This man spoke with me for a good long time. He had suffered under the dictatorships as a union organiser; I have forgotten the number of times he said he had been tortured – but I doubt he has.
The current government promised that all the “vanguard of democracy” who had suffered in the 1970s and 1980s would receive a benefit in appreciation for what they had given to the country. With the catch that they had to prove whatever suffering they claimed. Lacking documentation, this man spent months in front of the Ministry of Justice, camping out in the cold and waiting for someone to talk with him.
Towards the end of our conversation, he said to me “You will do great things, your generation will be the future of the country.”
Visually, I loved the layers of v’s in his clothing, and imagined that each layer would correspond to another memory of protest, torture or exile. The v’s start with his fingers, which he frequently used to gesture in my direction, coming with in centimetres of my lens. Maybe that’s appropriate, as the memories are products not only of his mind, but a result of the work he did with his hands. Fingers in a V link back to a worker’s hands, to his clothes and decades of memories he would probably rather not have.
This was a story and picture I originally posted on Cowbird.com, where it was featured as a story of the day (and well received).
Protests, frequently being a family affair in Bolivia, sometimes also include children who become separated from their mothers. All this poor child could say was that he was from El Alto, and so it was up to the riot police to find his parents. For the longest time, I alternated between crying and laughing whenever I saw this picture–his face spoke of this enormous personal tragedy occurring on a minor scale in the universe.
This was my second day shooting protests in Bolivia, this time of a group of people who had been exiled, tortured or imprisoned during the military dictatorships of the 1964-1982 period–or who had been the family member of someone who had suffered.
Many of these people were now at retirement age, and had been promised a type of pension by the current Evo Morales government. When it came time to collect, however, many found that they were deemed ineligible because they lacked the correct type of documentation to prove their claim. It seems that the dictatorships of old didn’t fill out and provide the right paperwork when torturing them or disappearing their children, and so now the government doesn’t believe their stories. Such is the case with one man I photographed here, who received only his son’s body when the regime killed him illegally.
Lacking such paperwork, they resort to handmade lists of friends and events, photocopies of old newspapers, and just plain sitting in front of the Ministry of Justice until someone came out to dialogue. The last I knew, they had been in front of the Ministry for over two months, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
These were sugar workers (azucareros) from the southern part of Bolivia, Tarija, protesting low prices and unfair subsidies to large ingenios.
For additional explanation on the subjects, their stories, and a deeper discussion of Bolivian politics and protests, please consider purchasing a copy of my soon to be published book.
This pianist was playing next to the busy Smithsonian Metro this afternoon. When I approached him for permission to take a photo he agreed so long as I leave a tip in his jar and “not hang around too long with that gigantic camera.” I guess he was a afraid that I would scare off his clientele, which is understandable given the prime real estate he occupied. He also asked I title the pictures “Unknown Artist #100,” so that he could google himself. Or at least that’s the name I remember. Maybe it was something else.
I hope that evening went well for him.
This year marks one of the 150 year anniversaries of the Civil War, commemorated in numerous reenactments across the eastern U.S. I recently went to one such event in Manassas, a living history exposition that featured Confederate and Union Camps with live actors, a small military presentation and other interesting anachronisms. Here are some images from this trip.
Jamey Turner ( www.jameyturner.com ) is a musician I found on the streets of Alexandria, Virginia, where he was playing his “glass harp” much to the delight of the large crowds he drew in with its melodious sound. Jamey was especially gracious with his time, sharing his story on how he came to play such an unusual instrument.
People loved to watch Jamie play, particularly younger children. Something about street musicians in general seems to attract children; perhaps they are the bravest in interpersonal interactions, the least likely to let shyness get in the way of figuring out how the music is made.
To play his instrument well, Jamey needs to keep his fingers moist and so constantly soaks them in dishes of water on the sides of his glasses. He seemed to reflexively place his fingers in the water, unconsciously keeping his instrument “tuned” out of so many years of practice.
A word about the final image in the gallery below; like so many of the other street musicians I’ve encountered, Jamey seems to be all smiles while performing and amongst his audience. The happiness of these street musicians makes me wonder about what makes them tick, and the secret to a good life.
Like Catfish, Rockameem is a Madison staple. He’s often found on State Street, singing out “money, money, mooonneeeey” while beating away on his djembe. I never spoke with Rockameem until one fateful day this summer, when I sat down to shoot him and listen to his story.
Rockameem is a Vietnam Vet, who says he began drumming to cleanse himself from all the evil he saw during the war. Paraphrasing what he told me, he said that what he appreciates most about drumming is that you can’t pick who you drum for–you just go out and put forth music and love, and the race, creed or belief of those listening doesn’t matter.
He said a lot of other beautiful things that day, which made me think about him in a whole new light. I didn’t get a chance to record him, but if I ever get back to Madison I most certainly will.