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Day 3

I’m not a huge New Year’s Resolution maker.  As a teenager, I used to make a big deal out of each new year.  I’d write a reflective entry about the prior year, and document my hopes and predictions for the coming year.  I’d also make a long list of vague resolutions.  And I would forget about them all by the next week.

I’ve found that I’m better with implementing small new actions in my life.  For instance, when I was in high school, I kept a journal where I wrote about where I saw divinity each day.   This journal was inspired by Matthew 25: seeing divinity in the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned.  The journal was centered on the idea that every human is valuable, and that even the tiniest creations are worth noticing.  I wrote in this journal every single day for about three years – remarkably more sustainable and meaningful to me than any New Year’s Resolution ever has been.

In the same spirit of adding a small practice to my daily life, I’ve decided to do 365 days of photography in 2011.  I have noticed in the past that I become much more conscious of and connected to my surroundings when I carry my camera.  What does the light look like in this place, and at this time of day?  What details surround me?  Where are there surprising patterns?  Who else is sharing this space with me?  How can I capture these many things?  With all of my traveling during the past couple years, I’ve had the opportunity to take lots of pictures of some truly incredible sights.  But I want my photography to be an artistic outlet, not just snapshots.  I want to get better with the technical aspects of photography, and more creative and gutsy with my subjects.

So, 2011: 365 will hopefully push my photography to new levels.  And, I suspect, it will give me the chance to reflect more consistently on the places and faces in my daily life.

Currently, I’m just hosting the project on my Flickr account (do visit!).  I may at some point bring the project to this blog, or maybe not.  And, I’m sure there will be more than an occassional dud published.  But that’s ok!  I’m excited to see where this project leads me in the new year.

I awoke this morning to an email from the people at Andrew Sullivan – a photo I took in Donegal and submitted was the View from Your Window yesterday! Check it out. 🙂

1) Today I turned in my LAST essay for my coursework!  From here on out, all I have to think about and read for is my dissertation.  I’m so happy/relieved!

2) Yesterday, I was on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.  While reading, I remembered that I had submitted a “View from My Window” photo from our apartment in Kampala, way back in April.  I had never seen it posted on his blog, and assumed that it didn’t get posted at all (after all, he claims that he gets hundreds of these photos a week).  Then, I noticed the little search bar on the right, which I had never thought to use before.  Sure enough, I typed in “kampala” and… found my photo as the View of the Day for May 26!  So it was published after all.  How exciting!

It seems that lately alot of good things have been happening to bad people. Corrupt politicians get to stay in office; failed businessmen get bonuses; loud, self-important media personalities get million-dollar book deals; warlords get paid off. And the good person – hardworking, humble, kind, honest – finishes second, just a step behind everyone else.

However, the recent successes of two friends challenge this reality and give me hope.

Tom Lee, a 2006 Northwestern graduate, got a big break last month when his photos for a story on the tuna fishing industry were used on the cover of the November 9 TIME Magazine. I met Tom while working on the Global Engagement Summit in 2005. Tom took photos for the Summit and was instrumental in the creation of the OpenShutter project – an annual student art project that seeks to challenge the stereotypical narratives we use to talk about ‘other’ people and places. I always cherished the time I spent with Tom. He exuded a combination of raw talent and down-to-Earth manor that I had never quite encountered before. You never hear Tom talk about his many awards or accomplishments. His interest is in listening and learning from whoever he’s with. He can talk to an amateur photographer – or someone like me with virtually no artistic sensibilities – and get genuinely excited about the incites they have to share about the topic of photography. In so doing, he makes you feel legitimate and equal. Tom is that kind of good person that you want to succeed, not just because he’s your friend, but because it gives you a sense that there is some justice in the world.

Matthew Baum is someone I’m just recently getting to know, but who invokes the same sort of sentiments in me that Tom does. Matt is a current Mitchell Scholar with Lauren that studied mollecular and cellular biology at Yale and initiated research that led to an important discovery in the field of Fragile X syndrome and the transformation of short-term memories into long-term memories. In his spare time he is a published artist and was captain of Yale’s wrestling team. But, meeting Matt, you would never know these things about him. He carries himself with a humility and humor that makes you feel welcomed, not threatened…no matter who you are or where you’re from. Last week Matt was awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. In all its preoccupation with status and the self-promotional, its heartening to know that the Rhodes felt attracted to someone like Matt.

If people like Matt and Tom are allowed to hold positions of leadership in the world over the next several decades, there is reason to hope.

hand loom at work

hand loom at work

Hand Loom Crafts makes gorgeous table mats and table runners.  They’re a woman-owned small business and have been very involved with the formation of the Uganda Federation for Alternative Trade.  I love this photo of an artisan hard at work over his loom.  You can learn more about Hand Loom Crafts here.


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