Thursday, February 14, 2013

Everyday Africa Portraits

 "She's my girl," said the young man proudly, in Dembara, Senegal.

I can hear the voice of Dan Pelle, one of my mentors from my years at The Spokesman-Review newspaper, as he edits over my shoulder: "I like seeing all these faces."

A funny thing happened while I was in Senegal. I started to use my phone to take portraits of people. It was kind of a whim decision, like, sure why not? I have this tool, why not experiment a bit? But, it turns out, these are some of my favorite photographs that I took while I was in West Africa.

Believe me when I say this was a shock for me. Unlike some of my colleagues, I was reluctant to use my phone's camera to take serious pictures, the kind with some weight to them, the kind that I would want to share with the world. I worried about the quality of the images, and the "Hipstamatic" filters bothered me. (In fact with the first set of portraits I took, I spent a lot of time in Photoshop trying--for the most part unsucessfully--to remove the filter, until I found a "lens" and "film" that was truer to my style, and started using that instead.)

I still don't think camera phones are perfect for every situation, but for some subjects and the right light conditions, they can work really well. People are not so afraid of a little phone camera.

Gniana, Fafacourou, Senegal.

Mai Mona, 12, Near Kolda, Senegal.

Fafacourou, Senegal.

Dembara, Senegal.

Elizabeth, 19, university student, Fafacourou, Senegal.

Obama fan, Kolda, Senegal.

Dembara, Senegal.

Maly, Fafacourou, Senegal.

Aminata, vegetable vendor in the market, Kolda, Senegal.

Samba, Fafacourou, Senegal.

Fatoumata, 20, university student, Fafacourou, Senegal.

Young laborer wearing hand-me-down hospital scrubs, Dembara, Senegal.

Bailo, bissap (hibiscus) vendor in the market, Kolda, Senegal.

Dembara, Senegal.

In Mabella Quarter, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Mariama, 10, and her pet monkey, with a re-purposed electrical cord for a leash, Bolama, Guinea-Bissau.

NoƩ, 21, Bandim district, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.

Alai, 21, refugee from Mali, Mentao Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso.

Sidi Ag Muhammad, 60, refugee from Mali and shepherd, Mentao Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso.

Ali, a 7-year-old refugee from Mali, is covered in dust from the walk to school, Mentao Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso.

Fatma, 8-year-old refugee from Mali, Mentao Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso.

Agali Ag Hamaduh, refugee from Mali and the camp's school director, Mentao Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso. 

Fati, 13, refugee from Mali, wearing a t-shirt with the Bollywood star Vaidehi on it, Mentao Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso.

Lala, 8 months old, refugee from Mali with her mother, Mentao Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An extraordinary woman: my grandmother

 Yvonne "Bonnie" Bost Pickett, a.k.a. Grandma, in her living room, Bozeman Mont., Dec. 25, 2012.

Warning: this post contains extensive amounts of bragging. I hope you don't mind.

My grandmother, Bonnie (Bost) Pickett, is 97. Which, to me, is in itself kind of amazing.

Right around Thanksgiving last year, with the help of her son and daughter, she published a memoir about her time in Honolulu during World War II. Grandma's adventurous spirit brought her to Hawaii in April of 1941, where she was working as a Queen's Hospital nurse when Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. She continued to work in Hawaii until 1945, when she received an engagement ring in the mail from my grandfather, a doctor with the Army Air Corps in the European theater.

Frank Pickett and Bonnie Bost were married on June 8, 1945, moved to Montana, raised three children, and the rest is history.

The cover of "Our War: My Life as a Nurse in Hawaii 1941-45" is graced by a stunning portrait of Bonnie in her nurse's uniform, back in the day. There are tons of cool historical photos inside, too.

Most authors have at least one book signing--Grandma is no exception. Here she is with my Aunt Mary Pickett, inscribing books that she'll give as gifts to her many fans. Aunt Mary, a journalist at the Billings (Mont.) Gazette, edited the book. (See everyone? I come by my chosen career path honestly, inspired by world travelers and journalists on all sides.)

I can't wait to see what else you've got up your sleeve. Love you, Grandma!