Ellen Bryant Voigt at Indian Foot Farm. After I’d finished taking this portrait I sat on the barn floor and listened to Ellen talk about Art, poetry and life. Outside the fading light Vermont glowed amber and gold – Ellen talked about a mark of orange paint on an artists canvas – how that one brush stroke can make an average painting perfect. It’s the same with poetry- you can spend days thinking about the inclusion of one word. The success of a verse can rest on something as simple as that.
Category Archives: Journel
12 months ago Divya Kalia decided to start an App based scooter taxi service for women only. It’s no secret India has some of the worst and most horrific violence against women. By employing women “pilots” arming them with pepper spray she has given female commuters the freedom to travel safely and respectfully to class and work. This is a real wake up call for men the world over. Young brilliant woman like Divya will change the system one great idea at a time and put Women in charge of their own destiny without the threat of male interference. Divya for president!!!
Kolkata will kill you. One wrong move and it will turn your insides out. Death lurks, resting in places that you can’t avoid; forks, switchs, handles and hands. At dinner you approach every unfamiliar mouthful with the unblinking suspicion of a wounded fawn. There are horrors here I don’t understand. But Sarah does. She has been here with her husband for 5 years and they have spent that time extracting captive sex workers from the pitiful factory brothels of the Red Light district to join them at their artisan refuge a few blocks away. They tell us that if a young girl can get a basic education, then it would reduce the chance that she will would be trafficked into a life as a sex slave. This is an extraordinary statement. Like I said – there are horrors here I really don’t understand.
It’s difficult to communicate, impossible to understand. Everything is ever so slightly lost in translation. Intent is inverted and actions blamed on the “other”. It’s not about us, you or me, it’s about them. We’re not the benefactors of war. The hidden ugly blind and greedy that fill their egos and pockets own that role, waiting to see what happens if another atrocity is casually drawn across the internet. Nothing most likely. Nothing for those screaming innocents, the maligned millions who don’t crouch in the shadows, who choose to walk open and innocent. Targets. Collateral rocks in a school yard fight to be thrown and forgotten by those ugly men who should know better.
THE UNFORTUNATE TRANSIT OF ALAN KURDI:: A pale blue fishing skiff cuts through the surface of the Mediterranean. It’s unstoppably beautiful, charming it’s way through wars, shipwrecks and exodus. The bureau perfect renderings and love sick scribblings of travel writers purge this prince of seas of all it’s morbid history. Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body horrified us, but not enough to taint the white sand and reflex blue sea and sky, the holiday shaped faces of tourists and cynical shoulder slapping locals. Today the Mediterranean is an occupied state. Occupied by the desperate, the good and the normal. Me and you – all of us. The plight of refuges has been with us since Moses lead his people out of Egypt and the idea caught on – we are all in some way seeking refuge. From poverty, violence, corruption, xenophobia and hardship. I’m the great grandchild of bone thin immigrant Irish. My country welcomed us, put us up, cooked a fine dinner. I have a home, a flag and a passport. All is well. How good does that freedom feel? Do you ever take time to think about that passport you have hidden away? It’s the one thing you can’t get by without. Your identity – rite large in offical type face. You are free to travel, open a bank account, buy a house, start a company, belong. Alan Kurdis parents had a choice. They could be brutalised by Assad, enslaved raped and murdered by Da’esh or set sail on that most holy of oceans. Forfeiting their status, their rights and their most precious of cargo to join that nation of the great unwanted. Ghana Masrieh is a Grandmother. She was born in a refugee camp outside of Beirut. She is a non person. Her greatest joy is being productive, contributing to society and her greatest sadness is that society couldn’t care less. If she could have one wish it would be to go home to Palestine, return to a non state, to live in fear of occupation, to feel her homeland under her feet, to be someone who belongs and to be distracted by the sparking sea.
I always thought portraiture was the most difficult genre in photography. I still do, even after making over 100 on this latest project. Trying to bring together all the nuances that come from the clash of human interaction and technology, hoping for a spark of inspiration not only from myself but also from the subject. My preference, given a choice would always be to use film – there’s a tangible difference between a digital medium and analog. Less frames, more intensity, more collaboration. I have tried to get the same sense of process while shooting the 200 Women project, using daylight and prime lenses across a myriad of difficult locations. But it’s hard. I’m now taking a lot more time to take a lot less pictures, talking more – being present and slowing down, it’s still hard to get what you imagine you should and it’s still a long way away from shooting film but I am beginning to understand a way to get what I’m hoping for. This portrait of painter and winemaker Michael Eton was shot on film. It took 4 frames to get what I wanted not 40 to get close.
It’s taken 200 interviews and now I’m convinced, Government doesn’t strive to create the best possible solution for the people, individual people do that, and in most cases it takes a lifetime. I photographed Angela Davis in a hotel room in Oakland. The sun smudged carpet and bug stained screen doors were at odds with the flat screen TV and Wifi refit. Four large men played poker and drank beer at a picnic table on the terrace below, sending shards of laughter into the negative space of our conversation. Their world turned as it always has, in their direction and according to their rules. Inequality, injustice, poverty and violence exist when the population lack the strength to repel it. Give people access to education, healthcare and the means to live with dignity and well-being and those evils will lack the oxygen to survive. Everything Angela said was delivered without hesitation, as graceful and lethal as a Samurai. She pulled back the dusty screen door and let the clear light of logical thought fill the room. People change governments – governments don’t change people.
About 18 months later he gave me one last look. I was standing on the catwalk above the holding pens at the Ovation processing plant in Hastings, Below me 309 stood alone and at a loss on sterile concrete. His eyes glossy, his nose wet. He seemed much smaller in that holding pen. At around 7am the following morning he was washed down and gently ushered into the killing bay. He was stunned with an electric shock to the forehead by a charged stainless steel plate before a bolt gun was applied to the top of his skull and he was dispatched, passing out of his short life into the bowels of the abattoir. I worked in the processing plant for a couple of hours that morning, recording all kinds of horror, thinking about colour, composition, meaning and moment. I tried not to think about any living breathing thing. Later that day in the staff room a tall lean Maori man in white coverall and a hair net presented me with a severed ear. Attached to the ear was tag number 309.
At 4.09pm on the 27th of July 2014 I met an Angus Wagu Steer with ear tag number 309. He was part of a mob of young animals grazing the high pasture at Fenlands Station on the East Cape. The wind ran down from mount Hikurangi and chilled the open tops. It was a cold you remember. 309 stood with his winter coat backed up to the chill and stared me down. I was on a reconnaissance to find the right farm and the right farmer for my book. What I found was a beautiful farm, a caring thoughtful farmer and an animal that walked right up to me and dared me to follow him. I returned to that farm every season throughout the rest of 309’s life. I watched the farm turn lush with clover and grass, and grass to chalky dust and sweet hay. 309 grew from a lean doe eyed calf into a 500kg titan – rippled with muscle and as silky and black as coal. On every visit 309 would move out of the crowd to find me – moving up to my camera staring that same stare he caught me with on that cold July day.
Respect. I’ve followed those with the grit, the courage to sacrifice and the willingness to be the one who would step up. I’ve followed those that nurture, tend and rear. And then with a flick of a switch and the draw of a knife, dispatch. I’ve looked into a thousand eyes and seen heart, life and light and felt the warmth of that, then pointed my camera happily at a darkness entering there, an emptiness that arrives in slow motion. Abattoir floors run red and warm. Macabre renderings become inedible and disregarded. Gasping marine life bludgeoned, weighed and the captor awarded A young deer dropped in a glade onto dew soaked grass, the dawn cracked open with gun shot, Neatly trimmed body parts get gastronomic labeling, shipped out to be admired and consumed with gasps of ecstasy and disbelief, that something so delicious could even exist. I’ve happily pointed my camera at a thousand plates stacked high with love, art and imagination, with no thought to the heart, the breath and the ground that that soul covered. I’ve lived a life and never thought to consider that all that makes it makes it so.
It’s slab sided high rising graffiti stained over ordered over catered home baked plastic bag birds nests home less limb less lost looking veteran cup holding sugar coma flag waving war chasing jesus shaking desecrated subjugated wrong footed inward gazing Sir Could you Mam would you mind stepping back a ways so God can bless the U.S of A