FEBRUARY 2013 BACK ISSUE by Alison Wright “One of the many things I have learned during my years of global travel is that no matter how unique we may look in appearance, from the exotic to the mundane, we basically have the same universal desires and concerns. Our needs are actually quite simple: to love and be loved; to have a useful place in our society with some meaningful and fulfilling occupation in our life; work that will hopefully provide us with enough money in our pocket to get by; food on the table; education, health and safety for ourselves, our family and our children. The freedom to be ourselves is what connects us as a human race.” Alison Wright’s new book, Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit, is a celebration of the spirit within us all. It is what bonds us as mankind, a continued thread, as together we continue on this journey in the pilgrimage of life.   Tibet Girl near Manigango, Kham,Tibet, 2005.  I have traveled to Tibet nearly every year for the last twenty years. On this trip I was driving in the remote eastern region of the Tibetan Plateau when I saw this young girl, part of a crowd returning from a horse festival. It was pouring rain, so I brought her to a nearby school to take her photograph She was so small that the light from the window barely reached her; I had to stand her on a desk. Even at the age of four, she had a face that seemed to express the underlying sadness of a culture that has been so challenged. Yet she had a look of resilience and tenacity well beyond her years.  The Dalai Lama blessing his guard holding a rifle.  Dharamsala, India 1998.  I first met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1988 and have had the great fortune to photograph him a number of times over the years. I've always enjoyed our conversations but sometimes it's his gestures that hold the most meaning. One day we were walking through the lovely bamboo shaded lane from his home to his office as we passed one of his ever-present guards. Suddenly the Dalai Lama stopped. Placing one hand on the soldier's hand holding the rifle, he chanted a prayer and moved on. I quickly lifted my camera and managed to take one frame. The guard simply beamed. Sisters.  Bhaktapur, Nepal 1990.  With babies strapped to their backs, and an average of seven children per family, the older girls seem to skip childhood right into womanhood. Fifteen years after I shot this photo I returned to Nepal and found these children. I was never sure if the youngest was a little girl or a boy. It turned out to be her little sister she was carrying and the older girl now has a daughter that was her age in this picture. They were proud to be recognized when the whole village turned out to see that they were on the cover of my book, Faces of Hope. Girl from Hamer tribe holding a gourd. Omo Valley, Ethiopia, 2006. Goite, woman from Hamer Tribe.  Omo Valley, Ethiopia, 2006.  This woman is from the Hamer tribe in Ethiopia. You can tell from the metal collar adornment on her neck that she's married. Nomad boy with teapot.  Kham, Tibet, 2005.  This sweet little nomad boy hovers close to his mother in their traditional yak hair tent as he helps her make the tea. Man in infinity pool with Grand Pitons.  Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia 2009.  On a shoot for Islands magazine at Jade Mountain Resort my room not only had an infinity pool but the lack of walls offered a magnificent view of the Grand Pitons. Oh, and a good looking guy to boot. Man from Drokpa tribe wearing flowers.  Dahanu Valley, Ladakh, northern India, 2006.  For generations this small group of men and woman have traditionally worn elaborate flowers their hair. The first time I went to photograph in this area, the locals were working in the fields, singing and plucking apples from the trees. Women stopped to pass me flowers from their headdresses. When I returned three or four years later, very few people were wearing their flowered hats. In a desire to be dressed in more modern western clothing many villagers have taken to wearing baseball caps. It's a shame they didn't have mirrors in their homes to appreciate how beautiful they actually looked. Monks resting at Bayon Temple . Angkor, Cambodia 2006.  On my first day returning to Angkor Wat in Cambodia after twelve years I was initially dismayed to find the ancient ruins literally sinking under the weight of tourists. The last time I’d been on top of Thom Bakheng to watch the sunset I’d been alone with one other French tourist. Now bus loads of Korean and Japanese clamored up Bakheng Hill with an obsessive determination to join the crush of visitors resolute to capture the last rays of the day. I discovered it was best to walk the ruins in the opposite direction of the tourists, when the monks come out to enjoy the quiet of the day. Cambodia has the greatest proportion of amputees in the world, due to the presence of millions of land mines, which impose a heavy economic and social burden on this country, already one of the poorest nations in the world. With an estimate placing the cost of clearing a single mine at $300 to $1,000, more than 5000 mines have been collected and destroyed since Cambodia signed the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997, hoping to bring it once again to a land of peace.   Foodbank.  Appalachia, Ohio, USA 2004.  Literally hundreds of cars a day drive through this food distribution center. Without these foodbanks families wouldn't have the means to feed their children. In 2004 I worked with the Children's Defense Fund to photograph children in poverty in America. Marian Wright Edelman had written the foreword to my book, "Faces of Hope," that documents the lives and struggles of children in developing countries. Ms. Edelman felt that together we should take a look at the situation on our own home turf in the United States. I had photographed poverty all around the world but during this project I couldn't believe the dire situation that I was seeing in my own country.
Malagan ceremonial mask.  Lissengung Island, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea 2010.  This mask was carved by Fabian Pano, a master carver of Malagan ceremonial masks. Fabian learned the craft from his father who learned from the generations before him. These masks used to be burned after a ceremony but there are so few carvers left, the masks are now preserved and collected. Kazakh hunter and his eagle.  Olgii,western Mongolia 2006.  Every year dozens of Kazakh hunters gather for the Golden Eagle festival amidst the craggy far western Altai Mountain range. They play traditional games: archery, horse and camel racing and Khukh-bar, a tug of war played on horseback with a sheepskin, although the most anticipated event that these proud men come for is to show off the skills of their hunting birds. Only one bird is declared a winner. But at the end of the day each man rides out just as regally as he rode in, covering the long distance back to his village on horseback with the weight of his huge eagle impressively balanced on the crook of his arm. Girls risk their safety and even their lives to attend school.  Bamiyan province, Afghanistan 2007.  Girls were banned from attending schools under the Taliban government, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the Afghan government has tried to extend access to education, with some success. Fewer than 1 million Afghan children - mostly all boys - attended school under Taliban rule. Roughly 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, attend school today. In an attempt to thwart their attendance the Taliban have been responsible for dozens of attacks of throwing acid on girls and female teachers simply walking to school. Despite this danger, the girls persevere. A boy awaits prosthetics the Red Cross Center for Rehabilitation after losing his legs to a landmine.  Kabul, Afghanistan 2007.  Every twenty-two minutes someone somewhere in the world is maimed or killed by a landmine. Children are frequently the victims. The Red Cross Center for Rehabilitation has six centers across the country of Afghanistan, and they have treated 39,000 cases in Kabul alone. There is a staff of about 500 and everyone that works there has been affected by war. Many have lost appendages themselves, mostly from landmines. Nomad girl in orange hat.  Kham, Tibet 2005.  This may be the last generation of the pastoral Tibetan nomads as we know them. Like the American Indians before them the modern day Tibetan nomads are being forced to give up their traditional lifestyle without time to adjust to this abrupt change. They must abandon the only life they know, leaving their portable yak hair tents and move into concrete rooms in the cities where they have no job skills for survival. Babies in a bucket, in a tent city after the earthquake.  Port-au-Prince, Haiti 2010.  I first went to Haiti on an assignment for an aid relief organization. When I left the rains were coming and thousands of displaced people were living in makeshift shelters, mostly nothing more substantial than bed sheets. These are a people who have had a lot of practice surviving--hurricanes, floods, an economy where seventy-eight percent of the population earns two dollars a day, and now a devastating earthquake that has literally rocked the nation. When I returned for the Smithsonian magazine assignment I managed to raise a few thousand dollars towards badly needed tents through my foundation the Faces of Hope Fund. It felt like such a drop in the bucket, like we were digging our way out with a teaspoon. You hope that making a picture will make a difference but some times it doesn't come close to feeling like enough. Back to current issue