Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sebastian Junger Remembers Tim Hetherington The Magazine:

Today, usually a photo day, I want to use this space to share what I believe to be an absolutely beautiful letter written by Sebastian Junger, co director of Restrepo, for his friend and partner in crime, Tim Hetherington. (published on Vanity Fair)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Tim, aid work and friends dying

Life is real time now.

The hubs calls out:
“come here! you have to read this”
I don’t pay attention. I’m tired. It’s been a long day, so he walks over to show me an SMS on his mobile which reads:
“sad news, Tim’s been killed in Libya”
... and then the silence. The kind that lingers. Disbelief.

We go to Google and soon the news start trickling in
“Breaking news: British journalist killed in Misrata, and two in critical condition”
No names, it could still be a misunderstanding. Maybe they got the names wrong. Someone else’s loss.
Critical condition is quickly becoming best case scenario.
A few hours later there is no doubt. It has been confirmed by his publisher, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker has an obituary up.

This blog is about aid and the human side of aidwork, and this is a very real and human side of aid work. For the most part we are ok. For the most part we take calculated risks.
For the most part.
But there is death. Not just around us but amongst us.
Professor Biagi was shot by the red brigades while riding his bike on his way home. We had recently been in contact because I needed some some work references.
Hélène was shot in an ambush in Afghanistan, a few months before we’d had beers together in Brussels.
Ana Lena was murdered while exiting the hospital she had worked in for over fifteen years in the heart of Somalia. I’d met her shortly after she had been granted a prestigious prize for her work. My last flight out of the country was with her belongings which were being returned to her family. I still had a message from her in my inbox pending response.
My masseuse in Kenya, the guy we bought the car from….

And then there’s Tim.
I always thought it was funny that someone so tall should have such a short name.
He used to crash at our pad in New York back when he was still struggling. He'd give me feedback on my photos. Linger on, (and on) about his projects with passion.
I saw him last in London. He came to my parent’s house to meet my firstborn. He said he had started thinking about having kids, starting a family was the next step for him.
I had half jokingly been nagging him to give me a photograph and he’d brought one with him. It hangs in our living room, now crooked. It’s like half mast for photography.
So here’s to you Tim, may you get some well earned rest and see you on the next round.
The silence and disbelief linger....

In memoriam

go here to read ....more thoughts on tim

not-so-tacky couple (self) portraits

we all love traveling, and we all love coming back home with some "proof" of what we have done and where we have been.

We just spent a weekend in Bologna, an amazingly beautiful (gorgeous) city where we once lived (and met, and fell in love and all that).

We ate (and ate, and ate), and shopped, and drank gorgeous red wine, and wandered the streets we once knew so well.

I love photos, (understatement of the year), but I find the usual couple-staring-at-camera boring. so I tried to do a few twists and turns so that we would come back home with something a little different, but still managed to capture the spirit and feeling of the weekend.

The trick is to deconstruct the scene: think what are the essential elements, the ones that really tell the story of what you are doing or trying to capture, and then see how you can focus on just that.

This last one is my fave.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Star attack- photo post

If you've been keeping an eye you'll have noticed I'm really into my photography lately... I can't help it, the words are gone and the colors are back. You just have to learn to ride with it.

Currently I am really focused on light, and back light in particular, an obsession I have developed together with my love for Tara Whitney, (all my relatives think I am nuts cause I kept putting the sun behind them).

This was a shoot with one of my nieces on the beach in Peru. I call it a shoot, she would call it a day at the beach, (which, by the way, was what we called every day during our visit).

She is a gorgeous girl, both inside and out, but this shot came out particularly cool as the sun flare looks like it is being shot from her toy gun.

Good photography should look effortless, should look like luck and that there is no reason to charge for that, but trust me, this was no coincidence.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

on revisiting the past, present and future (chile)

I'm in Chile for work.

Santiago has morphed beyond any possible recognition for me. The only thing left I am familiar with are the names of the streets.

Rule #1 of the nomad is, or should be, never go back, never look back. It is strange and can be surprisingly painful.

I've seen old friends. There is a lot more left to recognize there. It is peculiar how we age, look so much the same, behave so much the same, and yet... live such different lives.

I visited a small town a few hours away from Temuco, south of Santiago. Not many strangers come here, a bit further away you could find freshly cut trees used to stop the government forces from moving around. The indigenous people striking for their land, their heritage, their survival. Some of the people I was meant to meet with did not make it

“they are making tomas” (taking the farms in the land they claim as part of their heritage), it’s not like they could take a break to and come see me.

Did a quick visit to a penitentiary center for youth. There was a striking contrast between the (always polite) military police in charge of security, and the mostly-social-workers in charge of developing and looking after the place.

“she’s out” the door guard tells the coordinator who is trying to get us permission to go in with the inmates, while pointing to a photocopied file in his hand

“good, she was too young, she shouldn’t have been here to begin with” he responds quick and matter-of-fact

“how old?” I ask looking at the bad photograph being held out to me



silence fills my heart

“what was she in for?” I follow up almost dreading the question as the words come out of my mouth

“she had an abortion” (still illegal in Chile)

my hear skips a beat. My lungs take a rest, and the full thrust of this religious conservative society I once belonged to hits me in the gut. I draw a blank. My brain draws a blank. I want to put my daughter away in a little match box (like the one AMREF sends to ensure “safe” deliveries in rural Africa) and protect her from this world that seems too cruel, too unready to be trusted with my angels.

More champagne and trips down memory lane. One by one they enquire about me, but soon forget and fall back into their own patterns. I watch them quietly while a small voice reminds me:

“that could have been you. That could have been yours”

I searched for my home, my school, my street. I feel like I have Alzheimer, looking at something I should recognize, but cannot.

The meetings continue in the background, and in the forefront.

It’s been 22 years. I left this country with a dictator. I come back to see how the fighting continues. It is now the minorities, the Mapuches, the Aymaras, the Rapa Nui, the pueblo Atacameño, the Colla and the Quechua fighting for their right to exist. A revolution silenced with terrorism laws from the old regime. The invisible are fighting to be seen, while I’m just struggling to remember.

It’s been quite the rollercoaster for me here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

aidwork, family and skype

I'm not entirely sure this one counts as one of the "self portraits", but it totally reflects an important part of my family life, and why I'm a strong supporter of giving whomever created skype a nobel peace prize.

I don't travel too often, but when I do it tends to be for longer periods, and being able to see them, more importantly, being able to be seen by them, I think makes a world of a difference.

I still remember growing up the biannual calls to grandma: one for her birthday one for christmas. They were short and loud. My grandma still screams at the phone.

If you are an aid worker, (although I am sure it applies to many other professions), skype is almost another family member.