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Monthly Archives: August 2012
I’m so excited about this photography exhibit which opens tomorrow! Not only because its subject matter is my birthplace, Kenya, but because it’s the work of my boyfriend, Jeffrey Doornbos. He joined me on my last trip to Kenya in December, and fell in love with the country, and its people. As evidence, he took thousands of images, and after months of concentrated work editing them down, he has produced a body of 50+ images, that memorialize his experience. I’ve been present for the whole process, but I had a few questions for him anyway:
What got you into photography?
My dad was a professional photographer for a bit. My first camera was a 110 instamatic camera with a built-in flash. Over time, I absorbed a lot from him about composition and light.
So, you’re an actor and film maker. Do you feel like either of those components have influenced your photography?
Yes. I think there’s a connection between being behind the camera and being in front of it. As an actor you can develop an understanding of composition, what lense is being used, where you’re in the shot. Maybe without knowing it, you’re learning about photography through the work of the photographers on set. And still photography is nothing more than plucking out a single frame from the things we see in everyday life. And the thing I find most exciting is when you discover that the frame you’ve plucked tells the whole story.
I love that. So, this is your first exhibit. Tell me about it.
I was in Kenya with you and when I came back and began looking through the photographs I had taken, I found that many of them really encapsulated the experience that I had, not just in a visual sense but in an emotional sense. They felt very saturated and evocative to me. So, as I began to work on some of them, it was like pulling a string, and the stories kept developing. Over the last several months, I’ve found the ones that felt most emblematic of this special place. A reflection of what I felt there, not just what I saw there.
Isn’t it a special place? I was so excited that you got it as much as I do.
It is a special place. But it’s all the little moments that happen every day there, that when you experience them for the first time, are extraordinary. I hope that’s what my pictures are… little big moments.
Do you have a special moment that became a favorite photograph?
I like them all.
How many did you start with?
Probably 2000 pictures at least, and ended with 54 in the exhibit. Christmas morning was amazing. We were on safari, and you can spend hours scanning for anything moving in the grass or on the horizon, and you’re not guaranteed to see anything. And that was what we were seeing… nothing. So, we were turning to go back for breakfast, and suddenly the radio crackled in Swahili, and the driver turned the jeep back around and began speeding toward the middle of a grassy plain. It turned out to be a cheetah waking up, in the grass. Just waking up. And it was amazing. Something so simple. She got up and let us sit with her for a while. It was an unbelievable experience. Amazing. I’m dodging the question aren’t I? If I had to pick one image, it would be “Just One More Trinket”.
It’s a pic of a Maasai boy holding up a necklace, hoping I’ll buy it, and there is something in his eyes that speaks to the tenacity and the simplicity of living… that resilience. Another favorite image was taken waking up at sunrise because of jet-lag, and walking down to the Indian Ocean and watching the sunrise while swimming. I dodged it again, because that’s two favorites. And, I know that there will be many more that come to mind as soon as you tell me to shut up.
What has been the biggest gift and the biggest challenge in getting this to exhibit stage?
The biggest gift was seeing these stories come to life as the pictures developed. I’ve heard writers say that their characters start to speak on their own… I feel like these photographs have done the same thing, and it’s been thrilling to be a part of it. The biggest challenge has been editing down to the really special ones.
You’ve also talked about the vulnerability of this process.
Ah, yes. It’s funny, I’m more nervous putting these images on the wall, than I’ve ever been on stage or in front of the camera. In live theater the moment is over and if you weren’t proud of it, the curtain goes down and you can hope that the audience will forget about it. With this exhibit, it is up there for everyone to scrutanize and linger over. Even in film making the moment passes, but you can stare at a picture and it doesn’t move. The viewer either gets drawn into the picture or not, and that feels vulnerable to me because each image means so much to me, and has become part of my life.
I love the baby elephant photos. We had a chance to go behind the scenes at the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage. What an experience. I know It really impacted you. Tell me more about that.
To see the way these elephants are cared for, and rehabilitated, and the 24/7 commitment that the people who work at the orphanage have to these creatures is really humbling to me. The people who work there aren’t trying to do anything grand, they are just trying to make a dent in a big problem. To watch the symbiotic relationship between the orphans and their care givers, and also the elephant’s ability to trust and accept the help of a human after what has been done to them, is beautiful. And then, seeing elephants on safari, and knowing that that’s the future of most of those orphaned animals… it’s mind-blowing. And it means something. I have fostered a few orphans now, and feel like I’ll be connected to that organization for a long long time.
And a portion of proceeds from the exhibit will go to…
Yes! A portion of the proceeds from the exhibit will go to benefit the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
I’m very proud of you and so inspired that you followed though on this dream to show your work.
What do you want people to get out of the exhibit?
I hope that people are as drawn into the images as I am, but in their own way. I wanted the images to be subjective, to give room for people to connect on their own terms. And whatever they feel, I hope they leave the exhibit a little more lifted and inspired to create beauty and simplicity in their lives. Even just moments of it. And I want to take a second to thank you for all of your encouragement, and your hard work in helping me put all of this together.
Well, I’m a fan, as you know, and your photos really stir up something in me that makes me feel like coming home and feeling at home in the world all at the same time.
I love that. If only a few people say anything close to that, I’ll be very happy.