Lelisa Desisa and the Boston Marathon for The New York Times


Lelisa Desisa won the Boston Marathon last year but his win was forgotten a few hours after he crossed the finish line when the bombs went off. From Ethiopia, Desisa arrived in Boston on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, hoping to win again. Following last year's win, he returned the medal to the city of Boston and gave his race bib to Adam Davis and his wife, Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who were both injured in the bombing. Please read the touching story in The New York Times .



NH Freedom Summit

High-profile Republicans, some eyeing a run for the White House, attended a GOP Freedom Summit on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Manchester. Speakers included sen. Rand Paul, sen. Ted Cruz, and Gov. Mike Huckabee, speaker Newt Gingrich, rep. Marsha Blackburn and Donald Trump.

Vermont Heroin for Rolling Stone Magazine

Last month I worked on a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about the heroin epidemic sweeping across Vermont. The frequent path traveled by users is from prescription pills such as Vicodin and oxycodone, but when compared to the price of heroin, pills become incredibly expensive. Heroin is cheap to buy and profitable to sell and make a fast fat wad of cash.

That's how Eve Rivait, 22, got started and one substance abuse led to another. Living in the rural outskirts of Burlington, she said she became involved in drugs at an early age. A boyfriend of hers was an addict that tried to hide his use from her. Having worked with horses and understanding how to put in an IV, she injected heroin for her first time and was found slipping in and out of consciousness later by her boyfriend. "I did everything that he had," she said. After losing her job, living out of her car, getting clean and then relapsing, she was finally taken off a waiting list and found a place to live. When she first went to seek treatment, she said she was told to keep using heroin because she was on a waiting list and there was no treatment available to help her at the time. Her son is due in July and when I met Eve, she was just moving into a substance-free center in Burlington.

I spent some time on the neighborhood streets of Northwest Rutland, Vermont. Walking around, observing people. Noticing a lot of foot traffic towards the end of the day. A lot of cars pulling up to houses and leaving after a few minutes. But the hard part is, you can't just photograph people walking on the street when you're working in a larger context of heroin. The average reader is going to associate that person with heroin and you'd better have it right. Same goes for property. This posed a problem of having so much to shoot, yet not having anything at all that could be confirmed short of knocking on a door. And I thought about it. I still wonder if I should have because I noticed about 5 houses that were fairly easy to spot.

One guy I met, Shawn Hayes, stood for a portrait in front of his mother's home in Northwest Rutland. One day a few years ago, Hayes said he and his mother returned home from the nearby laundromat to find their front door busted in. According to Hayes, they were later told that the perpetrator was an addict looking for money. 

While walking on Park Ave, where I heard was 'ground zero' for drug activity, I came across a sign in someone's yard that read, "We will NOT tolerate drugs or crime on," and then in a space left blank, they added, "Park Ave." So I knocked on their door. No answer. It was a cloudy day and there was always this weird feeling of being watched, but I'm sure that was just in my head. I came to another home with the same sign. This time, the house had a Marine Corps flag on a pole in front. I knocked, and Michael Moran quickly invited me in.

Turns out, Michael Moran notices a lot of foot traffic in and out of his neighbors home throughout the day. A home, he says and confirmed by State Police, has a history of drug involvement. He has lived in his home on Park Ave in Rutland for 24 years this April. A former Marine who served in Vietnam, he said he doesn't get much sleep and has noticed activities around Park Ave at night. Over the years he and neighbors have taken matters into their own hands.

Locked in a safe deposit box at a bank, he has two journal books logging the description of vehicles, their drivers and details of activity taken place on Park Ave and around his home. "They go from this one to one of these two back and forth all day long," he said pointing at several homes near his. "Mules are bringing [the drugs] in backpacks at night, late at night. They've changed their operation from any hours to, they start up usually at 1:30-2:00 in the morning til 4:30-5:00 a.m." His home is the last single family home on the block that has not been converted into multiple apartments, he said. Sitting in the heart of drug deals and prostitution, he fights for his grandchildren to give them a chance to grow up in a safe neighborhood. He says in recent years, crime and drug activity on his street has risen despite drug busts and police presence.


I also met with police to photograph evidence they've seized, but I don't say anything to them about specific places I've observed. That's their job to figure it out and my job to listen and pay attention. Asking questions in a roundabout way will reveal so much. Instead of posing a question directly, "Is such and such a house at this address involved in drugs?" Another way is, "I was in this area the other day and someone said there is a lot of activity around their home, do you know any of the houses in that area?" The point is because it's important to remain as objective as possible and also because I was trying to get all sides of the story. The residents of neighborhoods, former users, police, current users and dealers. I'm not about to talk to the police about someone I'm photographing.

In Burlington, I met an undercover cop in a parking lot. As I sat in his car, he motioned to a vehicle about 10 yards away. A man hopped out, walked to a car, looked in and it appeared he made a transaction, got back in his car and took off. We followed him and a squad car made a traffic stop for speeding. The officer found needles and paraphernalia in the car. He pointed out known 'hot-spots' near the highway. As soon as I was brought in to observing that world, things became so obvious and it was remarkable how much dealing and using goes on.

The night before I left Burlington, I met up with another former user who was living in a sober house and working several jobs. Melissa Weston, 21, is a former user and dealer who has been clean and living at a sober house in Essex Junction, Vermont for about seven months. She said members of her family used heroin and she started. Her addiction and use led her to live with a family member and user in Harlem, New York. When an ex-boyfriend was in prison, she would sneak him in drugs and throw it over the wall during visiting hours until she was caught.

Several times I drove the 3 hours to meet with a contact who was going to shoot up. The issue was, he had to be doing it when he normally would. How do you coordinate something like that with someone that you've never met and is rightfully a bit nervous and flighty? A few times I just got myself close to town and waited for a random text. One time I got notice of a time to meet, he bailed when I was pulling in to town. Another time was a bit sketch and I bailed because I thought he'd be doing it for the camera. Some photographers would probably not think twice about photographing in that situation. I mean, I was present anyways and my presence had an affect on the situation, but for me, it had to be real or not at all. It had to be caught on a whim as it was being done. The photo editor was amazing about this and trusted my judgement even though we were missing a key photo to the story. What if I met this guy and he was only shooting up for me, then he overdosed? Because I was there photographing? For one, it's not worth a photo. Ethically and morally, it's an obvious and important no-no. But I kick myself for not just knocking on a dealer's door to get their side.