Spilling Over: The Documentary

An ongoing documentary project following a Louisiana commercial fishing family as they cope with the longterm effects of the BP oil spill on their lives and livelihood. See the project website for more information.

2015 Trailer:

This project began as a summer fellowship exploring the social, political and economic tensions around energy in the United State for Powering A Nation. Here is the original project, published in July 2010….

Summer 2010: Venice, La., is facing extinction. The small fishing community, located just 50 miles away from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, is in jeopardy, as the BP oil spill has put the livelihood of the residents in danger. The people of Venice are now left with a difficult choice. Do they stay and risk their health for the sake of their history and culture? Or do they give up their jobs, their community and their heritage in an effort to flee the lasting effects of the oil spill?


  • Videographer/Photographer
  • Reporter
  • Embedded with the community for about three weeks during the height of the disaster, summer 2010

Camera and Sound by Jessey Dearing and Lauren Frohne
Additional footage by Elena Rue
Edited by Jessey Dearing
Graphics by Amanda Loy
Interviews by Jessey Dearing and Lauren Frohne

Jessey and I have continued working on this story and are currently in production on a longer film. You can find out more about the ongoing project and the 2013 updates at http://spillingoverthefilm.org.

Featured on:


Powering a Nation

News21 is a 10-week summer fellowship program sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation and Knight Foundation. The goal of the national initiative, which is led by 12 of America’s leading research universities, is to advance the U.S. news business by helping revitalize schools of journalism.

Powering a Nation is the project created by UNC-Chapel Hill journalism students and combines the content of the 2009 team with the 2010 content. I was a part of the team 2010 project team. As of 2013, three additional project have been added to the site.


  • Managing editor – student leader with primary responsibilities in conceptualizing stories and leading the content gathering team, collecting photo, video and audio content.
  • Reporter – interviewed subjects and found subjects for stories


2nd Prize, World Press Photo 2011 multimedia contest, Interactive production
Gold, 65th College Photographer of the Year Awards, Large Group Multimedia, Powering a Nation
Silver Award, SND Best of Digital Design 2010, Section/Topic Presentation, Powering a Nation
Student Award, SND Best of Digital Design 2010, Use of Multimedia, Powering a Nation
2nd Place, NPPA Monthly Multimedia – Multimedia Project (8/2010), Powering a Nation

Roanoke Things: A hike up to Sharp Top

A mile and a half, three miles round trip, up and then down a mountain: No problem, right? Here’s what Kevin Myatt, The Roanoke Times hiking expert says about Sharp Top

“A rather steep ascent, but not that long. Many folks of all ages and fitness levels hike this trail almost each day in the warm seasons. Hikers in shape should have little trouble and those in not such good shape will get a needed workout.”

I was definitely in the latter group of that statement. It also took more like 2.5 hours instead of the 1.5 hours boasted in the trail info. But, a beautiful — and humbling — hike up to the summit in an area off the Blue Ridge Parkway called the Peaks of Otter did, however, yield a lot of great outdoorsy pictures of leaves and mountains…

From the summit

(I don’t know these people)

(I don’t know these people either, but it seemed like a really sweet moment)

Me, pretty much dead tired and sweaty at the summit.

Here are some stats about Sharp Top:

  • Location: Peaks of Otter Recreation Area, Blue Ridge Parkway, mile marker 86.
  • Length: 1.5 miles one-way (3 miles round-trip)
  • Elevation: 2,535 at trailhead to 3,875 at summit
  • Gottasee factor (scenery, scale 0 to 4): of 3.5.
  • Gottabreathe factor (difficulty, scale 0 to 4): of 3

My 2010 CPOY entry, at a glance

While my CPOY catalog isn’t as bulky and diverse as last year, I do think the small collection of pictures I chose to submit this year are definitely tighter and stronger. Contests can suck, and be stressful and discouraging, but they definitely, without a doubt, make you sit down and take a hard look at what and how you’ve been shooting. And they can inspire you and make you strive to be better. I’m trying to be less touchy and embarrassed showing other people my pictures, so the screengrab below is an at-a-glance look at my catalog (and you can click through to a slightly bigger one)…

In total, there are (in this order): 3 General News, 2 Features, 5 Portraits, 2 Sports Action, 2 Sports Feature, 1 Pictoral, 1 Documentary Picture Story (based on my thesis project), 1 Individual Multimedia, 1 Multimedia Project (“Splitting main street” from Powering a Nation).

Good luck to everyone who entered! Contests are always exhilarating and humbling… especially CPOY.

Roanoke: Backstreet Cafe, 10 year memorial

Ten years ago, a tragedy struck the LGBT community and the Roanoke community at large. A man expressed his hatefulness through violence that cost the life of one man and injured many others. According to The Roanoke Times

“On Sept. 22, 2000, a man asked a bouncer at a local restaurant where he could find a gay bar. Given directions to the Backstreet Cafe on Salem Avenue, that man — 54-year-old Ronald Gay — announced he was going to ‘waste some f*gg*ts.’ When he got to the bar, Gay ordered a beer, pulled out a 9 mm Ruger and shot seven people. Danny Lee Overstreet died.”

Each year since, the community has held a memorial at Backstreet Cafe, where the shooting occurred. Some new friends let me hang around and shoot, so here are some pictures from tonight’s memorial…

*All pictures © Copyright 2010 lauren frohne … please ask for permission to copy or use*

Roanoke: Pride in the Park

Being the only metropolitan city in a vast rural area in Southwest Virginia, Roanoke has a rather large LGBT community. I’m working on a side project, and I went to the annual Pride in the Park festival today to shoot around. This year is the 21st consecutive year of the Pride in the Park festival.

The march and atmosphere…

Leland Albright, 23, works for Roanoke Pride as the transgender representative…

*All pictures © Copyright 2010 lauren frohne … please ask for permission to copy or use*

Roanoke Week 1: The work begins

My first week in Roanoke is complete. It’s a transition, I suppose, but a good one. I’m all settled in the newsroom and super anxious to start telling some gosh darn stories.

They put me to work for the first time this Friday night to shoot a high school football game. I had to shoot video, interview a player, escape from the deluge of people leaving the game, get stuck in traffic in a high school parking lot, eat Sonic tater tots and drink a Diet Dr. Pepper, capture an hour of tape, edit the game into a short video, encode in Flash, upload and post that same night.

In summation, here’s what The Roanoke Times newsroom looks like at 3:30am…

It was a long, but enthralling night. Editing video on a PC, Windows-based machine for the first time ever, using a program called Edius.

It really wasn’t bad at all, but I didn’t have enough time or sanity left to sweeten the audio and smooth out some things here and there. But overall, I’m happy with the outcome, which you can view at http://www.roanoke.com/varsitycast.

And this weekend, after I caught up on sleep, there was an adventure up to Roanoke Mountain, where I took more pictures of pretty, mountainy things.

You can actually see the back of the giant star on Mill Mountain from Roanoke Mountain!

This is basically the new Windows default desktop background… at least that’s what I was going for…

A leaf bug

This bug typically likes to hang out in my apartment, but here he is, alive and outside for once.

The valley.

The view from Mill Mountain | Roanoke, Va.

Some big and sudden news has really overhauled my life in the past couple of weeks. After living in Chapel Hill/Durham for the past eight years, I moved to Roanoke, Virginia this past weekend to start an internship with The Roanoke Times. I’ll be working with the online team for Roanoke.com as a videographer through December.


I’ve been daydreaming about working as a journalist at a newspaper since I was a little kid, so I’m excited to get started and to work with such a great team. My first assignment is Friday, so in the meanwhile, here are some pictures I took yesterday evening from the top of Mill Mountain, where Roanoke’s signature light-up star resides. (Sidenote: Roanoke vaguely reminds me of Quito, Ecuador – a beautiful city surrounded by mountains on all sides – except about a thousand times smaller. Regardless, I love all things that remind me of Ecuador and, by proxy, the Galápagos).

Portraits for Open Table Ministry

While working on my thesis project, I’ve developed some good relationships with people in Durham’s homeless community. Because of this, Open Table Ministry, a local nonprofit who provides outreach services to people who are homeless, recently asked me to take portraits of some of their community members for a brochure. Here are three pictures from that little project…

Kimberly, a native of Western Massachusetts, has lived in the woods of Durham, NC with her fiancé for the last year.

Slim, chronically homeless and an alcoholic, lives in a tent behind a church in Durham, NC.

Carl, homeless for 23 years, has lived in a tent in the woods of Durham, NC for the past eight years. He recently participated in a rehab program and is currently in housing.

Converging Skills for Powering A Nation

One of my best experiences this summer was working on a story about nuclear energy with a truly multimedia team.

There was a total of four of us on the team: a writer, a graphic designer, and two of us photo/video kids. My colleague Jessey Dearing shot with me as the other photo/videographer on this project, which was great dynamic since his background is more photo-oriented and mine is more video. So we really had the whole package, really strong reporting, writing, graphics, photo and video. And I think that shows in our final story package, title “Nuclear Properties”.

We ended up with two interactive graphics, a lengthy text article and an interesting video in an experimental format. I’m especially proud of the text article, not because I wrote any part of it, but because we were able to incorporate video quotes and pictures in a really organic way that breaks up the length of the story while also enhancing its content. Chris’s amazing writing didn’t need much help, but I think the video elements offer readers a great way to get to know the characters he describes.

So check it out and let us know what you think!

Powering a Nation Blog: Big oil, small shop

Below is a re-post of a picture story I posted on our Powering a Nation blog a couple weeks ago. I spent a couple weeks documenting Cherie, and she is one of the most amazing people I’ve met. She was so warm and welcomed me into her life during a tough time for their community.

Also check out our newly published story packages on Powering a Nation.

Big oil, small shop


The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has rocked the small towns that thrive in southern Plaquemines Parish, La. Located in the southernmost tip of the state, and now surrounded by oil-filled bays, Venice and its neighboring towns, Boothville and Buras, have been described by many as “ground zero” of the disaster. Life-long fishermen are now fighting on the front lines of the battle against the oil that threatens both their livelihoods and their community, small businesses are struggling to survive and families are uncertain about what their futures hold.

Cherie Pete is the owner of Maw’s Sandwich & Snack Shop, located right off Highway 23, the main road through the peninsula that leads to Venice, in Boothville. Five generations of Cherie’s family were born and have been raised in south Plaquemines. Her husband, nicknamed “Hawk,” is a commercial fisherman who is now contracting as a clean-up worker for BP.

Known by her family and the community as “Maw,” Cherie is struggling to keep her business afloat and her life positive through the disaster.

Cherie said that starting the shop has been a dream of hers since she was six years old, and that it’s a place where the community comes together. “It’s kind of been a welcome center to new people coming to town, and it’s almost been a comfort zone to my community,” she said.

Maw’s is a training ground for teenagers working their first jobs. She feels the connection to the community and the opportunity is important for the young adults in the community, but she worries about the effects the oil spill might have on their futures. “They’re just out of school, they’re having fun, but I wish they were paying a little more attention so they could take life a little bit more serious, especially right now. We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, and I think they need to be preparing themselves,” Cherie said. “I have the one girl, she’s bound and determined she’s going to work at Maw’s forever, but, you know, Maw’s might not be there forever.”

“Cameras just come up to the window and instead of giving an order they’re doing an interview,” she said. Recently, Cherie has become a voice of her community. She has been interviewed dozens of times by media such as ABC News and The Weather Channel. She believes it’s important to continue talking to media. “That’s just who I am. I love my community.  I love my family.  And if we don’t stand up and start talking about it as a community, or even as individuals, and getting our story out there, no one’s going to know we exist.”

Because of her media appearances, Cherie has received calls from people located around the U.S. who want to offer her kind words of support. Tears fill Cherie’s eyes early one morning as she listens to a woman from Las Vegas, Nev., tell her that everyone in the country is thinking of her and her community and wishing them the best.

A flag, colored with black marker, hangs in front of Cherie’s store and states: “Thanks for nothing BP. Obama stand up for us.” She said her husband refused to take the flag out on the water to dip in actual oil. “Our national government is just failing us. They are failing us.  They’re not standing up to this oil company and making them responsible,” she says. “How would they like for us to go by the Washington Monument and just start dumping gallons and gallons of oil all over the Washington Monument?”

“One day, this shop might really end up being a ‘mom-and-pop’ shop,” said Cherie, imagining what life in south Plaquemines might be like without the commercial fishing industry. “I lay at night in bed and pray that everything will be back, but I don’t see that happening. I don’t want to go to the thoughts of what it’s going to be like with everything gone.” She is still hopeful. “My hope is that they get this all stopped, get us cleaned up, to be back, next spring, flowers in the marsh blooming, trees in the marsh turning green again. I want to go out there for that April fish, you know, just hop on that boat, say, ‘Oh my god, that’s a beautiful day, let’s go on the boat.’ That’s what I want back.”

Photos by Lauren Frohne

Summer Update: Thesis work & Powering a Nation

I haven’t updated my news section in quite some time, mostly due to how busy I’ve been in the past 6 months.

I’m technically done with my master’s program coursework at UNC-Chapel Hill, after a busy Spring semester of helping to teach Multimedia Storytelling with Laura Ruel and doing thesis project work. Now I just have that pesky little thesis to finish before I can officially receive my degree.

For my thesis, I’ve been looking into homelessness in Durham, and the experiences of people who are trying to find homes for themselves. I’m working with three subjects documenting: a chronically homeless man, a woman who became homeless due to drug addiction and is working her way through drug recovery programs, and a man who is recently homeless and dealing with the new life he leads. One of my portraits from this project won second place for the portrait category in the NCPPA!

Carl Bittner, homeless for 23 years, stands near his tent in the woods along 15-501. Carl is among the approximately 675 homeless people who live in the woods and on the streets in Durham. Like many, he suffers from alcoholism and the dabilitating effects of years of alcohol abuse, and has been applying for disability benefits for three and a half years, unsuccessfully, in an attempt to secure permament housing. When asked why he continues to drink despite his health, Carl says If you lived out here in this environment, you would drink, too.

That project, however, has been on hold for about two months now because of my News21 fellowship at Powering a Nation. We are working on four big stories (Energy politics, the Gulf oil spill, energy and employment, and nuclear power) and have done a ton of traveling to report on them.

In the past two months, I’ve traveled to Louisiana three times (Venice and News Orleans), Burke County, Georgia twice, and Brattleboro, Vermont (as well as surrounding cities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire) to report on energy-related stories about the oil spill in the Gulf and nuclear power. It’s been a whirlwind of content gathering, and now we are in post-production mode for the next three weeks.

In Louisiana, we’ve been working with families and individuals who are currently feeling the devastating impacts of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of our subjects are fishermen and their families in Venice, Louisiana. It’s been an emotional six weeks of to say the least. We’ve witnessed everything from meetings with experts from the Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska to happy family events to a mother making the difficult decision to send her children to safer place.

We also put together a short video about a community of Vietnamese fishermen in New Orleans East and all the uncertainty that they are dealing with:

In addition, we were able to break a story about BP’s attempt at blocking media coverage of the spill and clean-up efforts by contractually preventing fishermen from speaking to media out of fear of being fired. We were linked by several media organizations, including Huffington Post and Washington Post.

For our nuclear power story, we toured nuclear power plants in Vermont and Georgia. I’m currently producing the video component of that story package, and still don’t know how I personally feel about nuclear as a major power source in our country. Here’s a reel of shots from our tour of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, Vermont:

So far it’s been an incredible experience and I’ve met and worked with people that I look forward to following up with in the future.

Another visual journalist that I’ve been traveling with put together a blog post and Google Map showing all the places we’ve been and ground we’ve covered in the past 6 weeks.

View Miles and miles in a larger map

So what now? All of our News21 stories will be published by July 23. So check Powering a Nation for updates. After News21, I will be working hard to finish my thesis early in the Fall semester.

Then, who knows! But, I will definitely be updating both my blog and portfolio with new content soon.

NYC: 350.org International Climate Action Day

For advanced photojournalism, I had to shoot a news event and put together an audio slideshow. I ended up covering a Greenpeace event in New York City that was part of 350.org’s International Climate Action Day. The story needs some work, but check out what I turned in for class…

Joe Romeo Portrait Series

Sometimes I get asked to take portraits and band/musician photos. I really enjoy the departure from more “journalistic” shoots because I get to tell people what to do, adjust the scene, and play around with Photoshop more. And most of the time, the only stipulation that bands and musicians have is “make me/us look cool,” so that leaves the door open for a lot of creativity.

I did a shoot a while ago with Joe Romeo, a musician in Carrboro, NC. I ended up giving him a ton of photos that came out pretty nicely and it was a really fun, albeit really long, shoot. Here are a couple of selects that I liked a lot:

You can check out the whole set HERE.

2009 NC State Fair Photo Story

For Pat Davison’s Advanced Photojournalism class, we had to create an audio slideshow about something having to do with the fair. After a couple of potential stories (one about the demolition derby, one about the tractor pull) fell through, I ended up just going to the fair and hoping that I would find a good story.

I ended up finding Stephanie and Arnold Emmons, the first purveyors of chocolate-covered bacon (called “pig lickers”) at the North Carolina State Fair. These things were the buzz of the fair this year. Here’s the project I came out with…

News21: Summer 2010

It’s only October, and my summer is officially planned. I found out last night that I’ve been selected to be one of 10 Carnegie-Knight Fellows on UNC’s News21 project team for the summer of 2010.

Last year, they chose to cover energy issues on their site and this summer we’ll be building on that content and addressing areas of energy in the U.S. — check out some of their work at Powering A Nation.

100 Years of Carolina Basketball

For the past couple of weeks, in between school work and Living Galápagos programming, I’ve been helping my friend Emily Yount with her first big programming project for The Daily Tar Heel. She recently began the Advanced Multimedia Programming & Production class this semester (an intense Flash programming class), so it was a learning experience for her and I coached her along the way. They even gave me a credit as “Programming Coach.”

The end product is an interactive timeline that spans the past 100 year of basketball history at UNC.
CHECK IT OUT: 100 Years of Carolina Basketball

Living Galápagos

UNC Photojournalism & Multimedia presents Living Galápagos.


  • Multimedia Journalist: “Evolving Faith”/”La Fé Evolucionando”
  • Lead Programmer: Worked with another programmer and a professional coach to develop the project site using Flash Actionscript 2.0 object-oriented programming

2010 SXSW Web Awards Finalist – Student category
Honorable Mention, 2010 Best of Photojournalism – Multimedia Package
Award of Excellence, 64th CPOY Awards – Large Multimedia Project
1st Place, NPPA Monthly Multimedia – Multimedia Project (11/2009)

In the summer of 2009, I spent a month in the Galápagos Islands with 20 other UNC journalism students. While there, we worked on creating a multimedia project about life on the islands and the impact of man in the Galapagos I helped to design and program the project site which includes a huge amount of information and interactive elements. I also shot and edited a video story about religion in the Galapagos called “Evolving Faith.”

“Evolving Faith”
Survival of the fittest doesn’t only apply to animals in the Galápagos. With other Christian sects competing for believers, the Catholic church evolves to keep up.

3rd Place, NPPA Monthly Multimedia – Individual Video (11/2009)

LivingGalapagos.org is going live!

This summer, I spent a month in the Galapagos Islands with 20 other students and some professional coaches documenting the lives of the people who populate the Galapagos and programming the site that will showcase those stories: LivingGalapagos.org.

A screengrab of our site with the preview of my story “Evolving Faith”

My role in the project was to make a short documentary video and help design/program the site, as well as taking on some organizational and administrative tasks. It’s been a long and hard road getting this website completed just because of the sheer amount content and the varying content types included in the site (videos, interactive graphics, panoramic audio portraits, slideshows, still images), but we made it! I’ve never done so much Flash programming as I have in the past 4 months, but I’m really happy with how it’s turned out.

A light painting we made around 3am while camping out at Puerto Chino on San Cristóbal Island.

So check it out as of 9pm on Tuesday, October 13 to see what I’ve spent the last 4 months of my life working on and to check out the video I shot and edited called “Evolving Faith”/”La Fé Evolutíonando”.

The golden hour at Playa Mann, the sea-lion-covered beach right across from the Galapagos Academic Institute of Arts & Sciences, which was our home base for the month. The most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Our team on the rocks at Playa Mann.

Entourage on top of a mountain in Quito, Ecuador, post-Galapagos.

Also, check out some of my photos from the trip on Flickr!

SND Annual Workshop in Buenos Aires

The logo for this year’s workshop: Hemispheres/Hemispherios.

I had the opportunity to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina last weekend to attend the Society for New Design’s annual workshop and conference. It was a long trip for a short number of days, but it was worth it. I had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the top minds in news design, the people behind the greatest papers, websites, infographics and photos in the world. And, just as awesome was meeting a bunch of other students (now new friends) who are the future top minds in the industry.

Karl Gude, former art director at Newsweek and current professor at Michigan State, shows off his favorite infographic ever.

The SND Foundation was gracious enough to offer some of us students travel grants to offset some of the cost of attending the workshop in exchange for us helping to write about the conference on the SND Update Blog. Check out my article about Pablo Corral and a bunch of my photos scattered around the the blog and in my Flickr photoset!

We all headed out to see a super touristy tango show one night. It was like Argentina’s version of Broadway. Touristy, but still fun.

Overall, it was a great experience and I hope I’m able to head to Denver next fall to do it all again.

SND Best of Multimedia Design Competition

A couple of weekends ago, I helped blog for SND’s Best of Multimedia Design Competition judging, held annually at UNC-Chapel Hill. Each year that I’ve been involved in the judging, whether as an observer, an organizer, or a blogger, it’s been a great experience to network, catch up with some amazing people in the industry, and learn a lot about what people are looking for in leading edge multimedia.

This year, I mostly took photos, wrote blog entries, and helped with the video production (just like last year). Check out my articles about the judging process, and the photos I shot over the weekend, as featured on the blog:

And here’s the video that a bunch of us student bloggers made: