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.

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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

The Market Workers: A Tribute

We are so very pleased to announce the launch of our beautiful little book The Market Workers, a loving tribute to some of the hardest workers on earth.

This book has been a labor of love for many years, starting when I first entered the market in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia and saw the tireless energy and positive mindsets of the market workers who work so very hard each day to bring food, clothing/textiles, spices and household wares to so many. From simple dinner tables to high end luxury hotels, these people make sure there is a ready supply of items that feed the body and soul.

This book could not have been created without the help from so many others. Enormous gratitude goes first and foremost to Lincoln Miller, owner of PushDot Studio, who labored over the files to get them to look colorful and lively, all with a consistent feel, even though the images were created over a three year time span. His talented and gracious wife, Dardi Troen, owner of Ditroen, worked with renowned educator and artist (and very good friend!) Kirsten Rian to create the look and feel of the design of the book and sequence the images. We could not select a cover image (this proved too difficult when I love all of the workers!) so the cover is a very simple black face with red/orange foil type.

Aida Muluneh, founder of the Addis Foto Fest, penned a heartfelt introduction to the book and coordinated an exhibit, and mentor and friend Mary Ellen Mark, who has had a huge influence on my visual heart and soul, wrote a special sentiment.

Words escape me when trying to articulate the gratitude I have for the assistance I received while in Ethiopia from my many friends there, from the city officials in Bahir Dar, and above all, from Habtamu, my trusty guide and friend who works in the markets in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

The printing was done by Brown Publishing, with astonishing results. The colors are deep and saturated, and skin tones are true to life.

Each book was lovingly crafted with a hard cover, the highest quality papers and flat lying binding. This is a very short run (only 200 copies) and many of them were given to people in Ethiopia (including the energetic market worker who coordinated the project within the market) when the book was launched during The Market Workers exhibition opening at the National Museum of Ethiopia last December.

Prints have been shown at Lightbox Gallery, PushDot Studio, Katayama GalleryThe Clymb headquarters, and have been included in many other international exhibits. Special gratitude to Laura Domela, for her painterly hand at post processing each image to appear lifelike. The sales of these prints offset costs that enabled this book to be published, so a sincere thank you goes to those who purchased prints.

Each book costs $40, plus shipping and handling.  All proceeds enable me to pay for the cost of producing the book, plus allows me to keep doing the work I do in Ethiopia.

Kindly email me to reserve a copy.

 

The Market Workers Book

The Market Workers Book

Behind the scenes of the Market Workers series: Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Market Workers Lightbox Gallery

 

Exhibit: The Market Workers at PushDot Studio

Once again, I will be able to stand in the middle of a room, look around and marvel at the intensity of many beautiful Ethiopian eyes all at once.

Ten images from my “Market Workers” series will be shown at PushDot Studio.  Join me for an opening reception this Friday, August 2 from 6-9pm as we raise a glass of cheer to those who might just be the hardest workers on earth.

All images were printed at PushDot Studio.  A very special thank you goes to Laura Domela, who, with her painter’s hand and master photographer’s skill, made the images sing with her magical post processing work.

One hundred forty-four subjects were photographed for this series, and each printed image is mounted on black sintra then framed without glass so that there is nothing between viewer and subject.

It has been exceptionally difficult to select which images are printed, as I dearly love each and every one.  In time, I hope to have all of them printed and floating about the world in celebration of the Ethiopian spirit.

 

Desta

Desta, 2012

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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