Not Overheard in New York

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I always thought that conversations overheard in NYC were interesting, but they’re nothin’ compared to what people say to you abroad. Locals truly say the darndest things while you’re on the road, so as proof, I decided to write a few of them down. And yes, all of these conversations took place word for word.

 

Not Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

My coworker, while in the car with us, listening to a song on the radio:

“What is this song about?”

Abraham, our driver: “The internet. How fast it is.”

(Silence as he listens intently.)

“It’s the fastest 3G network!”

 

Role Models

Random man who came up to us while on the beach:

“I’m a good Muslim. I don’t do anything bad. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. But I do do Bob Marley.

 

He was stoned.

 

Birds? Naw.

A man who took a fancy to me and wanted to take me out in Africa:

“Let’s go out and play some pool at a real club.”

Me:
“Um…that’s very kind of you, but I work every day, all day, so I’m not really free…”

Him:

“Tomorrow I’m free like a bat flying everywhere.”

 

Taylor Swift Might Disagree

From a Moroccan:

“Kanye West is the BEST!”

 

Commitment

From a suitor:

“You don’t like smoke?”

Me, coughing:
“No,  I don’t.”

Him:

“I will quit smoking for you.”

 

No More Lipitor

Me, to a local after seeing a giant, 2-food-long animal scurry past:

“Uh…what was that?”

Local-turned-suitor:

“Rat. We eat it here to lower blood pressure.”

 

Breaking the Rules 

TSA in Africa:

“This bug spray is over 2 ounces.”

Friend:

“Yes, but there are so many mosquitoes here I need it.”

TSA man:
“That makes sense. You can take it.”

 

We’re Not In ‘Murica No More

Any man to me:

“You look so good.”

 

 He Wasn’t Concentrating on the Rules

TSA in Gambia:

“You had a nice visit?”

Me, nervous about him seeing that I brought water in my water bottle, but knowing anything I buy will be lukewarmer:

“Yes, I had a wonderful time!”
TSA agent:

“Can I join you for a drink later?”

 

 

Well, it certainly appears that people do things a li’l differently over here. I’ve had some more adventures since my trip to Africa, but that doesn’t mean I’ve run out of photos! Here are a few more from Morocco and The Gambia to tickle your funny bone(s).

Working as an NGO Photographer in Africa [and How to Not Contract Ebola]

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There are few things I love more than traveling, photographing remote areas of the world, helping others, and not contracting Ebola. Luckily I was able to fulfill all four of those dreams on my recent work trip as a travel photographer to Africa.

I was able to spend my time getting sunburned in a couple of African countries, but my work was all done in The Gambia. It’s a small sliver of a country that’s smaller than the state of Connecticut. The Gambia is sandwiched smack in the middle of Senegal and rhymes with Zambia, but has a pretentious official article in front.

I worked for Penny Appeal, a UK-based nonprofit operating in more than 30 countries around the world. They provide emergency relief, house and educate orphans, build wells, and more. They have dozens of locals working in their own villages. They’re awesome people. They also happen to be a British Muslim organization.

While many I know have issues with this religion and way of life, I felt fine 99% of the time. Seeing little kids memorize the Qur’an doesn’t really make sense to me, but then again, I’m no Muslim. Yes, I am a pretty devout Christian—or spiritual, as might be more appropriate—but I saw no reason not to work with these folks. While I find many of their practices odd and limiting—and oftentimes sexist—I’m quite sure they feel similarly confused about me. Given this particular group’s comments on my clothing (I wore proper attire while working in the field, of course, but shorts when at the “resort”—like the men and holiday-goers), they likely think that females wearing shorts are a sign of physical and moral indecency. But we talked about these issues quite a bit, and I did my best to learn as much as I could. Besides, I’m friends with Muslims in several different countries around the world, and know that just like Jews, Catholics, Christians, and virtually every other religion, interpretations of religion and practices vary widely.

But why does any of this matter? It doesn’t, unless you’re stuck in times of the past or choose to group everyone of a religion into one category. What matters is that these were the nicest, most delightful folks I’ve worked with, and if I can participate in helping orphans, villagers, and needy people, why shouldn’t I—whether I agree with the religion or not? The group does wonderful work, and they’re great people, so I was delighted to work with them for the first of what I hope is many times. I now consider many of them my good friends–they were that awesome.

While photographing the poverty, well projects, orphans, school systems, and more in West Africa, I heard about quite a few ways to not contract Ebola. Tips include:

– Don’t shake hands, as this spreads germs. || In certain villages—or when meeting entire orphanages, we’d shake hands with 40 different kids and adults in the span of just a few minutes.

– Don’t make out with the locals or foreigners while in West Africa. || Though many tried getting me to stay (I was married off over half a dozen times, but I don’t think any of the marriages stuck), I avoided official wedlock—and therefore did not kiss anyone while there.

– Resist making out with any water buffalo. || I already made this mistake somewhere in Asia*, hence why I came back sick years ago.   *This is not actually true.

– Don’t go to West Africa. || Whoops.

– Avoid contacts with bats and nonhuman primates, as well as their raw meat. || I really wish someone had told me this before I ate all that ape. But seriously, they eat rat in The Gambia (huge, HUGE rats), because it apparently helps lower blood pressure. No, that’s not really related.

– Don’t be a doctor treating patients in West Africa. || Shirley you can’t be serious.

Now that you know how to stay Ebola free, I’ve included some non-Ebola photos from my trip. Check back soon for another update, where I’ll be ranting about husbands in Gambia, Moroccan tea, and so much more.

 

Exciting News, Coming Up Eventually!

Exciting news!

Before I break into the bit where I don’t actually tell you what the news is,  here are some photos of fall. Or are they?? Perhaps they’re photos of another season entirely, and somewhere else, too. Take a guess at where and when they are—details are in each photo caption.

 

Fall really is beautiful around here, and I’m glad I’ve been feeling pretty well and was able to go out and enjoy some hikes. Speaking of feeling well, my exciting news involves my first international trip in years. I am super excited to be going somewhere—finally—and am looking forward to bringing some great photos back. It’ll be a short li’l work diddy, so don’t get all worried now. Except for Ebola. You can worry about that.

I’ll be back with the details soon…ish.

Weddings, Waterfalls, and One More Alliteration

A favorite of my wedding photos from Marina Del Rey, Bronx, NY. Shot with Jimmy Ryan Photography.

A favorite of my wedding photos from Marina Del Rey, Bronx, NY

Well, I suppose wacky is what I might call the recent chain of events and situations. Perhaps I should have thought of that descriptor back when I wrote the title, but it’s far too late now.

For the past month I’ve been busy almost every week and weekend with weddings, wildlife, and otherwise slightly wacky events. I combined some of my wedding trips so I could see waterfalls, like this out-of-the-way beauty in the Delaware Water Gap.

Pennsylvania waterfalls are beautiful even in the rain

Pennsylvania waterfalls are beautiful even in the rain

From the You Know You’re in Pennsylvania When… signs (you’ll see one in just a minute) to odd nature, nothing compared to the premier of Art and Craft, a fascinating documentary about Mark Landis. For those of you unfamiliar with this art forger, Art and Craft—whether you care for art or not—will interest you as it details how Landis created his copied masterpieces—and how he eventually (and slowly) got caught. After duping dozens and dozens of museum curators across the country, he was eventually discovered–but not until the FBI had heard about him first. This talented and extremely smart (though delusional) man faked names, faked art, and even faked being a priest.

But while I tried to blend into the background as the photographer for the movie premier, Landis actually walked over to me and introduced himself. He said he wanted to meet me because he had studied photography in school, but then never found anything he wanted to photograph. Yes, he uses this line in the film. And as I stood next to him throughout the night, it appeared he had his act under control. Sure, he’s fascinating to be around, and yes, I believe he’s fully aware of how odd he appears to everyone else—and likes it that way. His slow stuttering and drawl remind you of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote. It’s hard to listen to and slightly disarming—but I believe Mr. Landis loves putting people off while making them all jealous of his notoriety. A wonderful film it was for sure, though photographing this deathly pale man was no easy feat! For once I was not the whitest person in the room. Below, one of my favorite shots is this slightly disturbing reflective portrait I took of Mr. Landis in Lincoln Center.

A portrait of Art and Craft's Mark Landis

A portrait of Art and Craft’s Mark Landis

Aside from movie premiers, the past month was full of weddings—and there are more to come! While I never imagined I’d be photographing so many weddings around the Northeast, I do love using creative lighting and angles to make the most of the scenery and subjects. Oh, and the food ain’t bad, either! Except wedding cake. Wedding cake is always bad. Always. Don’t tell me, “Oh, but my wedding cake was different. It was done by a local baker and I did lots of taste tests everywhere and this was the best.”

It was bad. I’m 100% positive of this statement. But here are some wedding photos I love from the past few weeks. Let them make your heart grow a little less hatred.

When I haven’t been photographing weddings or movie premiers, I’ve been attending weddings. Here’s an awesome sign I saw while driving to one in Pennsyltucky.

You Know You're in Pennsylvania When...

You Know You’re in Pennsylvania When…

As summer came to an end, I spent as much time as possible outdoors photographing. From waterfalls and birds (see the blue heron below!) to strange growths, green lakes, and newts, I thoroughly enjoyed our not-too-hot New York summer as much as possible. I’m still hoping for that end-of-year adventure, so we’ll see if one comes about. Until then, it’s all about weddings, waterfalls, and whatever little surprises come along.

Note: Several of these wedding photos were shot with Jimmy Ryan Photography. All other wedding, nature, and event photos were shot under my own company, Kathryn Cooper Photography.