Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rehaboth Village

Benjamin’s sister Ola was playing on the porch of the house, which overlooks Jinja Village and the Nile River.
She put down her toys and looked at me as I photographed her brother. Since coming back from Africa, I often look at the reflection of myself in her eyes. What other things will she look at in her lifetime? What can I do to keep her eyes so bright and unafraid?

In the families being supported by AOET in Rehaboth Village, I witnessed a great deal of pride and care in the manner the home was maintained. This attitude clearly extended down to the smallest of children.

One of the programs of Aids Orphan Educational Trust is to provide vocational training and support to HIV positive mothers who have children in the program. This helps them to pay for their own treatment, gives them a skill to pass down to their children, and keeps the family together as long as possible.

AOET supports several schools, one of which is shown in the photo above. This young lady was named Hilde, and she seemed to be a favorite of visitors because she was so outgoing. A very bright child, she became withdrawn when I showed interest in other children as well. Hilde lost her parents when she was 3.

Phoebe lost her parents to AIDS 2 years ago. She and her brother live with their aunt and her children in 3 rooms of a building they rent from a local woman. Her aunt cannot afford to send either of them to school so Phoebe reads and teaches her brother as much as she can remember from her schooling. One of the other rooms in the building houses a church, in which Phoebe is the leader of the youth choir.
She sang the hymn “In the Meadows” for me .

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Aids Orphan Education Trust

Children of Ynyama Village
welcome home
their friends from trip to USA

The first NGO (non governmental organization) I worked with in Jinja, Uganda was the Aids Orphan Educational Trust, or AOET. Begun by Sam Tushabe in response to the need for supporting the school requirements of children orphaned by the Aids epidemic in East Africa. In addition to running a school, the NGO also is active in running a clinic for Aids patients, placement of Aids orphans in Ugandan families, rescue efforts to assist families in the war torn north, and micro-enterprise training for Aids widows, many of which were HIV positive. They are a very well run, christian based organization that are facing the many challenges in Ugandan society with faith, vision.
Rehoboth Primary School :

Primary Level 3
Rehoboth Primary School

Joseph Twoli, Child Welfare Coordinator
Describing new school location

Rehoboth Community:
AOET has purchased several acres on a hillside overlooking Jinja and the Nile River.
They place orphans and families there, and help them to become self sufficient.
They currently have 6 houses built, and are planning more houses, and a community including school.
The families involved are chosen based on their potential and willingness to take care of these fine homes.


In order to support the families, AOET has developed its own clinic facilities, focussing on Aids testing, counseling, treatment, and community education on health concerns.

The clinic staff performs a skit about Aids transmission for the community

Widow Empowerment:

In order to support the families of their children, AOET provides instruction to widows and mothers in computers, sewing and weaving. Many of the women are HIV positive themselves. This enables women to : pay for their own treatment
b. pass on skills to their children
c. keep their family together as long as possible

In conclusion:

AOET is a well run, visionary program that addresses several important aspects of the orphan problem. It seeks to keep families together, and works hard to assist children in staying in school. They currently have lost funding for the new school half way through, and are looking for additional help to finish the school which will provide education for hundreds of orphans of Aids affected families.
For more information, please see their web site:

Friday, August 11, 2006

Life and death at the source...

Angel, night commuter child
Charity for Peace Camp
Gulu, Uganda

It is 4:30 AM, but my body seems to insist that it is the slothful hour of 11:30 AM,eastern Africa time, and refuses to go back to sleep. I am sorry this is the first posting in quite a while, but dependable, uploadable internet access proved quite unattainable. Let me somehow try to begin to explain the last several weeks in a few words and images. Let this serve as an introduction.

I have heard it said that the value placed on life in parts of Africa is very low.
This certainly explains the driving on the "highways" in Uganda. In fact 3 days after I travelled the same road, 30 people were killed when a taxi bus slammed into a truck when it was on the wrong side of the road, avoiding other slower moving cars and the inevitable craters in the surface of the road. (story)
Yet at the same time, I met people willing to sacrifice as they make room in their house for one more orphan. One more war widow. One more HIV positive AIDS widow.
I met a very bright young woman trained as a tailor, who abandoned her schooling to take care of her 5 siblings when, at the age of 8, she witnessed the slaughter of her parents.
I met thousands of children who walk miles barefoot to study advanced mathematics in a dirt floor schoolhouse, who desire to be doctors, nurses, engineers, artists, if they can just find the money to pay their school fees.
What is one to make of all of this?
I took photographs.
Catherine Primary School,
Kangulumira , Uganda

Sunday Morning Night Commuters
Charity for Peace Camp
Gulu, Uganda

Family working in the quarry
Acholi quarter,
Kampala, Uganda

Former Child Soldier,
Charity for Peace Camp
Gulu, Uganda

Sunday, July 23, 2006

On Human Suffering (the photographer and the subject continued)

photo: Rest Home, Virginia, 1983

The human story has been filled with many recurring themes; civilization, war, life, death, cruelty and compassion. Yet one of the most constant themes in this story is the persistance of human suffering. In this far from perfect world, what are we to do about those less fortunate than ourselves?
In Matthew 25, Jesus Christ was asked about the end of time:

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Yet in Mark 14, he also states:
7The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.
From this I understand that Christ teaches that the poor, and with them suffering of mankind, will never be completely eradicated, as long as we are on this earth. Yet, it is incumbent on us to do what we can to assist those less fortunate and in need. As we do, we acknowledge that we are all in the same family of man, and it is a recognition that the material blessings we have are not all that they seem to be. Rather, it is our relationships to each other that are the real blessings.

Man,Men Virginia 1983

So how can mere photos address the needs of the poor, and help to ease such suffering?
If you wish to see, one only need to look at the images of Eugene Smith in Minamata, Louis Hine in Breaker Boys, or Sebastiao Salgado in his Serra Paleda mine images. Here you will see images full of compassion, and images that have moved the world to correct wrongs to groups of peoples. Humans are a visual being, and we respond strongly to imagery. For better or for worse. Just ask anyone involved in campaign advertising.
At this point, I will abandon my intention to only show my own images on this page to include one photo.

By Stuart Franklin of Magnum Photo, this one image gave hope to millions of Chinese that change was possible in the face of overwhelming odds.

If you wish to see more, an excellent book and web site is "100 photographs that have changed the world."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Photographer and subject

I just finished watching an excellent TV show on PBS: American Masters: Artists create images of Marilyn Monroe. Seems like a good time to take a look at the relationship of the photographer and the subject. The objects on both side of the camera's lens, and the way they relate to each other.
In Bill Jay and David Hurn's book "On being a photographer", Bill is discussing what it takes to be a photographer:
Many people are interested in photography in some nebulous way; they might be interested in the seemingly glamorous jobs of top fashion or war photographers; or in the acquisition and appreciation of beautiful, functional machines, the cameras...
...but these interests, no matter how personally enjoyable they might be never lead to the person becoming a photographer. The reason is that photography is only a tool, a vehicle, for expressing or transmitting a passion in something else. (emphasis mine)

As someone who has spent 25 years teaching photography in one way or another, this is quite a statement. Yes, it is true that I have seen many students much more in love with the idea of being a photographer than in photographing. Yet, it is hard for me to accept such a hard line, that the photograph is only there to suggest something else.

This seems to bring to mind the phrase "Art for art's sake", or in this instance "the photograph for the photograph's sake". Does the image laid down in silver, or pigment etc. by necessity relate to another object, or can it be enjoyed purely as mark on surface?
The photograph has always had a strange relationship to reality. No drawing could ever be submitted as legal proof, yet the photograph has a long history of providing documentation of something that has happened or existed. Yet anyone who has worked in a darkroom knows the secrets of changing that supposed reality. Just look at the work of Jerry Uelsmann or Scott Mutter if you doubt me.

It is interesting that with the increased control over the image available in digital imaging, this percepting of "true photography as unmanipulated reality" persists. Why is it that when the audience discovers that the photographer has eliminated telephone wires in the sky of a beautiful landscape, we feel somehow slightly "cheated"? Does the audience similarily begrudge the graphite artist his eraser?
Oh wellllllllll........... enough about that. If anyone is interested in thinking about the nature of photography and artifice, here is a good link on photonet:

What I really wanted to talk about was that word "passion." ... "a passion in something else"
How does the photographer transmit the feelings he/she has for the subject into images ?

I am about to embark on what will be, for me, a huge undertaking: travel to a continent I have never been to before, interject myself into people's lives whom I have never met, much less been a part of their culture.

How can I avoid being what Thatcher Cook so accurately called in a discussion I had with him, an "humanitarian tourist?" The idea of being a casual observer of human suffering, just to add strong pictures to my portfolio, is troubling.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Working with Thatcher Cook

Back home now, finishing preparations for leaving in about 10 days.
The workshop was truly amazing, thanks in large part to Thatcher Cook, photographer and instructor extraordinaire.
The name of the workshop was "poetic storytelling"

What is poetry? And how is should it be understood?
How does one develop a personal voice?
How can a photograph be like a bottle of champagne?
A bottle of champagne shaken violently?

Hey, if you want answers to those questions, you take the workshop....

Here are a few last images of the workshop in Maine, at the amusement park in Old Orchard Beach and saying goodbye.

Well, enough about that. On to Uganda.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Preparation, mainely

Thursday afternoon .... have a second before the class goes to another carnival.... this time in Old Orchard Beach. We have been covering a lot of the state, trying to find places and events that capture the essence of the culture of Maine. A hometown parade for july 4th, small carnivals, an amateur night race on a small 1/3 mile track in Bangor and, of course, the requisite morning of foggy coastline landscape shooting. Yesterday we pulled a 22 hour day, from shooting at "Caponigro rocks" at 5 AM , lecture and critique in the afternoon, and a trip to Bangor for the car race. It has been great. And exhausting. Just what I wanted and needed.
Been working on getting closer to subjects. And pushing the idea. And using multiple light sources. And using the edges. And And And.