Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kiva Update-First Payment

Hey I just wanted to let the skeptics know that my loan of $25 that I made a couple monthes ago on kiva.org has received its first repayment. Ekua Awortwe of Ghana, the owner of the food sales business that I loaned my money to has given me back $5. Ekua's loan, comprised of my contribution as well as those of many others, was $900 and thus far she has repaid $180, or 20%. The loan period is for 12 monthes and at the end of that period I will hopefully have received my full $25 back and then I can make another loan.

While none of the returns are guarenteed, the repayment rate has been 99.74% thus far do to careful budget planning and followup by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) on the ground. The NGO that Ekua works with is the Kraban Support Foundation and to date they have helped distribute over $500,000 in loans to 600 small business owners, particularly women. This is a great project, kiva.org gives all the money to the businesses, so far over $8,000,000.

Low interest loans can be key to any growing business, especially in the developing world. I've seen firsthand how major banks that operate in developing countries make it very difficult to get loans and the rates are typically quite high, often higher than the rate for foreign multinational corporations. Microfinance projects like kiva.org really give small businesses the chance to get off their feet and grow, moving the countries in which they operate in the path towards increased development and sustainability. If the businesses prove to be successful they will begin to make effective contributions towards the operation of their state in the form of taxes and if the government isn't horribly corrupt, that money would ideally make it back to the people in form of social services funding for health care and education. Oh what a fun process. Good luck Ekua.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Kingdom of Animals and 4x5

Its about time I stopped hyping every elses photos and actually put a couple of mine up here. Back in Madison for the summer, I've been awaiting the opening of a photo show in Madison's Overture Center that will include one of my photos. The exibit, put on by a local photographic organization called the Center for Photography at Madison (CPM) that I am a member of, opens in late June with an official reception on the 14th of July (with snacks!). Themed, the Kingdom of Animals, the collection of photographs contains a decent variety of color and black and white images.

As I've found with CPM photo shows, the jurying of all of the submissions is often a contraversial process. And when I say that, I means I don't always agree with their selections. Now difference of opinion is a fine thing, but all too often these shows have but a single juror and so the diversification of taste has a tendency to be limited. Regardless, the Kingdom of Animals, as I said, will feature one of my own images, matted and framed for your viewing playsure [sic]. But personally, I feel like the photo that was chosen was not my best and other diserved the chance of downtown-display even moreso. You judge from the following three images (one of which was the CPM choice), which if any, should have been the Kingdom of Animals selection.

I do wish the exibit well however, as CPM usually does a good job securing fine opportunities of this nature and I hope they cotinue to do so in the future. I have a couple more images I would like to share and these are the results of my photo adjunct class during my last semester at Colorado College. I was using a 4x5 large format camera, and so the images are impressively sharp. It was fun learning to use such a bulky antique camera and it made me want to seek out a camera like that in the future. The scans I have here of some of my prints may noy be the best representation of the clarity of the images, but let me assure you, because the negatives are so large, the detail is pretty incredible to see firsthand, especially compared to current conumer digital cameras. Here are the shots:

Thank you Maija for proving to be superb subject matter.

For more photos of mine go to my gallery on Flickr.
And if you would like to browse some additional photos by and of me, please visit my friend David's online journal called unLESHed over at the skiing website Newschoolers (I think I'm featured in entry #2).

Friday, June 22, 2007

World In Focus

If, like me, you have an insatiable thirst for incredible photographs and in my case, photographs that beautifully depict the African continent, then I would recommend you browse through the winners of 2007 World in Focus photo contest.

The contest was sponsored by Photo District News (PDN), Nikon USA, and National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Billing itself as the "ultimate travel photography contest," the World in Focus has a wonderful collection of images in categories like "The Human Condition" and "Extreme Exploration." Especially with the Human Condition, the photographs are elegant glimpses into the lives of people all over the world. Adding to the incredible depth of the collection is the variety of styles represented. There are both black and white photos as well as color, photos from long ago, photos with breath-taking detail and even a photo taken with a simple plastic camera. Despite the diversity all of the selections appear to belong.

This contest is one that, since I've discovered it, I will plan on submitting to and hopefully I can join the ranks of another great collection. A collection in which the stunning qualities of each photo are multipled when grouped together. The next deadline for the contest is August 21, 2007 so I better get on it. For more details about submitting and to see all of the nice prizes like photo workshops and vacations check out the World In Focus-call for entries. Wish me luck and good luck to you as well.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

With Death in Their Pouches

I was delighted to have the opportunity to watch a free showing this week of a film called "Music is the Weapon" about the life and music of the great Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Being a longtime fan of Fela I decided to view the film (along with my mother and Cuz) shown outside on the union terrace at the Univerity of Wisconsin Memorial Union. There's nothing like watching a movie with the sun setting in the backround, sailbots swaying back and forth. Now I've done research on Fela before for school and so not too much of the information was new to me but its still very interesting to watch the old footage of Fela in action, whether ranting about corruption of performing on stage at his club the Afrika Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria.

The story of Fela's struggle for musical freedom and demands for governmental accountability are very entertaining to watch. If you look close you can even see Fela's son Femi playing saxophone in the background. Since Fela died in 1997 from AIDS, Femi has largely carried the torch of Fela's musical legacy, helped most recently by another of Fela's sons Seun. Seun is actually going to play at the Union next Wednesday with Fela's old Egypt 80 band and I think I'll check it out. Seun's style is very similar to his father's while Femi, though still an Afrobeat star, has found his own unique sound. All however, play the sax and dance shirtless on stage. Compare the videos of each from youtube. First a clip of Fela from the Music is the Weapon film (found on youtube in segments), then Femi, then Seun. If you want another great live DVD, the Femi's Live at the Shrine DVD+CD is really good. He speaks of jis father and the famous Shrine venue. I would strongly recommend it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

"On Wisconsin"

On Wisconsin is a photo series shot by Mark Brautigam and featured on the website Flak Photo (an online photo magazine).Marks Wisconsin project, an ongoing endeavor, has taken him across the state in pursuit of finding scenes that are purely reflect what it is to live or visit Wisconsin. Being a native of Wisconsn myself I was intrigued by the project and definately though it would be worth a quick browse at the least. Indeed, many of Mark's color, large format images express a unique character that can be defined only in Wisconsin. Plenty of the shots contain the subject matter of locales that I have certainly visited and others whose depictions omit an aura of familiarity.

Here's what Flak Photo had to say, "Admittedly wide-eyed in scope, Brautigam's large format photographs highlight the idiosyncratic character of those environments that have frequently been disregarded. Though captured exclusively in the state of Wisconsin, the photographs do not represent a single locale. Instead, they subtly suggest the universal qualities that comprise this modern existence: irony, humor, beauty, heartbreak, excess and destruction. On Wisconsin is a personal journey that captures the unconventional side of a place and its people by seeking out the intrigue in otherwise overlooked settings. The result is a body of work that comments on the nature of man's interaction with the landscape to reveal a sense of wonder in the ordinary."

While that is quite an eloquent description of the series, only so much can be said and the rest must be seen. Please visit On Wisconsin to dig deep into your strongest memories of Wisconsin or, if you have never ventured to such an obscure land, take a trip via these photos and begin to understand.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The World of Photoblogs

The idea of a photoblog is that, similar to a normal blog, you make regular postings of content online. The only difference is that many of the photoblogs have little or no text. The post is often simply a single photograph. Any comments on the photos come directly from the viewers themselves. Photoblogs seem like a superb way to motivate yourself as a photographer to go out there and keep shooting. This causes the photographer to carry his or her camera with them at all time and hone their photographic eye.

A similar message was conveyed to me by David Burnett '68, the commencement speaker at my graduation from Colorado College this year. Mr Burnett told a few campus photographers the day before our commencement ceremony, including myself, that if you can find interesting and beautiful moments in your own life to photograph, a life that has probably become the norm, or visually mundane to you, then you can certainly capture those moments in the lives of others. These are the themes that I interpret as behind the idea of a photoblog.

Let me share with you now some examples of people that have become dedicated, and quite artfully at that, to capturing moments in their lives and the world around them and posting them online for all to see. As is common with many photoblogs clicking on the first photo will bring forth the next. By the way, the main collection of photoblogs on the web is appropriately called Photoblogs.org, so search through there and find some that really jump out at you and let me know which ones.
First we have the photoblog GOSU from South Africa:

And then Moodaholic From Denmark:

And one more called Batailley.net Images Blog

Friday, June 1, 2007

His Name is Bill

There is a new kind of journalism in town. This new style is creative and open ended. What you do is get a video camera and you travel to another place and you start to videotape things. You film whatever you want and then you upload it to the internet. Though he would only call himself a simple traveler, Bill, of mynameisbill.com, practices this form of new journalism. Armed with portable solar panels and a satellite internet connection, Bill can access the web from anywhere in the world. Bill takes travel advise from viewers who have been to or lived in the areas he has visiting and thus Bill has become interactive. Of course I emailed him about tips for traveling in Tanzania but it doesn't sund like he's going to be headed that way, at least not yet. So far, his journey has brought him from New York to the United Kingdom to Madagascar, South Africa and Namibia. Along the way Bill films the people he meets often talking about local issues or causes, both humorous and serious in nature. He uploads 5 video per week onto his website that range from 1 minute to just over 3 minutes in length. An interesting aspect of his videos is that he doesn't use youtube. Instead he shares his videos with a cometing site revver.com. As a result he has become one of the top posters on the site. Content-wise my favorite video of course are the ones that take place in Africa. Here are some that I like. First the Promo and then some others.

Be sure to check out the website a few times a week for some interesting videos and if Africa is not your thing, I believe he will be leaving Namibia soon for China so get ready.