WHILE TAKING PICTURES IN THE SUDAN…

 

In 2004 I was in The Sudan taking pictures for an international pacifist aid agency.

After taking pictures in IDP camps in Darfur where people who were raped, burned and generally f***ed up by the Sudanese government backed Janjaweed militia sought refuge. I was stopped by security officers at the Nyala Airport on our way back to Khartoum with my camera, detailed notes and the client’s 40 rolls of films… I was allowed onto the flight with the assurance that I would be taken aside by more government men on landing in Khartoum.

While we flew out of Darfur a deep sense of peace descended down over me while sitting in that seat on the Marsland Aviation Tupolev airplane , I prayed to God for a way out, heard a voice saying that I was his loved son had to just accept his peace and walk on… He would position the hole in the net that I was caught in, I just had to walk on and trust him to do the rest.

I looked around the cabin for government agents, I was trying to do things my way and the deep sense of peace lifted up off me with the words “do you want my peace or not?” I re accepted the peace and it fell right down tangibly over me again.

I walked down off the Tupolev on the airport apron with my camera, notebook and film right pass a reception of about 6 men who did nothing to stop me, again in the airport building 2 police officers ran into the terminal building where we landed looking for someone again they ran right straight past me.

A few days later an Italian Roman Catholic nun approached me in the Athbarah Comboni Mission Centre; she said that she just had to hug me because she felt that I needed it; and I did need it after Darfur.

Back at our hotel in Khartoum a journalist from a Nairobi based news service offered to secret my film out of the country with all their camera kit for me…

I believe that God is true to his word; and loves us so deeply and can be trusted. He did position holes right where I needed them and I, my kit and pictures got out of the net that I felt to be caught in in The Sudan and then added a much needed hug because he can.

…Over Heard in the Palace

Papa, you and I know both know that he doesn’t need to go… Yes M, that is the case and quite frankly I wish he too would soon come to a place where he could just have the freedom to know that I love him no matter. It’s an order M, just keep an eye on him while he is at that Sunday morning meeting, they call it church and anything could happen to my beloved while there…

Church!?

Yes M, that’s what these people call it now; yes, I know it’s nothing of the sort of what I wanted, but it is what it has become…

But the other ‘messengers’ are all going biking… And some are looking after some beloved in both trenches in that minor war, that’s what I am trained for, it’s what we all are trained for Papa!

Danger is all over M, including this religion thing called church, there is a very real danger in this thing too…

Live by the Sword and Live More Fully

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Me half way up some stairs in Kinshasa, DRC. Photo John Robinson.

As a self confessed visual poet and spirit thief, I will do well as a photographer to make some of my own spirit more available to the people around me.

In a conversation with T-Bone at the BAT Centre in Durban about the tangibility of the substance of a good photograph, I realized that as a photographer I am able to connect with the spirit of others and or the spirit of the moment before my lens but I am hard pressed to share my self with those around me on a daily basis.

T-Bone asked me if there was a tangible transfer of something when a photograph is taken “like in drama on the theatre stage” I said a big yes to his question, T-Bone is a drama specialist at the BAT Centre. I have seen many ‘stiff’ or ‘dead’ photographs to conclude that something of the ‘spirit’ or the ‘moment’ resides in some other photographs. I told T-Bone that a photographic image that speaks to the viewer is the same as the stage drama that speaks to someone in the audience in this sense.

Take my camera out of my hands and I become a bit of stiff too, but I am learning to loosen up on my spirit in the social sense, it’s hard, but I am making headway. I don’t like the word ‘networking’ and I am an useless networker, but I like the word ‘connect’ and as a photographer I understand the concept. By connecting my spirit with those of others, those others may too get a hold on who I am as a person, while I get a hold on something of their spirits. We are members of human race and all have something in common; and it is for us to find out what our commonalities are and blossom together if possible.

As a narrative photographer I am a task master at lurking on the edge of an activity with my ‘M6 and getting away with some of the gold on offer. As a member of the same race that I shoot I am too now more giving of my own spirit to those others around me. It’s like giving back of what I have gotten over the years as a photog; and it’s good for me too. I am freed up to just be me more often, and in front of others too.

They say “live by the sword and die by the sword”… I add to this by saying I can also live more fully too before the end comes as it will for everyone of us.

WHAT IS JRP DOT WORDPRESS

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johnrobinsonphotography.wordpress.com is no longer just a blog, it’s become more of an ideas hub on wordpress.com A DIGITAL MOLESKINE DIARY or DMD is a pathway to other sites of culteral interest that gets new content added as and when I come across it. ANOTHER’S STORY is a space that gets given to a photographic peer each week. None of us exist in a vacuum and we all live in a world where the hate of other is an ugly reality of our daily life, jrp dot wordpress is never going to be a place just about me.

Across the top of my website page there is a horizontal box with a list of multimedia stories and photographic galleries, these are not static and their spot is not permanent on this site. As I move forward in life these galleries reflect this momentum the old sometimes gives way to the new too…

Below the gallery box is a scrolling multimedia column of thoughts, links and ideas going back over the years with the freshest at the top. While I have studied at post graduate level I believe that this critical way of thought has to be couched in everyday language to be generally useful.

Narrative photogs have to be more then just lens people, we have to be broad based communicators looking for our own stories, persepting these ideas and working with other people for a common good… JR

RHUBARB IN THE SPINACH PATCH

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Like Pop Eye I have a thing for spinach, it gives me the iron that I need in this life of mine. I can so consume it with ugali and chicken, but I feel a lot too like a lone rhubarb in the greater spinach patch. I feel for the rhubarb, it’s tart. Rhubarb is colourful and different to its green brothers and sisters and yes sometimes I too need a bit of sugar to go down.

Life sometimes just happens. I did not plan to be kissed on the lips and just accepted as a friend when I was doing a story in a Gay community, or seeing how in the midst of the horror of the Dafuri genocide people of differing beliefs could also work together for a common good… but I did.

It took the reading of Zen Flesh Zen Bones for me to have a fresh window on the greatness of the Creator, and it took the hug of a Roman Catholic nun in the City of Atbara to undo my own sense of otherness to her form of our shared belief.

The writer of the Gospel of Luke says that ‘He’ had a special thing for the town tarts; and there is no mention the ‘evil gay community’ in any of the gospels. Instead there is vitrol for the religious, and a big up for the ‘Good Other’ who looked after a man beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when a local priest and a religious leader walked on.

I guess that I will never have the answers to all of this world’s problems; The Creator is just that, the big brain, and all of us are just little brains. While chasing for all of the answers is a fool’s game, just loving people rather then being consumed by hate and fear is not… JR

…WHILE WALKING DOWN DR PIXLEY KASEME STREET

Hate, fear and love are also 4 letter words; and by another 4 letter word, if I don’t grapple with their out working each and every day of my life.

H is now a friend of mine; she lives just off South Beach with her husband and works in her brother’s restaurant at the top end of Dr Pixley KaSeme Street across from the old grave yard. She makes a petite Ethiopian coffee that my homeopath should never know about, and with its clove infusion is my favorite shot of down town coffee. Her brother’s restaurant is a scent filled alcove, without a menu he serves meat and salad on a plate of injera; a sour flatbread from their home in Ethiopia. H’s coffee is roasted and brewed on charcoal in front of me, she serves it in fine porcelain that her friend G sells alongside the coffee beans from the highlands of their homeland. It is because of local ‘hate of other’ that the brother has said no to photos of H here, it is out of respect for him that H quietly shook her head to me when I took out the M6 just off this road in down town Durban.

F is fearful and is still the victim of a brutal hijacking about 3 years ago. F can’t go out at night alone, and has panic attacks in dark places.

Fear is so debilitating, it’s a part of the psyche of many people who I know around me. As an age we are preoccupied with the concept of ‘safety’, America has a department devoted to the safety of their homeland. South Africa is devoted to the issue of their ‘crime’. For all our other advances we are not a people of can do but a people of can’t do due to our fear. I would like to be able to take F for a walk along a down town street, to sample coffee with clove, I feel that it will be awhile yet before F is ready to browse for porcelain on Dr Pixley KaSeme Street. F’s fear is real, I can see it; there is nothing put on about it.

I will always love X, L and Y. But I lost my temper with L a long time ago, I did apologise and I am so sorry for what I did.

L is deeply hurt and I have to love from a distance. I live with these consequences and now know that love is not a fluffy thing. Love is deep like a river, it has a power of its own, and I have to love for all of us for now.

I will never stop loving and doing what I can for X, L and Y. I will continue to walk along side F and maybe one day we will go browse for porcelain together. I will be a friend to H and all others in little Addis Ababa on the top end of Dr Pixley KaSeme Street.

Names have been changed to protect all those involved in this down town walk of mine.

JR