earlier this afternoon, just when the sun was ready to sail back home
There is a moment, a split second, when you are with your camera in the streets, and a moment you were hoping for surrenders itself to you. I am referring to that brief time before your subject has a time to react to your lens. I love that magical click that finds the person inside of their essence; a line of connection between you, the lens and the person.
I was walking in an old street in Shanghai with my camera taking in all the sights, smells and noises of the crowded narrow lanes when an unusual sight drew me in. I looked inside a smoky large room packed with rickety tables, chairs, tea pots, and men in hats, so many men in hats. I walked in and after I stopped being looked at as the stranger in the village, I began to be approached by the curious of the gathered men. Each wanted to tell me stories, because this is what we humans do, we carry our his-story with us, in our minds, our hearts, etched on our faces and we long to tell them and to pass them on before we leave, so that parts of us can stay behind and make an indelible mark. I listened and tried my best to comprehend, but the best story this man can tell is written all over his face and I present it to you here in this frozen moment…
Children, no matter what we expect, plan, project and wish for in them, their futures are blank pages as far as we are concerned. We are unable to control what they will become, who they were meant to be and the things they are destined to accomplish. Despite our blindness to the theaters of their future, every action we take can affect them in their vulnerability. One would hope and pray that most of us act wisely.
Have you ever been scrutinized by innocence? Has a child ever looked straight through you, cutting through the layers of your assumed identity to strip you down to the bare truth of who you really are? Children are not yet trained in our adult games of hiding behind borrowed personalities and when they look at us they ‘see’ us.
When a small child looks at me and holds my stare, I can’t help but wonder ‘what’ looks out of those eyes. Unburdened by personality traits and identity, small children can look deep into your soul with a strange kind of knowing, soul to soul.
I must apologize for the delay in posting as I attended a most inspiring event in Denmark for the last week about a template of peace for world youth. I will be posting the past due entries back to back in the next few days to catch up with that as well as with comments
Thank you so much for continuing to comment and view the blog during my intermittent presence.
photo: a little girl in Sihanoukville who is attending the program of the CCPP (Cambodian children’s painting project). I watched her for days as she painted so elegantly and with so much quiet concentration. It was a delightful scene to witness. Projects like this offer such a great opportunity for children to find a better future through art. What a great example for an ‘art that does something’!
Some images print themselves in our minds and on our hearts because they affect us beyond the surface of visual impression. They go deep, they etch a mark on our soul…
If you were to ask me what moment in my journey to Congo was the most haunting, I would say this one when I took this photograph. This child was one of the youngest in the center for demobilized child soldiers. He never spoke, he just stood there and let his eyes that stared without blinking, the scar on his chin and his cloud of melancholy speak for him. His gaze was steady, his look far but near, his mind unreadable. It was a child who spent far too much time in the playground of the lords of war and cruelty.
When the streets of the city are your home, when you are solely responsible for your own safety while other children are tucked safely at home, when your survival is depending entirely on the kindness of others…
These piercing eyes belong to one of the 300, 000 children that call the streets of the cities in Congo their home. “les enfants de la rue” ~ the children of the street, wild eyed, witty, emotionally fragile, hard shelled, untrusting… the sad product of a humanity gone wrong. But still the strength in them and the hope in their eyes could not be missed.
I met these children in a center in Kinshasa that offers them lessons, food, daytime shelter and guidance where needed. They sang to me, drew messages on the blackboard for me to photograph and sang me their national anthem in a most rhythmic excellence which I filmed and will share in a future post.