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As I was hiking into a remote farming village deep in the Bangladesh countryside, a gentle rain started falling. I rounded a curve in the trail and looked into the face of a young girl bathing in the village pond. I don’t consider myself a cutting edge photographer and sometimes the element of my images that makes them work is the effort I took in being there.
I have done several assignments for CARE, a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty in sixty-six countries. With their national headquarters in downtown Atlanta, they are ambassadors of the south around the world.
Traveling to Nicaragua, my wife and I took a day to explore the Hugo Chavez Barrio outside Managua. I have always found the most generous, gracious people in the poorest areas of a country and this was no exception.
We looked into the yard of one of the hundreds of corrugated metal and clay houses and saw a boy waking from his nap, his pets eagerly waiting for him to get up and play. We laughed so hard I am surprised I kept the camera steady long enough to shoot.
I traveled to El Salvador with Christy Turlington Burns, who, in Ru Paul’s words is not a super-model, she’s a super-duper-model. She was also a remarkably nice woman, promoting CARE’s efforts to acknowledge the power of women in small developing countries. She is CARE’s Maternal Health Advocate. Her mother, who grew up in El Salvador, came along and acted as my interpreter when I needed to communicate and even helped lug some of my gear.
CARE is not the only Atlanta organization exporting southern hospitality, fighting poverty and combating illness around the globe. Each morning staff members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wake up in every time zone around the world, living unglamorous lives in order to make the planet safe from disease.
I followed CDC Director Jeff Koplan to India as he participated in a Stop Polio Campaign. In one day, with help from the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the Indian Ministry of Health and an army of Indian volunteers, over 32 million children under the age of five were vaccinated for polio! It is the most astounding public health initiative I have ever witnessed.
The Carter Presidential Center, rooted in the southern sensibilities of its founder, former President Jimmy Carter, has improved the world through their health, poverty and democracy initiatives everywhere. Anywhere in the world you mention his name gives you instant credibility, respected globally in a way his own country cannot always understand. He was part of the team that observed the first Palestinian elections and I followed as he was received with honor by both sides of the conflict in the Middle East.
I have been lucky enough in my career to photograph world leaders and dignitaries, but nothing matches the moment when I am allowed into the lives of ordinary people living lives of dignity in the face of overwhelming odds. It is a moment of courage and grace that makes all the effort of getting there worthwhile.
Photographs from the top: village pond in Bangladesh; boy and pets in Nicaragua; Christie Turlington-Burns in El Salvador; mother and daughter in New Delhi Slum; Rachel’s Tomb, West Bank.
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