Local Spotlight: I am Ogden

You have probably seen the ‘I am Ogden’ books around town , know someone whose photo is inside or have a  copy sitting on your table. As a fan of all things O-town i just had to know who was behind this amazing book. Luckily, he wasn’t hard to track down and I was able to get an interview with  him to learn more about ‘I am Ogden’ and what inspired him to create such an amazing book.

Tell our readers a bit about yourself:

I grew up in Bountiful and traveled often to the Ogden area to visit my grandmother but didn’t really know much about Ogden.  I decided to attend Weber State since that’s where my father went to college.  During my senior year, I decided to take a class which involved shooting pictures for the school newspaper, the Signpost.  It was then that I fell in love with photography and knew I had found my life long ambition.

When did you get started with photography?

I remember when I took my first picture, somewhere around the age of 10.  I saw this church building just after a huge snowstorm had hit the night before.  I was so amazed that I could capture that scene, and get pictures back later on which showed what I had actually seen.  I didn’t understand how it worked at the time, I just thought it was amazing.  From then on, I had always liked taking pictures but it wasn’t until my job at the Signpost that I really considered it as a profession.

What inspired you to make the “I am Ogden” book?

About a year after I graduated, I landed a job at the Standard-Examiner newspaper and eventually made the move to Ogden.  After having lived here for about 10 years, I started to fall in love with the city and the people who make the place such an interesting and unique place to live.  In January of 2008, I thought it would be cool to try to capture the personality of Ogden and the idea for I AM OGDEN was conceived.  I originally had thought about only capturing the most unique and interesting looking people I could find, and at the beginning, I didn’t even really know if the project would come about, or if I would be able to convince people to be a part of it.

Working for the Standard-Examiner exposed me to a ton of great people in Ogden, so for my first photo shoot for the project, I called up about 20 people I knew around the city and asked them to come down and have their photo taken.  From there, it just snowballed.  I was given tons of names and introduced to many more people by the contacts I made each time I did another photo shoot.

how long did it take you to complete?

The project is still ongoing but from the time I shot the first portrait, until the publication date, was about 18 months.

what kinds of people do you photograph?

As a photojournalist, my main subject matter is shooting people, and preferable in their natural uninterrupted lives, doing what they do.  The main goal for me in shooting portraits of the I AM OGDEN project, was to capture the true personality of people, and tie that in to the personality of a community.

any memorial moments during the making of the book?

Just to give you an example of how exciting this project was to work on, I was given a name by Carolyn Brierley of a man who had been digging graves at the Ogden Cemetery for the last 30 years.  His name was Paul Tafoya and he has since passed away.  While I went to talk to him about having his photo taken, another person overheard me talking about the book and it turned out that he happen to be a “traceur,” or someone who practices urban running (parkour). Well, all on the one reference given to me by Carolyn, I was able to capture two of my favorite photos in the book.

Another experience that comes to mind was the very first day I set up to shoot.  I had a backdrop and some lights at the Union Station when an older gentleman walked in.  He said his name was Eugene and that he had once worked in the rail yard when he was much younger.  Then he related a story about how, when he was working at the station, he had befriended a man who was responsible for painting the wood grain on the huge beams in the ceiling of the Union Station.  Then he pointed up to one of the beams and showed us that the painter had painted his name, “Gene,” into the bottom of one of the beams.  It was an incredible story and was later told to the director of the Union Station who was so grateful to add his story to the historic building.

What do you hope people will learn when looking through your book?

The most frequent criticism I receive from people is, “why am I not in the book?”  If that’s how people feel, then maybe I have failed in my quest to show the personality of people and a community. What I would hope people would glean from leafing through the pages, is that everyone, no matter what walk of life, is a work of art.  And that art can be found in anyone.  The project isn’t really about people individually, but more about the many different demographics that make Ogden such an amazing place to live.

what do you love about Ogden?

The thing I love about Ogden, and one of the main driving forces for this book, was that the city is big enough to have tons of culture, diversity and variety, yet small enough that with a little amount of effort, you can become involved and make a difference.

favorite Local businesses?

Oh there are a ton of businesses that could be called my favorite.  For purposes of this project, I can’t thank the people at Union Station and Union Grill enough for their support and help in being the main stage for shooting portraits for I AM OGDEN.

where can people find a copy of I am Ogden?


Grounds for Coffee (both locations)
The Queen Bee (25th Street)
Sonora Grill
Wisebird Bookery
Union Station gift shop
or contact me on Facebook
Local press:
I AM OGDEN was featured in the following local media outlets.
The Radio From Hell show on X96 (several times)
The Salt Lake Tribune
Deseret News
NPRs Radio West with Bill Allred KUER
The Signpost (twice)
The Ogden Independent
KSL Radio
Channel 2 KUTV
Mikaela is a transplant from Portland, fell in love with Ogden her first day in town and created Indie Ogden the next week. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her 2 kiddos and making a mess crafting. You can find her at a local cafe or cycling around town with her family.