People, Portraits and Prizes

PRIZES?  Yes! Keep reading.

Back when I lived in Sudan (and couldn’t run), I was working as a story writer and photographer.

The land in Sudan was as barren as barren could be. There wasn’t much to work with in the way of landscape photography. The roads were dirt, the homes constructed of sticks and mud, and the milky white sky blended straight into the desert most days without a hint of horizon.

The people on the other hand were the most colorful sight I’d ever seen, an apparition against the backdrop of the dusty land they called home. And it wasn’t just their rainbow colored robes. I’ve never met so many individuals who exuded such a deep gratitude and joy for the little that they did have. I was humbled.

I returned to the U.S. at the end of my contract, but I never forgot the faces. These weren’t the same images of war and destruction that were showing on the news. These were the faces of beauty and resilience. Yes, there was a war going on there, and there is still conflict in the region today. But a nation’s politics are not the same as its people. The smiles are as real as the statistics.

I showed these faces in a traveling exhibit called “Portraits of Darfur” for the years in Washington DC following my return. Prints were sold to benefit the villages where the images were taken.

I packed up the prints in 2009 when I moved on to a new season in Cambodia, but these faces I have never forgotten. They’ve hung on my wall for years now reminding me of how brightly joy shines in darkness.

Yesterday I dug through the boxes in my basement and pulled out these portraits. You see, I have a crazy idea. I love these photos so much that I’m going to give them away! Yes, PRIZES! Original prints, matted, and signed.

First, have a look at the photos and you’ll see what I mean. The smiles are just as amazing and inspiring as they were back when first saw these scenes through my camera’s eye.  Now skip to the bottom and find out how you can get one for your wall.

So, how do I get a PRIZE?

The prize game here works like a Kickstarter incentive. I still need lots of people to support me for my Hood to Coast run! If you make a donation to my crazy running efforts for Sudan, I’ll send you a prize.

  • $10 or more -> All my love and gratitude. And a Sudan photo card thank you (if you send me your address)
  • $50 or more -> Matted and signed 5×7 portrait of your choice with its story (finished size 8×10)
  • $100 or more -> Matted and signed 8×10 portrait of your choice with its story (finished size 11×14)
  • $300 or more -> Matted and signed 11×14 portrait of your choice with its story (finished size 16×20)
  • $500 or more -> Whatever you want. I’ll even send it to you framed.

(If you’ve already made a donation, don’t worry, you’re still prize eligible if you’d like one. And if you want to up your donation to reach a new prize tier, that works too, just let me know).

Give here at my fundraising page, and I’ll email you with instructions to claim your reward.

Who said that giving can’t be fun?

centennial resolutions ::

in April last year I achieved a goal I’d been working towards for a long time.  I went to my 100th country.   I celebrated with a dance in my head as the immigration official in Colombo, Sri Lanka stamped my passport, and then went on my merry way to enjoy a trip in my centennial nation.

While I was visiting Sri Lanka, it happened to be the Singhalese traditional new year, and so I took the auspicious opportunity to make some centennial travel resolutions.

1.Write 100 travel stories

2.Revise country counting rules and reach 100 again

3. Print a photo book of images from the first 100

This year as Sri Lanka was celebrating their New Year again, I was in New Zealand accomplishing goal #2. In celebration of reaching 100 countries for the second time around, and in the spirit of Catching Up, I’ve decided to revisit my centennial resolutions.

Here’s my plan:

1. The only thing keeping me from my goal of writing travel memoirs is my own procrastination. Because telling you that I’m going to post these will serve as a strong motivation, that’s what I’m going to do.  In fact, here’s story #1 to get us started -> 012693: the day I got my first passport stamp.

2. Before you jump to any conclusions about why I even had my original goal #2, please know that I’ve never counted airports as countries, and I think that every country counter should be free to set their own rules.

I set this to help me reconcile what to do with non-official countries like the Faroe Islands and border jumping trips where I was physically in a nation but never really experienced it.  While I had counted these in my original 100, I decided to subtract these and reach 100 countries again based on a more stringent UN recognized standard.

Now that this has been achieved, I’ve decided to update goal #2 to reflect continent counting and aim to get to all seven before another three Sri Lankan new years pass. Of course, I’ll keep counting countries. My 2011 goal is to visit 20 countries including 11 new ones.

3. Publishing a photo book should have been an easy goal to tick off the list in the modern age.  I got off to a running start, but I stalled out when I soon realized that I’d visited nearly 70 countries before I got my first digital camera. To complicate things further the books of negatives and boxes of prints that I need to achieve this live in a storage unit on a different continent. While this is a great excuse not to finish, I’m not a quitter.  I’ll be working on a couple of small photo projects and will keep recover photos high on the priority list for my next transatlantic storage visit.  Stay tuned for these.

Whether you visit 20 countries this year, or just the one that you’re in, setting goals and reflecting on them remind each of us to keep ours eyes open and make every trip, or simply every day count. We only get one life after all.

What are you doing with yours today?