Double exposures have always fascinated me. There’s a real magic to the overlapping of frames, when negative outlines rendering positive images. While traveling through India this past December I shot twenty some rolls, mostly double exposures, with a tough-ass Nikon FM 2 graciously loaned from a friend. I’m excited and a little nervous to see the results and share them with folks.
In the meantime, while I look for some old negative sleeves, I thought it’d be nice to post an image I made walking around Durham last week. I had just picked up a Canon 5D Mark III and was pleasantly surprised to learn that it could make true in-camera double exposures. As with any new thing, I’ve enjoyed learning the curves and limits of it, both the camera and the technique. It was a nice afternoon spent in a cold drizzle making pictures.
A month’s worth of posts made during a recent trip to India;
At the moment we’re still processing the journey and taking our anti-Malaria pills. There will be more photos, including some actual film, and stories to come. In the meantime here’s a map of the journey;
View India in a larger map
Working at a weekly magazine has dulled my sense of daily deadline urgency. Thankfully election night proved that the thrill is far from gone. Seconds after snapping this photo, around 8:30 PM, I dashed out of the return watch party and into my car. Earlier that morning I had discovered that my driver’s side window no longer rolled up, only down. I love my car dearly, despite it’s age, but I still felt betrayed as the cold wind nipped at my neck on the way over to the Raleigh office to transmit this photo before a 9:00 deadline. This is really late for us, but also way before anyone had a sense of who would be living in the White House for the next four years.
I was at the end of a long day of driving from poll to poll, dragging everything of value out of my car at each stop — car locks are useless without windows. After much consideration, I did leave the Creedence cassettes in the car. From the onset it was clear that we were not going to be able to hold the presses long enough for a photo of the ensuing jubilation or depression that would greet the Big Call on election night. So we thought that the cover, which would be out for a week afterward, should echo everyone’s general sense of, “Holy shit, what an exhausting election. Glad that it’s finally over.” I wondered exactly when that moment might happen, knowing full well that it would probably be the last possible moment before I had to run.
Putting out two different covers, one for Raleigh and one for Durham / Chapel Hill is part of the new ownership mandate for the INDY. Here’s what ran in Raleigh (apologies to the fellow depicted, who is actually a Democrat).
All in all, it was a wonderfully sweet reminder of representative Democracy in action — that irregardless of the outward appearance of each individual streaming out of a polling place, their vote counted just as much as the next person; no more, no less (Electoral College / voter suppression / Swing State science aside). Ahem. Yeah, anyway, like I said, glad it’s all over.
Here’s a wider take from the day:
Back in May I worked on a photo essay about Transplanting Traditions, an educational farm outside Chapel Hill currently training ethnic Karen refugees from Burma in the skills needed to start their own sustainable farm operation. On Sunday, November 11, from 4 – 7pm, there will be a fundraiser with hot cider, Karen folk music, dancing and more to help carry this project through the next calendar year. Please consider attending or making a donation to support this transformative program.
By Victoria Bouloubasis | @thisfeedsme
Jones Ferry Road swoops through Carrboro and curves toward the country, where it isn’t unusual to happen upon farmland tucked among the trees. On a two-and-a-half acre farm, workers wearing straw hats tend the plush rows of produce. At the farm gate, there is a sign written in curly, upward script mimicking the thin, coiling vines of string beans reaching toward the sun.
Yoe Moo and his wife, Paw Kau, who are Karen refugees and farmers, hover over a row of rainbow chard and speak to each other in their lively native tongue. This open, flat field in Orange County is much different from the jungle forests they farmed in Burma and Thailand. Moo digs his knees into the dirt and plucks through the stems with his fingers. Kau arranges magenta, amethyst, coral and yellow stems into bouquets. While the tropical colors resemble hues of flowers and fruits back home, Moo and Kau say they are still getting used to the taste of chard.
Yoe Moo; Burma; mustard greens and cucumber.
*The Karen script beside several of the photos lists the person’s name, birthplace and favorite crop.
It’s an important day for the 14 Karen families at Transplanting Traditions Community Farm; it is the season’s inaugural pickup for their community-supported agriculture business, with more than 20 boxes packed for customers.
“It’s a very strange concept for the farmers, that people are paying for something they haven’t been given yet,” says farm director Kelly Owensby. “But they are so gracious.”
The project, which began last year, is run through the Orange County Partnership for Young Children. It is supported by the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program, a federal grant, on land owned by the Triangle Land Conservancy.
Initially a community garden for low-income families, it attracted many Karen refugee residents who expressed an interest in more space. All were farmers in their native Burma, but there they grew food primarily for their families. Here, they’re selling the fruits of their labor, grown in the stubborn clay soil that requires an extra bit of muscle. They have found a four-season climate that is often unreliable, killing the lemongrass they planted on an unseasonably warm day in February. They begin working in the fields in the late morning after working a third-shift housekeeping job and before going to English-language classes.
Husbands and wives, in-laws and grandchildren: They all work together. They recall the classes they’ve taken to learn how to harvest new crops—kale and varieties of potato—and basic Americanisms, like how to properly hold and eat a hamburger. They’re also planning to grow more Burmese crops in this second year, like bitter gourd and luffa (the stuff of loofah sponges).
One breezy morning, a small group sits cross-legged, eating bowls of rice and fish soup teeming with herbs, including bitter roselle, which is said to aid diabetes. Swirls of pale yellow thanaka, a paste made from bark to protect and nourish the skin, have been dabbed on the women’s cheeks. They greet me with “A me will ee ah?” It’s the way Karen ask how you’re doing, but literally translates to “have you eaten?” I sit and, through Eh Tha Pwee’s interpreting, I learn.
A military junta has ruled Burma (sometimes called Myanmar, though ethnic Karen refer to their home country as Burma) since 1948, after the country gained independence from the British. More than 100 minority ethnic groups, including the Karen people, in the Texas-size nation have been victimized by the military regime’s repression. In 2007, the U.S. began receiving an influx of refugees. According to North Carolina State Refugee Coordinator Marlene Myers, the Burmese have made up the largest percentage of the state’s refugees for the last two years, with 916 new Burmese refugees in 2011. Pwee, who recently started the local nonprofit Karen Community of North Carolina (KCNC), estimates about 400 ethnic Karen families live in Orange County.
Farmer Maw Roeh narrows his dark eyes as he sifts through a mental catalog of painful memories. He recalls witnessing military soldiers shoot his cousin and drag his body away. The government denied it, but gave him the equivalent of a few dollars to keep quiet and to cover—barely—the burial costs.
Roeh’s wife, Paw Pa, remembers the military invading overnight to steal livestock and sacks of freshly harvested rice. Roeh says that every season they had to uproot their paddies in the jungle so the soldiers couldn’t destroy them.
Murder, torture and rape are common in a place stripped of freedom. Refugee camps line the border in Thailand, a terrain recently described in Mother Jones as “land-mine-studded mountains.” Even there, according to Pwee, the rice is rationed and hardly enough for the family. Leaving the camp to buy or grow food was a risk; Thai police were apt to arrest and torture refugees for failing to carry Thai identification.
Kyar Bee; Tamo Yah, Burma; mustard greens, pumpkin and tomatoes
Despite the recent election of a pro-democracy leader to the Burmese parliament, there is an enduring distrust among the refugees. Of those asked if they’d return to Burma under the promise of democracy, all said no. They call North Carolina their “third home,” but, as Pwee says, “a better home.”
“In Burma, I lived in a village. Life is so risky inside a Burmese village,” Pa says. “Here, we can go to any area. We are free.”
Naw Doh Wah and Mandy Moo; Mae La Refugee Camp, Thailand; cucumber, pumpkin and mustard greens
Back in high school I competed in both the long and triple jump. I failed to jump far enough for anything beyond a bronze medal, but I still remember the steps to the latter some 12 years later. Judith Moss never competed in sports when she went to high school, girls weren’t allowed. It wasn’t until after retirement that she competing in track and field. At age 75 she is still limber enough to fling herself into a pit of sand and roll away laughing.
From the moment I saw her using a “blind mule” to plow up the pit I decided that still photos alone would fall short of expressing the radiance she carries. I was on assignment for AARP Bulletin, tasked with making a still portrait of Moss in motion. In between and during set-ups I collected video clips with the hope that I could pitch a short profile in addition to the photographs. Thankfully AARP is staffed with some of the best editors in the world and after two weeks of feedback and edits, Judith Moss could jump online forever.
A three-week old baby, Mia Graci Thompson, was found crying in this patch of tall grass in rural Stark County, Illinois, nearly 11 hours after being reported missing by her mother, Kendra E. Meaker, 19, who falsely claimed the baby was abducted from her car while it was parked outside a nearby post office on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012. “Well the first time it cried, we wasn’t sure if we heard it,” said Russel Van Dran, 68, of Toulon, Illinois, who found the infant while searching ditches and culverts with his wife. “We both said, ‘did you hear that?’ We shut the truck off and then it cried again.” The Van Drans volunteered to help local sheriff, police and fire departments locate the baby after investigators began to suspect that Meaker was lying about the abduction of the infant. She has since been charged with child endangerment and obstruction of justice.
The Backstory: I had just gotten back to my hometown, in nearby Galva, when I heard about this story from my oldest friend, Tyler. Early that night I watched him give his three-week-old baby a bath along with his wife. They were very careful throughout the whole process, in the way that young, first-time parents are. They soothed her with whispers as she cried and laughed as she smiled at the sensation of warm water being poured over her. Then Tyler delicately lifted her out of the tub and dried off her curly red hair. As the details of the search for the baby were later recounted I wondered about the motives of the young mother in the early hours of that day.
It was fairly big news around these parts, so I have heard a lot of theories, with most concluding that she was suffering from some kind of postpartum depression. She had reported the disappearance herself, crafting a paper-thin and fantastical story about the abduction. Once it became apparent that she was the one responsible, she refused to give anymore details that might help authorities find the baby before nightfall. It may never be known exactly what she was thinking, but the story of the massive search along the ditches and culverts in the surrounding area was one that I thought would help me better understand what happend.
County road 700 N. is largely indistinguishable from the thousands of other gravel roads crisscrossing this part of the country. Just another dusty line of white woven between an enormous patchwork of gold and brown fields ready for the harvest. I had carefully read over the news reports for details of the location where the seemingly impossible search came to a happy conclusion. “How many times does a tragic situation like this result with such a positive ending?” said Serif Jimmie Dison after what must of been one of the longest days in his career. A dull red combine lumbered through nearby rows of corn as I rolled along slowly looking for the one notable feature described in all the reports, a small ravine. As soon as I parked the car near Indian Creek my phone rang. It was Mr. Van Dran, the man who had found the baby with his wife. He was returning my earlier call and decided that coming out to meet me would be the best way to show me where the discovery was made.
At this point in my life, many of my friends are welcoming offspring into the world and it’s been wonderful to be in their proximity and to share their joys and anxieties as well as their loving suggestions that I’m next in the Order of Things. My wife and I have certainly shared many conversation about when the best time for a child might be, knowing full well that there will never be a perfect time. After all, it’s a responsibility unlike any other, a drastic change for anyone. Following Mr. Van Dran through the tall grass, he leaned down and pointed to the spot where a young mother had, just a few days before, laid down her child, turned around and driven away.
“She had been there for I don’t know how many hours, but her lung-capacity was strong,” said Mr. Van Dran, looking further up the road at a swirl of dust from an oncoming car. “She cried loud enough so we could hear her.” Once the baby was safe inside his big, clattering, diesel truck, he called the Sheriff and drove up to the corner where he had passed her off to an awaiting ambulance crew. At first Mr. Van Dran seemed skeptical about my reasons for finding the spot. I was on no official assignment for anyone, but by this point he just wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget to mention that there were plenty of volunteers looking for the baby. “We didn’t do it alone,” he added. It certainly does take a village.