We spent the day at the dump in El Tejar near La Antigua. Many of my students have been documenting the families that work here for the past week and I wanted to give something back to all of them. Amazing how gracious they were with us. They were all so determined to do whatever was necessary to survive and provide for their children–truly inspiring to the point of tears. It was tough watching the children work in such horrid conditions. Some children as young as seven have not been to school in years. I watched as The God’s Child Project, the NGO with whom we worked , rescued two little girls. They will be going there Monday to set them up in school and start providing them with financial support–the girls can be little girls again.
Today we brought some studio lights and a back drop to make some portraits of some of these families. I wanted to remove them from the dump as much as possible. They will receive the prints on Monday when the NGO returns. It was an interesting project that I hope to expand on subsequent trips. If you’d like to help them you can donate here: http://www.godschild.org.
I wanted to take opportunity to promote a wonderful cause that does so much good. I’ve been lucky enough to witness it first hand for the past 6 years and we are headed back this March to continue our partnership. The God’s Child Project is the NGO (non-governmental organization) that we work with for our Visual Reportage Workshops.
Since 2007 when we brought our first group of photographers down to La Antigua Guatemala we’ve been returning each year with another buch of students eager to learn about what the project does for the poor and voiceless of Guatemala while at the same time expanding their photographic visions. We work alongside social workers, doctors, nurses, teachers and volunteers as they serve the children and families associated with the projects various organizations in Guatemala: Casa Jackson (a home and care center for malnourished children), The Scheel Center ( as specialized technical school), The Santa Madre Homeless Shelter and the Dreamer Center (the heart and Soul of the project and the main campus housing a school, medical and dental clinics, social work department, a library, chapel and weekly food distributions as well as the ITEMP (The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons). Our students learn first hand through outreach and direct immersion with the professionals that run this incredible organization.
So what can you do? Sure, throwing money at it will help but as I’ve come to find out, direct involvement is what really makes the difference. If you want to get involved and need more info please click this link: http://www.godschild.org/get-involved. Another way to get involved if you are a budding photojournalist in the making or even a professional photographer that has always wanted to see how your photos can make a real difference–come join our Visual Reportage Workshop this March 8 – March 16. All the details are below:
Seriously, Just one of my stellar X students from VJ following a long and stately list of grads that have shot with us. After mentoring them all year I know them very well. He’s one of the Best of the Best. His PJ/VJ work is on another level. Check him out here: http://archive.uskphoto.com/about/ . We’ve him for the Summer then you’ll probably see his by-line in Time or NYTimes from Afghanistan or the Far East. Will post up some of his wedding stuff soon.
I was lucky enough to meet a true living legend of photography, Ben Fernandez (www.benedictjfernandez.com) and mentor to my friend, Michael Hintlian. We have a Visual Reportage Workshops gallery show hanging in Ben’s Almanac Gallery in Hoboken for the next several months. Listening to Ben’s stories and enjoying the hospitality he and his wife, Siiri, extended us this weekend was just icing on the cake. Here is a quick set of images I made while taking the long-way home from the gallery after hanging our show. It is a new way of “seeing” for me something Michael has been teaching me. Reacting without thinking.
After almost a week spent traipsing through the Guatemalan countryside and hoofing it around Guatemala City we spent the day at an orphanage in Patzun about 2 hours from La Antigua. It was great for the students to let off a little steam as they hugged the kids, played soccer with them and, of course, photographed it all. Here’s some fun shots from the last few days of my stellar crew working and playing hard!
Taking workshops are a great way to grow as photographers and as people but teaching workshops, like our Visual Reportage Workshops, takes this to a whole other level of personal enrichment. For the past 5 years we’ve been working with The Gods Child Project documenting some of the social issues facing Guatemala. Our relationships have now grown to include various media organizations and the Bomberos Voluntarios (Volunteer Firefighters of Guatemala). Asha and I have also developed a relationship with a group of Mayan midwives in Tuila (North of Coban) where we’ve been trying to help them and their communities in any way we can for the past 3 years. It is great work; hard work but ultimately rewarding for us.
All this work forever supports our growth as a business. We feel it makes us not only better photographers but keeps our perspective on all things centered. These are a small selection of images from the past couple days as our group has just begun to really get started this trip. Please enjoy and find a way to spread the word.
I’ll post more work as we go along but check us out on facebook as well: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Visual-Reportage-Workshops/122286791564.
I have written and re-written this entry at least 5 times each time trying not to sound like Sally Struthers or that guy that looks like Trapper John (maybe he is Trapper John) on late night TV info-mercials. Here goes number six and I don’t think I’ve made any progress, but maybe it is not necessary.
Today I met Claudia (11) and her sisters, Carmen (10) and Mercedes (7). They live in a small 3 building rental made of scrap steel and wood with a communal courtyard and dirt floors and a surprisingly beautiful view of Ciudad Vieja and the volcanos that surround. Their brothers and other small children living with them seem happy and playful albeit a bit dirty but what can really be expected from small boys playing outside.
One of the women in the small group washed dishes at the sink while Claudia and her mother grabbed a ride from us to the local dump. Once there, they toiled mercilessly under the hot sun sifting burning trash to find plastic, aluminum and other scrap metals as well as games, toys and clothing. The girls have been in and out of school for the past several years but their parents need the income they make collecting trash so school has never been a priority.
Claudia, the oldest, seems to really take her job seriously but seemed to make an effort to collect toys and other things her sisters might enjoy. Carmen just seemed angry and pissed off (and who could blame her). Her entire childhood thus far has been stolen from her. Her voice sounds like a women many years older most likely caused by constantly breathing in the acrid black smoke of burning crap all around her.
I was visiting the girls at their home and the dump with members of the God’s Child Project’s Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons. They are concerned that the girls have had very little formal education and that the next logical step in their development will to become prostitutes at one of the local brothels. Charles Moore, who heads the institute, says, “It is usually just a matter of time until they become abused.” And he adds that they may already have had some physical or sexual abuse.
Their small group working in the dump in Alotenango, just a short drive from one of the mosted touristed cities in all of Central America– La Antigua, earns a scant $20 per week which is split between three families. Their rent alone costs them $250 per month and they are behind at least 2 months with a mounting debt of more than $1500. It is easy to do the math here.
I realize we have all heard this story before and I further realize that times are tough all over. The World economic crisis has cut their income from the trash they collect in half. With the help of the God’s Child Project and the incredible people that work with them these girls might have the smallest glimmer of hope…but if we do the math–their time is short and their lives may be shorter.
I’m headed back to a tiny Mayan village in Guatemala where my family and I visited this past summer during our summer roadtrip from Boston to El Salvador. You can read all about our adventure at www.travelingfamilycircus.com. We knew we wanted to help them, especially this group of midwives that became dear to my wife’s heart. Last week I returned with donations of medical supplies collected from so many great people in our local circle. A good deal of the donations came from one little boy at my daughter’s Montessori school. This 7-year-old adult selflessly asked that his birthday guests bring donations for these midwives instead of buying him presents. Thanks Tyler! If I could somehow convey just how incredibly happy this entire village of 267 was for your altruism.
These pix are just a sampling and I am heading back to complete a small documentary on the midwives in this community near Coban, Guatemala. For anyone that is interested in helping out you can get more informaton from SEVA. Here’s to you, Tyler, and everyone else who’s help is truly making a difference in the lives the people here.
Please click each image to enlarge