Building A GradNation: America's Promise Alliance

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The Building a GradNation Summit occurs annually in Washington, DC to promote students graduating high-school nationally. Since the 2010 launch of the GradNation campaign, America’s Promise Alliance has brought energy and focus to the national graduation rate challenge through research and data analysis, community-level investments, and convenings at the national, state, and local levels. Their incredible work focuses on keeping the Five Promises to young people: Caring Adults, Safe Places, A Healthy Start, Effective Education and Opportunities to Help Others.

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I felt so honored to photograph this extraordinary event, which joins more than 800 leaders in education, politics, business, and nonprofits with youth and community leaders from across the country. I am excited to share highlights from the GradNation Summit, and hope to raise awareness and encourage people to take action for this great cause. From individuals to national organizations and all in between - there is a way to make a difference and impact the life of a young person!

What we have here is not an education challenge, it is an American challenge”
— Mrs. Alma Powell
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America’s Promise Founding Chairman General Colin Powell and current chair Mrs. Alma Powell presented at this event, followed by a special announcement from Mrs. Laura Bush.

GradNation aims to increase the national graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and put millions more young people on the path to adult success. It is so inspiring to see the huge accomplishments America’s Promise has made over the last several years, and thanks to their unmitigated passion and commitment, these goals are now tangible.

With hundreds of national partners and their local affiliates, America’s Promise Alliance is uniquely positioned to mobilize Americans to act. We have made improving high school graduation rates our top priority, and we are on track to achieve the nation’s goal of a 90 percent graduation rate”
— Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

Main Event Catering

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I always enjoy working with Main Event Catering, and am excited to showcase these highlights from some of their amazing parties this past month. Whether it be an intimate dinner or a lavish gala, the MEC team prides themselves on bringing their client’s vision to life.

Main Event Caterers provide inspired menus with restaurant caliber cuisine, impeccable service and trend-setting florals and design for their clients. I am always so impressed with their ability to transform various spaces into the perfect setting for any event. Their extraordinary menus are complimented with highly designed settings, which consistently results in a full-sensory culinary experience that transports guests into a bold world of celebration.

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Every time I photograph for Main Event Caterers, I am so impressed with their innovative ideas and quality of their services. It is evident that they pour their hearts and souls into each event, and they truly care about bringing people together to share important times in their lives. It’s that passion that makes all of their events unforgettable, and ensures that every guest experiences an enjoyable and flawless occasion. I can’t wait to work with them on more fabulous events!

The 76th Annual WSWA Convention & Exposition

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This year’s keynote speakers were Ice-T (actor, musician and author), Bruce Himelstein (former Chief Marketing Officer, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company), and Bill Newlands (CEO, Constellation Brands).

In the newly developed WSWA Supplier Leadership Series, answers were provided to some of the most pressing distribution-related questions including: brand building, how to stand-out in a sea of similar products, alternative 3-tier compliant routes to market, finding venture capital, and navigating compliance and state laws.

One of my favorite parts of the WSWA Convention was the Brand Battle, which is their version of Shark Tank, and puts brands with impressive pitches and compelling stories in front of a panel of decision-makers to compete live on stage. At the conclusion of the Brand Battle, the panel’s scores are combined with the audience scores to determine a first and second place winner. Contestants are judged on presentation, brand viability in the marketplace, taste, marketing innovation and overall appeal. I really enjoyed learning about these startup brands, and the inspirational stories behind their creation. For the first time ever, two brands tied for first place, which was very exciting to see! The two winners were Boukman Botanical Rhum made in Haiti and Seaside Grown Bloody Mary Mix, which also got my vote.

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It was very fun and exciting to see my many photographs blown up and used in all of the amazing wall displays that were featured in the main exhibit hall at the convention.

The WSWA Annual Convention & Exposition is the only event that exclusively links wholesalers, importers and exporters with suppliers and service providers in the most value-packed event in the wine & spirits industry. Held in Grande Lakes, Orlando Florida, the WSWA Convention is the premier event where distributors seek out new and exciting beverage products, meet with existing partners and look for services to enhance internal operations. This event unites more than 3,000 suppliers, distributors, influencers and a record number of industry media attendees under one roof for three days of networking and deal making. I have been photographing this event for the last six years, and each one is better than the next. Every year, I leave the convention in high spirits (pun intended)!

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Another notable event was the Wholesaler Iron Mixologist Competition, which showcases the best mixologists in the business, and is judged by a panel of highly respected experts. They take part in a timed competition where they have to create cocktails that incorporate surprise ingredients, which are unveiled to the competitors at the very beginning of this creative challenge.

Foxhall OB/GYN Associates

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I really enjoyed working with the Foxhall OB/GYN team to take new headshots for their company website. Providing new, and great images for professional’s businesses is something that I take a lot of pride in, and love doing. The businesses always vary, but the end result, which is beautiful portraits, will remain constant.

Washington Mardi Gras

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I always look forward to shooting this fabulous event, which is done annually to celebrate Mardi Gras in Washington, DC. The three days and three nights of celebration is known as one of the biggest parties of the year! For over 70 years, the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians has brought the pageantry, revelry and mystery of Mardi Gras to our nation's capital. 

This celebration of New Orleans coming to DC is done to promote the agriculture, businesses and culture of the South.  It is seen as a business-development tool.

The long weekend culminates in the Saturday night ball, presided over by the year’s King and Queen. The Queen and King of Mardi Gras are considered the “royalty” for the event, leading the festivities.

Saturday night is also a special night for the Princesses and Festival Queens as well. Each Festival Queen and Princess is formally presented and paraded around the ball room with a costumed Krewe member carrying a banner displaying her name. Each Princess is generally escorted by her father or grandfather.

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This year, the D.C. Mardi Gras Ball took place at the Washington Hilton. The Washington Mardi Gras parade through the ballroom was a showstopper. The entire ballroom was transformed into an Alice in Wonderland theme, which was spectacular. Walking in, I immediately felt like I had fallen down a rabbit hole into the fantasy world populated by every peculiar, anthropomorphic Wonderland creature. Just like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, there was a long, narrow hall, filled with golden keys, and clocks, which lead us to a small door that opened into the beautiful wonderland garden. No corners were cut when it came to the décor, which was so well done. Every room was perfectly designed to play into the imaginative wonderland theme. I enjoy photographing the D.C. Mardi Gras event because it’s always an exciting experience, and every year they continue to outdo themselves!



Mallory Pugh: Soccer Superstar

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Mallory Pugh, the forward for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, is the youngest player to make her debut in the last 11 years. Pugh was named the 2015 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year. She was voted as the 2017 Washington Spirit Most Valuable Player. In 2018, Pugh scored six goals in 13 appearances for the USWNT senior squad, including a brace against Denmark in January. The explosive and creative attacker has endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade and Neutrogena. The fact she was able to skip college and turn professional after high school is an example of how the growth of women’s soccer is providing opportunities for female players that previously didn’t exist.

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I was very excited to shoot Mallory for her feature in Colorado Health & Wellness Magazine. Due to how busy Pugh is with soccer, we had a very tight timeline for this photoshoot. I went to meet with Mallory at six in the morning before her practice began. I had a great time watching her showboat some of her favorite tricks. I was very impressed with her incredible ability to use one foot to scoot the ball up her leg, then kick it with her opposite heel so that it propels the ball forward, and arcs neatly over her head. I was told that this flashy move is called the “rainbow flick” (pictured below). Talking with Mallory and getting insight into her passion and commitment to soccer was very inspiring, and I learned that she will do absolutely anything to fulfill her dreams. I look forward to watching Mallory Pugh in the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Calling from Colorado to find the right Maryland photographer was an exhausting search. That is until I called MBK Photo. I knew Michael was the guy within five minutes of speaking to him. And he delivered. Michael made our cover feature with soccer superstar Mallory Pugh pop! His rapport helped her feel relaxed and comfortable. Michael captured Mallory’s natural beauty and personality under the pressure of a tight timeline and rising sun. Our designer had several wonderful images to choose from. I’m so proud of this publication and Michael’s images anchor it.”
— Peter Solveson, Publisher of Colorado Health & Wellness Magazine

International Leadership Reunion

Group shot surrounding Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (in red).

Group shot surrounding Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (in red).

The International Leadership Reunion (ILR) was held at the Cannon Caucus Ballroom in Washington, D.C. This was a very exciting photoshoot because the ILR is known to be the most prestigious worldwide Jewish event, gathering the highest level donors. These important fundraising organizations work with the Jewish communities throughout the world for social and education programs and the support of refugees. The conference is in line with the Foundation’s goals since it aims to encourage the integration and peaceful cohabitation of nations through meetings that address issues they have in common.

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In partnership with the global Jewish community, the ILR works to further the national priorities of the State of Israel and Israeli society, with special emphasis on advancing weaker communities; nurturing disadvantaged and marginalized youth; encouraging aliyah; implementing rescue operations; and connecting young Diaspora Jews to Israel and Jewish life.

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In addition to Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there were many other notable attendees at the International Leadership Reunion. William Daroff, the Senior Vice President for public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America. As the principal spokesperson on public policy and international affairs for 148 Jewish Federations and more than 300 independent communities, Daroff ensures that the voice of Jewish Federations is a prominent force in the nation's capital. He guides the Jewish community’s advocacy efforts on the Federation movement’s key domestic policy issues, from health and human services to elder care, homeland security to strengthening charitable organizations.

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Another high level donor at the event was Natan Sharansky, an Israeli politician, human rights activist and author who, as a refusenik in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s, spent nine years in Soviet prisons. Sharansky served as Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency from June 2009 to August 2018.

The night was filled with prominent donors and speakers, and incredible entertainment by Doc Scantlin & His Imperial Palms Orchestra. For over a decade, dapper Doc Scantlin has kept the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s alive for Washington, DC and others internationally. The performance was incredible, immediately transporting the audience to the high life immortalized by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Great Gatsby the moment they took the stage.

Femsplainers

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The Femsplainers podcast with Christina Hoff Sommers and Danielle Crittenden first came out in May 2018. Their weekly girl’s night out includes some of the most fascinating and fabulous women on the planet. They dish on everything from #metoo and sex to, well, doing the dishes. No topic is off-limits — unless it’s boring.

Christina and Danielle have been best friends for over two decades. They don’t agree on everything, of course. But they love meeting new, interesting people and exploring ideas as friends do, with respect, humor and over a cocktail (or two). Guests include Tina Brown, Bari Weiss, Julia Ioffe, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Mandy Stadtmiller, Emily Yoffe, Caitlin Flanagan, Jonathan Rauch, and many more.

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I always have a great time working with Danielle and Christina. We’ve done many projects together, and they never fail to make me laugh. I am so impressed with the rapid following they’ve been able to develop.

Their 5-Star rated podcast is the gossipy, smart, witty conversation you’d have if all of your girlfriends (and some of your guy friends too!) were experts on the hot topics of the moment. High-spirited and high-minded, they don’t argue or whine, but seek to get to the heart of the matter, over cocktails (or wine). I would highly recommend following the conversation by subscribing to the Femsplainers Podcast!