Regardless of poverty, ubiquitous propaganda, scarcity or hypocrisy Havana continues to smile. Not a sly smirk or rueful grin but a broad, welcoming smile. One that welcomes you into its home, shares its simple meals and lures you to dance to its infectious rhythms. Walking the streets is a cultural excursion, from the ornate buildings of a former prosperous nation passing the bullet-ridden walls of revolution to the rubble of a stalled Communist state. Yet it is impossible to not be struck by the beauty of this city suspended in time. MORE
‘Crossroads of High Asia’ is the title of a book by Janet Rizvi first published in 1983 describing the little known land of Ladakh and referring to its unique position in the cultures, trade routes and religious beliefs of ancient Asia. Perched on the western end of the Tibetan plateau in the great Himalayan range it was an independent kingdom for 900 years up until the 19th century. In modern times Ladakh has come under Indian jurisdiction but border disputes persist with Pakistan and China. MORE
This series of images was taken while on assignment in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. As we were leaving the reserve one day our driver suggested we stop at a nearby Maasai village. I thought it would be just a quick stop and a chance to pickup some handmade souvenirs. Knowing that the Maasai depend on tourists to supplement their subsistence farming, I didn't expect the warmth of our welcome and the genuine dialogue I would have with the chief. He introduced us to the village, showing every aspect of their daily life. Speaking passionately about the realities confronting the Maasai people and the hard choices they must make in order to preserve their cultural identity - from environmental issues threatening their homes and grazing lands, exposure to tourists and the lure of modern life. MORE
For close to three decades now Nevada’s desert landscape has been annually transformed into the phenomenon that has come to be known as Black Rock City, playing host to Burning Man. While the essence of Burning Man is often mislabeled as a massive party where participants escape to for a week of excessive drug use, the best way of describing it is that of a "pop up society." One, which after a years worth of work, dedication and preparation is burnt down to the desert floor, leaving it just as it was before its temporary inhabitants arrived. Regardless of the stereotypes about the, for lack of a better term, “hippy sub-culture” that Burning Man has been built upon, the festival embodies a spirit of collective freedom that is seldom seen in our world today. It has evolved into a place of worship, innovation, radical self-reliance and authentic freedom of expression. Where anyone can reinvent himself or herself into whomever they want, without the stresses of acceptance and judgment from the ‘real world’. MORE
Certifiably nomadic. This is just one of countless ways to describe the rag-tag, bootstrapped guerrilla filmmaking collective What Took You So Long? (WTSYL). On any given day, this small, yet powerful team may span the area of three, even four continents. From Ghana to Haiti, Qatar to Panama, the WTYSL clan is constantly on the move - capturing images, and telling the stories from wherever their feet land. Whether they be spanning the globe in search for some illustrious camel milk (yes, camel milk), or organizing TEDx events for the masses, WTYSL are constantly in pursuit of personifying the stories of the unsung heroes our world has to offer. MORE
It was the cemeteries that first spoke to me. Anarchic white tombstones tumbling down the foothills, flanked on one side by the Atlas mountains and on the other by the ancient doors of the walled town, or medina, of Fes. “Don’t go that way,” the doorman at our hotel had warned us, “There are thieves.” But my daughter and I did not find thieves. What we found were children younger than her four years sifting through sparsely strewn garbage. Traveling salesmen, burlap bags full of leather goods, weaving a path through the graves; women with brightly colored headscarves carrying water vessels to fill at a well amongst the dead. We also found many freshly dug holes, with funeral processions gathering around. They weren’t gloomy-looking flocks, these funeral processions: Almost everybody, male or female, appeared to be wearing red or orange or blue or lime green djellabas (robes). Only the widow of the deceased regularly wears white, I’m told-- as if she were a Western bride. MORE
The military junta has ruled Myanmar since 1962. Challenges to the junta are quickly thwarted with a heavy hand. Information coming and going is monitored closely. Journalists cautiously sneak in and out but many are blacklisted after reporting about the political situation.
The former capital city of Yangon, while not without its beauty, is developmentally stalled in the past with beat down cars cruising by crumbling buildings. No ATM’s can be found; a visitor must bring all the money he/she needs with them. MOREWhile the Philippine Islands were being struck by Super Typhoon Haiyan’s wrath, Jon Rose, Founder of Waves For Water was already hatching his plan to help. Days later, he was mobilizing to get on the ground and provide victims with access to clean water through Waves For Water’s clean water filters. Having been on site for about a week now, Jon gave MISSION a first-hand status report on how their efforts are going, and how they are breaking through roadblocks to give aid to those in need: "It's been a long first week here in the Philippines, but we are making good progress in establishing local networks that we can implement our program through. I have always believed in the model of empowering and facilitating locals to help their own people rather than having us, a bunch of foreigners, deciding who gets what, when, where, and how. We aren't from here, we don't know the intricacies and nuances of this culture, so why should we show up and start dictating things? I believe that our greatest role is to be a facilitator by providing new tools, along with the proper education and training, to address at least one of the many needs - access to clean water.MoreWe’ve all heard the clichés. “There’s no place like New York...It’s a melting pot...The greatest city in the world,” so on, and so forth.
While many of these ring true, often times people from outside these kindred streets are only able to absorb what is on the surface; restricting them from witnessing where New York City’s incomparable charm resides. It is not for no reason that NYC has been, and continues to be referred to as the greatest city on the planet. But to understand why, some digging and exploration underneath the superficial elements is essential. More“This is an exciting time for digital storytellers.”
Truer words have never been spoken. But in the spirit of the commencement of this year’s Social Good Summit, it should be noted that these storytellers also hold a great responsibility to the masses. As a distinguished photographer, Marcus Bleasdale embodies this sense of responsibility in his coverage of conflict areas around the world through the medium of his trusted camera lens. Over the past 15 years, the region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has captured his steady attention.
Throughout his time working within the DRC, Bleasdale has gained a first-hand perspective into a nation that, while rich in minerals, has been coerced into a haunting reality of violence, disease, poverty and profound injustice. Children are stripped of their adolescence, forced into militant lives plagued by mindless violence at the behest of their devious superiors. Families are torn apart, displaced, and involuntary bare witness to the perils of life within the misleading comfort of their own backyards.
MoreThis photo essay highlights just a few of the fascinating array of indigenous homes found in every corner of the planet. Many are remarkable feats of human ingenuity - beautiful constructions that utilize natural materials from the landscapes where these people live, and each home is uniquely adapted to the environment and climate in which it is situated.
To us at least, these communities often seem remote or even abstract, and it can be difficult to understand what life might be like for these people whose culture seems so different from our own. We recently wrote a post about the age of adventurous empathy and one of the ideas we focused was the importance of fostering a sense of curiosity and of seeking to see the world through another's eyes. We hope that through the stories behind the homes you see below, you will catch a glimmer of what life might be like for some of the isolated tribes and ethnic minorities, who are spread out across the globe in many beautiful and far flung places. It isn't always easy.MorePhotographer, designer and social Innovator Shaun Fynn took a very unusual journey—he set out to visit and document the experience of blind school students in Ahmedabad, India. His motives? A combination of better understanding, alternate consciousness, and raising awareness of blindness overall, and MISSION speaks with him here.
What inspired you to travel to visit blind schools?
The idea was inspired by an old friend of mine, photographer, Tim Hetherington. He had spent eight years in West Africa documenting the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. During his time there he documented a blind school and sufferers of blindness as a result of the wars and lack of medical care. I wanted to continue the spirit of this work and raise awareness for blindness beyond Africa. I am also very interested in how we diagnose, teach and comprehend special needs. In the process of exploring this, I became interested in the idea that I call ‘Pathways’— how to understand the consciousness of people who have impaired vision and how they evolve their channels of perception. I think photography is a very, very powerful tool to try and communicate and understand this aspect of the human condition. MoreSo you’ve had a bad day? You’re running late, you burnt your toast, spilled your coffee, forgot your lunch, and now you’re sitting in traffic. It seems as if everything after this sequence of events will be as terrible, if not worse, until you get the chance to start your day over tomorrow. But why wait until tomorrow when today is giving you an opportunity to approach a challenge with a nod and a smile? My name is Amanda; I am an artist that is hoping to inspire a new approach to our everyday challenges.
This new approach began when I traveled to Nicaragua last summer for one month. I went with the knowledge that Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and also has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world. These two facts coupled with a struggling democracy, crumbling infrastructure, and rampant gender inequality have created a harsh reality for the average Nicaraguan. However, during my time there,it astounded me to witness the generosity and hospitality of the people I met. While in Nicaragua I worked with a community development organization, Manna Project International, helping to teach English, health, and microfinance classes and seeing firsthand the creation of the organization's extraordinary jewelry cooperative in La Chureca. I cannot help but think that the beautiful people I came to love in Nicaragua were preparing me for the year of my life that was to come.There are few elements across the spectrum of humanity that bind, and connect us as people; no matter what our age, race, or cultural background. They validate our bond as humans, and in many cases drive the most profound change that is occurring across the globe, that of bringing us together as a global community. The spirit of friendly competition through sport does exactly this.
This is where Hoops 4 Hope (H4H) comes into play. H4H is an international non-profit organization, which, since 1995, has utilized the “power of sport to create sustainable long-term positive impact for youth, equipping them with the tools to manage the social, health and economic related challenges they face.” — Mark Crandall, H4H Founder & Director More
“Unite those with positive minds and compassionate hearts and good things happen…” I thought to myself, after meeting Emi Koch in San Diego and chatting with Crystal Thornburg-Homcy about her idea to make a unique surf film in India early in 2012. She and her husband, renown filmmaker, Dave Homcy, planned to document Emi’s work in India under her NGO, Beyond the Surface International, and other such inspiring cases of youth and women’s empowerment through surfing, yoga, and ecological creativity.
On a scouting mission in December 2012, they serendipitously met, Ishita Malaviya, India’s first female surfer and a powerful voice for Indian women, who happily agreed to accompany us on the adventure. Shortly after, Damian Handisides of Free Theo Productions joined the team and the project’s momentum became unstoppable. I was honored to be a participant, along with Lauren Hill (founder of The Sea Kin), and Kate Baldwin (yogini extraordinaire).Imagine hiking across a deserted green plain to the foot of a mountain that rears up before you. In the distance are gauchos herding horses, and when you climb to the top, you can see a wide expanse of blue icy glaciers. It is for the views of desolate plains and adventure possibilities that people are flocking to Patagonia, a region in South America that is shared by both Argentina and Chile. So when Amanda Johnson had two weeks paid time off and wanted to spend some time volunteering she chose to do an excursion to Patagonia with Roadmonkey, an adventure philanthropy company founded by Paul von Zielbauer.
Patagonia is home to 365 glaciers, three of which are still growing. The Perito Moreno, one of the largest, has become a popular tourist destination in the Los Glacieres National Park. In 1981, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site. It was this park that Amanda was able to visit in her first week in Patagonia.
We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing?"
— Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras
Recently, I had the opportunity of traveling to Africa as a resident artist for Africa Yoga Project, an organization that seeks to empower individuals and strengthen communities on the African continent, through the practice of yoga, meditation, health education (HIV/AIDS) and social activism.
One of the places I visited, a Kenyan prison for women, brought me unexpected joy, when the inmates, many of whom are HIV positive, shared that yoga has become a rare source of happiness in their daily lives.
In the following images, I tried to capture this joy and the relaxing effects that this practice is bringing into their current reality. — Robert Sturman
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN REBELLE SOCIETY
ROBERT STURMAN is the official visual artist of 2005’s 47th Annual GRAMMY® Awards. He has formal training as a painter and photographer, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Following his degree, he completed a two-year apprenticeship with Carmel, CA-based master photographer William Giles, whose striking images have been said, “to have the impact of a Zen koan,” a description that could apply to Sturman’s imagery as well. He also studied for two years at the Memphis College of Art under acclaimed Italian painter John Torina, whose ephemeral, atmospheric landscapes are echoed in many of Sturman’s works. You can find out more about Robert’s work at his online studio and connect with him via Facebook and Twitter.Turning Tables is an international NGO committed to establishing, and maintaining permanent musical production facilities for DJ’ing, rap, and beat making for marginalized youth in the Developing World. “The aim is to start a process of reflection and self-empowerment by giving youth a space where they can express their travesties, hopes, and dreams in a non-violent manner,” says Turning Tables Founder and Director Martin F. Jakobson.
In 2009, Martin was living in Beirut, and began working in several Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon. Since then, Turning Tables has expanded its work across the Middle East to Tunisia, Jordan, Libya and Cairo, alongside establishing a presence in Haiti and Cambodia. MoreWhat will your feet wear today? … sneakers, wedges, sandals, heels, or flip-flops? A daily decision we so often take for granted. Shoes are a luxury we don’t give much thought to. For many children shoes are not an option and all across the globe children and their families unwillingly go barefoot every day.
The thought of going barefoot on our way to work, or to the grocery store, immediately sparks a few questions in our mind. What will my boss think? My coworkers? The grocery clerk? My friends? This is exactly TOMS’ intention. TOMS’ goal in starting the ‘One Day without Shoes’ campaign was to get people talking. They believe that it’s easy to get people talking, but harder to get them talking about something that matters. Their goal was to have people from all over the world go barefoot.
People from all over the world pledged to go shoeless with TOMS on Tuesday, April 16th. Last year over 3,000 events were held in over 50 countries. The campaign was trending on social networks. Within all 50 states and Canada, over 500 college campuses participated in the campaign. The One Day without Shoes organized events that take place all over the world have rapidly grown over the last several years. Their goal was for conversation over the bare feet to explode and create positive change. Their goal in getting people to go bare foot all over the globe is to spark curiosity, conversation, action, and change in all those who come in contact with your bare feet.100cameras is an NGO that empowers marginalized children around the world to document their lives through photography, and thereby create positive change in their communities. 100% of the photography sales go back to the children’s communities. Here’s how it works: 100cameras gives a camera to Jackson in South Sudan. Jackson snaps a photo. Then you buy his photo on the 100cameras website. 100% goes back to Jackson and Jackson is empowered.
In 2008, 100cameras launched it’s first project at St. Bartholomew’s Orphanage in Kajo Keji, South Sudan that serves as a home to 80 children who lost their families during the brutal 21-year civil war. The orphanage was founded by IWASSRU (International Widows Association for Southern Sudanese Refugees in Uganda), a group of Sudanese war widows that banded together to care for refugee orphans. 100cameras funds lifeline supplies, such as protection and access to food, water and medicine. MoreBEYOND THE SANGAM, BROADER PERSPECTIVES ON THE 2013 MAHA KUMBH MELA
The Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, India happens once every 12 years with 2013 being considered the most auspicious gathering for 144 years. Allahabad, situated at the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers is complimented by the mythical Saraswati river to form one of the most sacred places in Hindu belief and philosophy. A dip at the intersection of rivers known as the Triveni Sangam is considered to purge sins and assist one on the path to Moksha (liberation). MoreThe front lines of the Syrian Civil War trace through alleys and ancient streets in the Old City of Aleppo. Defending these lines are young men, most less than two decades old, carrying AK-47s and homemade grenades. They have no military training and will not wear body armor for fear of delaying the time of death anointed for them by Allah. They are kids and recent college graduates who picked up guns for their country and, most of all, for revenge. All have lost friends and family to Assad.
These young men are warmhearted and hospitable, but daily burdened and degraded by the fighting. Every fighter I met had a different story that brought him to Aleppo; this project attempts to tell those stories. — Cengiz Yar
THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MATADOR
CENGIZ YAR @cengizyar Based out of Chicago, Cengiz is a documentary photographer and freelance photojournalist whose work has been featured in publications around the world. His photography focuses on human conflicts, both violent and peaceful, and aims to encourage understanding by fostering interest and making the alien familiar.
How much food does your household go through in a week? What are your go-to family meals? And how much do you spend on food? You can get a glimpse of how others answered these questions in Oxfam’s new photo series, which depicts people from around the globe with one week’s food supply for their families. MoreWhen Elizabeth Tulsky participated in NYU’s study abroad program in Ghana, she also independently volunteered with City of Refuge, a local organization that uses education as a tool to combat child slavery. She said of her experience that it had “a tremendous impact on my life and what I want to do in the future.”
In Ghana, children are often enslaved, maltreated and many mothers struggle to see their children as more than a financial burden. While there are no statistics on the actual number of children trafficked, estimates are in the thousands. What is known is that 25% of Ghanaian children ages 5-14 years are involved in child labor. Child labor and human trafficking are both against the law in Ghana, however, laws are not enforced. MoreOn October 26 we premiered the Streets of Afghanistan exhibition in the village of Istalif, a remote village in the Shomali Plain north of Kabul. Four years ago, I envisioned a collaborative photography exhibition between Afghan photographers and Western photographers that had deep affection for this country. Instead of a gallery show, I imagined surrounding the viewer in the image to bring the art off the wall, and into the viewers world. I wanted to see people’s reaction as they interacted with lifesize images and hoped that it would change American perspectives of Afghanistan—that if we saw it as a country with a beautiful spirit and culture that we would be more invested in it from a humanitarian perspective. MoreOne can never discount the importance that travel can have on shifting one's life direction. Taylor Conroy is a case in point. After an impactful experience in Kenya and Uganda, he changed his career path in a big way. Taylor has worked in real estate, as a firefighter and in a variety of other commercial pursuits, and after his trip he focused on creating Pocket Change Heroes, the newly launched website building schools around the world, using the power of social media.I've been making street art since 2009 and have traveled to 13 countries to focus on children who are homeless and living on the street. I make cardboard cutouts that I mount to walls with high tack mounting tape or propped up as stand alone pieces. If no one removes them from the streets, the pieces will decay and be destroyed by the harsh environment. If someone does take it, then they can keep it in their home. If it survives, there is hope for them to continue on as pieces of art, just like there is hope for the actual homeless and street kids.
During my last trip to Asia I stayed in an orphanage in northern Thailand and got to know the kids there. I spent two months with them, listening to their stories, and then I represented these young people in this body of my recent work.
The most memorable stories were of two children named Chai and Lee, who were so malnourished that their little stomachs were swollen when they first came to the orphanage. To get food they would steal the offerings to Buddha in their tribal villages. With this money they would buy snacks, since the only thing they had to eat was white rice, which has hardly any nutritional value. The piece with the arrows (below) is about how Chai had a lot of things in life thrown at him, trying to destroy him, but instead, he focused on the beauty in life. The main thing I learned from this trip is that children find beauty and can reveal it to the rest of us.
MICHAEL AARON WILLIAMS : My art is a narrative, visual poetry, making a social statement to move the viewer to action or realization. An important part of my work focuses on the street, the place where people live their daily lives. This allows me to interact with an audience on their own turf and observe how they react to the art; it is a social experiment. These open-air installations focus on the ephemeral state of street people and enable the viewer to participate in the outcome of the pieces, whether the viewer leaves or saves them from the street. My goal in depicting street people is to show their beauty, fragility, and to bring their situation into the eyes of the viewer, refusing to let them be forgotten or ignored.Learn about how to help the orphanage at Orphans Assistance and RescueIt was 130 degrees when I was first introduced to the brick kilns of Nepal. In these severe temperatures, men, women, and children -- whole families, in fact -- were surrounded by a dense cloud of dust while mechanically stacking bricks on their heads, carrying them, 18 at a time, from the scorching kilns to trucks hundreds of yards away.
These are slaves. Deadened by monotony and exhaustion, they worked without speaking, repeating the same task 16 hours a day. They took no rest for food or water, no bathroom breaks -- although their dehydration suppressed their need to urinate. MoreLearn more at Free the SlavesIn the Northern Amhara region of Ethiopia, two girls, ages 11 and 8, prepare for their marriage celebration. These pre-adolescent brides are about to be sold to men many years their senior. While in global decline, child marriage is still apparent in Ethiopia, with families selling their daughters into marriage as young as age five. The legal marriage age of 18 is widely ignored and 48% of rural women are married before the age of 15. In 2006, photographer Guy Calaf moved to Ethiopia. During his travels he photographed the young brides and their families. More (All names have been fictionalized to protect the identities of the subjects.)One mist-covered morning a lone woman pushes a cart through an empty alleyway. The nearby hustle and bustle of the Sunday market in Bac Ha can be heard from the crowds of villagers purchasing fare like cabbage, chillis and fresh eggs from the market stalls. Colorful hand-crafted goods from the Hmong people who reside in the area can be found laid out in brilliant patterns across the dirt as groups of passersby gather around tables to enjoy a market meal. Street photographer Mark Carey traveled to Hanoi and the Sapa Region of Vietnam in October 2011 where he visited Bac Ha and the Sunday market to document the intricacies of life in the area.
At 8:30 am the streets are crowded after the Islamic call to prayer. The echo of gunfire in the distance is a normal, and seemingly daily occurrence, in present day Mogadishu. Pick up trucks armed with groups of men carrying machine guns firing rounds to hurry along busy traffic is common, and it carries on throughout the day and into the bat-studded night sky. Mogadishu has been called the most dangerous city on earth and the country has been wrought with civil war between Islamist extremists and a failing government since 1991. Since then there has been no central government control over the country’s territory and the region has been stricken with devastating violence and famine. There are an estimated 3.7 million Somali’s living without enough food and the rate of malnutrition is approximately 50%, the highest in the world. It’s difficult for aid agencies to gain access into Somalia because many have been blocked by al-Shabab—the Somali cell of al-Qaeda—leaving nearly a quarter million people trapped without access to food. Photographer Anthony Karen ventured to Somalia’s capital in January 2012 to document the daily life of the people who call the war-torn country home and to visit the the Dadaab refugee camp on the Kenyan-Somali border. More