Years ago, I can remember being totally mesmerized when I heard the story of molten volcanic ash enveloping an entire city and its inhabitants. Approximately 2000 people living life were now preserved in their final moments for the ages. Mothers and fathers sitting at a table, little ones sleeping…these acts became their last on August 24, 79 A.D. EyeWitness To History.com relates an ancient voice from the past that reaches through time to relate these horrific events. The ash grew to be 16 feet and a once flourishing resort for the rich and famous of Rome with marketplaces, brothels, taverns, bathhouses and a 20,000 seat arena was totally silenced until 1748. The archaeologists found buildings intact, skeletons frozen in time, art and artifacts of every day life. Today, Pompeii draws thousands of tourists. One must past through about 15-20 vendors lining the entrance selling bottles of lemoncello, cameos carved from shells which may or may not be authentic and of course row after row of the famous winged penis which was the city symbol (who knew)! There was no McDonald’s in site though!! Despite all of the tourist trappings, every time I walk through Pompeii, it is truly one of those “pinch me now” moments. I wander through the homes, seeing mosaics and frescoes which are erotic and beautiful still visible after thousands of years. It is a bit surreal to come upon the few frozen remains still on display… the people who were so compelling to me years before. Many of the artifacts have been moved to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples and is so deserving of a visit. It is said that a third of the city still remains covered. In just a span of 4 years, I saw graves carved into stone that had just been unearthed. It continually gives me a reason to return so the story I heard sitting in a classroom may take on new layers of richness and intrigue.
Villa El Salvador is a twenty minute drive outside of Lima. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and yet most of the homes have no access to running water and thus, there is no sewage system. This area began as an “invasion”…during the night, hundreds of people move into an area and set up homes made of straw in order to claim the land. Once the settlement becomes more stable, wood is then used for the housing later followed by tin, bricks and concrete for more permanence. I was fortunate enough to photograph the grass root efforts and leadership of those trying to establish a medical center and provide nutritional/educational programs for the people. Community and stability are surely being birthed into existence through the commitment of very dedicated people.
The following is an interview with Father Simon, a priest with the Missionary Society of St. James, headquartered in Boston. Simon’s sincerity, kindness and attention to welcoming another was so evident from our first meeting. Before I can show the creative work of the people, it is important to gain an awareness and a sense of place.
Faces tell a story. Each unique. Each so expressive with the etchings of life’s journey. I am so drawn to engage with the people and then be able to photograph with little distance between us. I was in the back seat of our “classic” red volkswagen when I saw this wonderful woman walking down the street with her colorful bag slung over her humped shoulders. My friends are absolutely wonderful and used to my asking to stop the car in an instant so all 6ft. of me jumped out of the back of the car (not an easy task) and went up to this woman. What was translated to her was that I thought she was beautiful and would like to photograph her. She was so kind and we shared smiles in that moment of time.
The following Sunday, I was driving to photograph a town Mass. I saw this woman out of the corner of my eye walking with her cane all by herself but this time we were late and could not stop. Any one who loves to photograph knows exactly that feeling of missing THE moment and missing THE picture. It hurts! As luck would have it, I was in the church setting up and saw this woman coming up to the front row in the church. She had walked almost a mile to get there! I saw determination, dignity and a quiet but powerful presence in this woman. This time I didn’t miss the opportunity to photograph her and bring a bit of her back home with me.