South Africa212x18sharp

A high school friend reminded me of an image that was on my old site but not part of this one.  It is a personal favorite and one my Mother has hanging in her house. I used it as part of a blog post back in November, but today I wanted to share the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say.

The image was made in South Africa in 2004.  I was there with mentor Nancy Rotenberg and friends Dee Whittlesey and Ferrell McCollough attending a Freeman Patterson workshop. Freeman has been a major influence from the beginning of my photography journey.  It was Freeman who inspired me with his creative techniques such as multiple exposures and slide sandwiches.  Both techniques were used to create this image.  All this is well and good, but the more important thing is the impact an image can have.  This image is meaningful to me because each time I look at it, I am transported back to this magical moment and reminded of the important life lesson learned.  I was there during a time when my business was not doing well.  I didn’t feel I should go because I could not afford it, but my loving wife demanded I go.  It was a “trip of a lifetime” she said, and “I needed to be there to learn from Freeman.”  I was excited to photograph the flowers in the fields, the “secret waterfall” and other iconic scenes I had seen in Freeman’s books.  And then Freeman said, we would spend a day in Nourivier, a small town of 300 people and 90 homes.  I was disappointed, I had no interest in photographing people in a small desert town, but reluctantly I went.  And then, after spending about an hour with the people, especially the youth, (who giggled at how tall I was) I found myself in tears, sobbing actually.  Nancy asked if I was okay?  I said I think so, but I’m not sure what is going on.  Then on our “free day” later in the week, I had to go back! Yes, at first I didn’t want to go at all, but now I had to go back to understand that was going on. On the return trip, I realized what it was. I was there in this poor town surrounded by people who had nothing. No electricity, no running water, no shoes, tattered clothing, etc,.  And here I was with $20,000 of gear on my back. I was feeling selfish for even thinking I had it bad because my business was floundering.  I had a very nice roof over my head, nice clothes and plenty of food. I had all I needed, but was feeling anxious, stressed, worried, etc. Yet these people wore big smiles and were happy with what they had.  Indeed, I realized I was needy and selfish and ashamed for being so, thus the tears. I was not sad for them, I was sad for m.  It is this lesson I am reminded of, each time I see this image.  

The woman is from Nourivier dancing at sunset on the rocks surrounding her town.  I montaged (put two pieces of film in together in one slide mount) this image with a multiple exposure I made in the fields of flowers making a slide sandwich. This image sums up the essence of my journey to South Africa where I was able to learn from my hero AND from the wonderful people of Nouriver.

I find it interesting that this image resonates with so many other people. Once again this confirms that when we get in touch with our feelings and attach them to our work, we will create images that make our hearts sing!

And for my high school friend Suzanne, the image is now part of the “Others” folio on this site!  🙂

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