Archive for December, 2005

Yellow Brick Road

My first trip inside the old city of Jerusalem was a lot like Dorothy’s down the yellow-brick road to Oz. Surrounded by a high and well-restored stonewall, the ancient city houses a number of different neighborhoods which seem to all agree on boundaries and accept the differences of cultures. Jewish sections border Christian, Armenian, and Arab areas.
After passing through a metal/bomb detecting security gate near the center of the city, you’re allowed to enter an open courtyard, which lies in front of the Wailing Wall. For those not accustomed to places of extreme religious belief, this area may take be surreal.
Hasidic Jews in their black robes, back hats, and long curly side-burns bob their heads up and down while chanting something in Hebrew, Yiddish, or possibly Russian. Russian is one of the three languages on most street signs, ATM commands and government notices throughout Israel. Russian Jews are one of the largest immigrant groups in Israel. Some claim that Israel, in its attempt to compensate for the large birthrate of Arabs, encouraged Russians to immigrate to Israel. Just like everything in Israel, this depends on whom you ask.
This image was taken about 30 meters from the wall. The group was performing a ritual that requires the lighting of a candle, the drinking of alcohol and the waving of some plant. My description is vague but it was hard for me to get any information on the scene. Folks were quiet and surprisingly spoke very little English. I’ll have to look into this a bit more to find out what is going on, but it seemed like something voluntary and popular.

Race Fan

Just about everything fell through during my weekend trip down to Aqaba to work on my project. I had planned to go on board a fishing boat to photograph the daily life of those who pull fish from the Red Sea (Bahar Ahmar in Arabic).
Not long before I arrived in Jordan there were attempts to attack US ships moared up in Aqaba, and they also sent one missile over to the Israeli beach resort town of Eilat. These poor attempts at striking up terror and the events in Amman have caused an increase in security throughout the country, but especially on the borders. Aqaba happens to border Saudi Arabia to the south, Israel to the west, and Egypt’s Sinai is but a short swim away.
In order to photograph fishermen in this country ones needs a permit, which requires more time than I planned.
This weekend just happened to be Jordan Rally weekend in Aqaba. So at the very least I got to see a side of Jordan I never knew existed. People came from all over to see these beefed up foreign cars squeal around narrow streets lined with old tires. Truthfully it was fun to watch, and I don’t consider myself a racecar fan.

Kitty Surgery

There was a point in the surgery where I had to leave the make-shift operating table in our living room and take a few deep breathes with my head between my knees in our bedroom.
This is what you get when you place two animal-loving westerners in a country with more stray cats than humans. Well, maybe not more than humans, but there are lot of stray cats here. Pets are a function of economics and this country is just, as our emergency vet said, beginning the “fad” of having animals in the house.
We, on the other hand, have decided we would take in the vulnerable, which has meant the runt of one litter, one with an injured eye and smoker’s cough, the mother of a helpless litter and now a friendly tri-colored kitten with a hole in her side the diameter of a good size coin, you pick the currency. Tri-colored cats, we now know thanks to our vet, are always female. Something in their genetics says only females come in three colors.
So now we’re nursing Clownface, named such because of her peculiar white face, back to health. We’re not sure how she came across this huge gash in her side, but every night it has to be injected with an antibiotic fluid, which means Annah and I have to force feed her .10 mg of a mild sedative. The sedative causes her to walk as if she’s had half a bottle of mild whiskey, and then we hold her for the injection.
Keeping pets is a strange and privileged experience we take for granted in the wealthy parts of the world, but I’m damn happy my little money can go a long way to helping some of these cute furry critters live a healthier and longer life, even if it is on the streets.
If any of you are interested in helping Jordan take care of their animals, please check out these folks at the Human Center for Animal Welfare and give a few dollars if you can. The surgery we just did on Clownface was about $20, which in the US would be well over $200, so you can imagine how far your money will go.

Lone Support

The night after the bombing a group of about 75 teenagers and college age kids marched to the Days Inn where, less than 24 hours before, a man strapped with explosives ran from the hotel after troubles with his bomb-laden vest and then detonated just outside the hotel.
The gathering was a strange mix of sadness, disbelief, newfound nationality, and eventually boredom. Some wrapped crisp new Jordanian flags around themselves and lit candles in a way that felt more like a societal ritual than a genuine connection with tragedy. There were jokes made and youth laughing with the quiet guilt of a child playing in a church.
Most of the youth I talked with spoke English perfectly. They took photographs of the site with their cell phones while others called friends to tell them where they were.
For me these gatherings are a confusing phenomenon. As a photographer, I often feel as though I’m the reason they light their candles, hold their new flags, write their slogans and play the role of the mourning. Wherever my camera faces, people perform. I can feel the change. As soon as I’m noticed it’s as if they are cued by a director to perform, and my job is to just continue filming while the actors go through their lines. So, I hide. I play the part of the disinterested observer until I can sneak a frame of reality.
In this image a young girl waits across the street from the hotel, possibly for a ride home. She stood alone on the dark sidewalk with the Jordanian flag in her arms. When I saw this it said so much to me about the complacency of those at the event. I waited with my back towards her until a passing car illuminated the scene. I turned and captured the only frame of the day closely resembling an unrehearsed reality.

For Sale

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. My promise of posting more thoughts from the bombing has been neglected. In the near future I will make an effort to share some of my feelings about the events.
This image was taken on a walk through Jebal Hussein, not far from where I live. A complex of buildings had caved in and all that is left is a pile of rubble. Glittering from the center of the debris was a lone word of golden graffiti. “Lil Bay’ih,” meaning for sale, is written on the side of a building just before it’s destroyed as a last minute attempt to save it. To me the word was only a beautiful grouping of curves shining from a desolate cityscape. Only until I showed the photograph to an employee at a local café did the word take on meaning and explain more about the culture.