It’s hard not to look back over the previous year. As tumultuous as it was for most of the country, if not the world, it still was a pretty good year. I have my health, as does my family, and I continue to make a living doing what I love.

I’m blessed and thankful for the diverse clients who continue to call with assignment work. From a lifestyle shoot on the Mexican Caribbean to hanging out with disabled vets learning to play sports again, Sports Illustrated continues to prove that “sports photography” is not only about being at the Rose Bowl, Final Four or World Series.

A disabled vet at the VA Sports Clinic in San Diego, CA

The second half of the year also presented some heavier subject matter such as shadowing a hate group, The Westboro Baptist Church, for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report as the church members spouted extreme messages of hate against (in no particular order) homosexuals, Catholics, Americans, and Jews.

Member of Westboro Baptist Church, labeled a hate group, demonstrates with his children.

On a more positive, yet equally significant shoot, I met Margo Bouer, a wonderful, intelligent senior citizen who smokes marijuana daily to combat severe nausea and other symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. Meeting Margo was also the first time I had been hired to shoot a story for a radio program. As convergence becomes a common term, I was hired by NPR to provide a gallery of images on Margo to accompany their radio report. Great story from a storied journalistic institution that I’m proud to call a client.

Later in the fall I was trekking through Joshua Tree National Park with an undercover federal agent for Preservation magazine. It was a enlightening story to say the least as I discovered that one agent is responsible for protecting a vast array of ancient Native American

Preservation Magazine

culture spread throughout our public lands. Petroglyphs, arrowheads, pottery and other artifacts are common in and near Joshua Tree National Park and are sought after by looters who sell artifacts to dealers. It’s a lost soul who will chisel a piece of rock adorned with ancient drawings just to make some money. The undercover agent said many are “twiggers,” a word combining “tweaker” (meth fiend) and “diggers” (those who dig for artifacts). Sad but important story, for sure.

One of my oldest clients, the Chronicle of Higher Education, is one of my favorites. I had a chance to shoot a university freshman on scholarship. He had only been in the counry 18 months and came from El Salvador with his parents. He excelled in his one year in high school in Los Angeles and was the first in his family to go to college. Polite, punctual, well spoken and heading off to study after our late Friday afternoon shoot (how many 18 yr olds study on a Friday afternoon?), he reminded me that its important to be thankful for all the opportunities we have.

I know I am.

Todd Bigelow Photography

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