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Gioia Reading, 2011.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
— Nelson Mandela

After spending the better part of December on the road, I have been feverishly working these last couple of days to get my annual holiday prints out the door.

This year’s photograph I took last Spring of my 5 year old daughter, Gioia, reading in our garage in Connecticut. I saw that she had plopped herself down to read a book in the warmth of the sun with her water bottle next to her. Remnants of her babyhood—her former crib and baby car seat—lie around in the background. Gioia has learned to read before our eyes, and to begin to devour the world through all things legible: books, signs, recipes, cereal boxes, advertisements and poems.

At about the same time that I took the photograph of Gioia, I was finishing teaching my class at the International Center of Photography. One of my students, Amira Al-Sharif, a photojournalist from Yemen, inspired me with her story of coming to the US to study photography on a Kickstarter grant and her continued success, which is evident in an interview with her on NPR. Amira told me of the struggles that she and other women faced growing up and living in Yemen, especially in rural areas. However, in spite of her hardships, Amira adamantly embraced tradition and spoke lovingly of her family and her country.  Amira grew up in Sana’a, the capital, and with the support of her father she had access to an education that many women throughout Yemen do not have. Given this opportunity, she has dedicated her photography “to work for a better life for the girls of Yemen.”

Najat Reading, 2009. Photograph by Amira Al-Sharif.

This photograph by Amira shows 18-year-old Najat Al-Suraihi learning to read in her father’s kitchen. She married when she was 12 and was subsequently beaten and abused by her husband who left her and took their only child, a 2 year old girl, with him. She now lives with her father and, as Amira puts it, “has two dreams: to be divorced and to be a nurse.”

As Gioia sat reading in the garage that day, in lands far away from rural Connecticut waves of protests were changing the Arab world dramatically and, closer to home, we have seen Occupy protests continue into the winter. It is increasingly clear in the news that knowledge is power and transparency is the expectation of the people.  I am inspired and hopeful that true change in the world can happen without the need of a massive war machine.  This holiday season my wish is that the simplest of activities—a girl reading a book—can bring us closer to realizing world peace.

Finally, I am asking that you consider making a donation this year, as I have, to one of the organizations below that empowers women and girls around the world through literacy and education.

Global Fund for Women

World Education

CARE

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Hangzhou, Zhejiang, 1998. Photograph by Lois Conner

I will have a print along with over 60 other photographers in the Wa Photography Auction being held at 25CPW this coming Thursday.  The event is to raise money to help rebuild communities devastated by the earthquake and tsunami in March.  100% of funds raised will go to benefit Architecture for Humanity. From the Wa website:

The donated auction prints follow the theme of 和 (Wa). This ancient name for Japan also describes a cultural concept which underpins much of Japanese society. It has no direct translation in English, though the closest term that could be applied would be the idea of ‘Harmony’.  We are pleased to feature prints from a diverse range of photographers who have interpreted this theme in a variety of ways and provided us with a unique collection.

25CPW has partnered with Nuru Projects and Sombra Projects, with contributions from Magnum Foundation, The International Center of Photography, and Friends Without a Border.  Also there will be music from Koto player Yumi Kurosawa, American folk band Thomas Wesley Stern and Japanese cuisine from Blue Ribbon with liquid refreshment from Sapporo and Ito En.  For more information on participating artists, and to purchase tickets, please visit Wa Photography Auction.

April 21, 2011 6-9pm

25CPW, 25 Central Park West, NYC

Advance tickets $20 – http://tiny.cc/waauction

Untitled, 2010. Photograph by Yo Imae.

Tokyo, 2010. Photograph by Yasu Kojima.

Old Fashioned Diplomacy 13, 2011. Photograph by Bill Westheimer

Habitats, 2006. Photograph by Chiho Bangert.

Untitled from the series, Riding the Dog, 2009. Photograph by Brendon Stuart.

Under the Williamsburg Bridge., 1997. Photograph by Greg Miller.

45th St. and Madison.

A limited edition of 45th St and Madison from my Gotham series will be available for the modest price of $50 soon via Wall Space Gallery in Santa Barbara.  Life Support Japan has been rapidly organized by Crista Dix and Aline Smithson.  At the moment of me writing this, Sunday, March 13, it is not up on the website but please check back this week.  They are a little overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response by 500+ photographers donating work.  In the meantime, please help spread the word about this as well as other noble efforts that are being organized to help the people of Japan at this unbelievable time. The website and the charity effort will be going on for months to come.

Gotham is a series that came out of shooting feature photographs for New York Magazine in 1997.  This image is a photograph of a truck driver and his son at the Puerto Rican Day parade that year.  It is an 8″x10″ pigment ink print, edition of 10.  A big thank you to Crista and Aline for organizing this effort and asking me to take part.