Had I even noticed that my shit was missing? Neil humored me as I rambled on and on about karma and other existential musings by the crackling fire. We curled up into the back hatch that night well before 10pm.

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Dorf-31We woke the next morning – the final morning of our road trip – to darkened clouds and dewy condensation. With heavy hearts, we set off before 8am to drive back to Vancouver. Neil drove me along the Duffey Lake Loop which weaves in and out through the densely forested Coast Mountain Range along the Thompson River. The mountain faces were truly arresting, we even spotted an eagle in the canopies – but my face was fixed in a permanent frown. I was a full-time graphic designer with no laptop to my name. What was I going to do?

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Dorf-19As we neared Vancouver, we were met with traffic and terrestrial downpour. “Exactly what we need,” I groaned. That was when my phone reception kicked in, and with it came a barrage of emails. As I sifted through my swelling inbox, an urgent email from my boss popped up. The Lillooet Police called. They have your laptop.

What the actual fuck.

I immediately called the police station and was put on the line with a soft-spoken Constable of the Lillooet Tribal Police Department. “We pulled over a man with your stolen backpack just hours ago,” he told me. “We were about to launch a murder investigation because we couldn’t get in touch with you. We are so glad that you called us.”

Dorf-12Was it tears of joy? Relief? Existential crisis? Through muffled sobbing I was able to muster out – “But how did you know to contact my boss, of all people?”

“You left a stray pay stub in your laptop cover, miss. It had your boss’s information on it.”

Dorf-1Needless to say, Mile 0-400 in Dorf was, er, eventful. It plucked me from the vague contentment of sightseeing and tossed me into the throes of disbelief and anger toward another human being, only to push me back into the embrace of overwhelming gratitude when every item I’d lost was karmically retrieved and returned back to me. Dorf, you are a fucking handful. And I cannot wait for the adventures to come.

Dorf-4Honestly, though, I wouldn’t mind something a little less intense next time. Please.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Where We Come From: NYC Premiere

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Skateboarder and filmmaker Lucas Fiederling and I linked up after he’d seen my portrait session with Andrea Dosouto and requested that I cover the NYC premiere of his skate film Where We Come From. As I arrived at our meeting place – the Sunshine Cinema in the Lower East Side – I was not surprised to see Lucas surrounded by a gaggle of local skaters and his friends and family, some of who traveled from Europe to attend this event.

As suspected, Lucas was an unbelievably endearing and laid back director to work with. “Just do your thing,” he told me as he released me out into the wild. Here’s what came out of it.

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Where We Come From is an independent skate film featuring the mastery of eight skateboarders traveling the world and exploring the urban terrain. It is a quiet tribute to the grainy classic skate videos of the 80s and early 90s, devoid of shiny sponsors and ADD-inducing jump cuts and focusing instead on the raw and unapologetic passion behind shredding. Watch the trailer here.

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Needless to say, it was a fun night.

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P.S. You still owe me a beer, Luc!

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Portrait Studies: Boogie

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Jay Boogington AKA Boogie is a Brooklyn native who currently lives in the Lower East Side. He is a top-dollar underwear model-turned-skater who has graced the pages of Thrasher Magazine and, rather comically, the sides of NYC buses through his work with Calvin Klein. His undeniable charisma attracts an ongoing stream of photographers and filmmakers like myself who undoubtedly want to capture the man underneath the beautifully intricate ink work. Though his modeling days are behind him, I was lucky enough to shoot with Jay one Saturday morning in and around his neighborhood. Enjoy.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Studio Session with Meredith Adelaide

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I met Meredith a little over a year ago. We had moved to NYC around the same time; we bonded over culture shock and prevailing fears as newcomers to this behemoth of a city. As we shot in her small Bushwick apartment – one that had gotten broken into a few weeks prior – we mused over waning summer days and what the future had in store for us. Fast forward: a year later. Meredith now travels internationally for her thriving modeling career, and I – well, I have been privileged enough to meet and shoot with a vast array of captivating people. Meredith is one of them. Enjoy.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.