We are all so different, yet we are really all the same. We find different clubs to fit in, to find belonging and solidarity in our own journey in life, but do these "clubs," religion, race, political affiliation, socioeconomic status or lack thereof, heritage, nationality, gender, separate us sometimes more than unite us.
Having traveled extensively as a young girl to third world countries, growing up in a world where I went to a private school, simultaneously also hearing discussions between my parents on how they were going to make ends meet, I have a perspective where I experienced the two extremes of privilege and lack of in a way. I was afforded the luxury of trying every musical private lesson in my search for "my gift." I found my gift, but it wasn't music... you guessed it, after years of searching, I found photography.
I find it interesting how we forget our humanity in the midst of our living... our shared humanity, our interconnectedness. Maybe it's the frenetic way we push through our days, to keep up with the demands of family, work, children, health.
I am trying to write an introduction, to tell you why I have set out on this mission to tells people's stories. To re-humanize one another in a day and age where information is plenteous and also lacking the connection that has gotten lost in the age of online life. It's as if we've heard of so many shootings, rapes, wars, poverty, struggling businesses, lost youth, fragmented homes and families, those living as refugees and orphans on such a continual play through media that we've forgotten that these are people. These are people with feelings and hopes and dreams and pain and disappointment just like you and me. Individuals who have people that love them but we often can't protect or save each other, and this is the rub. This is where I wonder, is this the place where we slowly disconnect with the reality of human life because we can't be savior, we can't stop evil so maybe it's easier to assume it's just the way things are for "them." This is a murky place to stay because pain and dreams, tragedy and blessings are no respecter of persons, none are immune and all are worthy of the blessings part.
Back to how I found photography...
When I was fourteen I traveled to Thailand on a Medical Mission Trip with my mom and a team of doctors with the purpose of setting up medical clinics throughout rural villages. It was an incredible experience, and one I would not quickly forget. One particular clinic day, I had been working all day to help hand out prescriptions, we had been in country for at least a week so I was pretty comfortable with the cultural differences and aware to be respectful of the specific actions not held in the US. (Crossing your legs at the knees was as disrespectful as flipping someone off!) There were a couple of kids peering through the open window. They were trying to catch my attention and when they did I snuck off wanting to play. Hitting the language barrier, I pulled out my cheap 110 mm film camera, and starting interacting by taking photos of them, it quickly broke the ice, we were all laughing and led to an afternoon of playing. It was some of the most fun I had on the entire trip and when I got home and saw that the photos were actually good, I thought, maybe photography is what I've been looking for all this time.
In hind sight, I see so clearly how neither language nor heritage, can impede connection when we are truly showing up for it. That day, I connected with children of vastly different backgrounds, with no way to verbally communicate and yet we laughed and played for hours. Art was even created from our time together in those first photographs I had taken to break the ice. Conversely we can also often fall into the other extreme as well... Those who don't have "outward sufferings" are not immune from the humanity of life either. As if prosperous investments, full calendars can immunize against pain and disappointment and heartbreak. My mom use to always tell me “the grass is always greener…” when I found myself thinking someone else had it easier than I did. Because she knew the truth that grounded me, in so many ways she grounded me, in my love for connection and enjoying life with people of all walks of life. These are not trite sayings, this grounding was the foundation for my work and the most meaningful parts of my life, as well as those that I get to photograph for my clients, images that touch the soul, long after the season has past.
With my work I interact with such varied groups of society, and because of my work being so intimate with portraits, I am privileged to get to connect with those in front of my camera as people, as a human and heart that has expression beyond paper, to feel another person and their loves and values is a gift. And these interactions have shown me that we aren't the clubs we are a part of so much as we are a human, a heart, living an experience in this world much deeper than our social media accounts and on paper lives reflect. Connection as I see it, is the greatest gift we can give and share with one another, it is where humanity and love blossom and find a meaning deeper than our dreams could convey.
I welcome you on this journey with me and pray you open not just your eyes to these beautiful people, but your heart and allow for a sharing of connection with each of them. And maybe find and feel something of yourself in their story. My hope is that we will all be better for having one another to share life with.
**Unfortunately my beloved Thailand photographs told about above are still to be recovered... these photographs are from a recent trip to Uganda, Africa.