Archive for the ‘Documentary Photography’ Category

True Portland

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Hello friends!

Last fall I had the honor of shooting a Portland guidebook – True Portland – for Japanese tourist. We photographed restaurants and food and interesting folk all over our fair city. I thought I’d share a few pages from the book. It was a whirlwind shoot and these bad ass Japanese publishers (Bridgelab) and writers, wrote, designed, published and launched the book within 7 months. No joke. And I hear it’s been the #1 selling guidebook on Amazon Japan since it hit the shelves. If ever you find yourself in a Japanese market – or in Japan, for that matter – take a peak at the bookshelves. You may see our book.

The next month or two will be extremely busy for me with shoots for another Japanese publication – Popeye Magazine – as well as a spread for Travel + Leisure (!!!). Looking forward to sharing those images with you in the coming months!



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Luce @ Dina Avila


Luce @ Dina Avila

Chef/Owner John Taboada and Stylist about Town Anne Parker at Luce

Luce @ Dina Avila


Beam and Anchor @ Dina Avila

Gorgeous Wares at Beam & Anchor

Anne Parker @ Dina Avila

Spread with Beam & Anchor Wares at Anne Parker’s Home

Broder @ Dina Avila


Broder @ Dina Avila


Broder @ Dina Avila

GM Joe Conklin at Broder

Sweedeedee @ Dina Avila


Lincoln @ Dina Avila


Lincoln @ Dina Avila


All Images © Dina Avila

DinaFlourish (1)22

Adam and I are house and kitty sitting in the country. Three cats (one is ours), a big house, a view of a hilly pasture where horses run, great herons stoically stand, and where we watch hawks and kestrels hunting and playing in the wind. There’s a beautiful garden here that I’ve bonded with while watering her, and several very territorial hummingbirds constantly buzzing around the backyard feeders or chattering to each other high up in the treetops. Hummingbirds are noisy little beasts. I’ve been chased by a queen bumble bee. Twice. Buzzed by a Paper Wasp or two, and watched a female kestrel watch me watching her through binoculars. And on more than one occasion have almost run though giant webs, hosted by giant garden spiders. There is a jungle of tomato plants, behind the raised bed of flowers vibrating with bees and hummingbirds, where I harvest seemingly hundreds of cherry tomatoes bursting from the vine daily.

This summer is nearly over with the autumnal equinox barely a week away. This morning is quiet as a Sunday morning in the country should be. Cool, grey and damp. The clouds seem ready to burst with rain. It feels like the perfect morning to catch up on and update my blog. I thought I’d share some of the published photos of a shoot I did this past June for Elle a Table Japan. You may be able to find this magazine in a Japantown, if you live near one, or a shop that sells international magazines. Otherwise, it may be difficult to find. Of course, the text is almost all in Japanese, except for the occasional subtext or article title in English, but the magazine is so visually stunning that it’s worth it to pick it up to simply look at the photos.

The shoot spanned over five days and involved a team from Japan (Hi Taka and Yumi!), Travel Portland, me and fellow photographer about town, Dave Reamer. Two teams, five day, nearly 30 locations. It was bliss. I made new friends, shot Portland like crazy, ate amazing food, and simply had a blast. This issue is the first of three to be published in Japan. A series on “Why You Want to Go to Portland “. Cool, right?  I’ll be sure to share more images as the the next two issues are published.


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Environmental Portraits © Dina Avila

Drake © Dina Avila

Environmental Portraits © Dina Avila

Beth © Dina Avila

Environmental Portraits © Dina Avila

Matt © Dina Avila

Dave © Dina Avila

Dave © Dina Avila

Environmental Portraits © Dina Avila

Julie © Dina Avila

Environmental Portraits © Dina Avila

Nathan © Dina Avila

Environmental Portraits © Dina Avila

Andre © Dina Avila

About four years ago, I started a portrait project. I photographed people I knew, or worked with at the time, in their world. A glimpse of their life through the lens. Through my eyes. I shot several of these portraits, and then life moved forward, I allowed the project to lose steam and I, frankly, forgot about it (although, it was always tapping on the back of my mind). This sort of documentary style photography is what I cut my teeth on. Raw looks into someone’s world, stripped of all color, observations from the camera, is part of my lifeblood. It’s why I picked up a camera 18 years ago. I shoot a lot of portraits, some family, many for Eater and other food-related purpose, and although I always shoot from my perspective…with my vibe, as it were, it’s been a long time since I worked on a project like this. I can feel that lifeblood start to simmer and think it’s time to start this project again.

So this, in essence, is call out for subjects. Anyone in?

Florence © Dina Avila

Florence 2003 © Dina Avila

(From my college senior project documenting life in an underprivileged nursing home in Austin, TX)

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Thought I’d (finally) share a few images, here and there, of our trip to Hawaii this summer. These three are of my niece, Eliana…more to come…




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© Dina Avila

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The plan was to write this post on Friday. I had an early morning shoot with Bienestar and I was going to come home, make some breakfast, sip some tea and write. I had it all laid out in my head and even thought I would have time to practice yoga or go on a long walk.

Instead, I was up all night. Just couldn’t sleep. What is worse than not being able to sleep, is knowing that you have to wake up with the sun when you’re not able to sleep. Don’t you hate that?

The culprit wasn’t stress, or hormones (not yet, please!), or crazy neighbors (although that happens on occasion), no nothing as interesting as any of that. It was tea. Not too much tea, mind you,  just fancy Chinese Pue-rh tea that for some reason that few times that I have drank it, regardless of how early in the day that happens to be, keeps my up at night. And it’s not that it simply keeps me awake, it stimulates me to the point that along with my very awake racing mind is a very awake racing heart. Pounding so fast and so loudly that if I lay on my side, it’s like little bombs exploding in my head. Over and over again.


My day ended up going something closer to this: Crawl out of bed, make more crazy tea to get me through the morning, drive 45 minutes to Hillsboro, meet some amazing people and make some portraits, drive another 45 or so minutes to Gresham, which is on the OTHER side of Portland from where the shoot is, drop something off at Adam’s folks house, drive home, and literally fall into bed. Two hours later, I wake up, feeling not so refreshed and like I pretty much didn’t sleep at all.

The rest of the day, needless to say, consisted of reading and staring at the wall.

I’ve been waiting all winter for spring to arrive and with it spring vegetables. Although, two weeks past the vernal equinox it as wet grey and dreary as our winter was, spring produce is starting to just show itself in the stores. And what better way to brighten the lingering rain than with rhubarb. I’ve never cooked with rhubarb before, and when I came across this recipe in Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Food, I quickly earmarked it for spring. It’s simple, delicately sweet, and cheerful. Perfect for dessert, or, my favorite, top off your granola or muesli with it for a tart breakfast.

Rhubarb and Pistachios over Greek Yogurt

Adapted from Lucid Food

What you’ll need~

4 stalks rhubarb, ends trimmed

4-5 cardamom pods, gently crushed

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

About and inch or two fresh ginger, either finely chopped or grated with your microplane

Zest from one lemon


1/4-1/2 cup raw honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon rose-water

2 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Cut your rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and place in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of water.

Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer stirring occasionally.

After about 5 minutes, when the rhubarb begins to soften, stir in cardamom, nutmeg, lemon and ginger zest, and a pinch or two of salt.

Let simmer for about four more minutes until the rhubarb is completely softened.

Remove the pan from heat and let cool.

Stir in the rose-water and spoon over small bowls of Greek yogurt.

Sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

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Here’s something you may not know about me. I’m a photographer.

This is Florence. I photographed folks at a nursing home in east Austin for my senior project at St. Ed's.

Not a weekend photographer or a hobbyist, but an actual bona fide, went to university, interned, earned a degree, have had a camera in my hand for 16 or so years, photographer.

I earned my degree at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX where I studied under the great Bill Kennedy and Sybil Miller. My focus at school was documentary photography, but I really cut my teeth on high-end photojournalistic weddings. I had the honor and privilege of working for Bill and his business partner Jenn Lindberg-another great photojournalist, at the now defunct, or maybe I should say transformed, Kennedy-Lindberg Wedding Photojournalism. Bill and Jenn pushed my photography (and me) to new heights. I shot more than 70 weddings with them including Jimmie Vaughan’s. Talk about pressure. Bill and Jenn not only molded me as a photographer, but also as an individual. I learned people skills, I learned how to anticipate moments and needs, I learned how to open my heart, I learned how to listen.

I worked for Bill and Jenn from 2001-2005. Life was good in Austin (a part of me misses it everyday) and the wedding business was booming, but the pressure of a sick parent (who has since had a full recovery) led me to Hawaii to be with my family and down a different path. There I worked for a couple of local newspapers and considered my next step in life.

The thing about freelance, especially in the beginning is that with every move, you pretty much have to start from scratch. The work in Hawaii was fun (boy, did I shoot a lot of rodeos), and I loved being near my family, but the opportunities there were limited. There were about two main photographers on the island who got damn near all of the work. And they weren’t going anywhere. I was also depressed, and not well. Another thing you don’t know about it me is that I have hypothyroidism. I was diagnosed in 2004 after a couple of very stressful years and it took about four years for my meds and supplements to be optimized to where I actually felt normal. When your thyroid is under active, motivation and enthusiasm pretty much don’t exist.

Enter Portland. All roads eventually lead to Portland. I had been thinking about moving to Portland for about seven years after visiting a friend who lived here. That’s how Portland gets you. A quick visit, amazing food, beautiful landscape, and you’re hooked.

After a particularly dreadfully depressing night in Hawaii of begging the universe for some guidance, “Portland” popped in to my head. Of course!

Within months I had money saved, found (with the help of a dear friend) an apartment, I was packed, and was saying Aloha to Hawaii and hello Pacific Northwest! And she’s finally saying hello back.

OK that’s not exactly true, Portland has been good to me since that first grey, wet day in March 2007, but, like I said, when you’re freelance you pretty much have to start from scratch with each move. It also helps if you have a clear idea of what direction you’d like to go in. I thought it was weddings, naturally, and I shot a few after moving here, but my heart wasn’t in it, and frankly, I lost my wedding mojo. It was gone. So of course, like any good Portlander, my first few years here were spent wondering what my next move would be while half-heartedly pursuing weddings and working in a downtown coffee shop and then, of course, Whole Foods.

Aside from health benefits, flexible hours and a discount on food (best-thing-ever), WF’s also likes to recognize that some of their employees have a world or a career outside their doors. With the knowledge that I am a professional photographer, they hired me to do a food shoot for screen advertising at Laurelhurst Theatre. If any of you saw those slides back in July or August of last year, that was my first attempt at food photography. After that I was hooked. You can read more about that experience here.

Fast-forward about ten months and you find me here. Writing and making photographs for not only my beautiful readers (you), but also for local business and now, local magazines.

Soon, you’ll find a page on my portfolio site that displays my tear sheets, both advertising and editorial, but for now I show you this: my first food photograph published in a magazine. Hurray!

If you’re not familiar with NW Palate you can find hard copies in wine shops in the Portland area, but you can also view a digital version of this issue here: Issuu.

I would love to hear your thoughts!


Click on the image for a larger view

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