Fifty Dollar Bills

Do you remember that scene in Goonies when Data accidentally bumps the counterfeiting machine in the basement of the Lighthouse Lounge? The machine rumbles to life and sheet after sheet of "fifty dolla bill!" come rolling out. In a fleeting moment before the story even starts, the counterfeiting machine nearly brings an end to their quest for the real treasure that will save their town.

And that's the the thing about the counterfeit - it's so convincing, it promises us reprieve from the hard work ahead. I can't tell you how many times I've chased the counterfeit when real treasure was waiting for me, if only I would join the quest.

WELD life is good life.

WELD life is good life.

About 5 years ago, my buddy Steve & I had an idea for a co-working space in Dallas. I only mention this little detail because what I did with the idea stands in stark contrast to what my friend Austin Mann did with a similar idea. I looked at the cost (financial, personal and professional) and balked, whereas Austin sacrificed everything to bring WELD to life.

And, make no mistake, Austin has sacrificed everything he once treasured — a blossoming career as a photographer, numerous opportunities to have his work (which is brilliant) featured in national publications, stamps in his passport from far flung and exotic places and adventure. He's sacrificed so much adventure.

WELD's founder, Austin Mann // a birds eye view of the WELD Dallas patio

WELD's founder, Austin Mann // a birds eye view of the WELD Dallas patio

But, as he heads off today to start WELD Nashville, I see that, maybe just maybe, his sacrifice of the very things I was unwilling to let go of is a statement of faith in what he deems to be treasure. And what he considers true adventure.

To enable, inspire and grow the creative communities of Dallas — and now Nashville — is a gift that multiplies Austin's heart for people a thousand fold. And amplifies the impact he alone can have in the world.


Five years ago, I said no to that quest. I didn't have the capital or the desire or the stomach to risk everything for others. That's hard to admit, but it's honest.

So, when Austin came to me and asked if I'd be willing to move into the roll of "Chief WELDER" in Dallas, I was faced with a similar dilemma. And there were a hundred reasons to once again say no. I mean, $50 bills are rolling off the machine, y'all. But, as I thought about my friends in Dallas who come to WELD every day, and this city my family calls home, and the deep seated beliefs I have about who we creatives are supposed to be in society, I realized those $50 bills are a sorry substitute for the quest that I was being invited into, which is the real treasure afterall.

I'm incredibly thankful to Austin for cultivating this community and revealing the deep truths of life to me in all he does. And, I'm incredibly honored that he'd hand me the opportunity to care for the fruit of his sacrifice.

I don't know what will happen next. Starting today, I'm in the tunnel, juggling my workload as a storyteller and the needs of the WELD community, and I'm sure that both the reminders of other's failures and a few boobie traps lay in front of me (that's what I said, 'boobie traps!!'"). But I also know that there is a treasure out there & I have a group of people (and, I genuinely love those people) who have climbed into the tunnel with me. And all any of us want to find is something better than the comfort of the counterfeit.

So, WELDERs, here we go.

Where Goes Light

Last fall, en route to Ethiopia, I stopped and spent 48 hours in Oman with my closest friends in the world. In life, there is the family you are born into and the family you choose — Amber & Brady, for my wife and me, are the latter. In our hour of deepest need, they were there. In our moments of greatest joy, they were there.

Amber and Brady are "there" kind of people — and not just for my wife & me. Which is what makes them living in the effing desert of Oman* so tough to deal with. As much as I've travelled the last few years, you'd think I would have had a layover or two in their vicinity. Nope. Not one. Until Ethiopia.

I think it's safe to say that my visit was as glad a day for them as it was for me. I know this because we packed an epic discovery of their adopted home** into a matter of hours; they didn't want me to miss a thing.

Along the way we came across Seb, an abandoned village above the Ben Habib Wadi, and Harith, a man who was raised there. He made sure we had the chance to see his former home from it's most stunning angle.

Seb Ruins, Ben Habib Wadi, Oman. Oct. 2012.

Seb Ruins, Ben Habib Wadi, Oman. Oct. 2012.

To be honest, I was blown away imagining anyone ever living there. Humans have an amazing ability to dwell in such inhospitable environments. Nothing about life on that hillside, at any point in history, would have been easy. I asked Harith why his family abandoned the village a couple of decades earlier; what pushed them away? He told us the story of a government's unwillingness to run electricity to their homes, making modern life nearly impossible. After decades, possibly centuries, of living on the side of a cliff, the lack of light was what ultimately drove his family away.

Several months after returning from Oman, I came across this image on The Atlantic:

Palangan Village, Iraq. Photo by Amos Chapple.

Palangan Village, Iraq. Photo by Amos Chapple.

Palangan's resemblance to Seb, Oman is remarkable. Both share an architectural style, seem to have a similar number of dwellings, and their proximity to the wadi — a valley that fills with water in the rainy season — appears comparable. And, from my perspective, both seem equally inhospitable to human life. How exactly does one live on the side of a rocky cliff?

There is one striking difference, however: light. Palangan does not appear to have suffered Seb's fate. Where Seb is now a pile of crumbling buildings, the mere shadow of a fading story, Palangan is vibrant and alive. It may seem a simple thought, but I can't help but be reminded: where goes light, goes life.

Which brings me back to my tour guides in Oman. The landscape isn't the only inhospitable aspect of life in the Middle East. Culturally, life there is difficult for a Westerner. There are political, cultural and religious issues that make daily living as inhospitable as a rocky hillside. Maybe even more so. And yet, in today's world, with the global strains we see between Christians & Muslims, never has it been more important to get light onto those hillsides, both at home and abroad.

In the darkest hour of my marriage, Amber & Brady were life giving light to my wife and me, simply by being there and loving well. Today, I think our family life more closely resembles Palangan though it could have easily become Seb. That's the difference "there" people make in the world.

*Amber's pet name for Oman // **What Brady wishes Amber would call Oman

10 for 10

Morrow embodies nearly all the characteristics Canadians so admire in hockey players: bravery, unselfishness, resilience, toughness, honesty. That skill set made him important to Team Canada. Then he started scoring goals.
— Ian MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun

Hearing the news of Brenden Morrow's trade, I knew I wanted to share some of my favorite images from the last 5 seasons of The Captain. But, before I get to that, I'd like to put everything - my work as a photographer & storyteller for the Dallas Stars and life as a hockey fan - in a more personal context. Because Morrow is at the center of all of that, when you boil it down.

I became a Dallas Stars fan in the fall of 2000 thanks to my friend Sam Ditore. I was newly married & recently out of college. My sports consciousness was waking back up. Despite my parents meeting on a hockey rink in Houston back when all the Howe's played for the Aeros, I'd lost touch with my hockey roots. Sam told me I needed to pick a favorite player.

After watching a handful of games, I chose a fresh faced kid who was in his first full season with the big club. He'd just received the number 10 from Brett Hull, a real hockey number. I chose Brenden Morrow because he seemed to embody the qualities I remembered my dad espousing as essential to hockey: honest play, self sacrifice and unfathomable toughness. Morrow led with his nose, didn't back down and played the way I hoped to live - right at the limit in pursuit of what mattered most. For him it was a piece of vulcanized rubber; I hadn't quite found my focus at that point, but when I did, I wanted to go for it the way he played every shift. No wonder he was such a great captain.

Fast forward a couple of years. My wife was pregnant and we had just found out we were having a little boy. A name, in my opinion means everything, so I wanted a name that he could grow into. A name representative of the right way to move through life; a name that was unflinchingly tough and inspired the pursuit of what mattered most. I jokingly went through the entire 2002-2003 Dallas Stars roster. When I finally got to Brenden, my wife & I felt like it fit. When we finally met our son a few months later, it absolutely fit, though we did change the spelling just a bit.

Brendan meets Brenden, Oct. 2008

Brendan meets Brenden, Oct. 2008

So, you see, when you hear that guy has been traded away after spending every minute of his career in your favorite team's sweater, it makes you feel two very polarizing things.

The first is a deep sadness. It makes no sense that we get attached to pro athletes the way we do. Actually, it's really silly that we do. But, for me, Morrow was a guy that had come to symbolize something far more meaningful than sport. I modeled my pursuit of a career as a storyteller after his pursuit of a puck and I hope a little of that will rub off on my son as he grows into his name and finds his passion, vulcanized rubber or otherwise, to chase after.

The second feeling, however, is unbridled excitement. Brenden is the kind of player who does it right every shift and is the kind of player whose name deserves to be immortalized on the trophy of all trophies. For his entire NHL career, he's been on a team that was either non quite good enough (1999-2000 and 2007-2008 come to mind) or really pretty terrible. So, as a fan of Morrow, the man and the player, I hope his move to Pittsburg alongside some of the most dynamic players in the game, brings him a renewed passion to pursue the thing he's been after since he first came into the league.

And if he does get himself a Stanley Cup, you can bet my Brendan and I will be watching and cheering.

These are my 10 favorite images of #10 and a little bit of the story behind them:

10 - Father


One of my favorite stories coming out of Morrow's trade was this one about his daughter comforting her mom by saying, "Mom, it's going to be okay, it's only a couple of months and he has a chance to win the Cup."

It instantly reminded me of this image from December, 2011, after Richard Bachman's shutout at Madison Square Garden. It was late and we ended up having an epic haul to New Jersey in front of us, but Morrow stole a few minutes to call home. I guess he's human, after all.

9 - The Other Cup


I'll never forget walking into the AAC on opening night of the 2011-2012 season and seeing this image on the souvenir cups. I've had my images show up in a lot of places, but that was a first.

8 - Chirping


Hockey moves fast, especially in that spot right between the two benches. It's a shooting position that gives you an incredible perspective on the game and the games within the game. This image really gives you the sense of the speed with which stories unfold during a game and the kind of Captain Morrow was.

7 - Karting


The access the Dallas Stars have afforded me in my five seasons of shooting is unprecedented. It's something I never take for granted. Morrow, as the captain, was always the gate keeper of that access. On occasion, I press in a little too close - not for lack of respect, but because I genuinely want to find images I haven't seen before - so, to be invited on a team outing in Washington, D.C., and photograph the guys away from the rink was a highlight.

6 - A Little Something Special


This image is just a favorite, but there's no real story behind it. It was shot early in the 2011-2012 season as the Stars were facing New Jersey. If you looked at the scoresheet, you wouldn't see a mention of Morrow, however, he left the franchise with his name all over the place. In 13 seasons with the Stars he served as team captain for 7 of them, sits 2nd all time in Game-Winning Goals (42) and has 3 of the last 4 playoffs goals scored by Dallas in overtime, including that special evening in 2008. So, I figured there was room for at least one image that's just pretty cool to look at.

5 - Face Off


The Dallas Stars were grasping for playoff hope as the 2010-2011 regular season was coming to an end. If ever there was a time for the captain to rise to the occasion, this was it. Just seconds into the second period, with the Stars up 2-1, Brenden Morrow scored a power play goal that would hold up as the eventual game winner. Playoff hope was alive, if only for a few more days.

4 - The Captain Returns


This image was taken one year, to the day, after Brenden Morrow learned he'd suffered an ACL injury that would limit his 2008-2009 season to just 18 games. I remember standing outside the locker room at the morning skate as he walked by, the first guy onto the ice that day. I followed him and took two or three frames. It was only later realized the connection between the date of his injury and this image which has always been a favorite of mine.

The work he put in to return from that injury was done in solitude, away from any spotlight and I've always felt you get a fleeting sense of the kind of work it took to come back in this image.

3 - The Warrior Sword


You may remember this story that blew up a few seasons ago. The sword became a symbol of camaraderie for a team that, at the time, couldn't lose. The moment in this image, in my opinion, the high point of that Stars season. A few days later after losses in Calgary and Vancouver, the season came unravelled in Boston.

2 - One of the Last


Brenden Morrow makes his way to the ice at American Airlines center on Jan. 24th, 2013. A non-moment, really. But sometimes even the non-moments are beautiful, in retrospect. Little did I know at the time, this would be one of the last images I would make of Brenden Morrow in a Stars sweater.

1 - The Face of a Captain


I have no shortage of images of Brenden's battered face, but this one really sums it all up. Here you can see the embodiment of  "all the characteristics Canadians so admire in hockey players: bravery, unselfishness, resilience, toughness, honesty." Hands down, this image from Brett Hull night in 2009, is my favorite image of Morrow.