Kodama – Spirit of a Tree

Here in the Northeast spring has sprung. The once barren trees looming over our heads are now sprouting with new life. As the lush green growth floods our landscape we once again marvel at the dramatic rebirth of these gentle giants and reminding us of the great role trees play in our world. From producing much of the oxygen we breath, to shielding us from the harsh summer sun, trees are often overlooked. But, for Mira Nakashima, trees play a large part in her life. As the daughter of the famous woodworker, George Nakashima, her upbringing was molded by the philosophies her father embodied.

Mira Nakashima, Designer and Woodworker

Each tree, each part of the tree, has its own particular destiny. We roam the world to find our relationships with these trees.

George Makashima

With the belief of working with trees deeply ingrained in her at a young age, Mira has continued her father’s tradition of making unique and memorable furniture after his passing in 1990. Surprisingly, she was not formally trained as a woodworker but as an architect.

Mira Nakashima

Architecture was extremely good training for me as it was with my father.  Not only can you visualize shapes and volumes on paper, but engineer the structure and visualize the piece in a given space.

Mira Nakashima

She began her studies in architecture as an undergrad at Harvard and earned her Master’s at Waseda University in Tokyo. After receiving her Master’s, she returned home to New Hope, Pa in 1970. Once there Mira spent the next 20 years as her father’s assistant. In this role she quickly became skillful in woodworking and mastered the techniques that her father was renowned for.

Classic Daybed

When it was time for her to take over the “family business”, she strived to maintain a close connection to her father but over time her designs began to push beyond the boundaries set by her father.

Conciod Coffee Table

I’ve created a few new designs out of necessity, sometimes in collaboration with my design assistants, sometimes in collaboration with the client, and always in cooperation with the wood and the woodworkers

Mira Nakashima

It is through this respect for the wood and the tree it came from, that you will not only find a Nakashima piece sitting in a lucky home but also within the walls of a museum. The ability to see the true potential of a raw material and allow it to be beautiful in its own special way is what makes Nakashima furniture truly one of a kind.

Mira Nakashima

Healing Garden

When we first wrote about our time at Oregon State Penitentiary we shared our trepidations of entering a male maximum security prison. In that tale we introduced you to Megan Lowe, a Corporal Corrections Officer at OSP, but she wasn’t the only one we were meeting that day. Once we wrapped our dynamic shoot with Megan in the middle of a locked down cell block we were ready to be securely relocated. We arrived to a space that looked more like a recreation room at a day camp rather than a prison

The large gym like open space was outlined with rooms made of chain link fencing. Each brightly colored vibrant room contained a different club run by the inmates themselves with the help of Patrice Lans.

Patrice is Oregon State Penitentiary’s Activities Director and another addition to our ongoing project, Women’s Work. Before taking on the challenge of working in male prison Patrice spent twenty-four years in the grocery industry and peaked at the corporate office level. Feeling the need to change paths she accepted a temporary position in the kitchen of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility as a food service coordinator. Soon after this, she was asked to interview for a different position and was hired by the activities department in OSP.

I really like the niche that I’m working in. I love to be in the trenches instead of managing other tasks and such. I’d rather be working with the people, making stuff happen.

Patrice Lans

And with her help stuff does happen.  For one, Patrice and the Asian Pacific Family Club of OSP are working towards being the first prison in the western world to have a healing garden within its walls.


It has been proven that nature such as flowing water and plant life can reduce stress. In a study in 2016 done by Arcadia University about gardening programs in prisons has shown to enhance incarcerated individuals’ psychosocial well-being in three different ways:

  1. Increased their self-efficacy and self-worth
  2. Decreased their anxiety and depression symptoms
  3. Reduction in reincarceration rates.

With the healing garden there is hope of improving the overall quality of life for all the inmates.

I feel strongly that I’m making an impact by building and facilitating these programs in the prison, so that the inmates will be better citizens when they get out.

Patrice Lans

Patrice is making a difference is the lives of the inmates she works with and with her help projects like the healing garden become a reality. A reality that benefits everyone.

Reaching for the sky

It was when Abingdon Welch was 14 years old that she realized she wanted a career in aviation.

I told my mom, ‘hey mom, I want to be a pilot.’ She said, ‘that’s nice, pass the peas.

Abingdon Welch

Not understanding vocational school, Abingdon’s parents wished her to follow a more traditional path and that is what she did. After high school, she attended four years at the University of California, San Diego which resulted in a degree in psychology and film. During that time she did not forget her dream of one day sitting in the cockpit and flying a plane.

With saving every penny from summer jobs she was ready to jump head first into flight training the moment she finished university. Because of her diligent planning, she was able to attend the American Flyers Flight School without acquiring any more student loans. In 2007 she graduated with her commercial rating and was hired as a professional pilot.

It was also in 2007 that Abingdon launched Abingdon Company. On November 3 her namesake became the first watch company to meet the needs of female pilots, mechanics, and adventure women.  Born out of necessity, the fully functional aviator’s watch is fashionable, versatile, and most importantly, made for women.

I really wanted a pilot’s watch and since they didn’t make anything for women, I established the watch company

Abingdon Welch

It was that simple. Abingdon saw something was amiss and set her mind to make it right. It’s a wonderful way to improve the world. However, her impact doesn’t end at fabulously functional accessories. When looking back on her road towards becoming a pilot, she realized the struggles she had.

I didn’t come from a family that was in aviation. I really didn’t know where to start, so I just kind of found out things as I went along and it took me a long time.

Abingdon Welch

It was those difficulties Abingdon wanted a younger generation to avoid. She wanted a support system for young women and with that desire, the Abingdon Foundation was created.

I started Abingdon Foundation to help women figure out where they want to go, and not necessarily in aviation. If they want to explore scuba diving. If they want to explore maintenance becoming a mechanic and they don’t know what to do or where to go, we can help.

Abingdon Welch

The Abingdon Foundation supports women to find their way through scholarships, community outreach, and networking opportunities. Like the lack of aviation/adventure watches for women, Abingdon created something that women didn’t realize they needed. With these tools, she hopes to make the journey for the next 14-year-old girl a bit easier to reach their dreams.


Love to Explore

Many of us spend most of our days trapped inside four walls with a window, if we are lucky. While pounding away at a keyboard, we sometimes allow our minds to drift away to fantasies spending the day outside in the sun with the sounds of nature as our soundtrack. Yet, there are some who don’t have to dream of an escape because the outdoors is their office. One of these lucky individuals is Mia Anstine.

Mia Anstine

Mia grew up in a small town in southern Colorado. It was there that she learned she loved to explore the nature that surrounded her. Mia’s natural instinct to explore isn’t a surprise. She comes from a long line of hunters. Growing up her father hunted for food and her mother grew a garden and taught her how to fish. Their lives were simple and focused on the basic necessities of life. But it wasn’t until Mia and her mother moved to San Diego that she realized how fortunate she was as a child.

Many people in urban areas never notice birds, plants, or trees. But I quickly learned that looking hard enough led to finding wild places and outdoor areas to explore.

Mia Anstine

As she grew up her life began to take her further away from nature but no matter where she lived there were always places to go, explore, and learn about. Sometimes it would just take a little longer and she would have to wander a little further. Shortly after college Mia realized that she missed the country life and after moving to Texas and then Oregon she returned to her hometown in Colorado.

near Durango, Colorado

Even though she returned to her small town life in the mountains that she greatly missed she didn’t pursue a career in the outdoors.  As a highly successful salesperson for a building company, she worked tirelessly to stay in the top ranks. This left her little time to do what she loved, hunting. She was a single working mother like so many others that wanted to provide for her family. She wanted to be able to put food on the table like her father and his father before him. So, Mia began to head out on solo hunts on the weekend.  Sometimes her little girl would tag along and carry her shotgun for bird hunting.

The mother-daughter time was priceless, and the outdoors was a welcomed break from my non-stop commissioned sales job. The outdoors is good for your soul.  

Mia Anstine

It wasn’t until Mia met her now-husband, who owns an outfitting business, that she began to transition away from sales and into working in the outdoors. It all began when he was short a hunting guide.  Knowing that Mia was a good hunter he asked if she was willing to help. She agreed to fill in and that was the first step in her career as an advocate for the outdoors.


These days, I make a little less money than I did when I was the top salesperson for a large corporation, but everything I do to encourage others is empowering and brings me joy. It’s so rewarding. In all things I do, my mission is to encourage others to get outside, hunt, fish, shoot, cook, eat, survive, create and live life positively.

Mia Anstine

How the Gang started 2019

The Crisman team assembled at the Philadelphia International airport only 16 hours after the ball dropped.

The team was off to their first string of shoots for 2019.  Noel, our production coordinator, arranged 7 shoots in 3 cities within 11 days, no big deal.  The team consisted of Chris, Robert, Mike, Noel, and a former team member Jared Castaldi. They were ready to take on the challenge.


This trip to the West Coast was dedicated to our ongoing project, Women’s Work


Their first stop was Las Vegas to meet and photograph four very different women. They had the privilege to meet Desiree Reed-Francois – Athletic Director of University of Nevada – Las Vegas

Abingdon Welch – Pilot
Meena Vohra – Medical Director of Children’s Hospital of Nevada

and Tonya Rhodes – Casino Shift Manager at Mandalay Bay. Each experience was unique and worthy of its own story for another time.


At the end of their time in the city that never sleeps the team partially disbanded. Jared headed back to the East Coast; Mike threw a camera and a fishing pole into his car and hit the road; and Chris, Robert, and Noel drove west kicking dust behind their gear packed Suburban. They were driving to Los Angeles to meet Heidi and Renae Moneymaker – Stuntwomen, 

and Danielle Perez – Standup Comedian.

These two shoots allowed Robert to flex his photo assistant skills. As a producer, he rarely has the opportunity to build a light while on set. Typically he is juggling dozens of tasks and it was nice to be Chris’s photo assistant once again.

“It was like riding a bike.” 

-Robert Luessen

On January 8th Chris and Noel left Robert to fly back to the office. After two full days in LA, they packed their bags once again and were ready to head north to Palo Alto. There they would finally meet up with Mike for the final shoot with the Vice President of Google, Yoky Matsuoka.  They hit the winding roads north of LA and for the first time in days, it didn’t rain. Supposedly it only rains in LA in January… Who knew?

The team’s shoot with Yoky wasn’t scheduled until January 10th. With this bit of downtime, Mike could hunt down more beautiful landscapes. When the team was finally reunited in Palo Alto they were full of stories to share and tales to tell.

Their time at Google was a wonderful opportunity to work with Yoky and see their stunning campus.  Once wrapped the only thing left for them to do was to get on a plane on the 11th at 6:02 AM. This, of course, is a lot easier said than done. Especially when traveling with 7 checked bags filled with gear. They always give themselves enough time for the process. There was the talk of not even sleeping, but in the end, they all caught a couple Z’s. 6:02 AM came quickly and the team was happy to watch the San Francisco skyline drift into the distance as the traveled into the sunrise. They had done it. 7 shoots in 3 cities in 11 days. A great way to start 2019!

 

Gratitude

As we spend the last few days of 2018 in reflection, we view our recent past with great fondness. 2018 has been a year of continued change and growth defined by new challenges. 


All along the path, we have created many memories.

We have traveled all over the land and worked with so many wonderful people. Some long time conspirators and other new faces that we will welcome back to our team when the right time comes.

 No matter where a project took us, each one allowed us to dive further into the depths of creativity and to make each opportunity count.

As we look forward to even greater challenges, our team continues to grow.  This year called for expansion and we were fortunate to have Noel Pattani hop on board.

Noel is currently our production coordinator and we are excited to see how her strengths continue to develop as a part of our team.

 With her help, we have expanded Chris’s personal project, Women’s Work. Her creativity, spirit, and strong values have brought a new sense of life to who we are.

Mike Ryan will be entering his first year as a full-time member in 2019.

It seems like it’s been years, but his commitment and dedication restored a balance to our team as well as helped shape how we get it all done.

To be part of so many projects that pushed our creative limits has been a thrill and a pleasure. As a team of creative people, we require challenges and 2018 has been full of them. From creating a lush garden in studio during December, to traveling to Cape May, NJ to capture an oyster farmer and her crew at sunrise, to working 18 hour days in the scorching summer sun, we will continue to raise the bar on creative productions that bring out the best in everyone who is part of our what we do.  We are grateful for the opportunity to do what we love and to share our passions and strengths with you.

One to 2019 – Our next call time hits in just over 72 hours.

Personal Work – A cure for what ails you

By Chris Crisman

Did anyone play the lottery this week? Our team certainly did and a $10 ticket turned out to be less about the chance of winning a gazillion decimal points. It became a time to share the possibilities of a future. Some of us would shut it down and coast, some of us would devise a plan to share the wealth and give back to everyone that could use it, some of us simply dreamt of just taking a break. It’s a tantalizing exercise to contemplate the opportunities you could have, the challenges that would arise, and just how you would find ways to balance it all.

We are approached to work on so many jobs and it is hard to deny the randomness to how each year shakes out for us. We try to move forward on as many opportunities as possible and they need to have the right values to do so. When looking back on a year we seem to strike the right balance of projects. To be able to find creative fulfillment and financial stability with our work. Sometimes we are presented with a special Unicorn project that we dream of working on but no matter how much we fight for the job it still gets away. Even though you think you have dominance of the situation, there will always be a number of variables that are out of your control. Embracing this reality has really kept me from going insane.

Another aspect of our work that helps balance the inevitable presence of impending insanity – personal work. It is as easy as putting a pin on a map. Just you and your camera traveling to beautiful locations can be unpredictable magic waiting to happen. 

 Alternatively, you can dedicate your time and other resources to hone in on exactly what it is you want to express; this is my preferred method. With these projects – or singular images – you can easily give you and your team back the control, vision, taste, and your calendar that often seems out of your hands.

It all sounds simple, but I still struggle. I struggle with the where, the when, and the how. I struggle with whether I am choosing the right concept or idea to focus on. Will the small detail of a coat on the guy actually ruin an otherwise perfect image? Above all else, I struggle with the why. If I make this picture, will anyone care? Will it inspire someone who sees it? Anyone? Beyond all else, is there a chance that this work could possibly change the way people see the world? I think about all of this with every project that I undertake – especially the ones where I am able to have complete control of the end result.

I’ve already mentioned embracing randomness- this idea goes both for things you can and can’t control. Alt-country artist Sturgill Simpson who was right when he said, “Some days you kill it, some days you just choke”. The reality in this sentiment rings clear for me. I won’t always be a winner, but If I keep my head down and focus clear, I will continue to find a balance throughout my career. One last thing, don’t spend more than $10 playing the lottery, even if I’m sayin’ there’s a chance.