Striving to use photography to connect the humanity of people around the world and bring about a more just society.

Thailand-Burma Border Flashback

One thing I’ve really missed photographing is couples. I love finding creating ways to depict relationships and the emotions that come with them. About a year ago now, I convinced two of my English students to let me shoot them and I was so excited with how the pictures turned out.  They’re both from ethnic minorities in Myanmar and they’re studying law and human rights to make Myanmar a better place. The two were married about two months after these photos were taken. I dearly miss all of my students from Myanmar and I’m still thinking ahead to when I’ll get the chance to visit them again.

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A Wadi Weekend || Jordan

It feels so good to have new photos of good friends and good adventures after such a long break! These pictures were taken at a nameless wadi (valley) outside of Madaba, Jordan. Fall is here and winter is coming quick so we made it a priority to head out and get a good hike in before the weather gets too bad. I can easily say that this was one of my favorite days in Jordan so far. I hope they inspire you to come visit :]

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Ammani life and giving my camera a rest

If you’ve been following my travels, I’ll give you a little update on where I’ve been. Last March I returned to the Chicago area after exactly 1 year and 2 weeks abroad. The travel bug wasn’t out of my system yet but I didn’t have the money to continue, and plus, I needed just a small visit home. I stayed home for almost exactly 6 months working at a restaurant and counting my money until I could get out again. I don’t mean to a be a drag, but to put it bluntly,  I wasn’t happy and I didn’t feel like I could connect with anyone in my town. (When I next have to move back to the States I’m going to make absolutely sure that it will be to a city.) So, I volunteered my time tutoring in English, I got crazy into yoga, I took an arabic course at the community college and I counted my tip money and carefully budgeted for my next move. Ever since I had visited it for 4 days, I knew that Amman, Jordan was where I needed to return for a longer time. Additionally, I had enjoyed the culture and the beginning arabic that I had learned in Palestine, so it made sense that I would go back to that region.

I’ve now been living in Amman for 10 weeks. I teach English part-time and study Arabic part-time and I don’t know if I could be any happier. I’ve met incredible locals and internationals and I have my own little gang of friends. My apartment is amazing: 2 cats and lovely roommates and hanging plants and a stocked kitchen. New clothes are expensive but I’ve discovered the Friday Market which is basically like an enormous thrift store. [And all the clothes are imported used from western countries so it really is exactly like a thrift store (x1000).] I walk, take buses or taxis everywhere and I know where to buy cheap falafel sandwiches in all of the neighborhoods that I frequent. I even worked at a pub/restaurant for a month while I was building up my teaching schedule. I’m still figuring some things out though. I know that searching for an NGO internship is one of the reasons that I moved here, but I’m not sure how to fit it in my schedule. I also haven’t found a yoga studio that I like or fits into my schedule. But these are minor things. The most important part is how surprisingly happy I’ve found myself to be here.

Something else that has changed is the number of times I take my camera out of the apartment. During my RTW trip, I almost never went anywhere without it. Even when I was teaching classes to the Myanmar students I would take it with. Here, I’ve taken it out of my closet exactly once. During that one time that I took it out, I never actually took it out of my backpack because the sun was too bright that day! Surprisingly, I don’t feel like I’m missing something. I feel like I should feel guilty for neglecting it, but I also feel like I just need a break. I have no doubt that I’ll come back to it later. I foresee more writing in my future and I also envision that including photo stories. For the time-being I’m focusing my energy on learning arabic and my own happiness.

I’m posting this blog to let you know that I’m still alive, I’m still adventuring, I haven’t become boring and I’m still living out stories– I’m just taking a break from constantly sharing them. I also haven’t become a recluse either! If you’re friends with me on facebook I’d love to catch up and I’ll be sure to tell you some stories there. Insha’allah something beautiful will happen and I will bring you a photo story soon.

QQ Section Children’s Committee

While I was in Cape Town, South Africa I spent a month hanging out with an organization called CHOSA (Children of South Africa). One of my projects with them was this photo story which they’ve been able to use for their fundraising.

The Children’s Committee was started by community members who saw a pressing need for low-­cost, quality childcare. Since its founding, the residents of QQ Section, have continued to devote their time and energy to create a better life for their community’s youngest members. CHOSA supports the committee with ongoing grants and capacity-building services. Learn more about CHOSA’s work here. The following photos tell the story of the Educare program and the children, families, and caregivers with whom CHOSA is proud to work.

Children in South Africa spend long days at the Educare. They arrive between five and six in the morning and the last children are picked up between five and six in the evening. These four are the last children from Grade R (Kindergarten) waiting to go home on a recent Friday afternoon.

Children in South Africa spend long days at the Educare. They arrive between five and six in the morning and the last children are picked up between five and six in the evening. These four are the last children from Grade R (Kindergarten) waiting to go home on a recent Friday afternoon.

Just like other children around the world, the kids at QQ Community Educare are always delighted to see their parents at the end of the day.

Just like other children around the world, the kids at QQ Community Educare are always delighted to see their parents at the end of the day.

Nokakuthwani is the mother of Kaiser who just began attending the educare in January 2014. She loves the educare because she can tell how sincerely dedicated and loving the teachers are.

Nokakuthwani is the mother of Kaiser who just began attending the educare in January 2014. She loves the educare because she can tell how sincerely dedicated and loving the teachers are.

Visiting the Fihlani family confirmed the community-oriented mindset that much of QQ Section shack settlement is known for. The father in this family stopped working on his neighbor's house for only a few minutes to pose for this photo before he went back to work. Four year-old Ivile also had to be tracked down as she was busy playing with the neighbors' children. This family exhibited a contentment that would surprise many.

Visiting the Fihlani family confirmed the community-oriented mindset that much of QQ Section shack settlement is known for. The father in this family stopped working on his neighbor’s house for only a few minutes to pose for this photo before he went back to work. Four year-old Ivile also had to be tracked down as she was busy playing with the neighbors’ children. This family exhibited a contentment that would surprise many.

 

Jobs are scarce for many people living in the township. “Mama kaMbali”, mother of Mbali, has been in and out of different jobs for most of her life. QQ Section Community Educare's low monthly tuition takes some of the stress away from of her joblessness. Monthly, most educares cost between R250 (~25USD) and R500 (~$50USD), QQ Section's tuition is only R90 (~$9USD) for children aged 3-6 and R120 (~$120USD) for children aged 0-2.

Jobs are scarce for many people living in the township. “Mama kaMbali”, mother of Mbali, has been in and out of different jobs for most of her life. QQ Section Community Educare’s low monthly tuition takes some of the stress away from of her joblessness. Monthly, most educares cost between R250 (~25USD) and R500 (~$50USD), QQ Section’s tuition is only R90 (~$9USD) for children aged 3-6 and R120 (~$120USD) for children aged 0-2.

Nomalizo has worked at QQ Section Community Educare since 2012 and she also serves as an elected committee member for the community. She says that her love for the kids makes the hard work completely worth it.

Nomalizo has worked at QQ Section Community Educare since 2012 and she also serves as an elected committee member for the community. She says that her love for the kids makes the hard work completely worth it.

One of the ways that QQ Section Community Educare is different from other educares is that all children receive cooked breakfasts and lunches. Most educares require parents to either pack a lunch for their kids or to pay extra for meals. Providing the children with the same meals means that they are all equally equipped to learn and play during the day.

One of the ways that QQ Section Community Educare is different from other educares is that all children receive cooked breakfasts and lunches. Most educares require parents to either pack a lunch for their kids or to pay extra for meals. Providing the children with the same meals means that they are all equally equipped to learn and play during the day.

Nomalizo's son Yama was in the first class to graduate from QQ Section Community Educare in 2009. He is now in the 5th grade.

Nomalizo’s son Yama was in the first class to graduate from QQ Section Community Educare in 2009. He is now in the 5th grade.

Here, Nokwandisa is standing in the doorway to the pre-school where the 60 students arrive and leave the educare everyday. She has four children of her own and this is her first job ever at the age of 42.

Here, Nokwandisa is standing in the doorway to the pre-school where the 60 students arrive and leave the educare everyday. She has four children of her own and this is her first job ever at the age of 42.

Andile serves on the Children's Committee as a talented manager of finances. He is studying accounting at a nearby college. Even though he does not have any children at the educare, Andile plans to stay involved with the QQ Section community for a long time.

Andile serves on the Children’s Committee as a talented manager of finances. He is studying accounting at a nearby college. Even though he does not have any children at the educare, Andile plans to stay involved with the QQ Section community for a long time.

Andile and Nokwandisa review the educare's finances as they prepare for a committee meeting. The children's committee meets together every Wednesday to make decisions as a group.

Andile and Nokwandisa review the educare’s finances as they prepare for a committee meeting. The children’s committee meets together every Wednesday to make decisions as a group.

All QQ Section parents are invited to a meeting each quarter to review finances and elect new committee members. Salaries, tuition and food costs are just some components of the budget. Four new committee members were elected at this meeting for the positions of Organizer, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary and Vice-Secretary.

All QQ Section parents are invited to a meeting each quarter to review finances and elect new committee members. Salaries, tuition and food costs are just some components of the budget. Four new committee members were elected at this meeting for the positions of Organizer, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary and Vice-Secretary.

 

Goodtime Donuts || Lifestyle Session

Vietnam || Where Rivers are Roads

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Every destination of mine has been different. Vietnam was my classic tourism destination. I also got to bring my parents with! Vietnam was my chance to show off all my travel skills and plan the best trip ever for my Mom and Dad and I. We went from north to south, hitting up Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Phong Nha, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho- all in just 2 weeks!

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Photo Essay || My Myanmar Mee-Ye-Hta Migration

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December and January were certainly my most movement-filled months of this year. The 2,280 photos in my computer’s ‘Myanmar’ folder can attest to that. Where can I start to tell you about these 57 days? Over these days I made about 12 different stops in 12 places that were all vastly different from each other. What was it that really bound all* of my destinations together? Ah… well… the train is one place to begin…

The following photos were all taken from a mee-ye-hta (train) at some point on my trip. Experienced travelers will tell you that taking public transportation is one of the best ways to experience a culture. Hopefully these photos can further convince you of this!

seen from the Yangon Circle Line

seen from the Yangon Circle Line

seen on the Yangon Circle Line

seen from the Yangon Circle Line

seen from the Yangon Circle Line

seen on the train from Myitkyina to Mandalay

seen on the train from Lashio to Mandalay

the tunnel before the Gokteik Viaduct

 

the world-famous Gokteik Viaduct on the Mandalay-Lashio route

The world-famous Gokteik Viaduct on the Mandalay-Lashio route

seen from the Gokteik Viaduct

looking over the Gokteik Viaduct

looking over the Gokteik Viaduct

The world-famous Gokteik Viaduct on the Mandalay-Lashio route, and my new grandmother-grandson friends

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sunset on the Mandalay-Yangon line

Originally posted at Hope RTW

Recently Published!

Hello followers! I wanted to take a minute to highlight a few places where my photography has popped up on the web.

  1. Firstly, check out my little ‘destination report’ from Palestine. Over at Entouriste, some of my photos from Bethlehem and the surrounding places can be seen in a sweet little blog post.Screen shot 2014-11-04 at 2.05.39 PM If you want to see more of my photography from Palestine, go ahead and look back on my own blog post here.
  2. In May, I spend 5 days of bliss visiting, eating with and traveling with the folks at Gardens for Health. This past month they released one of the most amazing Annual Reports I’ve ever seen- and my photography is a key player! I’m glad that I was able to convey the beauty of Rwanda in such an important way for them. Check it out here. 

    Screen shot 2014-11-04 at 2.19.13 PMTo see additional photography from this trip, go to my blog post here.

  3. Lastly, my photo essay on land confiscation through false archeology has been translated into Danish thanks to some wonderful activist friends of mine. If you read Danish, it has been published and you can check it out here!Screen shot 2014-11-04 at 2.17.23 PMIf you don’t read Danish, you can read the original English version here.

100 People Project || Matt in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand

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I met Matt in my TEFL class where our vegetarian diets, countercultural mindsets and mild disinterest in being back in a classroom brought us together. During the month that we called Chiang Mai ‘home’, we did our best to get out of the city as much as possible. I dragged him along for multiple activities on my bucket-list and we learned how to ride motor scooters on the same day (and then proceeded to drive them 2.5 hours to Doi Inthanon). While I love nature, I love photographing people in nature even more. I don’t think Matt ever imagined himself as a model, but he quickly became mine whenever I pulled my camera out.

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Photo Story || Archaeology as Imperialism in West Bank, Palestine

Multiple tents have been erected in front of the Abu Haikal's home where they once had many trees for farming.

During my time in Palestine, I continually came across people whose stories deserved to be told. The Abu Haikal family was one in particular that stood out. With the intimacy of hearing people’s stories, comes the responsibility to share them over again to create awareness. I am open to the re-publishing of these stories, please contact me for more information. 

Written by: Katy Carlson and Pernille Sørenson
Photographs by: Katy Carlson

Over the last few decades, the use of archeological excavations has emerged as growing tool for Zionists to expel local Palestinians from the Holy Lands. In 1967, Israel was tasked with overseeing archaeological digs in the West Bank. As seen in the previous examples of Silwan and Khirbet Susiya, this archaeological excavation shows many signs of being politically motivated. What first appears to be an innocent archaeological dig has been revealed to hide well-scheduled political tactics and resulted in the abuse of Palestinian heritage. Tel Rumeida is an example where the fight is still being waged against this archeological imperialism.

Tel Rumeida's elevation allows for a spectacular view of the city of Hebron. Although Hebron is in the West Bank, the city is populated by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Tel Rumeida’s elevation allows for a spectacular view of the city of Hebron. Although Hebron is in the West Bank, the city is populated by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Located in the West Bank city of Hebron, Tel Rumeida is classified as an H2 area, meaning that it is under Israeli control. For this reason, Tel Rumeida is a brazen example of the Israeli occupation. Multiple families live there as legal residents on the land with protected tenancy. The Abu Haikal family is one of the families that has been leading the fight for their land in the face of a growing settler population.

Many Jews believe that Tel Rumeida is home to the tombs of Jesse and Ruth. Because of this belief, settlers have been attempting to take hold of the land since their arrival in 1982. As one of the earliest steps in the process, a settlement was constructed on the hilltop in 1984. In the beginning, seven Israeli families lived in caravans there. However, the Israeli government approved the construction of permanent buildings in 1988. In 1991, just three years later, the Israeli army established a military base on plot 54, the Abu Haikal family’s backyard. This transformed the family’s land into a military dwelling-place for Israeli soldiers who have unashamedly declared that their presence is for the protection of the settlers and not the Palestinians.

Signs saying "Danger" and "Keep Out" have been posted, blocking the Abu Haikal family from their own property.

Signs saying “Danger” and “Keep Out” have been posted, blocking the Abu Haikal family from their own property.

Israeli soldiers regularly cross the property to access the military base they built on the Abu Haikal's land.

Israeli soldiers regularly cross the property to access the military base they built on the Abu Haikal’s land.

Blue on white and green on white markings indicate paths that the settlers use to access their settlement. This path runs across the east side of Tel Rumeida.

Blue on white and green on white markings indicate paths that the settlers use to access their settlement. This path runs across the east side of Tel Rumeida.

Each time the settlers attack and occupy the family’s land the family has objected to the police, but no long-term solution has been arranged due to the impunity the settlers live under. The assaults have merely continued as settlers attack the family on their land, cut their olive trees down and set fire to their field which has now dried up.

In the settlers’ most recent attempt to seize the land of Tel Rumeida, Emmanuel Eisenberg, an archaeologist and project coordinator from the Israeli Antiquity Authority, began what they are calling an ‘archaeological excavation’. Here, he hopes to find remnants of King David’s palace. The excavation began in January 2014 following Netanyahu’s declaration that he would not evacuate the settlements of Hebron in the occasion of a peace deal. The excavation is not just a project of the nearby settlers though, it has been funded 7 million shekels by the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport.

Multiple tents have been erected in front of the Abu Haikal's home where they once had many trees for farming.

Multiple tents have been erected in front of the Abu Haikal’s home where they once had many trees for farming.

Emmanuel Eisenberg gets a ride up the hill on a bulldozer that is used to move large amounts of dirt on the Abu Haikal's property.

Emmanuel Eisenberg gets a ride up the hill on a bulldozer that is used to move large amounts of dirt on the Abu Haikal’s property.

This olive tree and the wall running alongside it are hundreds of years old. The wall to the right of the tree has already been destroyed, but the family is hoping the it will be kept intact to the left.

This olive tree and the wall running alongside it are hundreds of years old. The wall to the right of the tree has already been destroyed, but the family is hoping the it will be kept intact to the left.

Emmanuel Eisenberg’s name is not unfamiliar to those who are aware of archeological imperialism in occupied Palestine. It is interesting to learn that, when the settlers planned the archaeological dig, all of the archeologists whom they contacted rejected their offer except for Eisenberg. In the late 1990′s, he was previously responsible for an archaeological dig that lead to the construction of an illegal Israeli settlement in Ramat Yishai. He has already announced his future plan for Tel Rumeida, which is to establish a Bible Park for tourists. Unsurprisingly, the archaeological site has not revealed any evidence of Jewish history, but instead, mainly evidence of old farming and Muslim graves which were then removed.

Beyond the deceitful intentions behind the excavation, one can also question the presence of the Israeli Antiquity Authority, as they are only authorized to work within the 67-borders. Following the Six Day War in 1967, Israel set up the Civil Administration, which works under Jordanian law, and assigned it to attend to any archaeological work in the West Bank. However, the Civil Administration is part of the Israeli governing body, so the I.A.A and the Civil Administration work closely together. Thus, it should be illegal for the I.A.A to work outside the 67-borders, and excavations within the Hebron area should demand coordination with Palestinian Authorities, according to Oslo agreements. It seems that these facts are being ignored by those responsible for the archaeological site. Even though the family has the law on their side, and are the legal residents of the land where they have paid their rent until 2015, their rights have been ignored.

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Dawud and Arwa Abu Haikal walk around the dig-site on their property which now has a tall fence to keep them out.

Dawud and Arwa Abu Haikal walk around the dig-site on their property which now has a tall fence to keep them out.

Arwa and Dawud walk along the only remaining path that links the Abu Haikal's property with that of their neighbors at Tel Rumeida. The path is very narrow and is also very steep in places where it has begun to erode.

Arwa and Dawud walk along the only remaining path that links the Abu Haikal’s property with that of their neighbors at Tel Rumeida. The path is very narrow and is also very steep in places where it has begun to erode.

Dawud tries to take photos of the excavation process every day so that they will have evidence for their court case.

Dawud tries to take photos of the excavation process every day so that they will have evidence for their court case.

All of these facts are merely laws and numbers. They provide us with a theoretical overview of the situation, but they can never explain the emotional violence that the family faces on a daily basis. As almost any other Palestinian resident in Hebron, the family members are victims of violence and harassment from the settlers. They have been forced to put bars on their windows and bullet holes in their walls and furniture are confirming of invasions by Israeli soldiers. This story is the living nightmare of a family protecting their land, as nearly any family would do regardless of the context. In this case, the context is also extremely political. Not only is the Abu Haikal family resisting the unjust seizure of their homes, but the act of staying on their land is in direct resistance to the occupation. There is a well-known among Palestinians, that “existence is resistance”. At Tel Rumeida, the Abu Haikal family is a prime example of this saying being carried out.

Left: Barbed wire and fences now cover the property where Arwa and many others spent their childhoods playing. || Right: Despite the loss of their farmland, the Abu Haikal family still grows walnuts and numerous other nut and fruit trees on a small plot beside their home.

Left: Barbed wire and fences now cover the property where Arwa and many others spent their childhoods playing. || Right: Despite the loss of their farmland, the Abu Haikal family still grows walnuts and numerous other nut and fruit trees on a small plot beside their home.