Monday, December 28, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

One year already

It's about this time last year that I came upon my photo essay "The Cost of Living" and I think I have grown a lot that one year because of the project. Not just as a photographer, but as a person. Recently, I've been going through my whole take to find images that I may have skipped over or missed. My, for lack of better word, vision, has changed in a year and I'm becoming more aware of some of the frames deep in the archive that may be able to better translate my experience with Del, Bev, Grady, Steve, and all of the others who I came to know. I imagine some of the frames will be more personal than actually story telling, like this first one. Something really struck me about their facial expressions and what it said about them. It was also one of my first few days on the project.

Last I heard, Steve (left) went missing earlier this spring/summer and has yet to be heard from, although Del says somebody saw him around the Santa Maria in downtown Columbus. I sincerely hope he is doing well. As for Del (right), I know he is doing well. I have been keeping in contact with him and Bev and heard from them on Christmas day. They're both working and seem happier than I have ever heard them. Even if I put down my camera tomorrow, I know that I will still be in touch with them. The transition from subject to friend blurred a long time ago. I would like to think of it like Mary Ellen Mark's relationship to Tiny.

Check out for the current/soon-to-change edit

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ice Climbing

Definitely the scariest sport I've ever done.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spanish Fork Hot Springs

2.5 miles in and up, snow abound, 18 degrees air, 110 degrees sulphur water, and a literally frozen camera

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Best Buy at five in the morning was truly a nauseating sight. Materialism, consumerism, and capitalism at its very finest.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Fader Mag...

The new Fader Mag featured a rad photo section that had an article that I found inspiring. Here's an excerpt...

"...The still image is ubiquitous. And yet, there is something about an artist who is willing to travel every highway, back road and main street to put things in perspective that remains essential. These artists see things in ways most of us do not and can translate those visions into something powerful and unexpected, even when we are the objects of their contemplation."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Drill Team

I don't normally pay attention to half time drill team antics, but I was actually mildly impressed with this one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Drained legs and a thick layer of sand was the perfect ending to three days in Moab.

Friday, October 16, 2009

American Fork Canyon

I was sent up into American Fork Canyon this afternoon to shoot some frames of the Forest Service building a new trail. Utah always surprises me how beautiful it is, even though I should be used to it by now. I hope I never get used to it. On a side note, after hanging out with these guys, I kind of want to grow a gnarly beard and join the Forest Service to build trails in remote areas or fight wildfires in Alaska. Maybe that will be my next internship...

Funny pictures as of late...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fire in the Mountains

Autumn has hit Utah and the mountains now look like their on fire due to the absurdly bright colors of red, orange, and yellow.

Boy Scouts

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fire Station

I got to hang out at the Lehi Firestation this morning

Friday, October 9, 2009

Here we go...

After much appreciated help from Tyler,, my blog now looks worthy of posting on. At least for a little while, expect often updates because I have a lot of frames to put up after a month deep interning at the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah. Here are two from a pig wrestling event I was assigned to cover during my first week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blog changes

SO it's been awhile since I've updated but I'd like to get back into the habit. I have changed some things around so hopefully it'll look better and be more pleasant to view. Let me know what you think


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Oh Snap Click

So, for now, I think I am just about done with my homeless story.  In all honesty, I don't think I'll ever be done, however, Del and Bev have moved into their apartment and I have started a new quarter so it is not going to be my biggest project now.  Regardless, it's been very insightful to look back upon my time spent with them... both good and bad.  

While I was writing this, Del and Bev called me and it was good to hear from them.  I can't help but think that having a new home has increased their self esteem immensely.  

Check out my website, for the complete story.

In other news, my buddy Aaron has launched a new website called that provides a venue for good photojournalism that may not be published anywhere else.  Spend some time on it because there is definitely a lot of good stories on there.

Monday, March 23, 2009


This quarter of school has provided me with a lot to think about, photographically speaking.  I spent a majority of my time photographing or thinking about photography in general which has led me to come to some tough questions and even tougher answers.  Being on spring break is giving me a chance to finally sit down and gather my thoughts.  I feel that this post went from a series of personal thoughts to a something important that I am eager to discuss with others.

It sprung into necessity after presenting my "final" project in class.  To make a long story short, our "final" presentation was a simple click, click, click, slideshow where you were somehow supposed to explain your whole project in less than two minutes.  

I spent about three months documenting a group of homeless people in Columbus who gave me the best access that I could have ever asked for.  They have shown me and told me some things that I will never forget.  And from this, I have learned to so much that it saddens me to limit my experiences and revelations to a two minute slide show that barely even scratches the surface of their role in the story, much less, my role in producing it. 

My frustration stems from the thought of working so hard to tell a good, solid story only for it to be show in quick succession to other photojournalism students.  However, my unfulfillment with the situation is actually a realization that I have started to embrace the role as a photojournalist rather than a photography student.  I feel that my work is no longer for class or grades.

But this feeling of discontent is hard to point a finger at.  My professor isn't to blame because she only has two hours to show all twenty something student's projects.  So then where do I go to have my work, and more importantly, my subject's story be told and seen?  Ever since getting into college, I have been pounded with the same notion that the photography business is going down and there's no saving it.  So does that mean there aren't people out there who would be interested in seeing what it's like for homeless people to live on no income and in weather that is below zero?  And by people, I mean non-photographers too.  Or is it a seen-it-0nce-and-that's-enough siutation?  Or a it-doesn't-affect-me-so-why-should-I-care?  This exact conversation is running dry as I'm sure countless photographers have been trying to find the solution.

I have been reading Letters To A Young Poet by Rilke which discusses the motives for creating.  He stresses that the reason one ought to create, whether it be poetry, painting, drawing, etc, is for personal growth and expressions.  It shouldn't matter who sees it.  I agree with him only so far when it's applied to photojournalism.  While Rilke's message of personal satisfaction has been constantly running through my mind, it comes as a contradiction.  It is hard to tell people's story and get satisfaction from not showing the frames.  Praise, compliments, and popularity are what Rilke advises to write off as unnecessary, but it becomes complicated when the end goal of photojournalism is for the photographs to be seen by others.

So then what exactly is the motive for being a photojournalist?  This question has been tossing around in my head for a while, especially when the childish, "but why?" is thrown at every possible answer.  I can't account for anyone other than myself because I assume that most answers are extremely varied.  

For myself and for now, I have come to think it is a combination of personal and humanistic reasons.

Personally, the camera has leant itself to getting me into some really intense and eye opening experiences, as well as some just plain out fun times.  What other major, or profession for that matter, allows you to spend whole weekends with complete strangers on a small island in Scotland and then turn around and spend the night with homeless people in the dead of winter?  All of these situations, I would like to believe, have helped shape my view of human interactions, emotions, and people in general.

But more importantly, I think my goal of using my photographs to help increase understanding in the world is what really counts.  Saying that I want to tell people's story just isn't a good enough explanation for me.  It's hard to explain or expand upon, but I believe that there's something to be said about the camera aside from its incredible ability to stop time.  What is it about certain photographs that really resonate with you?  I believe it's the viewer's ability to truly relate to it.  Whether it's a pretty sunset that makes you feel happy because it reminds you of a past vacation or it's a picture of a starving child during a famine that reminds you how vulnerable and fragile human life is.  I doubt that these relations are this precise, but on some level, they have to be.

With that said, my goal has been shaped into trying to find situations and photograph them so that the viewers may be relate and better understand the story.  To show images and create a sense of compassion, understanding, and respect in others is all that I can possibly aspire to achieve. 

Friday, February 20, 2009


I recently got done shooting a photo story on a bi-racial same sex couple with kids.  The family was very warm and it was a joy to spend time photographing, especially when compared to the hardships of shooting a homeless story for weeks.  I'm not sure if the story worked as a whole, but I got a single I like.  It is Michelle falling asleep with her partner's daughter, Alex.  Alex is from one of Erin's past relationship but that doesn't seem to matter at all.  The kids have definitely taken to Michelle and it's great to be reminded about how honest children are.  "They don't know they're part of a minority," said Michelle.  "We're just waiting for the day they come home from school crying."  

A Little bit of Rilke in my life...

Due to suggestion of Shaena, I have started reading "Letters to a Young Poet."  While the book is for writing poetry, it's easy to replace "write" with "photograph" and "poems" with "photographs."  You get the idea...

"Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, edures."

"Go into yourself.  Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.  This above all- ask your self in the stillest of your night: must I write?"

Friday, January 30, 2009

Deep breath

Finally got around to exploring Dow lake with Badger last night... 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inconvenient hygiene

Del shaves his beard at a friend's apartment.  Because the campsite does not have running water, Del and the others must travel elsewhere to perform basic hygiene such as shaving, showering, and brushing teeth.

Dumpster Diving...

Steve (left) and Del (right) digging through a dumpster in an alley off Fifth Avenue

Update on story...

My homeless story is coming along fine but there's something very unsettling about it.  It's hard to explain but I will try nonetheless.  

At first, this story started off as a cool project whose limits seemed endless.  However after several trips, including dumpster diving, cooking dinner on an open fire at night, running errands with them, going to the soup kitchen, going to a friends house, and more, my attitude has seemed to change.  

These people are just that.  People.  Throughout my experiences with them, I have caught tiny little notions of their desire to be recognized as such.  Perhaps that is why they took to me so quickly.  While I don't know for certain, sometimes I feel that all they want is a little respect from those who have it, have money, a house, a warm bed, and not the constant reminder of a past they can't help but regret.  

After the first visit or two, I imagined writing about the "cool" things I got to do with some "homeless people" like dumpster diving or hanging around their campsite.  However, it has radically transformed since then.  These "homeless people" are now more than my Vico 392 class project.   Oddly enough, they actually care about me.  And to no surprise, I care about them.  It's not a situation where I can just hop in my car and not worry about them until next time I'm in Columbus.  Every time I start to complain about how cold my dorm is, I usually stop dead in my tracks.  Somewhere about an hour and a half away are people living in tents trying to survive.  It is also extremely unnerving when I hear things such as "my feet were so cold last night that I was almost crying."

With all this said, and a lot more unsaid, I try to think of a way this can be solved.  Where homelessness isn't a problem, where we can live in a society that doesn't judge each other for a few bad mistakes that had dire consequences, where class division can be eliminated, where people aren't judged for foraging through dumpsters, etc.  When can we ALL learn to help a fellow human out without constantly thinking about the "free handouts" we're giving them?

All this leaves me at a loss.  I'm sure somewhere along the lines, every PJ has wondered if their projects are going to be a failed attempt at progress and end up just another source of emotional exploitation for their subjects.  I remain optimistic.  If not, at least I can learn how to deal with such situations for future projects.  But, then again, who am I to say that they need help from me?  Perhaps the only help I can give them is a bit of compassion and respect.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

In the future, when I say that I've done sketchier things and lived far less certain, I will be referring to now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Some of the 5,000 porta potties set up

Not much to say other than madness and a new president...

It was interesting to be there nonetheless and be able to say that I was there later on in life.  Regardless of what Obama does or doesn't do, it was a really cool moment when he finally swore in and millions, literally millions, of people screamed and cheered.  

77 year old protester.  If I ever get to be that old, I can only hope that I am half that cool.

People waving bye to Bush...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Top:  from where they live, you can see the signs on 315.
Below:  Steven adds more wood to the fire.  The fire pit is the center of camp and their way to stay warm and cook food.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"We're no better than anybody"- Bev 1/3/09

It's too bad that that's not what everyone thinks.  

To put it simply, I have been working my ass off all winter break trying to come up with at least one, just one, story that I am excited to wake up and shoot.  I think I found it.  After some research and a bit of courage, I walked up to a homeless tent city.
Located on the banks of the Olentangy river just south of fifth avenue and under 315, lives four people:  Grady, Del, Bev, and Steven (although there's apparently another guy who sets up his tent a bit down the bank but doesn't talk or socialize.  at all.  "He's been out here too long."  says Grady)  

Surprisingly, these are some of the nicest people I've met.  Sure they have their downfalls:  "I used to smoke crack everyday," exclaimed Bev the other night.  Or Del who used to use dope.  And I don't think it's dope in the sense of a mom accusing their teenager son of smoking dope.  And Grady, who they have to force feed medications to so that he doesn't get violent.  Steven seems to be the most straight, although every one of them has been locked up at one point or another.  

Each person has their own story that is like listening to a fairy tale without the happy ending.  All of them have some element of drugs, crime, prison, police, addiction, and mismanagement of money.  But don't get me wrong.  I am not judging.  Everyone has their own downfall but every time you get bummed about it, just remember that chances are that when you fall asleep at night, it's in a nice bed where you can snuggle under the blankets and not worry where your food is going to come from in the morning or if you're ever going to find a job that will allow you to not have a permanent address.  

And despite all these difficulties, Del has got to be one of the happiest guys I have ever met.  Every time I pop my head into the woods to see if they're there, I get a warm "AYYYYY JAAAAMEESS.   MY MAN.  HAVE A SEAT!"  And as I sit down, he rushes to the cooler and then to me with a soda and smile on his face.  This man would share his heart if he could.   Along with the soda comes Del's favorite anecdotes of the week.  This time around it was how the rats ate his hat.  As evidence, he quickly tears off his cap and shows me the chunk out of the brim.  

Del's eager personality and enthusiasm is enough proof for me to believe that money doesn't equal happiness.

The top picture is of Steven drinking some snake piss (a.k.a. King Cobra).  A little bit later I showed Del some pictures and he told Steven that I got some good ones of him.  Steven replied, "do you think you could get some prints?  I want to send some to my mom.  I haven't seen her in 15 years."

The pic below is it where they live.  Just around the bend of the bank.  I should've brought longer glass.  

As far as the images go, I am taking my time.  I don't want to rush in there with a nice camera and clean clothes and get in their face.  I want to gain trust with them before anything.  Only then will I be able to truly tell their story.

More to come...  

About Me

My photo
James Roh is a photojournalist based out of Salt Lake City, Utah with a passion for story telling and outdoor photography. He is currently a staff photographer at the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah where he documents daily life in Utah County. When not on assignment, James can be found out wandering around in the mountains sniffing out the best powder stashes, single track, and hiking trails in Utah. With a Bachelor of Science in Photojournalism degree from Ohio University, James specializes in documentary photography but is capable of all photographic styles including weddings, portraiture, lifestyle, commercial, editorial, and event coverage. He is available for freelance work throughout the American west. For all inquiries please feel free to contact him at James @ or directly at +1.614.425.1240.

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