Temple incense

mbfitzmahan. Temple Incense – Boys and old man. Osu Kannon Temple, Nagoya – Japan. 2012.  Framed: 18 x 18 in.

Giving off aromas of deep green woods, a massive bronze incense burner is central to the Japanese temple.

A wayfarer embraces the smoke.  Clinging to the remains of the sandalwood, he applies the wood scent to his hands, hair, and clothes.

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Standing on the shoulders of Giants

mbfitzmahan. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. Pittsburg, CA. 2015. Framed: 18 x 18.

Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This rather modest and self deprecating statement, is an admission that all that we know and all that we achieve is only possible because of the hard work of those humans who did the work before us.

Now it is our turn. To journey, to seek. To find truth. To make great art. To make a better world than the one we inherited.

It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

We are the shoulders from which the next generations will launch.

If we do not contribute to human knowledge. If we do not bring woman-kind closer to world peace. If we do not come closer to making a sustainable use of the world’s resources.

We will be forgotten. Or worse, we will be held responsible. We will be condemned.

Roma women and children

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mbfitzmahan. Roma Family. Romania. 2006

In October 2006, I traveled to rural Romania, to volunteer at a nonprofit orphanage in Romania.

One evening, I took this photo of Roma mothers and their children.  The women had been raped, abandoned, and left with babies.   The orphanage built a home on their property, giving these women basic housing and food.  The families lived together in one small house –  a modest existence, but they were safe from the poverty and horrors of the city.

Hours after I took this photo, in the deep night, this house burned to the ground.  All the families got out.  But, homeless again.  Just before the harsh winter.

 

Roma child

mbfitzmahan. Roma Child. Evora, Portugal. 2008 (black & white photograph.  framed: 16 x 16 in)

Just a little girl.  Barefoot.  Wearing a torn white shift.  An enigma – poor and lost.  Is she cold?   Where did she come from? Where is her mother?

These are questions that could be applied to all Roma people. Where do they come from? Where do they live?  Who cares for them?

I took this photo during a visit to a sleepy little town in Portugal. Very quiet. No tourists.

Roma music plays an important role in many European countries. The Gypsy Kings, a popular group of salsa singers from Arles and Montpellier (in the south of France), were mostly gitanos, Berber-Moroccan and Spanish gypsies who fled Catalonia during the 1930s Spanish Civil War.

Roma are also associated with a romanticized idea of their mystical powers and passionate temper. Fortune telling grows out of folklore associated with Renaissance magic, closely associated with the Roma.

As of 2013, with a population of 12 a 13 million people, the Roma people were the largest minority group in a Europe. Communicative Methodology of Research and Recognition of Roma People

The Roma generally are reticent to assimilate with local cultures.  Refusing to educate their children in national schools, suspicious of  local and national laws, and following their own singular customs, have made these people a pariah in many countries.  Associated with chronic poverty and criminal behavior, the Roma people often suffer persecution, prosecution, and mistreatment.

In the 1940s, the Nazis tried to exterminate the Roma people in a process known in Romani as the Porajmos. 1,500,000 men, women, and children were  killed.  Later, the Soviets conducted a universal sterilization of Roma women.  Today, post Soviet Eastern Europe is rife with discrimination and persecution of the Roma people.

The Italians don’t know what to do with the 150, 000 Roma people that crowd their streets begging from visiting tourists.  “With the addition of Eastern European states such as Romania into the European Union, Italy has seen an influx of Roma people in the past decade. The attitude towards the Roma people is for the most part hostile, accusing them of opting for crime over a legitimate job and isolating themselves from Italian society (and taxes) by living in illegal camps. One survey in 2008 found that 68 percent of people in Italy wanted all Roma expelled from the country. ” (The Roma People and the Italians: A Strained Relationship)

Sierra Leone 2003

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mbfitzmahan. Gold earrings. Sierra Leone, 2003.

This young girl picked ground nuts.

She smiled shyly as I took her photo.  I was happy to see smiles amongst all the tears.

I worked in Sierra Leone a year after the end of the 11 year civil war (1991-2002).  50,000 people were killed.  I was hired by the Sierra Leone TRUTH and RECONCILIATION COMMISSION to write the history of the civil war.

I met a 20 year old boy.  He didn’t have any hands.   I don’t know how many people lost their arms and legs during the war.  The villagers were forced to line up,  and the rebel soldiers chopped off limbs, one by one.  “Go back and tell that government of yours that you will never again use your hands to vote for their corrupt government.”

Many, many more people were left homeless, without families.  In many villages and towns, all sense of family was destroyed.  Young girls were wrenched from their families, and forced to become ‘brides’ to rebel leaders.  Fathers were killed, boys were drafted into rebel forces.  Old women were killed.

Innocence destroyed.

A Family, a Job, and a Photographer

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mbfitzmahan. 2004. Wales, UK.  Katie.

When my children were little, I felt guilty when I worked on photography.   Who had time to work on art when there were all those dirty clothes to wash and diapers to change? Dinners to make.   Children and husband to tend to?

I got around this problem by making my girls my models.  “OK.  Katie sit here.  It will be just a minute,  then we’ll make scones.  I promise.  No…just a few more minutes.  I’m almost done.  Hey, Shauna, please come get in this picture, too.   It’ll just be a minute….”

Continue reading “A Family, a Job, and a Photographer”

What flavor do you like your photos?

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mbfitzmahan. 2013. Kyoto, Japan. Incense. Kiyomizu Temple

I  make my photos in black and white.

I’ll admit it, I do sometimes take photos in color.  But, I don’t think of those photos as real photography.  You know, art photography. 

Wait!  

Rewind.  Let me backtrack.  Color photos of family.   Babies, grandparents, the latest vacations.  Those are wonderful photos. They are snapshots of our lives.  Of our times together.  I love looking at them.  I liked sharing them on my iPhone.  I like to sit with my girls, laughing and talking about the adventures in those photos. Continue reading “What flavor do you like your photos?”

Photographing President Bush

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mbfitzmahan. 2006 Tallinn, Estonia. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

10 years ago, I taught at a small international school in Estonia.  A handful of the American teachers were invited to a reception for the President.

Out of ethical opposition to the standing president, my friends refused to go.   Being the most liberal of the bunch and a supporter of Al Gore and John Kerry, everyone turned to me to lead the protest, to refuse to attend the reception.

No way!  I jumped at the chance to meet President Bush.  What an awesome photo opportunity!

Continue reading “Photographing President Bush”

I like to wash, the dust of this world, in the droplets of dew (Bashō 1644-1694)

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droplets of dew. February 18, 2013. Kozoji, Japan
iPhone 5. ISO 80. 4.1mm.f/2.4/1/20. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2

smoke – whispers – an ancient wood

smoke. October 13, 2012. Oso Kannon – Nagoya, Japan
Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 G. ISO 400. 35mm. f/2. 1/400. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2.

Kiyomizudera – Kyoto

Kiyomizu via iPad 2-2
Kiyomizudera. March 30, 2013. Kyoto, Japan
Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 G. ISO 400. 35mm. f/7.1. 1/200. Lightroom. Silver Efex. Pro 2.