2/11/2011

Putting a Smile on Human Dignity.


The stamina, and a victorious resolve of the people of Egypt brings back memories. For some of us, who experienced the 1980 Solidarity protests, and the ultimate collapse of the regime in Poland, smiles and tears painted our faces when the announcement was made that the Egypt's strongman, Hosni Mubarak, has stepped down. The message, the sounds and the images coming from Cairo, as then they did from Gdansk, meant simply - a victory for human freedom, rights and dignity.


It was the late Summer of 1980, when the Poles took to the streets, Lech Walesa become an icon of human solidarity, and with scores of brave citizens marched and did not give-up, until the changes were ushered in. There was plenty of tear gas and the hundreds of security thugs attacking the crowds. It was similar and at once different in scope in Poland, and in Egypt. The stamina of the Egyptian women, men and children to be resolute and peaceful - a dignified movement of saying 'No!' - will be the image we will remember. A social movement cum national movement put a smiling face on human dignity once again. In Egypt, the use of social media undergirded the intensity of the protest. It brought thoughts of nostalgia when it was the leaflets and monitored phone calls that aided the Gdansk and Warsaw solidarity movement. New technology for human rights, I said to myself. It works and will expand our opportunities to speak the message of freedom. Instantly, and everywhere.


Remembering the demonstrations in Warsaw, we were there, too. Our two-year old Michal got a taste of a tear gas cloud as we run, and carried him out of danger while we joined in a moment of history. He will not remember this, but as we later recalled our stories, he smiled with pride.


Not easy to gather coherent thoughts while still watching a TV set pregnant with human tears and jubilation in Tahrir Square. What transpires is a reaffirmation about our human destiny - life in freedom. This freedom is to be cherished and continue propel all of us to etch a life of respect and love.


For the people of faith, it all underscores that we flourish when we are free to express ourselves and practice our beliefs without undue restrictions and intimidation. In the days ahead, the Egyptians will be tested by how freedom will shake its hands with responsibility. Will their daily practice of full respect for the freedom of conscience be an example in the Middle East? The nation will flourish if conditions of social harmony are created and defended. Our brothers and sisters in Egypt should also expect the world-wide humanity will step forward to embrace them.


The Egyptian people - in their social, cultural and religious diversity - took a historical turn on their national road. They are reclaiming their everydayness in a newly found freedom in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez. Though there will be hard days to experience in the future, the peaceful social revolution of the Tahrir Square bids well for the future of the country. You did it, Egyptians!

2/01/2011

Capturing Spiritual Moments. Digitally.*


Cespedes, Cuba: "Yes!" for Christianity in Cuba.
Adventist believer exuberant after church dedication.

Spirituality. Is it the “aaah, haaa” moment you get that helps you recognize something out of the ordinary in yourself and the way you perceive life, behave, act?

In one definition, spirituality, and the meaning of it, touches that part of us that is not dependent on material things or physical comforts.

As a photographer, I express my own spirituality in the way I perceive, stop and listen, and act through the images I see with the lens of my camera. I meet people and stop to frame their presence in a way that is consistent with my feelings and convictions. While looking for angles, I thrive in recognizing the details, shapes, and emotions. And I recognize stories in each photograph – my own and those of the subjects I consider.

Fomento, Cuba: Faces to remember. An elderly couple posing.

In my spiritual journey the images themselves offer a window into who Rajmund Dabrowski is. Yet I don’t ask if my images have the proverbial 1,000 words. Some of them do. When you see a meaning, you know, and others recognize it, too. In a sense, the images are as honest as the reality they capture. And you know when they … take you away.

Havana, Cuba: Hope has no barriers.

My life’s geography as a photographer is also explained in the influence or affirmation of my own values, hopes and personal vulnerabilities. My authenticity-driven imagination and creativity goes into fifth gear and is on display. Each image is given an attire of a story. It is laced with mystery.

The Johannesburg-Cape Town flight was like any other. I put a newly-purchased photo album of Bob Gossani’s “Tauza” people, and a couple of new South African CDs on the seat next to me. A gentleman was seated by the window. He turned to me and started a conversation, expressing interest in my music choices and in the art photography.

Stellenbosch, South Africa: Professor Victor Honey (above)
and An Engen petrol station moment (below).

A friendship developed instantly. Victor Honey was a university professor of art, and I was invited to visit him and his wife, Hester, when I came to South Africa next. Two years later, on yet another visit I was offered a treat. Victor said: “Let me show you the real Stellenbosch, not the one for tourists.” He took me to a township within the city, a rather impoverished part, where for years he was conducting after-hours classes for children when it was not permitted to do so during the ugly days of Apartheid. He showed me a building, where every week he continues to teach art to children, and said: “This place is my mission in life.”

His words resonate with the way I am and what I encounter. My own story becomes richer when I become present to the moment I am in.

Henry David Thoreau said aptly, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” This resonates with another, closer-to-home reminder, and in God’s words: “Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is …” [Isaiah 43: 19-20 The Message.]

My best work happens when I seize the moment. My eye, the lens, and being present to what I see and hear, align. Such alignment moves me into “listening” to what I am seeing. In being alert and attentive, I discover newness, hope, and perhaps the reaffirmation of things that matter and continue to make me who I am.

In the words of Leo Tolstoy, “In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” And take a picture of it. It will be a reminder of the things to come. But for now, it may even create a monster of a change for a better world, a world where values of your faith are expressed through love.

Chirala, India: Children in a movement of prayer.

*Published in Spectrum, Volume 39, Issue 1, Winter 2011. Spiritual Journeys. Editor: Bonnie Dwyer. Designer: Laura Lamar. www.spectrummagazine.org

Photography © Copyright by Rajmund Dabrowski, 2011.