HeadStrong: The Women of Rural Uganda

HeadStrong presents a cross-section of working women in rural Uganda who share their individual stories of perseverance, determination, family commitment, and hope. This project brings to light the conditions under which women living in rural Uganda find themselves suspended between the old world, gender-defined responsibilities, rapid population growth, and financial obstacles to education for girls.

Knowing that each woman had a compelling story to tell, aware of my outsider status, I partnered with Beatrice Lamwaka, an award-winning Ugandan author. Lamwaka interviewed each portrait subject in her local dialect; She then wrote narratives to accompany the images, maintaining vernacular cadence and expressions without modifying them for Western audiences. In conjunction with the portraits, their stories help us better understand their personal histories and present challenges

In the portraits, the women express themselves through their demeanor and personal choices of work clothing and accessories. The mosquito netting backdrop creates a protective environment for these women, allowing the eye to rest entirely on the subject without being distracted by elements in their chaotic background. Their direct gaze powerfully conveys their sense of self and ownership in presenting themselves to the viewer while allowing the viewer to engage with the subject in a meaningful way.

The women are often caught in a double bind. They must earn money to pay for their children’s education; schooling could ensure a way out of economic hardship, but they often do not earn enough money to fulfill this essential goal. And yet, they remain hopeful, as witnessed in their postures, words, and dreams. There is deep humanity in combining their portraits with their stories.


Cat's Cradle

My parents were Holocaust survivors.

My grandmother witnessed the spread of Naziism in Poland and left Danzig on the eve of WWII with her three children, traveling to the only country she knew would allow them to enter, Palestine.

My father and his older brother Max left Vienna after Kristallnacht on an overcrowded boat that traveled down the Danube to the Mediterranean and ultimately to Palestine. Tragically, their mother and sister decided to remain in Vienna; they died in Theresienstadt's concentration camp.

My parents’ struggles as Jewish refugees and immigrants created a strong emotional bond between them that I could never comprehend as a child.

When my father died in 2014, I came across original documents in several languages that they transported across many borders: photographs, birth certificates, school records, entry visas, etc. These documents anchored my parents’ history and highlighted their tenacity and courage to migrate, adapt and prosper in Palestine, later Israel, then Canada, and finally in the United States with their two children in tow.

How could I embrace and fully comprehend this familial history when memory and time shift the truth? "Cat's Cradle" provided the opportunity to explore this conundrum. I wanted to delve into each parent's history while representing the common threads of their journeys toward a new life. By combining multiple images of skies taken on different continents at various times, I hoped to capture the transience of Time. Their documents add a historical dimension, serving as evidence of their lives. I chose photographs of them and snapshots from the family albums that conjure an idealized past to illustrate both their identity and humanity.

Like the childhood game for which it is named, Cat's Cradle enables one to weave a singular, circular thread into multiple enigamtic stories, revealing tales about survival, tenacity, loss, and love.

"Thing II Resting" Delaware County Fair 2001

Till the Cows Come Home: County Fair Portraits

County Fairs have been part of the American way of life for more than 160 years and have existed because of the family farmers that choose to participate in the agricultural arena of these fairs. Yet, as family farms disappear at the rate of hundreds per month, family-based farming is struggling to retain its relevancy in rural farming communities and hold on to it’s disappearing cultural lifestyle.

My objective was to capture the essence of this lifestyle through portraits of the participants, as well as the fruits of their year long labor. Every summer since 1998, from July to September I sought out these three to ten day events hoping to document in portraits and still life’s, an agricultural tradition that may be in its sunset years. Aware that others have looked through a lens at similar subject matter, I did not want to beautify the experience or trivialize it through sentimentality. My love of irony, of circumstance, and of the candor of the moment, guided my photographic journey. I hope that when county fair participants look at these photographs they can say to themselves, “Yes, this is truly how it is.”

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Demo Derby: Heat #4

Smash'em Crash'em

Before extreme sports, there was demolition derby. A quintessential American populist pastime, that celebrates the deliberate destruction of America’s 20th century symbol of mobility, the automobile, by bringing it quite literally to a complete Smahalt. Dangerous, unpredictable, even gravity-defying at times. Demolition is not just for the young, or the fit, or the well trained. Anyone with enough guts and a "derby car" can participate the demolition derby reeks of bravado and irony because of it's dangerous, unpredictable, even gravity-defying nature.

What is feared the most in the real world – the terrifying, ear-splitting sound of cars colliding – is applauded, encouraged and sanctified in the derby ring. This is where the video game bits the dust and balls to the walls ferocity begins. Demolition is not just for the young, or the fit, or the well trained. Anyone with enough guts and a "derby car" can participate the demolition derby reeks of bravado and irony because of it's dangerous, unpredictable, even gravity-defying nature.

Time is suspended for audiences and drivers alike. Hours are spent in anticipation: waiting to get a bleacher seat, to register a car, to pass inspection, to root for the best decorated vehicle and finally the wait between matches seems interminable as wrecks from each heat are hauled off to the auto graveyard. Till finally the waiting participant's turn is at hand.

It can take months to prepare a car for competition, and only minutes to annihilate it. Strapped into stripped-down shells of cars, competitors purposefully attack and destroy each other’s vehicles with impunity, hoping to survive the destruction by piloting the last car moving to become the winner of a heat. The technique is simple to grasp and difficult to master: aim for a target, hit the gas peddle at full throttle and move in reverse. Even the most intrepid competitor will rarely risk certain immobility by using his front end to take out others.

Buoyed by a grandstand audience inured to flying mud, noise, smoke and diesel fumes, the heats slowly progress from small 4 cylinder wrecks to V-8 clunkers until the best of the heats enter a final “smash-off” to become champion destroyer.

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