Darkroom Gallery: Multiples Exhibit

One of my photos created while on assignment with Hamlin Fistula Hospital was selected by juror William Albert Allard to be in Darkroom Gallery’s “Multiples” show. The exhibit opens September 14 in Essex Junction, Vermont.

These women each had been treated for fistula and were living in Hamlin’s rehabilitation center, Desta Mender, where they learned new skills such as reading, writing and math after their surgeries were completed.

Many women are ostracized by their villages when they develop a fistula, and often they must find new ways of supporting themselves. Undaunted by their struggles, they form a bond while residing at the hospital and help each other heal emotionally. New confidence is found, and together they help each other find new paths to walk, unbridled by the injury they suffered.

Fistulas can develop many ways, but most often it occurs due to obstructed labor. Dr. Catherine Hamlin saw the great need for prevention efforts and developed a midwifery college where young village girls are trained in midwifery and other maternal health care actions in Addis Ababa after which they return to their villages to provide much needed care in their remote home areas.

It has been an honor to stand in front of these brave women, the fistula survivors and the new midwives, and realize how devoted they are to their own healing and to the healing of others.

 

Desta Mender graduates 2015

Desta Mender graduates 2015

Prints For Prints: Afar, Ethiopia

Earlier this year while I was on assignment for an NGO based in Mekele, Ethiopia, I had the unique opportunity of visiting the incredible landscape of the Danakil Depression along with my colleague, Dardinelle Troen, and two employees of Mekele University.

Danakil Depression

For us, it was an epiphany to stumble upon this unbelievable and yet relatively undiscovered corner of the world. Everything was unexpected: the place, it’s unique geology and landscape, the people and their unique way of life. One highlight was our encounter with a mile-long camel caravan led by salt miners on their way to harvest salt from the vast salt pan we found ourselves driving across. I imagined these men traversing the same well-worn paths traveled historically for countless centuries dating back to the pharaohs.

Camels

While visiting this area, and as an excuse for making a personal connection, we stopped to take a few instant print photos of the men as they passed by, gifting them the print in exchange for a moment of interaction. Their excitement and appreciation reinforced enthusiasm for one of my personal projects, Prints For Prints.

Danakil Salt Workers

In 2013, I founded Prints For Prints, a volunteer organization that brings photographers and equipment to remote corners of the world to set up portable photo studios. A family photograph is a precious thing to many of us, and especially so to people who live in remote areas. Often in areas so far away, they do not have a record of their children, their elders or even themselves. We feel strongly that a photographic print is a wonderful way for loved ones to remember each other, whether they have passed from this life or are thousands of miles away carrying salt to Somalia. Our purpose is to create a physical keepsake that documents and preserves a moment in time to be shared and remembered, and passed to future generations.

Moroccan hands

As we’ve learned time and again in our journeys, contained within the portrait process is an opportunity to make a personal connection. In the course of capturing a picture, we shared an intimate moment exchanging glimpses into each other’s hearts and inner psyches. Warmth, humor, vulnerability, and sorrow all expressed in an instant.

This aspect was reinforced again during our brief time in the Danakil. It was a bit intimidating when we approached the salt miners in their caravan; they seemed rather intense and brooding. Even after overcoming the language barrier and agreeing to have their pictures taken, they still each gave a purposeful grimace when they stood for their portraits. It only struck us after a few moments that it was partly swagger as we watched each person being cajoled by his traveling mate as they each shared their small mementos with each other. This gesture opened the gates of wishes, and we were asked by many others to make more prints.

_DSC3329

In every venture of Prints For Prints, we always find ourselves drawing a crowd. Many times we find ourselves surrounded by burgeoning local photographers seeking to advance their skills. We make the most of these opportunities by making space in our process providing educational mentoring, either one-on-one with individuals or through partnerships with local schools, and we include students in our field photographs. We hope this opportunity to pass on our photographic expertise to a local community will sow the seeds for a developing photographic industry, as the passion for the craft is very apparent.

Prints For Prints Ethiopia

While experiencing this remote region and its natural beauty and seeing the salt miners’ joy upon receiving their instant print, we realized that there is a larger potential for storytelling here. Up until now, Prints For Prints’ primary focus has been connecting photographers to their subjects and leaving behind high-quality prints and the intellectual tools and inspiration for a continued photographic industry.

But there is more substantial potential as a vehicle for authentic exploration and storytelling of the area and bringing these stories to a larger audience. In a world struggling with a rise in polarization and nationalism, there is a need for a greater inclusiveness that celebrates our diversity and perhaps redefines our preconceptions of “others.” Making an intimate human connection in the same way a photographer connects to their subject in the process of making a portrait is a way to cross cultural divides.

Prints For Prints Ethiopia

We envision the Prints For Prints expedition as a vehicle for an authentic exploration of a locale by getting to know its people on a more intimate level while finding and documenting the anecdotes and rich stories that inform their life experiences along with those “1000 words” imbued in their portrait. Creating cohesive documentation in beautiful images, stories, and video can then be re-purposed in a variety of platforms: print, publications and social media to bring awareness, tourism, and commerce to the area.

Photographing each subject against a portable backdrop, we intend to create portraits as they hold artifacts they bring with them on their nomadic journey.

Prints For Prints Ethiopia

We are seeking support via project sponsorship or monetary coverage/discounts of expenses. In exchange, we will be promoting the experience and story, in traditional publications and social media platforms. The resulting photographic assets, videos and written stories will be available for sponsors to use for their marketing and promotions, as applicable.

Through our work with organizations such as Travel Oregon, we have repeatedly seen how this process results in success in reaching a targeted, diverse audience. Travel Oregon depends heavily on image based promotions to draw in tourism from around the state and region each year.

For further information about our experiences with Prints For Prints, please visit our website at www.printsforprints.com. We welcome any questions regarding our process, past experiences and budgets for upcoming project work.

Should funding or service donations be secured, our next proposed trip will be to return to the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia in February of 2018 to give those salt workers the photo prints they asked for, as well as some much desired sunglasses that have been collected by people living in a small assisted living home in Coos Bay, Oregon.

Seaside Stichers

(Seaside Stichers, photo by Mary Luther, Activities Coordinator)

 

If you would like to donate in-kind goods, airline miles, accommodations, transportation, translation services or financial support, please contact us by sending us an email or donating directly on our Prints For Prints donation page.

We appreciate any level of support!

Prints For Prints Ethiopia

You can see more images from this location in the Afar region of Ethiopia in my stock image database here. This project will also extend my earlier Market Workers project, celebrating those behind the developing world culinary scenes who bring spice and other delectable tastes into our lives.

Thank you for considering any level of involvement and support!

The Market Workers Book

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

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

Featured in Photographer’s Forum Magazine

Many thanks to Claire Sykes for the lovely article she wrote about my philosophy and work in this month’s Photographer’s Forum magazine.

It is a humbling honor to read what she has written, and also the various quotes by people (Jim Friedman, Shelby Lee Adams and Lewis Wall) who have greatly inspired me over the years.

Photographer's Forum Magazine

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

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

Workshop: Environmental Portraiture

My Environmental Portrait workshops are up and running in the John Day River Territory, where I am spending more and more time while I am in Oregon. I can really see how this Eastern Oregon wilderness land has an effect of people, and I hope to be able to teach more in this area.

Class discussions are held at my remote cabin near the small town of Spray, but most of the hands-on training for this workshop is spent photographing people in the surrounding wilderness areas.

I have made a commitment to providing an immersion experience that focuses on “honoring the land/respecting the subject” while also enjoying great company, local fresh foods and delicious wines.

Each workshop accepts an extremely limited number of participants so that the group size is conducive for intimate exchange of ideas and nimble change of locations.

Follow along on my Instagram account for live stories and images during these workshops and throughout my on-going backroads exploration!

McKinsey

There Is A Reason For This

I saunter up to the tall lanky cowboy who is leaning against a shed and muster up confidence to ask him my question:

“Do you know where I can find a good plumber out here? I’d like to get an outdoor shower up and running before my extended family arrives from out of state soon.”

He looks at me straight in the eye, pauses, and with a slow curl of his lip, he said,  “You already have one. That is what hoses are for. Let ’em sit in the sun a bit, and you have yourself some nice hot water also.”

And like that, I learned more than a few lessons.

This might seem like nothing more than a humorous exchange with a dollop of sarcasm, but that moment set the stage for how I would come to live in (and understand) my new rural town of Spray, Oregon.

As I make my way around the new digs, I am constantly learning things each and every day. Close all gates. Respect the land. Ask before making assumptions. Listen closely. Have a sense of humor, politically incorrect at times but rooted in truth.

I was drawn to this area of Oregon because it reminded me of being in Ethiopia, where most of my work has been of late. The landscapes share striking similarities. I also am finding that there is  a cultural divide between city/rural that is not unlike the chasm that exists between western/developing nations. And just as we often see aid distribution with well-intentions go awry, the same “we know best” attitudes are too often seen when city/rural tensions collide.

As I dial back my city attributes and attitudes, I am finding myself surrendering to the notion that mankind just might fare best when living close to the land and in shared community. Yet at times I witness something that I just can’t wrap my head around, whether it is seeing a dead coyote draped over a fence or listening to harsh complaints from a local shop owner. Luckily, as I meet people out in this area, I am fortunate enough to be getting some great advice along the way.  A very wise local once said something that has now become one of my mantras:  There is a reason for this.

There is a reason why city folk and ruralites might clash at times. Judgement and misunderstandings prevail over mindfulness and openness to what I refer to as “crossing the cultural divide”. Whether it be in far away lands with exotic cultures or close to home in rural/city Oregon, both parties must be willing to set aside preconceived notions and seek to understand the position of the other and not make assumptions for what is best. Once this happens, synergistic collaborations can surface.

Our small towns are struggling to stay afloat all over the nation. Big box stores, online shopping, and digital “travel” through our computer screens have fostered a laxity in some for in-person explorations of places outside of our misguided comfort zone. While seeing a beautiful photo online gives great pleasure, there is nothing like planting our feet in front of a soaring and majestic colorful rock formation that is millions of years old while watching a large bird against a kaleidoscope sky search for its dinner and feeling the wind nudge us into letting our fears and worldly concerns slide away.

Nature brings a perspective like no other antidote. It doesn’t matter if we like outdoor sports or not, the point is to just run for the hills and immerse ourselves in sensory delights, whether by foot, bike, boat and yes, even a clunky car. I love finding myself on a deserted road at night when the stars come out and only the moon can be seen with no other man-made structure in sight. It makes me free fall out of the chaos that cities can at times impose upon us. I believe we are more fragile than we realize.

So let’s go. Stop short of only following adventurous people on social media and make your own adventure. Select a far away small town to explore (your dollars are desperately needed to keep these towns in existence), cross that cultural divide and listen to locals tell their stories, tell yours, and become inspired by one another. Commune with some animals. Perch like a bird on a lookout point. Read a book on a riverbank. Explore the remote outer areas that take you a while to reach.

I think there is a reason for this.

 

Painted Hills

(The Painted Hills, part of the John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon)

 

Spray Cabin

(Spray, Oregon)

 

Maupin Deschutes

(The Deschutes River, near Maupin, Oregon)

 

Blue Basin

(The Blue Basin, near Kimberly, Oregon)

 

Wallowa, Oregon

(Carmen Ranch, Wallowa, Oregon)

 

Painted Hills

(The Painted Hills, near Mitchell, Oregon)

 

IMG_0071-2

(My cabin in the John Day River Territory, photo by Michael Schoenholtz)

Copyright 2017 Joni Kabana. All rights reserved. Site by TD