Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Back to the Roots

It’s been a while and for good reason.  Don’t think I haven’t thought about the dereliction of this blog.  I’ve opened the blog, checked and rechecked the blog analytics, worried as I watched the numbers drop and drop and drop.  The neglect was a necessary reminder.  A reminder that this is mine, my creation.  For too long I’ve posted what I thought people would want to see and read.  This lapse has been refreshing.  
My silence doesn’t imply I’ve been dormant or lazy, on the contrary, this has been some of the most productive time I’ve spent in Lesotho.  There are several projects on the horizon, which I’ll talk about in a moment.  
My focus remains the same, documenting life in Lesotho candidly and honestly.  I want my photographs to tell a story, to answer questions, to break barriers, to intrigue, and hopefully to inspire others to serve our beautiful world.  
Somewhere along the way, as it often happens, I veered.  I began following a detour from my original intentions of this blog.  
The numbers began to matter more than the actual content.  My thinking changed from “what do I want to share to the world with this blog post” to “I wonder how many page views this particular blog post will generate?”  The answer to the second question is a lot but I wasn’t happy with this new direction.  
I used to take a lot of photos of things I found interesting.  Being a naturally curious person, this meant I took a lot of photos (thank God for digital cameras).  But something went wrong along the way.  I found myself bringing my camera with me less and less.  
My thinking transitioned into a “if a photo isn’t worth being shared, it isn’t worth taking”.  It got to the point where I would hesitate to snap the shutter, then to lift the camera up to my eye, and eventually to bring it with me at all.  I stopped bringing my camera with me everywhere.  
But creative images are all around.  It is the photographers job to turn the mundane into a story.  I was passing up opportunities to improve my craft and to share stories.  
Some of my favorite photos are ones which were taken on my walk home from school.  That 15 minute jaunt through the corn fields and across two ravines has become so familiar with me that I honestly think I could make it with a blindfold on.  But every day is a little different because every moment is different.  Instead of capitalizing on the opportunities that a new day affords, I was blowing it off as just another day, just another walk to school, just another trip to town.  
I won’t be in Africa forever and I don’t want to leave Lesotho with photographic regrets or missed opportunities.  Instead of falling into the routine of life I want to embrace the differences that each day brings and capture those moments with my camera.  
This is what Paul meant when he wrote Colossians 3:23 which says “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  Or in the words of the Lebanese writer Najwa Zebian, “Whatever you do, do it with purpose.”  Even Walt Disney weighed in on this point when he said “Whatever you do, do it well.”  In other words, work hard for what you believe in, be it a noble cause.  
This brings me back to those projects I talked about earlier.  Recently I had the opportunity to do some scouting work with Eric and his colleague Andre.  They are finalizing plans to escort the humanitarian photographer David duChemin through the highlands of Lesotho with the aim of creating a book.  I’ve been following David’s work for about a year and all I can say is I really like everything he does.  

With the help of Eric’s coworker ’M’e Mamacue, we travelled through the Khubelu region of Mokhotlong.  While the main purpose was to scout out photo opportunities, we took quite a few photos as well.  It was an incredible experience.   
I’ve worked with the wonderful child malnutrition organization in Mokhotlong town, Touching Tiny Lives Foundation (TTL) in the past HERE but I finally got to travel with them on an outreach project.  Their outreach team travels to remote areas in the Mokhotlong district with the purpose of teaching nutrition classes to mothers, checking on malnourished infants, and spreading food aid to those most in need.  They have a wonderful team and it was amazing to work with them.  We will team up several more times in the coming months and I’m excited to continue working with them.  You can find out more information about TTL HERE.
In the meantime, I’m spending the winter break with my lovely girlfriend Melinda, my Fuji just passed 20 thousand shutter actuations, and my life is wonderfully fulfilling.  
Thanks for reading.


- Joel


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  3. Joel...once again, really enjoyed the blog, your heart and the photos!

    1. Thanks Kristina, glad you enjoyed it. I always appreciate your feedback.