Photographing Ghana

I recently returned from a 60-day trip in Ghana, West Africa, where I worked as a reporting intern for a nationally circulated Ghanaian newspaper, The Daily Guide. I’ve finally had some time to sift through and edit most of the photographs I took throughout my stay, both as part of my internship and for my own personal photographic pursuits.

Being behind the lens in Ghana was the single most challenging experience I have had as a photographer thus far. I’ll address the obvious first: I’m white. This was the first time in my life in which I have not only been a minority, but also (and most of the time) the only white person in the room. It was eye-opening, and often in ways I did not expect. For the sake of this post, I’ll call attention to the facets of being white as it pertains to photography, but note that the range of emotions and feelings I experienced reach far beyond that. 

For one thing, I could not, under nearly any circumstance, go unnoticed. I stuck out like a big, pale, sore thumb. No one was ever hostile toward me, mainly curious and friendly. However, my passion for picture-taking manifests in my practice of street and candid photography. In other words, it is usually my goal to not be seen. This posed a huge challenge to the work I wanted to create, because I could barely walk down the street without people dropping everything they were doing to stare at me or say hello. Let alone wander about while looking through a viewfinder.

Whenever I had my camera, one of two scenarios typically ensued. Often when seeing my camera, people (especially children) would approach me and ask to have their picture taken. Of course, I did not mind at all, and many of the photos are quite amusing. However, a group of teens posing with their silliest faces isn’t exactly the candid approach I had in mind. In the off-chance I got my camera up to my face before my subject realized, they nearly always noticed after I snapped the photo. Ghanaians don’t typically appreciate photographs being taken without their permission…and I don’t blame them, given how African countries are portrayed in Western media (more on this later). Usually I could mitigate the situation by speaking a phrase I memorized in the local language—Me pese me twa wo foto. Meaning, I want to snap your picture. This would often break the ice, as the locals always found it quite amusing when I would attempt to speak Twi. However, I was always hesitant because I was very aware of what people may be thinking of a white girl taking their picture. 

The other clear challenge, as I previously mentioned was addressing the stereotype of African countries as portrayed in photographs and other media forms. This was really hard for me because what I saw with my eyes, I struggled to communicate through my lens. I saw a nation of warm, friendly and generous people wanting to progress and move forward as a unified and modern society. I saw a country with a harmonious blend of old and new, of traditional culture and western influences, of innovation and respect. But most noticeably, I saw ordinary and beautiful life. What I wished to convey was that life goes on, time moves, and people are comfortable in this particular and unique country that happens to be on a continent Western media try to homogenize, and exploit for pity and a sense of helplessness. 

This was ultimately a learning experience for me as a growing photographer. I learned how to feel comfortable in a strange place, even when my instinct is to feel anything but. And I learned to communicate with people who may be thinking I don’t have their best interests in mind. 

(All photographs taken on a Canon AE-1 with Kodak Portra 400 in May-July 2014).

Medical abortions are a two-pill regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol: In most states, the first pill is taken at the clinic, and it stops the embryo from growing; the second one, taken at home one to three days later, empties the uterus. In Texas, women have to take both pills directly from a physician, which means a woman seeking a medical abortion makes four trips to a clinic: one for the ultrasound and counseling, one for each of the pills, and one for the follow-up appointment. After September, she will be legally required to take both pills while sitting on an operating table in a sterile surgical room.

There’s no medically indicated reason why women should take either pill in a surgical facility, but there are very good reasons to take the second one at home: Cramping and bleeding can begin as soon as 15 minutes after ingesting it. Texas law means a woman might start bleeding or cramping on her way home. As Texas women have to drive farther and farther, that’s a bigger and bigger problem.

camerapinocchio asked:

just curious, how do you process your film? do you develop/scan yourself? awesome blog btw. cheers

I develop my black and white film myself when I can. I use the darkroom at my school, so its way more cost effective (and more fun too!). I usually send my color rolls to a local lab in my town or Dwayne’s photo…they both do a pretty good job. As for scanning, I just recently bought a Canon 9000F, and I cannot express how worth it that was! I love it and now all my scans are of a uniform and consistent quality.

I’m really glad you like what you see! It means a lot :)

R&B’s newest powerhouse brings 90s nostalgia, feminist flair

A small and mostly local crowd gathered on the stage of Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, Ohio. It was the kind of company you might describe as “intimate,” where the drum of heels tapping against the hardwood floor pervaded the soft harmonies of acoustic folk tunes. But this audience was unprepared for what awaited it.

Ohio-born powerhouse Caroline Smith claimed the makeshift stage, her sultry, soul-filled vocals swelling across the room and stretching high up into the rafters. Her bold red lips punctuated each note with a touch of confident sass. Two female vocalists, talented in their own rite, backed Smith with a doo-wop flair.

The six-piece band opened with a song “for the ladies,” but each following tune rang out like a battle hymn for strong, independent femininity. Part neo-soul, part R&B, the female-fronted band’s feel-good jams were empowering — not in a corny way, but in a way that makes you want to finally cut off all your hair and ask for a raise. The band mostly performed tracks from its latest album “Half About Being a Woman,” released in October 2013. The album was Smith’s brainchild, reflecting her growth as an artist and the journey back to her roots.

Smith grew up listening to the strong female voices of the early 90s including Carole King, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson. But she holds a great respect for today’s indie songwriters who take their inspiration from the 1960s folk rock genre. Her first two albums even dabbled with the trendy folk and indie rock sound, but Smith felt this work wasn’t reflective of her talents.

“It wasn’t me; I wasn’t writing songs as good as I could be,” Smith said.

In the same vein, the up-and-coming musician strays from listening to current artists.

“I can’t listen to it because I will want to do it…copy it,” she said. 

Smith is in the business to stand out. Her confidence in her newly refined art radiated on stage, releasing her inner diva.

The album’s message throws a punch at the patriarchy — in the classiest and most sophisticated way feasible. The music video for the single “Magazine” features twenty-somethings dancing around in their underwear.

“I know what you’re thinking…” Smith joked.

But her back-up dancers were not the topless, thong-wearing models borrowed from Robin Thicke. Smith demanded some of her closest friends show up to the shoot in a come-as-you-are fashion.

 “Half of my friends showed up in granny-panties,” Smith said. “That’s real.” 

The video was directed by Dan Huiting, who has also worked with Bon Iver, Local Natives and The National.

Performances of “Magazine” along with “Child of Moving On” created the climax of the evening, both showcasing Smith’s range and diversity. The former followed a sexy, get-up-and-dance beat, while the latter put Smith’s vocals on an uncompromising pedestal.

Currently residing in Minneapolis, Minn., Caroline Smith and her band are just finishing up their 2014 tour, eager to get back to the pencil and paper, hopefully to create some more 90s nostalgic magic.

From the band’s packed NYC audiences to the “intimate” backstage affair in Nelsonville, Ohio, Caroline Smith is the power woman behind the tunes stuck in everyone’s heads.