Clay Willis Photography

Joe Biden at Fort Drum

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on March 28, 2011

Today, Vice President Joe Biden visited Fort Drum in Upstate New York to welcome home the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division. The brigade is slowly returning from Iraq early as per troop withdraws. The soldiers are one of the most deployed in the country -5 times since 2000- and it was wonderful to bear witness to the relief and joy of the troops and their families. While covering this event involved satisfying the overbearing security requirements of both the U.S. Army and the Secret Service, such as enduring several hours of sequestering in some furnace-like Indiana Jones hanger, it was a notable opportunity which yielded some spectacular shooting situations. Fully worth the waking up at 6, the driving 170 miles and all the government b.s. I hope you enjoy the pictures. The article: Biden and the photo gallery: Post-Standard Biden Gallery


Ranger Bergeron

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on March 13, 2011

We have an ongoing profile series of those locals who best shape the community. Most recently we featured MacArthur Beach State Park Manager Don Bergeron who has the coolest job in the world. First of all, he’s a park ranger. Awesome. Second, MacArthur Park is amazing. He gets to live in the park. He can literally walk out the door in the morning, wade into the mangrove, catch fish and then straight up feed it to his insanely lucky children. In an incessant expanse of strip malls, golf clubs, retirement communities and thrift shops, Don gets to reign over an oasis of wide beaches, sea inlets, tropical forests and blubberous manatees. Oh yeah, the park is so titled for the previous owners, names I’m sure you hear ad nauseum but rarely think about: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur.

Sabrina Adopted

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on March 8, 2011

I love covering stories like this. On national adoption day I headed over to the West Palm court-house to shoot the festivities and what not. They had clowns and magic and Chick-fil-A. Clowns are terrifying but Chick-fil-A is delicious. Mostly It was what you’d expect. Lost and huddled children, parents uncertain what they felt, overzealous coordinators and volunteers, all except one girl. Sabrina seemed completely unimpressed with the design and formality of the day. She basically just did whatever seemed best and her buoyancy lifted everyone around her into the same sprightly humor. She had Judge Karen Martin busting out laughing during the proceedings. The only thing more impressive than Sabrina was Sabrina’s new mother, Renee Brown. It’s transporting to stand so close to utter emotion, such unrestrained elation. Most news defeats you just a little bit more, but sometimes it doesn’t, it repairs.

El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de La Mancha

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on January 21, 2011

I haven’t been to a ballet in ages; frankly Black Swan really turned me off the whole genre for a bit. Not to mention, I was recently clued into some of ballet’s impolite past. But that’s neither here nor there. The matter at hand is that I got to hang around with some supremely talented youngsters who are preparing to reprise Marius Petipa and Ludwig Minkus’ old standby Ballet Don Quixote for the Florida Classical Ballet Theatre. Honest talent puts me in the best mood. All those devoted kids flying through the air, jetéing themselves into exhaustion, it’s just so heartening. I love that some people care infinitely about something. It completely distracts from the fact that nearly a fifth of juveniles are obese, immobilized by WoW and Madden. For an hour though, kids were awesome again.

CNY Yoga

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on August 28, 2010

A little bit ago I covered a yoga studio that offers live musical accompaniment for their classes by Syracuse musician Mark Nanni. Some of the positions they managed were ones I never expected to see outside of India. Every new contortion challenged what I previously had accepted about the articulation of a human form. Their impressive skill, combined with some excellent light, really got me going and so I did my best to work it as much as possible. The project produced stills for print as well as multimedia to supplement the online story. The original: Yoga Poses Come Alive

Port of Oswego

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on August 25, 2010

Recently, the Port of Oswego received its most formidable shipment to date: a nuclear transformer delivered in two parts from Seville, Spain by Beluga Projects. When assigned to cover the offloading of some shipment, my typical ebullience for work was, err… muted. Two chile verde- drenched burritos thankfully refortified my spirits and I set out render as much energy and persistence to this shoot as I would any other. I needlessly worried about the quality of my subject; as it turns out, I find giant industrial equipment and nuclear anything just as awesome today as I did when a small child. The whole production was impressive. The Beluga crew that I spoke with, especially a hilarious and helpful German duo, could not have been more accommodating, despite their being engaged in the ultra-precise offloading of multimillion dollar pieces of equipment of comparable weight to a small parking lot full of cars. Anyways, I wouldn’t post it here if I wasn’t proud of it, so there you go. I may only like this take because of how it reminds me of these amazing early American FSA and OWI color photos. Who knows, but I hope you like it. Post-Standard Gallery: Nuclear Power Plant Transformer

Buried on the Fouth of July

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on July 9, 2010

This Fourth of July, instead of cavorting on the beach, I took an assignment covering the burial of Army Spc. Blair Thompson, age 19. He was slain during an ambush in Afghanistan on June 25th. He had been deployed in May. The city of Rome, NY flooded this regrettable event with their heartfelt support, and likewise nearly 100 Patriot Guard Riders swarmed to pay respects. Nearly done covering the event, it dawned on me that this was veritably the first funeral I had ever attended. Back at the office, typing captions, I realized that he was almost three years younger than myself. Many assignments, stories and photos are trivial, sprinkled onto pages as garnish, but on this Fourth of July I encountered something that fundamentally illustrated the gravity of our world. God bless Blair Thompson. Let us hope that those interested in future conflict consider the needlessness of Spc. Thompson’s death, a boy who gave his life for those who knew nothing of him. This is my vantage of the tragic unfolding. You can read my papers coverage here-

Dr. Edwin Riley

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on May 8, 2010

Every time I look at this shoot I instantly think of the immortal Thunder God, protector of the Earthrealm, destroyer of the Elder God Shinnok: that’s right, Raiden. Dr. Edwin Riley is of course not the earliest protector of the Earthrealm, but he is the latest protector, fighting free radicals with super secret, antioxidant packed, Mexican miracle foods. In case you were wondering, he’s demonstrating Tai-Chi, not summoning Onaga the Dragon King. You can read all about Edwin here. He may not be from Mortal Combat, but he is a pretty fascinating guy with a vendetta against cheese. Seriously, won’t touch the stuff. Says it’s evil.

Country Vet: II

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on December 30, 2009

I have finally finished shooting my semester long project on Dr. Nichols, which is a load off, although I am ambivalent about this chapter’s conclusion. This story has had a more pervasive effect on me than any before. Between being wrist deep in dog blood and welcomed over to share Thanksgiving, my time with the Doc and those at the hospital has exceeded the boundaries of involvement on a typical shoot. While I intend to return and call socially, I’ll miss my routine and the hours spent with the Doc. I expect my experiences to remain with me for quiet some time. Indeed, this is by far the most personally memorable piece that I have ever completed. These are only some photos taken since the previous post, and not the final edit. When it is complete I will post the finalized piece. Lastly, thanks so much to every one who put up with my shooting and suffered through editing.

Country Vet

Posted in Uncategorized by Clay Willis on December 29, 2009

This past weekend I participated in the Newhouse photo dept. Fall Photo Workshop ( in the beauteous, rich, white town of Skaneateles, NY, just a half hour or so west of not so beauteous Syracuse. Essentially, this meant that for three straight days I did little else besides take and edit endless photos, surviving on cold pizza and three or four hours of sleep. I focused for the entire duration on one Dr. Robert Nichols Jr. I will preface this by saying I have never endured such an emotional and intense photographic experience. Nichols is an old-school, pragmatic bad-ass. He saves the lives of animals ’cause that’s his job. He has been doing it for over 30 years in the practice started by Robert Senior eons ago. Never have I before met someone so abrasive and yet so loved and revered by nearly all. I was taken aback at first by his blunt, opinionated diatribes and his assaults on my politics, homeland and education. He peppered me with quiz questions ranging from Latin to American History to Chemistry. But after spending day after day together, the more I enjoyed his conversation and company. The zenith of the weekend came about when a badly injured dog came in. With no else around to assist, he instructed me to put down the camera and grab a leg. I helped position the dog for two separate operations. First we addressed a badly gashed knee for which I had to rotate and hyper-extend the leg. I had miked an I.V. stand so as to interview during the procedure, although this slowed him down apparently- and before long I found myself trying to wrangle a convulsing dog while Nichols raced to finish the stitches. Next we had to address an abscess on the dog’s hindquarters which turned out to radiate from two sources and went nearly six or seven inches deep. According to Nichols, it was the worst he had ever seen. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the carnage. Blood, puss and iodine sloshed over my hands and forearms. It was horrifying but necessary (feel free to google the remediation of an abscess). Eventually it was done.. This is only a fraction of what I experienced during this assignment and it goes without saying that I will continue to document the life and work of a man with whom I now share a mutual respect._DSC0173


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