Folsom Prison and THE WORK Documentary

This year a documentary called The Work was released about a prison-therapy program in Folsom State Prison in California. The documentary follows a group of men from the outside who join a circle of maximum security inmates for 4 days of intense group therapy work. The film focuses on 3 men from the outside as they sit in a circle with other outside men and maximum security inmates and follows the jarring emotional journey that the group therapy work takes them on. I was asked by the director Jairus McLeary to be the stills photographer and an extra cameraman as part of the crew that went in to film one of these 4 day therapy retreats at Folsom Prison. I shot hundreds of images over those days documenting the group process as well shooting portraits of many of the individuals who participated.

My introduction with the Folsom Prison experience came about purely by chance. I met Jairus McLeary -the future director of The Work- in 2000 when Jairus McLeary and I were waiting tables together at a restaurant in the college town we lived in. We became pretty good friends and that year I spent Thanksgiving at his parent’s house. That’s when I met Jairus’ whole family, who all seem to be involved in some way even back then with Inside Circle Foundation’s work at Folsom Prison. Jairus’ dad James McLeary is one of the lead facilitators with Inside Circle and Jairus’ brothers went on to be his collaborators in making the film. At some point in my relationship with the family James and Jairus suggested that I try going to Folsom. I didn’t really know much about what the experience was about and they didn’t really offer up too much information about it other than vague anecdotes that Jairus would share about “this incredible process” he would take part in. For some reason I simply trusted them and took this leap forward into something I didn’t really know much about or what to expect.

In 2006 I went to Folsom Prison with the Inside Circle Foundation as an initiate, surrounded by strangers from the outside and the inside and I more or less unwittingly began a process that completely changed my life. I walked in a line into the chapel with other men from the outside and stood in a circle facing inmates, some of whom seemed to be just as in the dark as I was about what to expect. The next 4 days were the most transformative 4 days of my life. I walked into a room that became a safe space for the most intensely profound stories, emotions and experiences that I had ever encountered. There was something in the process too that I discovered for myself and that was learning how to be of service and support to someone else, outside of personal judgement. No one in that chapel, from the inside world or out, was there to hear my opinions. Because I had no idea what I was doing, I just did my best to shut up and listen to others and be of support in any way I could. I screwed up a few times but that seemed to be part of the process as well. Everyone got a chance to be heard, to do their work, to support and be supported. When it was my turn, I was challenged in a way that I had never thought possible and somehow got through it with men from the outside and inside by my side.

I consider going to Folsom the single most important decision of my life because it began a process that completely changed the direction of my life afterwards and opened the door to all the other important decisions I would end up making. It put me on a path of change that led to me examining what I valued in my life, what was working in my life vs. what wasn’t and how I fit in the world. It led to me meeting and marrying my wife, becoming a father, moving to a different country and pretty much who I became after that experience. I went back in 2008 and had a very different but very rewarding experience then too. It should be noted that there has not been a single prisoner who has gone through the Inside Circle Foundation program and Folsom prison who has gotten out of prison has ever returned.

I’m not sure when Jairus and his family began the process of trying to make the documentary happen but by 2009 everything had finally fallen in place for them to film. In 2009 the documentary crew went in to film the process which has been happening twice year for almost 20 years.

After 8 years, due to a variety of reasons for delays, the film was finally released in 2017 to much acclaim. It has won several awards in major film festivals around the world including 2017 Best Documentary at SXSW. It has earned 100% from Rotten Tomatoes and 4/5 stars from and IMDB to name a few. Follow the links below to watch the trailer and learn more about the film and the Inside Circle Foundation.

Watch the full movie of THE WORK here. Website for THE WORK. Facebook for THE WORK.

Learn more about the Inside Circle Foundation.

Ad Campaign: Mistubishi ASX and Outlander

I recently had opportunity to shoot images of the new Mitsubishi ASX and Outlander in a car campaign for the Sydney agency Richards Rose. I spent a week in Melbourne working on the shoot, shooting alongside a large TVC crew and taking the cars off whenever I had a chance to shoot whatever I could grab. It was a lot of fun and the weather was surprisingly wonderful for Melbourne in the winter.

Client: Mitsubishi
Agency: Richards Rose
Producer: Katie Morton
CD: Christopher Johnson
Sr AD:George Bassiakos

Campaign: Destination Gold Coast

A campaign I just shot for Gold Coast Tourism has just started to roll out. We set out to look past the party reputation that the Gold Coast is well known for and tried to capture the sense of how beautiful the Gold Coast and the area around the GC really is. There will be more shots from the campaign to come but this is what I've got so far...

Client: Gold Coast Tourism
Agency: JWT Sydney

VicHealth- Team Up Fitness

I recently shot for VicHealth's new campaign "Team Up!" with DDB which is focused on getting people started on a healthy fitness regimen in the state of Victoria. We wanted to take the intimidation factor out of beginning an exercise regimen and emphasise the social component of doing something like joining a yoga class or running with a friend. I shot stills as well as directed 2 short spots for the campaign.  

Client: VicHealth- Team Up

Director: Joe Wigdahl

Camera / Editor: Ash Koek

Art Director: Niki Horan

Agecy: DDB Melbourne


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Red Rooster's New Look

The Australian food chain Red Rooster has started to go with a totally new look. Alongside a totally new design of their restaurants they're also going with a new look for their ad imagery. I was asked to shoot some shots for print alongside a TVC crew that was filming some new spots for Red Rooster.  

OPSM Ad Campaign in Australia and New Zealand

I recently spent several weeks traveling and working with Saatchi & Saatchi on a new ad campaign for the eye wear retailer OPSM. The job was a really exciting project for me to be a part of because it picked two small towns- Busselton, Western Australia and Napier, New Zealand- and found people of all ages and walks of life who use and need their product, eye glasses. Saatchi & Saatchi scoured through Australian and New Zealand census data to determine a town in each country that encompassed the broad range of types of jobs, incomes, ethnicities etc. that represent each country. We met with bushfire fighters, a horse whisperer, a bagpipe marching band, a master jeweller and a beekeeper just to name a few. I was really excited by the notion of shooting my favorite subject in advertising work: real people with real stories. These are just a few of the shots from Busselton, Western Australia. I'll post images from the New Zealand campaign which was shot in Napier, New Zealand in the near future.

Bushfire fighter OPSM Busselton Wigdahl
OPSM Busselton family Joe Wigdahl
OPSM Busselton farm Joe Wigdahl
OPSM Busselton Horse Whisperer Joe Wigdahl
OPSM Busselton beekeeper Joe Wigdahl
OPSM Busselton Water Reserve Joe Wigdahl
OPSM Busselton Jeweller Joe Wigdahl
OPSM Busselton Catalog Portraits Joe Wigdahl
OPSM Busselton morning landscape Joe Wigdahl

Like most of the large productions I've been working on lately, I was shooting alongside a TVC production that was filming spots for TV and the web, while I was shooting images for the new catalog, website and everything print- in-store, billboards etc. We shot every day for 10-14 hours a day for 2 weeks and I ended up shooting portraits of over 100 people and a lot of landscapes along the way. Most days I would shoot alongside the TVC crew, grabbing shots when I could and stepping in when the TVC guys were done or had a few minutes to hand the subject and location over to me. In each city I had a day to shoot 25 portraits a day which broke down to a new location, set up and portrait every 20 minutes or so for 9 hours. An exhausting but exhilarating exercise as the opportunity to meet new people with great stories just kept coming. At one point I ended up getting pretty emotional at a small town bag piper rehearsal after feeling so lucky that these people would allow us to come in and be a part of their private experience, something I would have never been able to know about or be a part of if I was on my own traveling through this small town.

At the end of the 2 week assignment I'd shot portraits of more than 100 people, was tired, sore and really missed home but damn, I enjoyed that job. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

CD: Matt Gilmour Sr AD: Nils Eberhardt Sr Copywriter: Veronica Copestake The TVC/Motion campaign was produced by Tobias Webster at EXIT Films and directed by Stephen Carroll.

Aussie Bodies: Keep Going

A few months ago I was asked to shoot stills alongside a TVC production for Aussie Bodies. I shot portraits of several famous Aussie athletes and an everyday yoga mom in action for the Australian protein and supplements brand Aussie Bodies for use in print and online. Each story was a pretty inspiring one:

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Subaru Forester 2013- Norway

A few months after shooting the first leg of the 2013 Subaru Forester's trip around the world, AOI Pro contacted me and asked if I'd like to go to Norway to shoot the next leg. I jumped at the chance- I've always wanted to go to Norway and after I moved to Australia I considered the chances of ever going to be close to nil. Even though there would only be 4-5 hours of daylight a day, -20C most days and it would be something like 28-35 hours of travel each way depending on flight times and delays and it would be right before Christmas, I had to go.

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Subaru 2013 Forester- Australia

In September I was asked by the Japanese advertising agencies Hakuhodo and Aoi Pro to take part in a year-long project shooting the new Subaru Forester as it began a drive around the world through some its toughest terrain. I shot stills alongside a motion/TVC production headed by the Australian cinematographer Daniel Ardilley with the Australian production handled by Dynamite Productions. I felt pretty lucky to be involved in this production as I knew I was going to be going to parts of Australia that I probably would never get the chance to go see otherwise and I'd be able to go up in a helicopter to get some great views of the incredible Aussie outback landscape.

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Nikon D5200 "I Am Imagination"

Back in August I worked with the German advertising agency Jung von Matt ( JVM) on the "I Am Imagination" campaign for the new Nikon D5200. It was also one of the several jobs I've done this year alongside a TVC/motion production where I was the still shooter. I had the pleasure to work alongside Danish director Henrik Henson who shot the motion spot for this campaign.

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Mazda BT-50 Shoot: Zoom Zoom Magazine

Last month I was asked by the UK's Redwood Media Group to shoot a story featuring Mazda's new BT-50 model for its award-winning online presence, Zoom Zoom Magazine. They wanted to tell a story about a day in the life of a BT-50 owner with a natural, reportage feel- showcasing its versatility by following the owner through rough terrain, a surf trip, a trip to the zoo "glamping" (glamorous camping) with his nieces and capped with a night out on the town.We had a looonngggg shot list for the 2 day shoot and I was working alongside Jefferson Grainger, from Corporate Video Australia, who was shooting the motion segment of the piece for the web.

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