I’m in Nicaragua! And…

…I have no time! No time, and very little internet, and (as usual) no desire to spend my time here online. But I’ve been taking notes and PROMISE a real entry soon.

In the meantime, here’s an absolutely adorable photo of two sisters in Nicaragua who hugged each other for a photo I shot for a nonprofit. Too darn cute!

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On This Day (A Look Back)

I thought it would be interesting to go back in time, little by little, and see how the past few years have been when looking back. It’s always so fun slash bittersweet when Facebook pops up your “On This Day” memory and it’s something that makes you smile, get hungry, or have gas. Well, I thought, what if I look back on this exact date and see what I was doing all those months and years ago?

Mistake #1: If you decide to do this, don’t pick a date in between the 28th and the 31st. There are quite a few months without 31 in them, and this caused for worldwide chaos and confusion. Not to be stymied, I just chose a photo from the last day of that particular corresponding month. Leap years cannot be accounted for. And yes, I actually did a search schlep through several hard drives and chats to find these.

Mitake #2: Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve never made more than one mistake in my life.

So here goes a rough date map of what I was doing on this day throughout my recent life.

 

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1 month ago (7/31/16): Doing set photography for a short comedy starring Jennifer Westfeldt and Noah Bean. I happen to know the writer and director very, very well.

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2 months ago (6/30/16): Running over lava to see the new flow (61G) the night it “opened” in Kalapana, Big Island, Hawaii. So incredibly worth it.

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3 months ago (5/31/16): I had some fuzzy photo someone took of a Vietnamese rice wrapper wrap I made. I think this day is what started my current addiction.

4 months ago (4/30/16): Editing photos, otherwise known as sitting and staring at a computer for days on end.

5 months ago (3/31/16): In the Caribbean taking a morning snorkel before work starts.

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6 months ago (02/29/16): In Argentina spotting wild ostriches (actually rheas, similar to the ostrich and emu).

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1 year ago (08/31/15): In Indonesia, exploring rice fields.

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2 years ago (08/31/14): In bed feeling queasy after eating too much at my friend’s rooftop party in Harlem. Still sick.

3 years ago (08/31/13): Laying sick in bed. I think I even quit dreaming of food at this point, which tells you how sick I was.

4 years ago (08/31/12): Sick in bed with mono, soon to be actually diagnosed as Return of the Lyme.

5 years ago (08/31/11): Diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Oh, the joys that are about to come!

8 years ago (08/31/08): Recovering in Brooklyn from the previous night’s falafel eating contest. I did not place, though I finished my plate in not last place. Coincidentally, my display of passion for food is also how I landed my first food photography gig.

10 years ago (08/31/06): Wondering what the heck I should do with my life. Heck, I’m still wondering that. I think I was on a hike in the Northeast with my fam.

Decades ago (08/31/??): My parents are pregretting having me.

Centuries ago: We can surmise, but why? We all know that Christopher Columbus was a hero.

All right, I’m drained, not feeling great (yeah, I get sick again every once in a while but luckily only feel nausea today), and have more editing to do. The good news is that September starts tomorrow, and though I’ve been enjoying summer, this coming month is going to be very exciting and full of work and travel. So here goes!

 

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.

 

Hidden Signs in Photos

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An In-Depth Look at What’s Lurking in the Background of Your Photos

Do you ever get home, look at your photos for the first time on a large computer screen, and then notice details you never before saw? What’s that in the background? What is he motioning? How could she be…OH my GO–! I know I see odd things upon closer inspection, and I wanted to clue you in on exactly what I found. Throughout my thousands of photos taken throughout 9 different countries in 2012, you can imagine that photobombs were so tame in the scheme of things, they didn’t even make the cut. 

Let’s start off with a fairly normal photo (and you can read through and then click to enlarge the photos, running through a slideshow all at once) so you can be as shocked and awed as I was. 

Take a look here (below). Can’t see much except a sand hill, right? Wrong, naturally. 

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Let’s look closer (below):

Yeah, weird…I didn’t know Mr. Revere was even still alive! Or that he visited India! So honored though.

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Let’s take a glance at a new photo (below) from Nepal:

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Big whoop, you say. A guy is asking for directions. But look closer now (below).

Holy eep, man

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And this was one of the small riots, too. Naturally someone was killed here later that afternoon, but I was safe and long gone by that time.

Okay okay, let’s get a bit more light-hearted. Here’s a photo I took of the incredible mountains of Thailand (below):

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And now, with the details you missed or perhaps weren’t even aware of!

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Oh, that’s…hmm. Maybe not so light-hearted.

You get the idea now. Since I know you’ve caught on, I’ll only include just the labeled photos for your viewing convenience. And because you’re probably still wondering about this post’s photo header (you weren’t), here’s the “background” on that one (below) too:

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Thanks for warmly welcoming me to India, ma’am.

Here’s a guy who went out of his way to welcome me to India (below):

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Thank you. I know I’m laughing in the photo but I was so, so frightened. Trauma? You bet your bottom dollar!
Moving on to a treasure hunt in Singapore (below):
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And now back to a sign in the mountains of Nepal (below):
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Oops.
Oh, you’ll like this one. Rad motorcycle tricks by a student of mine and his bro in India, bro (below)!
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And another typical scene from my second Indian apartment’s front yard (below):
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Just commenting, people, not judging. Calm down.
Nothing odd about this one, actually (below):
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And while we’re on the animal theme…here I am in northern Nepal (below):
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I, too, am saddened by this photo. And I thought being called a pig was an upgrade over heifer.
Last but not least, here I am during a huge conference of ours in India. I didn’t know what I was getting into when asked to pose for a photo (below).
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Needless to say, I had to weed guys out and only ended up with 4 of ’em.
So I urge you, citizens of the world…go back through your photos. Look closely, examine, and see what’s under the surface. I’m sure you’ll be dismayed at your findings; I certainly was. Enjoy!
Coop