Backlog: Where time goes during a pandemic

Neglecting a blog; apparently I’m good at it. But perhaps there’s a silver lining to only updating with backlog posts from the last [ahem] year or so? It’s the best of the best? Sure. I’ll take it.

Time seems to be seeping into a black hole in these pandemic times.  What have I done in the last… 531 days? (At least it’s not as long as the last pause.)

I’ve made a lot of these Electrical Worker Shorts videos, where we recap stories from our print side and use these videos to bring attention to the stories on our website. (A few more can be seen on my VIDEO page above.)

I also got to make a video for President Biden’s Inaugural Committee, which was shown during one of the pre-inauguration programs and featured messages from other unions and labor-friendly well-wishers. It was an intense 3 days from first notice to delivery, and worth every stressful moment, even in a pandemic.

And a first for me here – I edited an organizing story that I did not shoot. It’s a very different experience taking someone else’s footage and making it into something that feels right. When I film a story myself, I retain a lot of the details in my head. Where this bit of action happened, when someone said the phrase I know I want. So when I go to put it together afterwards, it’s more like a refresher course than when I’m starting from scratch with unfamiliar pieces. I’m pleased with how this one came out, and it felt good to put together a real story with real interviews instead of just text. 

I haven’t done many stills in this pandemic time, but I did get to photograph a few internal events that managed to happen in-person, and at a data center being constructed in Northern Virginia. And more recently, I got to photograph a Senate hearing for the TVA board. Those photos are unpublished for now, so I’ll have to update them once the story runs. Hopefully I remember to do it before another 531 days pass.

Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the IBEW Construction Conference on April 5, 2019 – just days before announcing his candidacy for president.
Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the IBEW Construction Conference on April 5, 2019 – just days before announcing his candidacy for president.

Backlog: 582 Days

Yeah, yeah. I know. It’s been a while again. To say that it’s been a weird, stressful time is an understatement. But I am here today to share a few unused images from an event in the Before Times – before the coronavirus, before the primaries, before Joe Biden even announced his run for the presidency.



April 5, 2019. Joe Biden came to speak at the IBEW Construction Conference amid swirls of speculation on whether and when he’d announce his campaign. It was a wild day. We don’t usually let press in, but with Biden’s appearance, they were practically banging down our doors. So we let them in, with some strict rules about where the could be… which left me as the lone still photographer with floor access. Exciting! Terrifying! So much pressure!



Thankfully, I was able to test lighting and positions earlier in the day so I could be cool, calm, and collected when it was go time for Biden. (I was not cool, calm, and collected at first. I was nervous! But at least my camera settings were ready.) Photos from this day were used for our newspaper – The Electrical Worker – and Political Department, and also appeared in ads leading up to Election Day in battleground states. (When the time is right, I’ll update here with some examples using the official photos.)



This photo is one of my favorites from the day. It’s a quiet moment that happened as the audience gave applause just before he walked off stage. He had his usual Biden smile and wave, and then paused here to look out at the audience. To me, it felt very personal; it seemed as though he was taking a moment to breathe and take it all in before something big happens. We knew he was contemplating running for president, but we didn’t know when the announcement would come. It ended up to be April 25, 2019. And on February 5, 2020, the IBEW officially gave him their endorsement.


It’s been a wild ride these last 582 days. I’ve thought about these photos every day, and I’m finally proud to share them today, the day Joe Biden earned the title “President-Elect.”

Lower Trenton Bridge | Trenton, NJ | 2017
Lower Trenton Bridge | Trenton, NJ | 2017

Backlog: Well, it’s been a while. Again.

At least it’s a shorter break than last time? There’s a new human in town keeping me busy. Here’s some highlights from the last year and a half-ish, which saw a lot less travel than usual. Sometimes it’s nice to work close to home.

I’ve been in the House…
Rep. Nancy Pelosi questions an IBEW staff member representing the union on a labor committee panel in 2017. In January 2019, she was re-elected as Speaker of the House.

and on the Hill.
This was the windiest day EVER and I chose to shoot video beauty shots for a project. Not smart.

On a big, famous bridge…
IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson and IBEW Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erickson march across the Brooklyn Bridge with striking union members against Charter Spectrum in September 2017. The strike is still going on as of January 2019.

Rally and March to Support On-Strike Local 3 Members from IBEW on Vimeo.

and on a little, famous bridge.
IBEW members work on changing the lights to an LED system on the Trenton Makes The World Takes bridge in 2017.

IBEW Lights Up Trenton Makes Bridge from IBEW on Vimeo.

And I’ve witnessed trainings…
IBEW members demonstrate manhole safety training in a new, portable lab that was formerly a race car trailer.

A new director position for a long-time employee.

and aspirations.
Rep. Tim Ryan speaks at the 2018 IBEW Political Conference. I personally feel like he might run for President someday.

I spent a week with amazing women in Minneapolis…

2018 IBEW Women’s Conference (St. Paul, Minn.) from IBEW on Vimeo.

and met some newly organized members in Ohio.

Organizing East Central Ohio from IBEW on Vimeo.

I also got to climb around a new soccer stadium under construction in LA, but uhh… that project still hasn’t been published yet. (It’s a long story.) So images will have to wait.

It’s been a really rich year-and-change, both professionally and personally. Here’s to the next being even better.

Wilshire Tower | Los Angeles | 2015
Wilshire Tower | Los Angeles | 2015

Backlog: Years and a lifetime ago

Hi. It’s been a while. I’ve been a little busy. And busy at work, too.

I’ve been in the sky.


Constructing the Wilshire Tower in Los Angeles

And underground.

Digging the SR-99 tunnel under Seattle with Bertha

And on Capitol Hill.

Jim Hunter, former Utility Department director, testifying on the hill

Ralph Norcross, congressman from New Jersey and IBEW member

IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson, before giving testimony

And to protests against things happening on and around Capitol Hill.

Solidarity protest with Trump Hotel workers in Las Vegas

Senator Sherrod Brown, speaking at a larger-than-I-expected mineworkers’ rally

Women Workers Rising protest

I’ve met some incredible people.

Dave, center, has kidney disease. Rob, left, was a potential donor. It didn’t work out. 🙁

Documented transitions in and out of the office.

Our new political director, Austin

And witnessed history unfold.

Heading out to count the votes on whether or not Local 410 would soon exist. We won.

So, yeah. I’ve been busy. In a really great and rewarding way.
Let’s not let two-and-a-half years pass before another update, okay?

A whirlwind tour of New England, pt. 1


Last week, I went on an adventure with the president of our union (plus his assistant, a director, a VP, and a writer coworker) to New England for a handful of events supporting the FairPoint strikers up there. Yes, we have members out on strike, and it’s a really big deal. (Go to Fairness@Fairpoint for all the information.) Here are a few of my favorite shots from the rally in Vermont. Did you know that Montpelier is the smallest capital city in the country?




For more photos, go to our organization’s Flickr page.
Parts 2 and 3 coming soon.

Besties. Love. Chicago.


I haven’t seen Diane and Phil for way to long. We spent quite some time this past weekend trying to figure out when we’ve seen each other since our wedding… and we could not come up with a time. There was the failed attempt to get to Rehoboth last summer, and the summer before, and a few gatherings that we remembered from even longer ago. But no gatherings since September 25, 2011.


I love you two. I’m so thankful for our short visit on this work trip. Let’s make it happen again, soon.

A conversation, a message.


This assignment reminded me of doing environmental portraits in grad school. I like shooting them so much more than the standard background-lights-stare-into-the-lens portrait. There’s definitely a time and place for those, but I think conveying personality through surroundings adds a lot to an image. The plan – show our president in conversation, as the accompanying story was a Q&A style story.


Serious and stern, but not angry or belittling. That was the goal. I did get some nice shots of him laughing or smiling in the course of the conversational shoot, but I’ll save those for another day. This and the top image ran with our story.


This was one of my favorite images from the shoot. It didn’t fit with our serious theme, so it’s just an outtake now. But I still like it.

Original story: On growing the IBEW

Attempting to go viral, one post at a time.

Did you know I now make memes? I mean, we make graphics to share on Facebook and then hope they go viral. Some are better than others, in both look and performance. I happen to be a fan of these two.

Union Wages


Have You Thanked A Lineman Today?

This one’s been posted a number of times, and each time it gets more than 2,500 shares. I believe that qualifies as ‘viral’ for us. Yeah!


Back on the Hill.


IBEW Utility Department Director Jim Hunter testifies on Capitol Hill at a Senate hearing on April 10, 2014. The hearing, convened at the request of the IBEW, United Mineworkers, and the Utility Workers, discussed the reliability and safety of the nation’s power grid.
© Erin C. Sutherland / IBEW

I really love the days when I get an email that says, “Hey, can you go shoot this thing on the Hill tomorrow?” This time, it was a Senate hearing on the reliability and safety of the American power grid.


140410_JimHunterTestimony_03_smThe room was beautiful, and packed. Thankfully we got there early and got a standing room spot. Non-press were being turned away all morning. It seemed like no one expected the hearing to be so full, and yet there we were, stuffed into corners like sardines.



On a side note about the room: we were watching Cosmos this week and I noticed that the hearing room illustrated in the lead-in-gasoline fight was likely the same room. Funny.

Edit: Looking at these photos on my home laptop, I think I may need to calibrate my work monitor. Hm. 

Original story: IBEW Director to Senators: Ensure Reliability of Grid

My first Congressional hearing.

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi greets Baltimore Local 24 member Stan Osnowitz before his testimony to Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

So exciting, right? In actuality, it was – and enlightening, too. The dais in the room was huge. I didn’t think I would actually see more than half the chairs full for this particular hearing. But lo! Congresspeople came from all entrances to fill just about every seat and listen to these everyday people give their testimony.

Some may see unemployment benefits as extending the poor and out-of-work’s dependency on the government in a negative way. Not so on that day. For those precious moments in front of the microphone, stories of severe hardship were aired in the public, in front of lawmakers who could possibly (and hopefully) help. Without an extension of benefits, these people will be left in the cold with no way to pay their bills or put food on the table. Homes would be lost. Lives shortened by the lack of appropriate medications. And without assistance, these people won’t even be able to afford to look for work. And while only three workers sat at that table (the other two were from support organizations), they represent hundreds and thousands more who are just trying to make ends meet.

So let’s get on this, Congress.

Original story: Local 24 Member Tells House Leaders: Extend Unemployment Benefits

A note about the photos above: It seems as though Flickr has changed the way they embed photos into a page. I bet it’s for security, for which I am grateful. However; it now turns every image into a slideshow of ALL my public photos. That is not cool, and creates a poor user interface. I will be researching a better image hosting option for posts in the future.