when the dust clears

Words about and images of matters political, social, and military

Posts Tagged ‘youth

Photo: Bethel vs. Heritage, September 26, 2013

with 2 comments

Hampton VA--Fort Monroe scenics; Chesapeake Bay; Darling Stadium football

Army JROTC at football game, Darling Stadium, Hampton, VA

From the BXP photo archive: Ring of Combat 3, June 2003

leave a comment »

True story: Roughly of a decade ago, I took an admittedly thin—I would have said “growing”—portfolio of Thai boxing and mixed martial arts photos to Sports Illustrated. A photo editor gave me a few polite minutes and then rendered his verdict: This does not fly for SI. This MMA stuff is too violent, he told me. It’ll never catch on in the U.S.

Mixed martial arts bout between James Gabert and Joe Rodriguez, Ring of Combat 3, Morristown, NJ, June 9, 2003

Mixed martial arts bout between James Gabert (top) and Jose Rodriguez, Ring of Combat 3, Morristown, NJ, June 7, 2003

I shot Ring of Combat 3 on old-fashioned negative film, hence the funky, retro colors.

Mixed martial arts bout between Tom Muller and Erik Certo, Ring of Combat 3, Morristown, NJ, June 7, 2003

Mixed martial arts bout between Tom Muller and Erik Certo, Ring of Combat 3, Morristown, NJ, June 7, 2003

Grappling bout between Chris DiPaolo and Mike Wojcik, Ring of Combat 3, Morristown, NJ, June 7, 2003

Grappling bout between Chris DiPaolo and Mike Wojcik, Ring of Combat 3, Morristown, NJ, June 7, 2003

From the BXP photo archives: Development and Finishing Institute, 2004

leave a comment »

I began my project on DFI, the Harlem finishing school, in April 2004 while debating the pros and cons of making my first trip to Iraq. Iraq essentially swallowed the next five years of my life, until I finished Full Disclosure.

That experience separated me from the more joyful side of photography and from my gentler, earlier work. Conflict images rose to the top of my selects pile; more life-affirming pictures usually sunk.

I’m revisiting work from before my travels, and I’m reconnecting with the issues and people that animated these images—and my life. (See below.)

From the BXP photo archives: Harlem, 2004; Taiwan, 1987

with 5 comments

Development and Finishing Institute students learn dining etiquette at the Plaza Hotel, New York City, 2004

Development and Finishing Institute students learn dining etiquette at the Plaza Hotel, New York City, 2004

Rose Murdock started Harlem’s Development and Finishing Institute in 2002 to teach African American girls and Latinas (and later boys) etiquette and comportment. Bourgeois? Bien sûr! But Ms. Rose had no time or patience to indulge in debate. Her philosophy: Girls of color need every arrow in their quiver to succeed professionally and financially, from working a salad fork to speaking on the phone with a college recruiter or potential employer. Period. I respected that, though I did find the focus on the salad-fork side of things a bit much. Of course, Emily Post would have cringed watching me tuck into lunch.

The school is still up and running.

School boy in an alley, Taipei, Taiwan, 1987

School boy in an alley, Taipei, Taiwan, 1987

As I did years later in China—and everywhere else I have visited—I strayed from the main streets to learn and photograph. The boy had been tossing a rubber ball in the air but stopped when I approached. He faced me and posed. I made an exposure. I waved. He waved, and scooted off.

My ability to walk backward and speak passable Mandarin landed me a job as a legal proofreader in Taiwan, fresh our of college, in 1986. I had spent the summer of my junior year giving campus tours. My only takers on one dreary day in Providence, RI, were a family of three. Dad was a senior partner in a Taipei law firm; I was graduating with a degree in East Asian Studies. We chatted. He gave me his business card, told me to get in touch. I began pushing a pencil for him just a few months later.

The job entailed sitting in a cubicle at the back of the sprawling offices of Lee & Li Attorneys at Law, Monday through Friday and half of Saturday. My neighbor there was an elderly and flatulent translator.

I knew little of international law—Lee & Li’s core practice—and during the first couple of months managed to excise perfectly fine legalese from documents written by L&L’s U.S.-educated Taiwanese lawyers.

I had time on my hands, but I was duct taped to my admittedly comfortable chair. My workload had lightened after they hired another American proofreader. Plus, most of L&L’s attorneys spoke English fluently, so I wasn’t able to work on my Mandarin very much. I got quite good at the NY Times crossword puzzle in the International Herald Tribune. I also managed to work my way through an armload of novels. (Web surfing was far in the future.) And I lived for lunchtime at the cafeteria in the basement of the Formosa Plastics Building, L&L ‘s headquarters. Every day the steam table sagged under trays of scrambled eggs and tomatoes, various seaweeds, chicken and pork chunks, crunchy stir-fried veggies.

I had committed to a two-year term, but I had realized I was not lawyer material. I left after six months for the grand tour of Asia I had mapped out between puzzling and reading—China, Mongolia, the Soviet Far East, and beyond—only to get laid low by giardia in Nepal. That’s another story.

From the BXP photo archives: 1996 & 1999

with 2 comments

Gulou (Drum Tower), Beijing, October 26, 1996

Gulou (Drum Tower), Beijing, October 26, 1996

When I wasn’t piloting my desk during my time in China as US News and World Report‘s Beijing Bureau Chief, I would wander streets and hutongs.

Photographing what I found dragged me out of the editorial and bureaucratic pool I steeped in most days—Beijing and Washington’s genuine conflicts and diplomatic spats; China’s labyrinthine officialdom; and the stress of being under (or believing I was under) the scrutiny of the Public Security (cops) and State Security (secret police) Bureaus.

The photo above, from the Gulou (Drum Tower) section of Beijing, is the result of such wanderings. The second picture is from the tailend of an interview of bus driver Wei Guiying (not pictured), who had been selected as a model worker by her work unit, in Hunan province’s Sansi Village. Wang Chunlei, my friend and office manager/editorial adviser also acted as translator, because we knew I would have difficulty understanding Wei’s Hunanese-flavored Mandarin. And I most certainly did.

I barely remember the interview; lunch, however, I recall vividly. Chunlei told me the family must have blown a month’s wages on the tableful of meat, vegetables—corn, greens, potatoes—and buns that they laid before us. I did my duty, good waiguo ren (foreigner) that I am, and devoured all that was scooped into my bowl.

Wei’s stepmother was housebound; her grandson was most definitely not.

Family of Wei Guiying (not pictured), Sansi Village, Hunan Province, China, December 26, 1996

Family of Wei Guiying (not pictured), Sansi Village, Hunan Province, China, December 26, 1996

Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang, Laos, November 1999

Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang, Laos, November 1999

This last photo is from a published story I did while working at Fortune magazine. I traveled to Vientiane and Luang Prabang, Laos, to write/photograph a travel piece.

Is there a theme—or themes— that unites and animates these photos? Escape? Encounter? I try to strike a balance between the literal and the lyrical, to see and photograph as an open, humble, compassionate, yet still critical observer and sometime participant.

Yes, more to come.