16
Apr

At Home in Manila

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work, Travel

This is the third post from my assignment in the Philippines for Arts Aftercare.  You can see all of the posts from this trip by clicking on the Arts Aftercare tag.  For those of you who are just joining in, the following portraits are of people who have been affected in some way by sexual exploitation.  Some of the people are volunteering, or caring for survivors, some of the people are survivors, and one person is simply family member of a victim of sexually exploitation.

Some of my favorite moments in the Philippines were when I was able to walk through neighborhoods, and photograph people in their homes.  It took several days before I was able to find transportation, and arrange times with people, but once I was able to establish some trust and familiarity, things began to fall into place.  I only wish I had more time in Manila to take more of these.  I have intentionally left out some of the names for various reasons.

The mother in this family is a volunteer at Samaritana, where she teaches women how to sew.  I photographed them at their home just outside the garbage community in Manila.

Jonathan Nambu is the co-director of Samaritana with his wife Thelma.  They were our wonderful hosts while we were in Manila.  I photographed him at his home in the backyard.

This young woman is in the Samaritana program for women who have been sexually exploited.  She lives in a small home with a large number of her family members along with extended family.

This is the girls father (pictured above).  He collects recyclable garbage for a living, and has a small shop in the front of the family’s home.

I was able to spend quite a bit of time with Krys on this trip, and got to know her a bit more than others.  She works at Samaritana, and spends a good amount of her time on the streets at night forming relationships with pimps, and women who are being exploited.  She has such an amazing heart, and her story is deeply moving.  This shoot was especially fun, because we got to ride a trike, transfer to a jeepney, and then take a long walk to get to her apartment where this portrait was taken.  I’m a sucker for a good trike ride on the deadliest highway in the world.

This woman also works at Samaritana, and she lives in a squatter community, which is like nothing I have ever experienced before.  A squatter community is exactly as it sounds.  People build homes right on top of, and next to each other, regardless of who owns the land.  Power lines and other resources are spliced, and it looks a bit like controlled chaos.  From a photographic standpoint, one thing I love about many of these images, is that there was often only one natural light source in each home, which provided a single stream of beautiful light to work with.

Survivor in the Samaritana program, photographed in her friends home.

I shot all but one of these images on my Vanguard tripod.  It was fun to work this way for a change with natural light.  It made me slow down and take a different approach.  I even slowed down my breathing, to accommodate the timed exposures.  I feel a deep connection with each of these images, and I also feel a different kind of appreciation for these because of the process.  I am really looking forward to creating more work like this at some point.

22
Feb

Zachariah’s Portrait

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog

While in Liberia last month, I met a wonderful man named Prince Kondoh.  He goes by Pastor Kondoh, and he has dedicated his life to serving those who can not help themselves, and teaching the children in his community.  During the recent civil war in Liberia, he was basically a prisoner in his own home for 14 years.  Not able to go outside without risking his life.  Now that peace has returned to Liberia, he works harder than anyone I have ever met with the hope he might be able to make up for lost time.  No minute is wasted, and no challenge is too great.  He has started multiple schools in Buchanan, one of which is called Chariot Daycare and Elementary School.  We were asked to visit the school one morning before we headed out to one of the villages where the wells were being built.  Because of the economic situation, there are many children who’s families are not able to pay for school, and I was asked if I would take a few pictures of the students needing sponsorship.

I was thinking I would take a few snapshots and it would be a quick thing.  But then I realized I didn’t pack all of these lights half way around the world to take snapshots, even if this wasn’t in the plan.  So all of the gear was taken out of the truck and we set up the lights.  As I was finessing the lights into place, something caused me to slow down and look around.  I wasn’t thrilled with how the portrait was turning out, and then I had a realization.  The natural light was near perfect.  I struggled with this idea for a few minutes, trying to convince myself it wasn’t possible.  Natural light never does exactly what I am looking for, especially in the middle of the day.  The picture won’t turn out.  But finally after a few tests, I decided to shoot this one with just my Hasselblad and nothing else.  It was very freeing to say the least.  For some reason, I had it in my head that it wasn’t possible to shoot a picture in my style with only natural light.  Natural light never seems to have the pop to it I am looking for, or if it does, the light isn’t at the right angle etc.  Most of the time natural light isn’t what I am looking for, but this instance proved to be an exception.  It wasn’t until we were back at our house that night, and I loaded the images on my laptop, that I was hit in the face with the detail and clarity of this portrait and the others I shot that day.  It was a great lesson for me to be aware of what is going on and to be open to improvising or even deviating from a plan.

But enough about lighting for now.  If you can’t tell already, this is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.  His name is Zachariah and he is a student at Chariot.  I could stare at this image for hours and continue to find new things I like about it.  Zachariah is one of the students in need of sponsorship, and I figured the very least I could do was provide a link to sponsor him or any of the other children who need support.  The cost is $15 a month and that covers clothing and food, as well as education.  If you decide you would like to sponsor Zachariah, please write me after you have done so, and I will send you a free print.

The Child Sponsorship Program is run by the Well Done Organization which is the organization building the wells in Liberia that my client MiiR Bottles partnered with.  I can personally vouch for the people working for WDO, as well as the organization itself.  Some really great things are happening in Liberia with the support of WDO.

Here are the links one more time.  I know not everyone is able to help in this way, but hopefully this might plant the seed in just one person who has the means and desire to help.
Info About The Child Sponsorship Program

Children Still In Need Of Sponsorship

It feels good to start posting images from this trip, and as promised there will be more in the days and weeks to come.  My developer just showed me round one of the revisions to my website tonight, and once it is finished I will have a new portfolio section with pictures from Liberia.