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?

wonder women ::

Here in Cambodia, International Women’s Day is a public holiday.  That means everything was closed and I got an entire day off to think about all the amazing women who’ve influenced my life.

Although I have way too many angels to introduce them  all on this page, but here’s a few that been a part of making me the person  I am, doing the things that I do.

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Fatiah and Fatma are Sudanese wonder women who took care of our compound when I was living in Darfur.  Neither of them had easy lives, but it didn’t seem to stop them.  Where they come from, when you give up on the daily fight to live, your children die, or you die.  These women of strength taught me resiliency and joy and how to find it in you to keep smiling despite living in one of the most oppressive places on the planet.  I don’t know where they are now, or even if they’re still alive but I think of them often when I just want to quit-  their courage and persistence gives me strength to move on with grace.

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Another important woman who helped to shape the way that I see the world is my Sierra Leonian namesake Salamatu Bangura who was a patient onboard the Anastasis.  Sally found hope when things in her life were absolutely hopeless and that hope she found only came with the courage to face a lot of unknown fears.  Sally taught me this lesson:  Hope is like paragliding- you have to run and jump off the cliff before the wind catches you and you are able to soar.  The last time I saw Sally was in the port of Freetown in 2004.  I’m not sure where she is now, but I’m sure she’s smiling.

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If you actually know me well, and didn’t just stumble upon this site randomly, you’ve probably met this woman and maybe have even eaten some of her pancakes.  This is Gram.  Gram’s been around my whole life- not the way some grandparents are “around” but a pillar and a constant across generations of my family.  From Gram I’ve inherited the value of hard work and giving to others- and also my preference for miniature –sized pancakes

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My mother will probably be shocked to see that I’ve included her here on my short list because I give her a hard time about so many things. But when it comes down to who I am and what I do she’s very much responsible for many of the good things about me. She’s the one who taught me to be creative, to be free, and to do whatever I want or dream to do.   Thanks mother for making my life colorful.

Happy International Women’s Day.  What amazing women have influenced your life?