WHERE IS SHE NOW? by Jerry Taylor

Thailand Refugee Camp February 2010 on the Burma Border – Canon PowerShot G10 f/4.5 30mm ISO 200

Have you ever taken an image of someone you don’t know? Was that image taken a long time ago? And when you look at that image again do you ask yourself, “I wonder where she is now? Is she still alive?” That’s the story of this image. She was in a refugee camp in NW Thailand, February 2010. When I look at the image it propels me back; it seems like yesterday. Young, innocent, and beautiful in a big place that was not. Her eyes were soulful with a hint of apprehension and curiosity. My young girl is not the “Afghan Girl” made famous by Steve McCurry and National Geographic (here), but she is none the less real.

We were there to bring gifts, hope, and knowledge. We were restricted in what we could bring into the camp. It seemed as if, “Just someone to talk with from the outside.” was a welcomed treat. I was humbled that regardless of what meager food they had – we were expected to eat something; we did.

The “decoration” on her face is decoration, but much more than that. The product is Thanakha, a pounded paste from tree pulp wood. Thanakha is used to cool and refresh the skin. It’s used as sunscreen and we were told it repels insects. It is worn mostly by children of both sexes and then by adult women. Since they wear Thanakha for protection they also make it decorative.

I hate to say, this image was a hit and run, “No cameras allowed in the refugee camp!” I had, at the time, a big Nikon D200 body and lenses with me that stayed in the truck. My small backup camera was a Canon Power Shot G10. I felt somewhat guilty about breaking the rules, but not enough — I got the images I wanted.

We still have a connection with a missionary that lives in Thailand. He still visits the camps. He does not keep a record of the specific people he sees; he does not know where this little girl has gone or if she is alive. I hope she is. I recently had a solo photography show at the Liriodendron Manson in Bel Air, Maryland – Here – a photographer friend of mine, Dave Gigliotti, asked if he could take a photo of me next to one of my favorite images. Here This was the image I chose. When you are touched by a young, innocent, beauty – your soul is connected by a Memory, a Story, Stopped in Time.

Up to Date Info on the Refugee Camp. HERE

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This image is part of my life. 1) I participated in a year of study at Hamburg University in Germany starting in 1971. My brother (a musician) suggested that I attend a worship service in the Saint Mary Church. When our study group took a trip to Lübeck one Saturday, in early September, to learn about the city and its artistic and cultural treasures, I stayed overnight to attend worship service Sunday morning at Saint Mary Church. 2) After graduating from college I was drafted into the Army. Because my college major was physics, the Army felt that my military specialty should be planning for nuclear and chemical warfare – ultimate destruction.  3) During the study group trip to Lübeck that Saturday in 1971, while in Saint Mary Church standing near this memorial, I met the young lady who would later become my wife – the exact date we met that year was September 11.

Saint Mary’s Church in Lübeck, Germany was built between 1250 and 1350; located on the highest point of the island that forms the central heart of Lübeck. During World War II, Lübeck was the first German city to be attacked by the Royal Air Force. The bombing attack on the night of March 28, 1942 created a firestorm that destroyed three of the main churches in the city center. The bells of Saint Mary’s Church hung in the South Tower in a bell loft over 200 feet above the ground. The strong updraft feeding the flames after the bombing raid caused the bells to ring one last time and they crashed to the ground. The oldest bell dated to 1508, weighed 4,400 pounds and had been rung for 434 years. The tenor bell dated to 1669, weighed 15,700 pounds and pealed for 273 years.

The heat and intensity of the fire partially melted these two bells. They fell from the burning tower in the early morning hours after the bombing raid. Since that day the two bells remain in the south tower as a silent memorial warning against war and violence.

You can read more history about Saint Mary Church HERE

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Mathare Valley Slum Classroom in Nairobi, Kenya East Africa – Nikon Coolpix P900 f/4 85mm 1/200 sec ISO 100

We were on a humanitarian mission, in Mathare Valley, Nairobi, teaching about Marriage and Family Therapy for a month: to teachers, social works, discipleship officers, and other leaders. The date is September 15, 2016. The memory represents our second trip to Mathare Valley for Missions of Hope International. The slums of Nairobi, Kenya, rank in the top five of the biggest slums in the world. Nearly a million people live in the Mathare slum alone, an area of less than one square mile. The school has exploded from a humble beginning of fifty students in one location to now over 12,000 students and 20 schools. You can visit the school websites here and here. Their story is too big for 500 words or less, so, I hope you will read the links or visit a YouTube video about the Valley, of which there are many. Now, on to the image that is stopped in time.

During our month, we visited all the schools and heard the stories of leaders, students, and families. We are in the Bondeni school; the room was stuffy and hot. The corrugated sheet metal walls vibrate noise and radiate the heat from outside. The teacher is asking questions and in this image, you can see a hand is raised in front of the girl with the blue top. At first, I thought, “Ah, a hand in the way. It just ruined the photo.” but, it is part of the whole action going on in the class room. I am the distraction. There are a couple of pair of eyes looking at me; a couple of eyes looking away. I was amazed, when I processed the image, that the P900 captured both the inside and the outside of this image so well for a jpeg. Information is posted on the right-hand side of the image about the class rules. Outside there is a “Exhauster” truck for collecting and carrying human excreta; the truck is a rare sight. There are very, very few lavatory facilities in Mathare Valley. Sewage runs in most streets. The tin-roofed shacks are a mixture of homes, “Hotels,” and other businesses. A “Hotel” is really a place to eat and not to stay; the menu is usually rice and beans. The brilliant colors are everywhere. The image in the lower center pane of the window is a figure of a man who symbolizes a barber works here. The bare footed woman on the left is typical of no foot ware and her smile is characteristic of most people you meet in the valley. If you are reminded of the raised fist as a symbol of black power, in the past, think of this raised fist as assent to knowledge which is real power. People adapt and live their lives; hopefully, some of the children in this image will escape the Valley.

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Tangier Island, VA – Nikon D750 24-70 lens at 70mm f/8 ISO 100

It was our 52nd wedding anniversary. The memory took place on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia September 11, 2015. The island is eroding; it may be gone, according to some, in thirty years, so maybe you have time to put it on your bucket list. The population of five hundred or so people cater to the main-landers of Virginia and Maryland who come on day-trips to learn about the Island, peoples way of life and taste the local seafood. The people, the homes, a way of life may eventually disappear; if it does, this will be a disappearance that cannot be rebuilt. The Island people will gradually drift to another place and Tangier Island will only be a memory like many other transitions and tragedies in life. We walked every foot of the island in our two night and three days stay in one of the Bed & Breakfast establishments. There may be only a dozen motorized vehicles on the Island. The lone police officer has a motorized golf cart.

The image was taken on our last day. It was threatening rain, but never did. It was a photographer’s sky with billowing clouds and great contrast. The image has two houses lined up like it was only one and actually there is a third roof beyond the two obvious ones. The picket fence, the double shepherd’s hook plant hanger and the arbor catch your attention to the center and left. The bench, on the right, invites you to sit for a while and the towel is ready to wipe off the sweat. The nearby bicycle, on the ground, says, “Take a ride.” Maybe the hardly noticeable TV dish antenna says, “Stay inside! It’s too stormy outside – relax.” The storm door is embossed with a flying Canada goose. The weather-beaten roof that needs to be worked on may indicate the owner is saying, “Why replace it? We won’t be here that much longer.” While the other owner’s roof looks new and says, “I’m not ready to give up, yet.” You may see or feel other messages in the image. I would like to hear them.

The official Tangier Island website is here Tangier Island.

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There are certain images which always bring a smile to my face, and this one I call “Wedding Album” is one of them.

The day is Thursday June 2, 2011, and Naples Italy is hot, humid, noisy and bustling with life. I’m roaming the streets photographing and I hear a loud noise around the corner. When I arrive, I observe a wedding party and their photographer surrounded by a large crowd. The photographer is shouting out directions and the wedding party is happily complying. I immediately begin taking pictures non-stop, standing near, and moving in unison, with their photographer. After ten minutes everyone takes a break and I begin walking away.

I feel a tap on my shoulder, and when I turn around the wedding party’s photographer is motioning me to move next to the wedding party. Suddenly, I’m surrounded by the women in the picture and their photographer is taking pictures of us. It turns out everyone in the wedding party saw me taking their picture and wanted to turn the tables on me and have my picture taken with them. The wedding party was laughing, the crowd was laughing, and not only was I laughing, but I was putting on quite the performance that day. Everyone was having a great time. It became a special moment!

When I look at this picture today it makes me think of two things. First, I wonder what others think was going on in this picture when I took it. I later learned there’s an Italian custom for the wedding party to rub the bride’s gown for good luck. The bride was certainly enjoying the moment. And then I also wonder if I somehow ended up in the final wedding album. On the one hand it would seem illogical for that to occur. On the other hand, that hot, humid, noisy memory, stopped forever in time, brought so much joy into so many people’s lives, that maybe the bride wanted to look at that image, remember that scene, and have it bring a smile to her face too!

View more of Steve’s excellent work –  HERE

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