Wednesday, May 25, 2011

on lost youth

As part of my work I had to visit some detention centers for youth....

Fourteen to eighteen year olds

most of them (around 60%) are here for homicide...
makes you wonder what is happening in society so that this kind of thing happens at all.

I've had to do this before, but this time it was particularly harsh. In a mid level development country, the detention center was not up to the standards.

The smells stemming from the cells nearly made sick.

where where their caretakers? where where their duty bearers?
where was the society and the safety net that was charged with turning them from babies into productive, healthy and balanced human beings?

how much of that blood is on our hands?

and then people wonder why motherhood -parenting- matters

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

little morning faces

I've been on mission for eight days now. Five more to go.

I know it's not much, but sometimes it feels like much.

I'm about to go to bed while they are about to rise.

in the morning it'll be just me

I love the silence, and that I can do do yoga.
I love that I don't have to factor in anything other than getting myself ready.
That I can read or check emails while having breakfast.

...god I miss those little morning faces.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

sometimes you just know...

have you ever met someone and known right away you'd be good friends, that they'd be someone special, that they'd be part of your story?

have you ever met someone for a brief amount of time and then stayed close, despite of being apart, regardless of how often you spoke or saw each other?

do you know people you've met once or twice that mean more to you than people you see every day.

Some people believe that these are souls that you already know, that you already met, and that you will perhaps meet again. In another life, in a parallel universe, in that dreamland we do not understand.

These are your soul mates.... in soul terms, your posse.

Have you ever know something was done, finished, unstoppable, going to happen?

... have you ever just known, for no good reason, something that just didn't make any sense, yet... it did

we know so much. If only we were willing to listen

Saturday, May 7, 2011

on mothers day

Last year I went on a bit of rant about the importance of motherhood and why it should be celebrated. I know many people think that these celebrations are just some invention from Hallmarks to sell cards, and generally, a consumeristic affair. The thing is, it doesn't have to be, it shouldn't be, and it wasn't to begin with.

Mother's day has been celebrated since Greek times, somewhat before Hallmarks and malls were around. It is celebrated in over 44 countries and in some cases the origin of the celebration dates as far back as a few centuries ago, like in the UK where the origins of what is more popularly known as Mothering Sunday dates back to a time when children were often sent away to work in other villages at a very young age. Mothering Sunday started off as a day when churchgoers were expected to visit their home or "mother" church during Lent, (a lot like the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca). The practice became quite popular, as it quickly turned into an excuse  for family reunions and celebrations. Later, Mothering Sunday became a day when children and domestic servants were allowed a day off to see their families. Celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, Mothering Sunday remains a time to pay mothers their due respect for all their love and dedication with flowers, candies, cards, and other tokens of appreciation.

The most confusing thing about mothers day for an expatriate is trying to remember when you are supposed to be celebrated, and when you are supposed to call your own mother. These days often do not coincide. More than once I've been saved by the bell when with some well intentioned email or text reminding me to call...

Most commonly Mothers day is celebrated on the second Sunday of the month of May (United States, Australia, Belgium Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, japan, Turkey and Ireland amongst others). But then in Spain and South Africa it's celebrated on the 1st Sunday of May, in Argentina on the 25th of October, France and Sweden celebrate it the last Sunday of May, the last day of spring in Lebanon, the 2nd Sunday of February in Norway, May 10 in Mexico, Bahrein, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Omar, Pakistan,Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, to name a few.

Most celebrations revolve around honoring the mother with gifts, (my personal favourite, the hand-made-falling-apart ones) and things like eating out so she wont have too cook, but some traditions are more fun than others. For example in India the Hindu people celebrate for ten days in a festival they call Durga Puja, named after the goddess who protects the people from evil and is also popularly known as The universal Mother.

Other celebrations are funny, like in Yugoslavia where children sneak into their mother's bedroom and tie her up in bed. When she awakes she has to promise to give the children gifts that she has hidden in order to be untied, (which really defeats the purpose of having one day when you -as a mother- are not at the mercy of the rest of the brood...), but never the less, if kept within reason can be lots of fun. Probably my favorite is Sweden, in a very nordic fashion, they sell little plastic flowers before Mother's Day and the money raised is used to send mothers with many children on vacation. Priceless!

I'm a big supporter of celebrations. I think life should be celebrated. Every day is a gift, and sadly every now and then we are reminded of the fragility of life and everything in it. So my advice is: go forth and celebrate every chance you get.

Happy mothers day y'all

Thursday, May 5, 2011

twelve months- April (family self portrait)

So it has been four months now. It is so hard to plan a session. Someone is always travelling, too busy or sick. It is easier to photograph clients than one's own family!

...which I suppose is the reason I started doing this to begin with.

Four months in and I have to confess I'm starting to wonder where I am going with this. I suppose I had hoped for more special photographs, like the ones I can make and plan for when I am not in them, when I have some leverage over the subjects (NOT the case with my family...)

In any case I will carry on. Maybe there will be a lesson in the end (maybe more planning is the lesson, or more discipline, or choose your projects better...)

This was taken during our holidays in Switzerland with thehub's family. There were all these amazing sceneries which I thought we would get around to trying out, but never did, because we were too busy rolling down meadows, eating chocolate fondue, and basically living.

This was an attempt to stick to this deconstruct the scene to its basic elements. It was meant to be the test run, but it rained the next day and we never managed to pass by that river again.

In photography, like in life, you must cease the moment, never take for granted you'll get that chance again: when in doubt take it, take it now!

you can click on the word to see January, February or March portraits

PPS May 17. I think this photo is growing on me....

Earth day-photo post

Every year Holland celebrates spring with an amazing show of flowers. The keukenhof is such a special and unique experience. It is the largest bulb flower park in the world covering an area of 32 hectares with 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties. 7 million flower bulbs are planted by hand. There are more than 2,500 trees in 87 varieties, 15 kilometers of footpaths, and it is the largest sculpture park in the Netherlands.

It's a feast of colours and smells littered with art. Being able to go there every year to see what they have come up with is one of the privileges of living in Holland.

Happy earth day!
(or happy day earth...)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

more on Tim and things worth dying for

It’s been a couple of weeks now. Things have quieted down. I no longer have to remind myself every time I wake up that Tim is dead.

Tim’s death hit me hard. Harder than I might have expected. Perhaps because I had know him for less, so much less time than those around me who effectively went to school with him. Perhaps because our friendship was unusual, we’d met in different countries, coincided at different points in time, sporadic brief and to-the-point emails. I hadn’t realized how much I expected Tim to be a part of my future, and it hit me that my pain at loosing him was very selfish, because I realized that without Tim around, my life will be less interesting. With Tim around, my life would have been better. It is indeed my loss.

I think most of us non-photojournalism-world friends have been quite surprised to see the extended coverage, love, respect and appreciation that has been focused on Tim’s life and achievements this past weeks. He was a smart, passionate, determined guy out on a mission, and there is no doubt that what he achieved was special, meaningful and exceptional. But one question kept hunting me: was it worth dying for?

Thehubs rightly pointed out that he probably never expected to. One thing everyone agrees on is that Tim was exceptionally smart, and as tough and daredevil a life as he chose to lead, the fact is that probability was on his side.

This should not have happened.

The day before Tim’s death thehubs turned forty. I struggled to explain to my kids why it was such a significant birthday

“we are marking the halfway point of his life” I told them.

Tim’s been cheated out of that half, and looking at what he achieved in the first half, you just have to mourn all that we missed out on.

I admonished a friend who complained about turning old

“you celebrate a birthday because you didn’t die” I told him “we have forgotten this. We take life for granted.”

I‘d had this conversation with Tim. He didn’t.

The hubs and I have been stranded in a Swiss postcard with the kids for the Easter holidays.During the day we play amongst the wild flowers and the cows. At night the bottle of wine comes out and we remember and mourn the loss of our friend. We even have a soundtrack.

He’s been hit with a sense of urgency to make his life meaningful: It’s too short to waste on red tape and politics, the need to move closer to the field, to where the pain is, make every day count. I can't help thinking how since I met Tim, about nine years ago now, he had always expressed his desire to be in love, in marriage, with kids. I guess like the rest of us he assumed he had all the time in the world to get around to doing that. Tim achieved so much partly because of his sensitivity and partly because of his stern determination, which I hear was there long before any of us got a whiff of where it might take him. But it strikes me that, as usual, everything comes at a price. Not just the ultimate one he paid in Misurata, but the fact that he had to let go of one side of him, another Tim and another life he never got around to.

He achieved so much more than what most of us might expect to in our full lives, but the question kept hunting me.

I happened to be reading a book on terrorism and war. One I wonder if he’d read as he would have surely enjoyed it. I kept scouting the book for answers to my questions when I came across this:

“the noble man’s soul has two goals:

To die or to achieve its dreams

What is life if I don’t live?”

(A. M.)

Then it came to me, clear and simple: Tim did not go to Libya in search of death, he was there going about his business of living life to the fullest, the only way he really knew how, when death, being the rude maiden she is, walked in and ruined everything. Bottom line is it could have happened anywhere, at least it caught him fully living.

photograph of a Tim Hetherington Photograph