Behind the Scenes at dsm

James A. Baggett

James A. Baggett

As a garden writer and editor, James A. Baggett has spent the past 30 years exploring public and private gardens while producing award-winning content for national magazines. So it’s not surprising that when he was seated next to Cyril Mandelbaum at an event at Hoyt Sherman Place a few years ago, the two immediately connected over their shared love of gardens (“Garden Retreat,” read here).

“She and her husband graciously invited me to visit their West Des Moines home to witness the tens of thousands of daffodils they had planted around their property in full, glorious bloom,” James says. “Walking through fields of flowers with glasses of wine in hand, we bonded over blossoms.”

Janae Gray

Janae Gray

As a storyteller herself, photographer Janae Gray (“Voices Carry,” read here) seeks to capture her subjects’ authentic selves by getting to know what’s behind their stories and bringing that out. “There has to be intention and purpose,” she says.

Janae also strives to evoke emotion in her subjects, and says her shooting style is all about bold imagery. “I want to get them in their element and doing what comes naturally to them,” Janae says. When photographing Teresa Zilk, for example, she had the artist onstage with a mic telling stories. For fellow photographer Jami Milne, it was exploring Jami’s Creative Confessional concept in a busy downtown restaurant. “She’s … really focusing in on privateness in a public area,” Janae says.

Learn more about Janae’s Black Lives of DSM project here and at

Linh Ta

Linh Ta

Linh Ta (“Global Flavors,” read here) has fond childhood memories of walking through the aisles of Asian grocery stores and admiring the colorful array of products that lined the shelves. Even though she’s lived in Des Moines her entire life, exploring the city’s local international grocery stores gave her new perspectives.

“I found new spices, desserts and produce to incorporate into my personal dishes,” she says. “But I also met passionate store owners and enthusiastic customers who just want to share what makes these places gems in our community.

“Writing this story helped me feel more connected with the beautiful diversity in our community,” she adds. “I hope it inspires you to venture out as well.”

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