June 30, 2007

Newsflash

I now interupt this advenuture to comment on developments back home (and it's not iPhone related). Tommy (and a friend via IM) sent me the same New York Times article about restricting filming and photography in New York.

I actually don't think it's going to make a difference to 99% of folks. Firstly, you already need a permit and it's free from the city and or Parks Department with a little faxing back and forth. Film crews have always had to have that insurance and most professionals, the folks who'd be shooting for more than a half hour at any given spot, should already have the insurance required. In short, I think it's much ado about nothing. The average photographer won't be affected at all. Jaywalking is illegal too.

If it's all just more security theatre, I think it's stupid and ill conceived like most so-called security measures. Google proves the point beautifully with it's Street View.

Selfishly, it would make it just a touch, and I mean a touch, harder to do the Streetstudio in New York but hey, we did that already. ;-)

Make pictures.

Burundi

There are all kinds of odd things that pass by your eyes when you're on the road packed in the front seat of minibus headed to Bujumbura from the border with Tanzania. In fact, the adventure begins while waiting for the bus to leave. Waiting two hours gives you an opportunity to settle into a place. And when the place is tiny and not frequented by many mzunjus like Makamba, it's extraordinary.

This is a blog about photography but let's just say today was distinctive in how little was spoken and how much was just observed. And I spent most of the day sitting on my butt.

This shot is of one of the kids who was following me around and wanted to be photographed striking hip-hop style poses. When I saw the homemade tribal marking on his or her arm I was a tad taken back. I asked about it and everyone who had one showed me theirs. All of them were homemade and, it would seem, hastily done. It was both a source of pride and mockery depending on your perspective in the group that had gathered around. Knowing the recently ended war here in Burundi is still a sore subject, I let it go at that and made my portrait. I like that there's one letter on the shirt and one on the arm. You can't style this stuff.

Make pictures.

June 29, 2007

Pink Lady

Waiting for my client's meeting to end in Kalizi, I walked around a bit. Back off the main street I was struck by the uniformity of the palate offered by the simple construction and flat light. I knew that if I waited patiently a burst of color would pass by in the form of a woman. (The women wear all the colorful stuff here. The men just wear second-hand western-style clothing that simply doesn't do much for anyone). After about ten minutes and some missed moments due to foreground traffic, my time was up. I was being called back to our vehicle. I didn't get it.

Then, just a second after I had given up and started to run back, a vision in pink passed by. I quickly snapped two shots as she adjusted her head-scarf. I think I got it. I cropped in on the top and bottom to give it more focus. The space felt longer than the 35mm frame was giving me so I don't feel bad about that artistic decision. A little (very little) photoshop magic to seal the deal and I'm good.

Make pictures.

June 28, 2007

Maybe Not

They say the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and that couldn't be more true than in this part of the world. Just a few hours after the original idea was hatched to head towards Burundi it looks like they will have to wait a day.

This of course is bad for me but good for photo-sharing.

This shot is of a guy I first saw while buying bananas. The veins in his head were so symetrical and striking in the end of day light that I ended up negocitating a price for the bananas that included a portrait. He was a super friendly guy and even though we didn't have a word in common between us, I ended up having a horrible cup of traditional coffee and a good laugh with him.

Make pictures.

Onwards Towards Rwanda

My plans are fluid these days. On a whim I've decided to head alone towards Rwanda via Burundi. Some taxis, some buses, some I don't know what lie ahead. No one really knows the exact process or schedules and apparently it wouldn't really matter if they did.

I'll be incommunicado until I arrive in Butare.

Photo-wise, this is one from early yesterday morning. I just like the way the girl's headwrap mirrors the dark area of the wall behind her. I have some other striking images of her but for now, this is what we've got. I'll post those (and some adults) when I get to another wired location.

Make pictures.

Kalinzi Boy

It had been a long day of bouncing around the hills in a Land Cruiser as we visited numerous small coffee cooperatives and farmers. With each stop kids would gather. First they were attracted to the vehicle. Cars don't come 'round those parts much. They run out of their homes and scream with delight as we pass. When they see a white person in the passenger seat it only adds to the excitement. "Mzungu! Mzungu!," they yell. Once stopped and I get out with two cameras around my neck it isn't long before there's a crowd of kids tagging along. This could be good or bad depending on your motivations. Luckily, they aren't particularly interested in being photographed. They just follow and watch.

Then, every once in a while, a kid gets the nerve to be photographed. That's what happened with this one. He was just standing there beneath me in a small coffee storage house. I didn't even notice him but for some reason I looked down and saw him staring up at me. The light was lovely and as I raised the camera, rather than run, he just continued to stare at the lens and press his face against the palm stump. I loved that he had his plastic bag ball in his hand. It gives a bit of context and speaks to the economics of the place.

Make pictures.

June 27, 2007

A Quick One

It's late and I'm heading to shower and get some sleep. Here's a quick one from my two spectacular days in the hills outside Kigoma.

I don't even know where to start to describe the experience. I don't envy the travel writer who must feel compelled to bring all their experiences into words. A photographer's efforts are a tad easier on that front. My burden was simply not being able to shoot everything I saw. There were some gems that slipped past due to my professional responsibilities.

Make pictures. More tomorrow.

June 26, 2007

Self Portraits

Self portraits don't happen that often for me but in the past 8 days I've made two that strike me as decent. Sharing them here is not something I'm entirely comfortable with but in the spirit of sharing, I am posting them anyway. This isn't intended to be a self-serving, Clay-centric place so two pictures of me risks being misinterpreted as arrogance. Instead, I thought I'd simply share two self-portraits that I think work. The fact that they are taken just over a week apart and in two very different parts of the world is what prompted me to share them at all.

I wish I could add something profound to say but I don't have any deep insights into the self-portrait other than it a long artistic tradition.

I don't shoot myself very often and when I do, there seems to be a reason. Whether it's a simple matter of being sleep-deprived and covered in mud in the middle of the New Jersey Pine Barrens or standing alone on the shores of Lake Taganyika, lifting the camera up backwards with both hands and making a shot of myself isn't a casual affair. One-handed is something else entirely. I do that all the time. Those aren't self-portraits. Two handed, symmetrical, deliberate, concentrated. Those are self-portraits. I am thinking about the audience, the composition, the whole image. I chimp until I get a few I might like. On the bottom camouflage image I made myself blind with the flash. I must have made twenty-five shots to get something worth editing. On the upper image, it was about the same but without the flash. The upper one was more about exposure as the sun was setting directly behind my head.

So that's that. Forgive the indulgence. Give it a try on your end. Self-portraits are harder than they seem.

Make pictures of yourself.

June 25, 2007

All Good in Gombe

I had no idea I'd be visiting the Gombe National Park during this trip. For those who don't know, it's the park made famous by Jane Goodall and her work with its chimpanzees. It turns out that Sustainable Harvest is working very closely with the Jane Goodall Instutute's TACARE project to protect the environment and improve living conditions of Tanzanians through the growth and production of quality coffee. And again I am amazed by the power of specialty coffee to make a difference in the world.

So after a little misunderstanding about the costs to visit the park ($100/day in US currency) I managed to spend two days with a guide following the chimps as they went about their affairs. Most of that time was spent with a mother named Gremlin (pictured) and her four children, two of which are twins and one of which is only two years old. After our time with the chimps was over, we'd hike up to "Jane's Peak" for a spectacular view of the valley and Lake Tanganyika. Neither day will be soon forgotten.

Make pictures.

June 22, 2007

In Kigoma

Arriving in Kigoma was the first time since being in the region that I felt I'd arrived somewhere distinctive and remote. The sun was setting and the colors were bursting all around me as I rode in the back seat of a taxi. Ironically, I was being brought to a five star hotel.

Unrelated to my adventures, I meant to share this little photographic tidbit weeks ago but didn't get around to it. http://www.devilducky.com/media/62817/

Make pictures.

Persistence

She was sitting there with some of her younger familiy members. She was the oldest person I'd seen all day. Her blue eyes jumped out at me but I passed by smiling but assuming she'd never want to be photographed. I walked about twenty five yards and then turned around. I couldn't let her go without trying. I slowly returned and sat across from her. I made my best attempt to ask if she'd be willing to pose. Her grandson translated and she responded with an emphatic no.

Just then her son emerged from another alley wearing a G-Unit shirt and a baseball hat. He told me that the woman was his mother and I asked again if she wouldn't mind if I made her portrait. He ended up being more persuasive as she soon agreed to let me do my thing. When I was done, she enjoyed looking at the shots on the camera and her son ended up making a shot of the us both sitting there.

It was a nice moment of photographic diplomacy.

Make pictures.

June 20, 2007

Zanzibar Provides

I was right with my first impressions of Zanzibar. It's biggest city, Stone Town, is a tangle of alleyways where getting lost is part of the fun. I spent four hours wandering around making photos and chit chatting with the friendly folks going about their business. Everyone I made eye contact with greeted me with "jambo" and a smile.

What might seem like a pain became a blessing today. A few enterprising locals attach themselves to tourists in an effort to help you find anything and everything they need in return for some sort of tip. It can be annoying ninety percent of the time but I found myself a cool guy who was good to go at my pace and understood what I was after.

If I chose to sit for ten minutes somewhere, he would sit with me. No pressure, no hassle. I got lucky.

We wandered the back streets for hours and his negotiations allowed for numerous portrait opportunities I wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

Make pictures.

June 19, 2007

Rasta Scout

I now find myself in Zanzibar where I get to spend two nights in a row without having to be on a plane, ferry or any other form of transportation. Tomorrow will be a day of photographic indulgence. The place has echos of Varanasi just without the burning bodies. We'll see what daylight brings.

Until then, here's another portrait from Scout class. This guy always goes all out on his camouflage and I wonder how he ever gets the swamp mud out of his hair. That stuff is impossible to get off your skin let alone dreadlocks.

Make pictures.

June 18, 2007

Scout Class

Blogging hasn't been on my radar lately.

Saturday afternoon I emerged from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey after attending and shooting the Scout class at Tom Brown's Tracker School. I have a sweet barter deal with them where we exchange classes for photos. This image is just one of the many made over the course of the week. Between tick bites (in the most amazing places), sleep depravation and martial arts training, I managed live up to my end of the bargain.

I am drafting this entry in the Amsterdam Airport on my way to Dar -Es-Salaam, Tanzania where the plan is to spend the next month making pictures for Sustainable Harvest. I didn't bring my Streetstudio, a decision I may regret. Simply put, light and fast took precedence when packing.

I will be in the region for the next month and hope to blog more while there. No promises.

Make pictures.