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  Field Notes From
Alien Invaders

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From Photographer

Melissa Farlow

Alien Invaders On Assignment

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From Author

Susan McGrath

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Mark Thiessen (top) and Joel Horn


Alien Invaders On Assignment Photographer Alien Invaders On Assignment Photographer
Alien Invaders

Field Notes From Photographer
Melissa Farlow

Best Worst Quirkiest
    Connections with people stand out as the most special moments. Two young girls on a taro farm in Maui charmed me. One day we went to Bird Island, a private sanctuary on a rocky peninsula near their home. I followed Leahi and Mikala on a walk with their grandmother through this mystical place. Their smiles and laughter are burned into my memory.
    Another moment came in North Dakota where I spent time on the Fritz ranch. Joe and Shannon are good souls—the kind of folks that make you want to be a better person. The scene was where neighbors and friends had gathered after pitching in to help them brand cattle. I was feeling a little sad about leaving when Joe ran out to the car to say goodbye. He offered me his hat. I was so surprised. It was such a sincere act of generosity. It fit his tall, rugged image, and he had broken it in. But his earnest smile made me want to accept the gift. I think of him and stand a little taller when I wear it.

    Each issue seemed so important to address in this story that it was tough to eliminate images. I always think of all the people involved—not only the subjects of the photographs but the folks who helped me. They'll never know how close a picture came to being published.  It's a painful process.

    I landed in Florida two hours before Hurricane Charley forced the airport to close, having serious doubts about my judgment of flying into the middle of a hurricane to spend the night in hotel for a reptile convention.
    While I checked whether the show was canceled, winds gusted and rain began slamming against the windows. I returned to my room and heard a high-pitched whine from under the door. A neighbor stopped me from entering. He had called security after he heard a terrible racket, thinking my sliding-glass door had blown in.
    A moment later, it was quiet. I entered, and warm humid air hit me. Papers had blown around the room, and two guards were wrestling the sliding-glass door. They managed to jam a Bic pen under the doorframe to secure it, and then they disappeared to answer another emergency. When I felt the building sway, I joined everyone camped in the ballroom downstairs. The hotel lost power, but the generator kicked in.
    Outside, the storm was at its peak. Traffic lights dangled from lines, and wind blew debris down the street, which looked like a river of swirling water.
    When the worst was over a few hours later, I walked up 12 flights to my room with dread. To my surprise, the Bic pen held.


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