Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Power Behind the Lens.

[taken outside the boys' home]

What is the cost? And, is it worth it?

I think we need to ask ourselves this about every part of life. Sometimes, we may do it and not even realize or notice.

There was an opportunity for an amazing photo yesterday. It was a moment where we all looked at each other and let out a creative sigh.

An older woman, maybe 85 years old, was inside the boys' home at Casa Bernabe, an orphanage in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. She was posed so perfectly and with so much life on her face through every wrinkle. (This moment was extra important because I LOVE photographing old people). Her arms were folded on top of one another and her head sank into the crevice of her right elbow. The building was dark, but the doorway gave enough light to leave a glow on her face. I asked the woman if I could take her picture and she responded, "no." Then, I asked John, our translator we've had for interviews, to ask her for me. Her response was still, "no." At that moment, you have to make a choice. It would have been super easy to pull a quick move and shoot from the hip, or pop on a sniper lens and get her at 200mm.

What is the cost? And, is it worth it?

Through my own convictions, I believe that taking or using a photo against someone's will is wrong. To me, it isn't worth it.

There is a lot of power behind a lens. Power to exploit, power to manipulate, power to misrepresent, and power to misuse.

There is also another kind of power. Power to inspire, power to influence, power to educate, power to liberate, power to encourage, and power to convey truth.

Puerto Cabezas::Meet Merary.

Merary is a Princess.

She is a ten year-old at Casa Bernabe, the only orphanage on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, which is also over 20 years old.

Her presence is sweet and her smile is absolutely precious.

Tonight we had dinner with the kids from the orphanage and I saw little Merary sitting at a table by herself. I sat down with her and began speaking my Portanol (Portuguese/Spanish). She told me about school and how she likes all subjects. Merary seems like the type who definitely gets great grades and behaves well. I asked her how long she has been at the orphanage and she answered, in English, "Christmas."

Merary has been at Casa Bernabe for 6 months. I asked her if she had siblings and she said that she is one of five. Then, she proceeded to ask me how to say "2 brothers and 2 sisters" in English. Merary is the oldest and the others are from 8 to 2 years old.

Next, I asked her if she had a mother and a father. Merary said "yes," and then got quiet. She told me that her mother is sick and then put her hands over her eyes. The little girl began to just weep. I picked her up off of her chair and put her on my lap. It was one of the hugs where you could feel her pain. The power went out at the same time, as it does frequently in third world countries, and I found that quite metaphorically fitting. Merary sat in my lap, for a good 5 minutes, just crying over her family.

This child, who was full of giggles a few minutes earlier, has a story.

We prayed, and I told her that she is the strongest Princess I know. Merary then told me that she misses her family, but that God has brought her to Casa Bernabe for a chance at life. We then continued chatting and eating our chicken and rice in the dark.

Casa Bernabe isn't your typical "orphanage." It is giving opportunities for education and growth to children who would otherwise not have a chance.

We got the opportunity to interview Dr. Byron today, he is one of the many children to have taken the opportunity and succeed in life. Now, he is a doctor and serving his community. He works day in and day out at the clinics helping his people.

Merary will succeed.

And, remember, everyone has a story.


Monday, June 27, 2011

La Chureca, from the window.

Today was dump day.

I woke up at 4am to the sound of pounding rain. I fell back asleep while praying that the rain would stop, at least for a bit, so that we could get all of our shots in. (Tomorrow we will be leaving Managua.) Then, I woke up at 5am, got my Insanity workout in, and saw the clouds completely open.

We left at 7am, all packed up, in two cars; one with equipment, THANK YOU to Kevin Kubota, and one with the chicas! There were a lot of shots on the list today that needed to be discretely taken from the car window. It is always a challenge to shoot from a moving vehicle, especially on dirt roads that are wiped out by the rain every day. Trying to achieve a steady shot, on this bumpy bumpy bumpy road is difficult....but, these photos will give you a pretty good idea of La Chureca.

Anna was a doll today. She acted again for us as our story unfolded and did amazing. We had SO MUCH FUN playing with her all day-(she came back with us to the Villa). The rain held off, for actually all day, and we got everything we needed at the dump in less than two hours. INCREDIBLE. We finished up our portraits and interviews this afternoon and called it a WRAP at Villa Esperanza. We are nerding out right now with some homemade passion fruit juice. Thank you Ben Edwards for all of your editing advice-most of these photos are edited based on a preset of Ben's! He's AMAZING! Definately take a second to check out his updates as well.

Wake up call tomorrow is 3am :) I think we might be on a tiny plane-eeek.

[driving into the dump area]

[the start of the trash with people going in to collect]

[little Anna Banana, I made up a song for her today and it totally stuck-we've been singing it for her all day :)]

[man in his home-shot from the car]

[men (fathers and sons) climbing up the garbage hill with their sticks and garbage bags]

[a family that arrived and started rummaging]


[spontaneous combustion]

[such a metaphor]

[father and sons]

[there were needles and other medical products everywhere]

[La Chureca]

[one of Brittney's brothers]

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Villa Esperanza.

The rain let up for quite a while today, which led to a few interviews with the girls and Gloria and Wilbert, the directors/founders of Villa Esperanza. Gloria and Wilbert are an encouraging couple. wow. They are completely in favor of the girls and wish that they would grow as their very own daughter would. They sacrifice everything for these girls...and LOVE it.

After our morning of interviews they brought us to a cafe and we just chatted about life, history, and more detailed stories of the girls at the Villa. There is actually one precious girl that used to live at the Villa but has recently gone back, to the dump, to be with her mom. We ran into her the other day and Gloria spoke with her. We asked Gloria about the conversation and she informed us that because of pressure from her mother, the young will won't return. This girl is 14 and at a crucial point in her life. Her 16 year old sister already has one child and is pregnant with her second.

Villa Esperanza has only lost 3 girls over their existence, which is remarkable considering that the girls are all here voluntarily and with their guardian's consent.

We also ventured out into Managua today to get some b-roll of the city itself. Tomorrow, we are spending the whole day back at the dump, and will be working really hard to complete our shot list. It is crazy how the atmospheres shift from one place to another. There is such a blanket of peace upon Villa Esperanza. In the dump, it is like you can feel the presence of heartache and evil around you, which is why the Villa is so truly important.

[zip line, can you see the man?]


[playing with the macro]

[this little one, Brittney, was grounded today and had to stay back from going to the movies; therefore, in the midst of her chores, we had a mini shoot :)]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Nicaragua::La Chureca

Two days ago, I left at 4:20am to embark on a trip to Managua and Puerto Cabeza, Nicaragua. I'm working with Beth Fischer and Ben Edwards to create a few pieces, with both photography and video, for Forward Edge. (Check out Ben's blog for updates and to see his RAD work, and check out Forward Edge to see their AMAZING work)

Yesterday, we had our first visit to La Chureca, the dump, in Managua, Nicaragua. It was incredibly heart breaking. As we drove into the dump area, there was a woman, dressed as a prostitute might, with heavy makeup, on the side of the road, and walking while huffing glue. Getting closer, you see the massive mound of garbage, which is said to be only 15% of what it used to be. The smell was unreal; nasty burning and sewage mixed and blended to make your nose cringe. I've seen a lot, and this is definitely something new for me. Large trucks were weaving in and out as little boys played soccer at the base of the trash "mountain." Men were out picking through trash or in their homes while drunk, high, or hiding behind sins of rape and molestation. And, children were heard laughing and giggling through the community, most likely as a result to huffing.

This community, La Chureca, lives lives dependent on trash-very surreal to our American society. The trash amount has dwindled 85% (The Spanish government has invested money to initiate a recycling plan), meaning that the same 2,000 people are now trying to live off of only 15% of what they initially had access to. Therefore, the poor girls are selling their worth as a chance to survive. It is super sad to see.

Villa Esperanza is home to 23 girls, ages 7-18, and seeking to house even more. Villa Esperanza is an incredible family that is bringing hope to girls who would otherwise have a future of huffing, addiction, prostitution, molestation, rape, pregnancy, and possibly death. The girls here are striking. There is a spirit of love, hope, and success upon them. The girls have guardians, who care intensely for them, and resources to flourish in life. Not only does Villa Esperanza work with the girls, but they work with the families of the girls as well. Just last night, there was a birthday party for two of the girls, and their families attended as well. Also, it was actually a few of the girls who took us to the dump and showed us their homes. There is so much grace in the relationship between Villa Esperanza and La Chureca.

We are here, in Nicaragua, during the rainy season. Today it actually rained non-stop. The rain is completely terrible for so many reasons; the equipment gets wet and can rust, the rain on the roof is RIDICULOUSLY loud for audio interviews, the scenery is quite dreary, etc. BUT, the blessing of the rain has been that we have so much time to NERD OUT. It has been a non-stop Lightroom/Photoshop tutorial session. Thank you BEN EDWARDS. And, usually on trips, there is rarely time to just sit, conceptualize, plan, edit, read, write, and just be intentionally relational. We've had many great interviews and photo sessions so far, I can't wait to see what the rest of the week holds!

[shot from the car on the way to a girl's "house"]

[Ben and Bob setting up for a portrait sesh with Anna]

[boy running up the hill in front of the most disgusting body of water I have ever seen]

[a typical jar of glue to huff from]

[shot from the car while leaving La Chureca]

[a girl from Villa Esperanza spending time with her little sissy, who still lives in the dump]

[small glimpse of life]

[as we entered an area where one of the girls is from, we were told to just step over the drunk man in the entry way]

[Anna, one of the girl's sisters, is our actress/model for one of the promotional pieces for Villa Esperanza-hopefully one day she will be at the Villa as well!]

[the "sidewalk" next to one the the homes we visited]

[before we started any shooting, there was visiting done with the families and friends-something we can definitely learn from]

[such a little girl playing away :)]

[home-Anna's front porch]


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