Argentina: Las Salinas Grandes

I love salt.

Lots of it.

So I was one happy girl when we finally reached the salt flats in northern Argentina near Purmamarca.  Following a beautiful drive to reach Las Salinas Grandes, we were surprised to find that all of the buildings (and the tables inside of them) were built from salt.

Salt flats in the distance near Purmamarca, Argentina

 

People walking in the distance at the salt flats in Argentina

 

Buildings and tables and floors are all made of salt at Las Salinas Grandes, Argentina

 

Blocks of salt are removed and water is added so that the salt crystals can be extracted

 

Salt bags at Las Salinas Grandes, Argentina

 

Daughter Brynn jumps high in the land of salt at Las Salinas Grandes, Argentina

 

Global Press Institute: Argentina Office

It was an honor to be on assignment in Argentina this week, teaching photography skills to women reporters at the Global Press Institute office. Each woman was thrilled to get their donated cameras from Pro Photo Supply, and they eagerly absorbed all of the information that was packed into a two-day class.

We covered camera operation, lighting, composition, aperture/shutter speeds and the psychology surrounding taking a compelling portrait.

I will truly miss being with these women, and I look forward to reading their stories and seeing the beautiful photographs they will make which will enhance their articles.

Dina, Ro, Lucila, Bettina, Ivonne are excited to get their new cameras

 

The women reporters at Global Press Institute in Argentina try out their new photography skills

 

Women reporters use their new photography skills while photographing a juggler on the streets of Argentina

 

 

Exhibit: 2013 Kellicutt International Juried Photo Show – Through A Lens: Ten

I just received notification that one of “The Market Workers” was juried into the Michael H. Kellicutt International Photo Show in San Francisco, California.  Jurors are Tom Till, Kim Komenich and Crista Dix.

“Selam” is a market worker in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.  He sells vegetables and performs other labor such as carrying heavy items. It is an honor to represent these exceptional Ethiopians in celebration of their hard working and innovative spirits.

See all of the images selected for this show here.  Opening reception and awards ceremony will be on July 6, 5-8pm at the Coastal Arts League Museum in Half Moon Bay, and the show will run from June 28 – August 6, 2013.  The show will also be displayed at the Gallery At Calumet in San Francisco from August 9 – September 11, 2013, with an opening reception on August 15.

 

Dance With Me

I got into some trouble once because of the way I was dancing.  I wasn’t thinking about anything except the music that night, and I just let the seductive beats hit my body and let go.

“I like your dance”, he said.  Not “I like the way you dance” or “I like your moves”.  I heard him, and I think I knew what he meant, but being in Africa where rules and structure are consistently challenged, I was somewhat unsure.

I am a middle age lady, have birthed three kids who are now in college, and my body is not as elastic as it once was.  But the more time I spend in Africa, the more I can’t stop myself from letting my rickety legs interpret the music I hear.

Rhythm. Even that word looks erotic at first glance. RRRRRRR, followed by hhh, a twist on the “I”, then a sexy th, followed by mmmmmmmm.

We are born through a series of contractions, intensity increasing until we break through barriers and scream ourselves silly, those screams also expressing a pattern of rhythm, back and forth and back and forth.  What happens between that entry into life and how many of us become so self-conscious about moving our booty to music is something I have pondered for years. In Africa, dancing occurs any time a semblance of a beat is heard, while driving, walking across a fancy hotel lobby or in the midst of a surgical process.

But that late night, I found out that dance has the potential to bring out the animal in a person.

And, perhaps, why should it not?  It was just a close call lesson to be more mindful of the power of dance.

Several weeks later I was sipping beers in a shady spot of an outdoor restaurant in Ethiopia’s deep south with the director of an NGO who was hosting me during an assignment. We started talking about courtship and procreation.  He told me about a tribe in Ethiopia that practices “evangandi”, a quest for procreation through the power of provocative dancing.

This is how it works:  under a full November moon, the boys and girls all come together in a big field and they dance erotically with each other. The kind of dancing where you look into each other’s eyes, then look away, then look again, knowing you hooked someone with they way you move.

If a boy and girl choose to have sex, they sneak away into the forest and exchange their passions under that incredible citylights-free African moonlight. If the girl gets pregnant, this is celebrated, as it means she is fertile.  The baby is given to the girl’s father’s family, and she is free to marry the boy she had sex with, or someone else.

Last summer, under a starlit night in my own backyard, conversation waned and the few remaining dinner party friends listened to the beat of a calypso band coming from our LP record player. Steve, a formidable friend I have known for years, asked each of us to dance with him. I am not one to sit on the sidelines when good music is playing, and when he came over to me, my heart did a quick start at the inquisition.

I was not prepared, at all, for what happened next.

Steve’s subtle moves, his directive hand and confident style made us all fall in love with him. After the swoon fest was over, he slipped away without much of a goodbye. I think he realized the power he had over each of us. We have been yearning to dance with him since.

Each year I return to the Pendleton Round-Up rodeo to watch the way dance turns girls’ hearts inside out when those strong cowboys take the reins of music’s influence. The streets are cleared, and under the dark sky night, boys tip their hats beckoning to show those girls a thing or two about how to move to a beat. Silly blond haired girls are flipped up and over their shoulders, brought down to ground where they beg to be lifted back up while the boy just teasingly stares at her plight, both of them laughing from the place where bliss resides. It makes me happy to know our conservative and dance shy culture has a segment who know what soulful pleasure that dancing can instill between two human beings.

When we dance, nothing else matters. It is a remedy for all ills. Try it!

It just might be what we were born to do.

 

 

In Bed With A Magazine

My affinity for magazine photo assignments has escalated into a full blown love affair. I find myself sneaking into my office at 2am to finish editing and polishing those images so they will fly off of the printed pages.

And I am a cheap date: magazine editorial rates can pay for a few books, but hardly enough to help with college tuition for my three offspring.

But if truth be told, I do this because I repeatedly fall in love with some of the subjects. I never know when it will hit me, and it is a random thing. The way a hand brushes lint from a skirt, a pause in a spoken sentence, a flip of an attitude, a squeal of glee, one sarcastic comment.

I go home, download the images, and BAM. I am in love.

Here are a few people who have had that effect on me.  There are more tucked away on external hard drives, but I snagged a few here because, well, I love to think about what they bring to the world, one small gesture at a time.

(See if you can guess who each person is. Scroll your cursor over each image for the answer.)

An author:

 

A girl living happily on a commune:

 

A beer maker and a building restorer:

 

A folding bicycle maker:

 

The Littlest Cowboy In Frenchglen, Oregon:

 

An indie movie maker:

 

A dancer:

 

A redneck bar stool philosopher:

 

A bookstore owner:

 

An architect with a penchant for the drawing outside of the box:

 

Two crusty miners in Plush, Oregon:

 

A TV and movie star caster:

 

A Shakespeare Theater lover:

 

A lovely creative force who conceived of The Girl Effect:

 

A bread maker:

 

Another author:

 

A chocolate shop owner:

 

A mean ass goalie:

 

An environmental visionary:

 

1859 Editorial Photography Workshop

Just had a great time co-teaching an editorial photography workshop with Leah Nash. Participants’ selected photos from the weekend shooting and critique have been uploaded to 1859 Magazine, where the creative director will select final images for print and online use.

We are all very excited to see which images will be selected for the layouts. Participants learned some insider tips regarding fulfilling a magazine editorial assignment.

(Photo by Sarah Cross)

Ethiopia: What It Feels Like For A Girl

In the back of my mind, a Madonna song is playing. I can’t recall all of the lyrics, but the ending lines play over and over as I watch Kuye in her classroom full of boys:

In this world
Do you know
Do you know
Do you know what it feels like for a girl
What it feels like in this world?

There are 42 students in Kuye’s class, and only four of them are girls. In a society that cherishes girls to a point of thinking of them as “prizes”, too often girls are not seen outside of the home for fear that she will steal the heart of a man before they are ready to have her live outside of the home. When a girl goes outside of the house to socialize or to school, she can also be ostracized a bit, out of fear, jealousy, or the upholding of traditional norms.

Kuye used to go to the spring to fetch water at 3am with her friends because water was very difficult to find. In exchange for her labor, these friends helped her by purchasing pens and exercise books for her to use while at school. If she didn’t help them fetch water, they would not help her. Sometimes she would arrive at late school because she was so tired.

However small, her support is provided by her mother, Taiko. Since she attends school under such financial hardship, sometimes she wanted to quit, but her friends encouraged her to remain in school.

Mercy Corps supports Kuye by covering the expenses of pens, exercise books, uniforms, and soap. Kuye speaks about her moral obligation to her friends, and still wants to help them. But now she tells them that she has assignments to do and will help them as soon as she is finished with her homework.

I ask her what her dinnertime is like, and she tells me that if food is present, they eat. If no food is present, they don’t eat. Sometimes Kuye walks home from school with a friend and they search each other’s homes to see which home has food for that evening, and they will share what they find with each other.

A tough life she has. Yet she remains confident and excited about her future.

She realizes that she is learning more than just the traditional subjects at school. One area that has been particularly difficult is changing the way her family and village think about equality between males and females. Since attending school, Kuye has successfully built the case surrounding her brother’s and her duties at home: hers should be no more nor less than those of her brother’s.

Kuye wants support to be available so she can go to university. She wants a comfortable home in which to lay her head down at night. She wants a husband to love, and children to educate. She also knows more about family planning, and has decided that she would like to have only two children, which will reduce the burden she and her husband will have to feed and educate them.

Kuye is a girl. She loves pretty shirts and skirts and hair bows and bracelets.

She is also a pioneer and a fearless leader, bold and defiant, paving the way for others.

Madonna would be proud.

 

Ethiopia: Eating From The Same Table

The first thing I notice about her is that she is sassy.  I can tell, even without knowing what she is saying in her native language, Konsogne. There are over 80 dialects in Ethiopia, so I imagine when one tribe member meets another, they find different ways of communicating than simply via words. Everyone laughs, belly laughs, at everything she says. But I can also see her liveliness in her beaming face.

Her eyes dart back and forth, her smile is wide and mischievous, and she makes little sounds when she giggles that make me want to live with her forever.

Her name is Taiko and she is a mother of six children, three of which are attending school. She  secured a loan from Mercy Corps to purchase an ox to fatten up and sell for a profit at the local market. The ox lives right outside of her thatched roof hut, and everyone pitches in to help care for the ox. Yet, the job of cleaning the ox’s space is usually left up to Taiko. Who wants to grab handfuls of ox poop?

Taiko does it with a smile.

She tells us how her life is better now that she has support from Mercy Corps to assist with books, pens, uniforms and toiletries, all things that were extremely difficult for Taiko and her husband Orxayito to purchase so that their children could be in school. Three of their six children are already married and were not able to go to school, so they celebrate that their remaining three children will be educated.

Taiko shows me how she makes a local drink, cheka, which she sells to help support her children’s school needs. She also shows me the sorghum and corn she will send to her daughter who is attending university so that she has something to eat while attending school away from home.

As we talk, she starts to scurry about madly, gathering up corn and wheat that have been drying in the sun. Her spindly legs and arms cannot move fast enough for her and we all wonder what she is doing, and why.

Soon, the rains break through, making us all dash for cover.  How did she know they were coming?!

I keep searching for her eyes to falter, to drop from their pixie up turned edges. Is she ever sad? She said she has two main problems right now: to not let rumors from other villagers bother her, and to be confident that her two other children will have funds for university classes. She knows that the Mercy Corps program is for high school level only. She is preparing now for how she will be able to support her children as they move along their chosen paths.

Swiftly, her eyes assume their dancing pattern again and she looks straight into my eyes, locking in for a time that is usually highly uncomfortable for my Western cultural influence. I expect her to ask me for support.

Instead, she throws her head back and says “I am also very happy. Let us laugh! She will put my picture on her wall. It seems as if we eat from the same table.”

Ethiopia: A Girl Can

The imagery and sound I collected while in Ethiopia last November has been edited into a video and included in Mercy Corps’ new “A Girl Can” campaign.  It is an honor to be involved in this effort to assist girls’ education in rural Ethiopia.

(Photo by Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps)

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