And So It Goes

He’s waiting for us dressed in a pressed shirt and slacks and the first thing I notice about him is the urgency in his eyes. He blinks rapidly, face turned upward, and my heart is pierced by his expression of extreme yearning.

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He makes nervous gestures to ensure that we feel welcome and comfortable, arranging chairs into a circle under a tree that tempers the blazing Ugandan sun. He brings out a tray of tea and fresh grilled corn cut from the stalks that his wife tended. His wife, she who “flew away” recently despite the many expert hands that tried to save her from the devastating clutches of postpartum hemorrhaging. He watched her fade away, this woman he so loved and with whom he created his family of four precious little girls.

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Postpartum hemorrhaging (PPH) is the leading cause of maternal deaths globally. Each day, approximately 800 women die from PPH, a staggering statistic given the very simple remedy that could save these women. And so it goes that we live in a world that fails the most vulnerable, a woman giving birth to a new life.

There are many reasons why a mother dies from PPH: lack of skilled medical staff, inability of a woman to reach a hospital or for her family to pay for services, expired drugs, lack of syringes, poor education, and timing when she reaches care. Any or a combination of these scenarios can lead to death, swiftly and with little warning. Every day, women perish, avoidably, leaving behind a chaotic set of issues for her children, her family and the community spanning years of affect. And more often than not, she leaves a man in despair, his tears flowing at any mention or reminder of this woman he chose as his life partner.

Her memory lives on in this house of papa and his girls. He has kept her things (shoes, dresses, hair ribbons) in open baskets and keeps referring to “mama’s chickens, mama’s corn”.

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The eldest daughter shows us “mama’s bed”, where she and her younger sister now sleep so they are comforted by the remnants of her spirit by night. The twins she recently bore are in a loving care center until papa can get more organized and find his wise perspective on his newly shattered life. He visits them several times a week, cherishing her last gift to him.

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He is proud of his home, and leads us inside so we can see the rugs she wove and the pink bathroom he made for her out of their old chicken coop to enable her comfort while she nursed twin girls. As he shows us each room, his girls are right by his side, feeling his love as he strokes their hair and wipes their noses and looks at them with assured intention of how he will be there for them the rest of his life.

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Many African men often get mischaracterized by those who commit transgressions against women, marginalizing the men who express devotion to their wives and children. This man epitomizes love in its most tender form: being willing to care for his “band of girls”, ensuring their clothes are clean, playing with them, holding them when they ask for mama.

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There are many organizations that grieve these concerns and are working as fast as they can to eradicate these issues. Working tirelessly, they study challenges, assist with lack of resources, and work with the World Health Organization to build awareness and responses to the far reaching and devastating effects of PPH. And so it goes that we live in a world that is capable of rallying around the most vulnerable.

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No mother should face death from obstetrical concerns. No young girl should fear for her life as she gives life. And no husband deserves this kind of heartbreak.

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At the end of our visit, this profoundly affected man shakes our hand and says goodbye with a strained voice. Emotions run deep within him and frequently surface, and as they do, he reaches down to stroke his daughters’ heads in silence while each little girl raises her tiny hand to find his. Together they stand, facing us with hearts open wide. And a hope for better maternal healthcare for all.

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A Return To Madagascar

It has been nine years since I was in Madagascar, so I jumped at the chance to return after all of these years. My stay lasted a month, and the time was focused mainly on creating images for the travel and tourism industry, as well as visiting the subject of my children’s book that was first published in 1996.

Frisky lemurs, gigantic spiders, kaleidoscope iguanas and luxurious beaches…this island has so much to offer! And thousands of animals, plants and other living things are endemic to this island since it was isolated from the rest of the world when it split from India 88 million years ago.

Check out my Photoshelter Madagascar archive or my Instagram account to see images from this trip.

Madagascar iguana

Eastern Oregon Visitor’s Guide 2017

Yipppeeeee! The new 2017 Eastern Oregon Visitor’s Guides are hot off the press and ready to serve as a guide for all of the wonderful things to see and do in the right side of the state of Oregon.

I was commissioned to make the covers (four in all, depicting four different regions) and to supply imagery for many of the inside pages. It was a dream assignment to run around the back roads of Oregon capturing landscapes, animals, food, accommodations and personalities. And wineries!

I love Eastern Oregon. It does good for the soul. Read more reasons why I love it out there in this Travel Oregon blog post.

 

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An Extended Hand, From The Heart Of A Boy

Too often, African males are characterized as being insensitive to a woman’s needs. Magazines, newspapers and even charitable organizations frequently focus on rape, child marriage and physical abuse to reveal injustices from men that women face while living in an African nation.

But there are other sides to these stories, and scenarios abound that depict men as caring and loving human beings, showing deep respect for their sisters and wives. We see men carrying their sick wives for days to reach a health post, traversing rugged terrain and selling off their cattle to pay for the bill. They realize how vital their wives are to the well-being of the entire family. Men are visibly shaken as they fear the loss of their loved one, and they will go to great lengths to ensure that she receives the care she deserves, often traveling to various health care centers before finding one staffed with a health care practitioner.

Men gather around a woman who has just had surgery to alleviate obstructed labor in preparation to carry her home. Motta, Ethiopia

Man helping woman in Ethiopia

We recently visited several schools in rural areas outside of Mekelle, Ethiopia, and we were able to talk with some of the boys to see how they viewed the topic of menstruation. In the recent past in Ethiopia this topic was taboo even for mothers and daughters to discuss and some families still view it this way. But all of the boys we randomly chose to interview had positive things to say about the time when a girl has her period. Many of them asked if the school could have a place to rest, showers for cleaning and tea for stomach cramping, just so the girls will feel more comfortable during this time.

Ethiopian boy Dignity Period

Ethiopian boy Dignity Period

Ethiopian boy Dignity Period

Ethiopian boy Dignity Period

Dignity Period not only supplies reusable sanitary napkins to girls, but the educational component has had a great impact on lessening the mystery when a girl shows blood on her clothing. Schools now require all students to read a booklet that details why girls menstruate and how they can be supported rather than laughed at.

Older boys now teach younger boys how to react sensitively when they know that a girl is menstruating. G/Maryam Asene, a student at Adikeyh, even cites this time as being “a gift” and says that anyone who laughs at a girl is also laughing at their mother, an extremely shameful thing to do.

We ask the boys: What would you do if you see that a girl has unexpectedly started her period?  Their ready answer was energetic: We would take our shirt or sweater off and let her wear it until she could change her clothes!

Sensitive souls they are.

Ethiopian boy Dignity Period

Ethiopian boys Dignity Period

Ethiopian students Dignity Period

Terra Magazine: Uganda Goat Milk Soap-Making

The recent issue of Oregon State University’s Terra Magazine  features a story about our goat milk soap-making project in Uganda. What an honor it has been to work with so many Oregon constituents in making this project come to life, all initiated by one gesture of gift giving from a soap maker in Fossil, Oregon to fistula survivors in Soroti, Uganda.

 

Terra Magazine Uganda

Oregon Ballet Theatre: Dancer Portraits

I love when I get to be inside the walls of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s building and watch the heat and fury that arises from the dancers as they practice. It takes enormous focus and energy to perfect those twists and turns and leaps, and to be able to witness trial after trial until they reach their aspirations is a wondrous sight.

I was there to make dancer portraits, and even though they came right from brutal practice to sit before my camera, they each faced the lens with authentic passion in their eyes.

Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer

Valley Uprising: Stills From Yosemite

Several of my images made while on an assignment documenting extreme climbers in Yosemite are included in the documentary, Valley Uprising.

If you attended my lecture at the Portland Art Museum, you might recall that I left my corporate work years ago to become a full-time photographer based upon two experiences: watching people trying to salvage photographs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and a life-altering discussion I had one day in a cave with climber Dean Potter.

This film is startling and evocative, delving into the tensions that exist between climbers and rangers in the Yosemite area.

It was a complete surprise to see that my name was listed in the credits at the end!

Yosemite Climber

Chongo

Yosemite climber hand

Vista Capital Portraits

I love working with teams of people to make portraits for their website and other promotions. Here is a snapshot of portraits from one company I especially admire, Vista Capital Partners. Each staff member brings a unique personality to the table, yet they form a very cohesive and friendly group.

We scheduled the portrait sessions in the Rose Garden last month so that a bit of greenery was included in the background, which represents many of their offerings. Quite a departure from their previous stark white and square portrait layout!

 

Vista White

 

 

Vista Green

Assignment: Painted Hills Natural Beef

What could be more fun than chasing cowboys on horses?

That is exactly what this assignment required as I captured images for Painted Hills Natural Beef in Fossil, Oregon for their website and social media platforms.

A rancher’s life is wrought with many worries and hardships, and often their hard work is under-appreciated by those who sit down to eat the products they bring to the table. There seems to be a disconnect with where our food comes from, how it was raised, and whether it is even healthy for us to eat. Take a spin on their website to read about the many benefits of natural beef.

And consider making a visit to this lovely area of Oregon!

Painted Hills

 

Painted Hills Natural Beef

Painted Hills Natural Beef

Painted Hills Natural Beef

Painted Hills Natural Beef

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