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Recounting my trip to southeast USA with my photographic presentations about Palestine & Israel, in 15 parts, one for each day. All photos in this post are from my presentations.

Photos from the trip, In passing: the south :: February 2009

Report of the trip

One very powerful dream, M featured. She and I were to meet at the end of a long path thru a thickly wooded forest. I was with another woman, someone very close to me, like Louise. I forgot to turn on my cell phone to hear from M exactly where and when to meet. The other woman, Louise, and I arrived at what might have been a meeting place, deep in the forest. No M. Of course, how would she know where to meet?

I remembered, turned on the phone, saw I had 2 messages, then the phone shifted modes and I couldn’t access the messages. I was sure they were from M. Now what to do? Race back to the parking lot on my bike (why had I brought a bike?) Ok, leave Louise waiting, alone in the deep thicket, dangerous. No M in the parking lot. I kept checking my watch, saw we were now some 30 minutes from an estimated meeting time. M must be on her way home, probably furious at me.

Later, somehow I prodded the phone to produce its messages and I heard from M. She was not only furious but deeply saddened by this debacle. Maybe crying. I’d ruined everything.

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Mediterranean Sea shore, Gaza City

HIVE  (History, Information, Vision, and Exchange) is a community center in Greensboro NC—a large meeting space, adjoining offices of non-profits working with the environment, poverty, women’s rights, etc. Dave helped establish it. Since December 15, in response to shelter overflows and winter weather, they’ve opened WE, a program offering hospitality to men, mostly or entirely black men. 8 pm to 8 am. They use the central room, set up their cots and pads, store personal things in plastic bins, use the kitchen, plenty of food, maybe from Food Not Bombs, access the computers, and are tended by the facilitator, a vibrant Jonathan, ever smiling and helpful.

Dave told me the rent paid by the organizations helps sustain the center. Behind the building a bike shop has welded together pieces of old bikes to form a cage, in which they store bikes to be repaired. Someone’s been breaking the welds and stealing the defective parts, apparently unaware the parts are broken and that the shop will give away free used parts. Despite this problem, crime in the neighborhood, a mixed race zone, has decreased since the establishment of HIVE. It opened about 2 years ago.

Dave tells me it is going thru a management transformation, from relatively anarchic to more mainstream with a paid staff and board. This in answer to certain problems he did not list.

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Net fishing for sardines near a raw sewage outflow, Gaza City

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My Gaza show fit well in this space. About 20 people showed up, mostly young folks, a few elders, 2 or 3 residents of HIVE, and notably the wife of Max Carter, Jane. Also Chelsea, a young effervescent woman with pock marked face, nose ring, scraggly hair. She’s originally from Charlestown MA, her family sporadically attended Friends Meeting at Cambridge, she is now at or recently graduated from Guilford.

Maybe for the first time I showed the entirety of Gaza, some 70 minutes of it. When I asked Dave later how he thought I could improve it—always expecting the reply: shorten it, cut a lot out—he said instead the following—and here I will only mention the list I made from his suggestions.

Notes on Gaza at Greensboro, via Dave R:

Music doesn’t always match picture, sometimes seems repetitive
Add detail in history between Aphrodite
and “children of the stones”—websites that Dave might suggest
Balance between despair and hope
Ragdha first of family in Bureij
Fewer hospital photos
Bold “me” in Belal
Have someone read Obama et al?
Simplify notes
Crisp dates for recent history
“Jump to Rafah” in early slide
Add most recent Yusef?
More personal stories and experiences and people
Add candle light vigil with Ibrahem

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I can’t say the audience was fully attentive (I saw some sleeping or at least with heads bowed, maybe in reverence, I’m not sure), nor dramatically appreciative (a tinkling of applause), nor financially generous ($30), but most stayed for discussion and it was lively.

Some thoughts about Israeli accountability, about Obama, about Hamas, but nothing very personal, either about key characters in the show or about me. Which always puzzles me. More along the lines of geo politics. Jane C helped the discussion with first hand experience. Dave remained silent, looked distracted thru the show.

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Uncompleted building, waterfront, Gaza City

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Beach refugee camp, Gaza City

He is 30 years old, near graduation from University of North Carolina Greensboro in political science and history, considers a career in conflict resolution, may sign up for the grad program at the local university, knows most of the key players in the Palestinian solidarity movement, including Matan Cohen, and is a lively and gracious host.

After a 50 minute ride to Chapel Hill for my next gigs, with a discussion about HIVE, Dave himself, the solidarity movement, etc, we met my next hosts, Oscar and Marilyn E, both I believe from the elder center which is hosting one of today’s 2 shows. As on the December tour one virtue of this arrangement, handing me off from new to old hosts, is expediting people in the movement meeting each other. We dined at a cafeteria that suggested a step up from Shoney’s in quality and maybe price. I snagged too much, made a pig of myself, eating Spanish mackerel, beets, salad, baked potatoes, lima beans, and chocolate pie. What did they think of me?

At first I felt engaged by the conversation about Israel-Palestine politics, the prospect for instance outlined by Dave that Netanyahu might be useful as the next elected prime minister because he has a history of caving to strong pressures, unlike folks like Ariel Sharon, a former prime minister now in a coma. Dave claimed even Neta G feels this way, not supporting his candidacy but realizing a prospect. The conversation was notably upbeat, recognizing the possibility of a tipping point arriving sometime in the near future. And then for the second half of the dinner, attention shifted to local politics, leaving me blank. Who did what in the campaign for senator and house rep and why it mattered?

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Israel heavily attacked Beach Camp recently during the 3 weeks of heightened violence from December thru January 2009. Some of these boys may be injured or dead.

A plus about journeying as I’m now doing is poking into people’s personal lives, living as they do for short periods, probing their histories. I listen to their stories, and I attend to how they lived, their furniture, food, clothing, and pick out details on which to array conclusions.

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Beach camp, looking toward the Israeli city of Ashkelon

Yesterday morning I chose to attend, of the 3 Quaker meetings in Greensboro that I know about, First Friends Meeting (or church), programmed, pastored. Arriving early I noticed a plethora of cars in the lots, but then entering the sanctuary, large, very churchlike, all pews facing forward, a pulpit, as is the churchly Quaker way, I found very few sitting waiting. So I returned to the greeters, picked out a young woman, asked, Could I tour the building while awaiting the service? She guided me.

We first met the pastor, Deborah, a woman in her 40s perhaps, smiling, attractive, thin, married, gracious, engaging. I learned later, from Mary Ann, my escort, and from Deborah herself during her sermon, that at the end of this month the pastor will join an ecumenical tour group visiting Jerusalem and the Galilee. I didn’t hear mention of the West Bank, certainly not Gaza.

Deborah’s sermon, essentially about staying focused, one thing at a time, paying attention, began with an account of her struggle to transform her upcoming Israel-Palestine journey from what might be simply a tour into a spiritual pilgrimage. She used the word pilgrimage. She went awalking to pray about this, and concluded with the notion of attention. Every detail of the experience, noted, thought about, recorded, discussed, portrayed. Of course I resonate with this direction, hoping myself to be fully attentive to all experience.

Following her sermon, a period of open workshop, beginning with a deep silence, leading to about 4 messages, all from the heart, not always directly related to the sermon. I was impressed, loved the combo of music from a talented chorus, the congregation singing, sermon, beginning silence for open worship, public joint prayer, greeting everyone, Deborah inviting me to introduce myself, and the warmth of the assembly. All very fine, and, as I mentioned to a few, if I were living in Greensboro I might chose this church as my home.

—February 2, 2009, Monday, Chapel Hill, NC

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Cox Reservation, Essex Massachusetts

From my journal of July 20, 2008, Sunday, Cambridge

Photos

On a warm, muggy, still morning, full moon set, no birds singing, eerie: storm coming?

Dreaming but barely: I was preparing for a long trip, to fly over one of the stans, like Uzbekistan, but not able to land for some reason; JVB had agreed to do something for me, I was doubtful he’d be reliable. Not a rich dream crop last night.

The 3rd session of Summer Light brought us to Cranes Beach and a small reservation in the Essex Greenbelt chain called Cox. It adjoined a river, perhaps the Little, perhaps the Essex (I’ll check later-map?), contained large dry recently mowed fields, shrubs, trees, an old farm house, and skirted much private land on which dwellings such as cottages stood. Fighting off the greenhead flies (several bit me within minutes, drawing blood, impervious to my Deet lotion) I offered the following 2 exercises: one spot, many shots (i.e., one location, many photos) and dark on light, light on dark, the latter to aim folks toward HDR, high dynamic range.

The evening before during review Tom had suggested that the term HDR is more than a fancy way of saying high contrast because it subsumes high contrast which could be merely 2 zones, white and black, without intermediate stages, whereas HDR might include intermediate stages.

Tom Bishop

Along the way we met a group of about 15 men, somewhat stern looking, Middle Eastern appearing, some speaking Arabic. I queried our group: who might they be? And then, when the group returned after a short stroll, I asked the visitors who they were, trying to not appear intrusive.

Military officers from Egypt, some generals, here to meet with police. They didn’t say which police, or why the meeting, but I suspected the worst. As did some of the rest of us when I announced the answer. The generals’ day off, perhaps the saunter down the lane to the water softened them and helped them witness the humanity of all people.

Our 1st activity together was awareness—1st the blind faith walk (in a line, me leading with eyes open, each of the others with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front, eyes closed, listen, smell, feel), down the path to the water, a short distance, then walking backwards, feeling-seeing with our feet. People noticed sounds more, and the difference between sun and shade.

I tried my light on dark exercise on the upturned by wind bright leaves against their darker friends, suggested by Tom. Also the cloud formations, myriad dark-light combinations. And for my one location I chose the boat landing, privately owned, not for the landing itself but for the sky. By then sky was changing rapidly, offering much contrast and odd shapes. Later, at Cranes, I was to repeat this theme with a waning sun.

3 students were absent: M who was lost, D and C who decided not to join us, perhaps the arduousness of being outside in such hot weather, perhaps family matters, perhaps the flies, I may never know.

All day, all our day which ran from 4 pm to 8, the sky changed, never completely clear, usually hazy and with low cloud definition. We could see the haze, virtually light fog, on the ground. Until later, just as we arrived at Cranes, when rain clouds suddenly appeared, the air gusted cold, and eventually, minutes after we’d packed into vehicles, heavy rain fell.

Cranes Beach, Essex Massachusetts

Cranes was not as jammed as had been Wingaersheek the week before, as expected. Partly the hour, 6:30 pm (low tide), partly the place, very wide and with much colder water. Not the frenetic activity of Wingaersheek, nor the hundreds of boats and their crews drinking, cooking meat, and lounging. At Cranes I suggested we turn to meta photography, introducing symbol and metaphor, and reviewing synecdoche, the part standing for the whole.

I discoursed on this topic, as we stood in the fresh chill air on Cranes, lightning about to strike off the ocean: synecdoche is the starting point, a visible for a visible, part for the whole, as cop stands for police officer and sail for sail boat; symbol, like the American flag, is by common consent a sign for something else, an idea, as is the green flag at the life guard station representing safety (later they put up the red flag when the lightning began, signaling ambiguously for all to leave the water: is a long object resembling a prick a symbol, the phallic symbol?); while metaphor is a visible standing for an invisible. Examples are tree of life, water of purity, lush green of new birth, etc.

Later, when I’d finished my snack of apple and peanut butter while sitting on a slight sand hill in the back dunes, after struggling valiantly to walk thru the soft sands, scraping off the greenheads greedy for my blood, I noticed the sky glowing deep red around the sun. Thunderheads were emerging, the cloud cover over the sun was just thin-thick enough to allow its roundness to show, but not so intense to ruin the photo. With my telephoto lens I aimed directly into the sun, enraptured by the swiftly changing patterns. Muses led me to this spot. I’d not chosen it for the sun view. I’d chosen it for the ocean view, which rendered no photos. Sitting quietly, parking my heavy load of equipment (including the tripod which I never used), I only meant to rest and linger, not prepare myself for what may have been the most effecting photo of my entire series.

Will it be synecdoche, symbol, or metaphor? Or all, or none?

Sky played a major role for me at Cranes, perhaps in part because of my history here (which I outlined to Tom as we headed down coast)—my mother Pearl and the moon, discovered on a wintry beach walk in 1980 while I was editing the film about her. Was sun-father calling to me? I’d discovered sun-father while in the sweat ceremony a few years after my moon-mom epiphany. Were my ancestors present at Cranes, tapping me on the shoulder-eyes to notice them and heed them? What were their messages?

Tom had a slight problem: lost in the sand dunes, late, exhausted, rain approaching. We’d closed, missing Tom and Mary; some had left; Mary, Brianna, I, all riding with Wilson, were about to depart when Wilson suggested we might wish to check on Tom. I suggested phoning since Tom was the main contact person. We reached him, he puffed, labored, said he thought he’d found the way out, would soon emerge, thanked us for waiting. His shirt was soaked with sweat. He looked distraught. I alerted rangers to not lock the gates until we’d all left. The ranger, an earnest helpful young tanned red faced man, offered to look for him when we saw Tom slowly enter the parking lot from the dunes trail.

I went to him, took his pack, weighing as much as mine at least, maybe 30 pounds, as he told me his story. He’d run for the first part of the trip, thru the sand, hoping to reach the point overlooking the river for photos. He’d succeeded but maybe depleted himself dangerously. Losing the way several times, unable to decipher the number signs—I saw none, I also was lost—he survived. He admitted to being a diabetic, thought low sugar might be an exacerbating factor.

Did you lose a portable reflector?

I might have.

I think I have it.

I’d picked up a collapsible reflecting circle used to fill in shadows, couldn’t find it in my packs when Tom said it might be his, offered to return it at our next review session. Lost a treasure, returned it to its owner. Tom made it out safely.

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Photos

Summer Light (at Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester Massachusetts)

For the Summer Light workshop, 7.18.08

Harsh bright heated light
bearing down on us with thin skins
superheating exhausting sweaty bodies

Until

We duck out of the light
into the shade, and,
since we are at the beach with
thousands of others (Wingaersheek), and
the huge gobbling greenhead flies
are coating our bodies (some of us),

We can run, into the light, into the cooling darkening wetting
waters of the Atlantic Ocean:

Solace from the heat,
relief from the summer light.

From my journal, July 13, 2008:

Dreamt that I’d met a young film animator whose film I’d just seen and loved. I nabbed him later, raved about the movie, asked if it was available to buy. He was cordial, a beginner in this field—sorry, I’ve not yet found a way to market it.

The summer light sojourn to Cape Ann and west plopped down first at Wingaersheek Beach, swarming with people. The water is considerably warmer there than at other regional beaches, one possible reason for the draw. It was a warm sunny day, with a slight wind which may have impeded the vicious green head flies. The tide was out at 2 pm, our start time, so children gathered crabs from the tide pools as the water drifted in. The sky was mottled, a grayish blob for the most part, sometimes filtering the sunlight, sometimes letting it stream down. Starting out from Cambridge I noticed the sky looked almost threatening—would it be raining, should I have brought an umbrella?

Not only was the main beach carpeted with people—all types but mostly white, all types but mostly young families, all types but mostly American, English speaking—but the Essex River side was the public docking space for myriad small boats. Here folks lounged about sipping beer and wine, cooking meat on curious little burners stuck into the sand, fueled by canned gas, maybe butane, romping in the water, sitting in lawn chairs, throwing Frisbees, playing volley ball, courting, sleeping, cavorting. I grew tired of this rapidly, made for the upper grass line.

Here I put on my telephoto lens (I’d been using the wide exclusively) and photographed beach objects close up for variety. Shells, cartridges, remnants of fireworks, grass, plastic debris. Strolling back to our starting point I used the telephoto for relatively close up photos of people. Someone yelled out, “Hey you, take my picture.” And I obliged for a grinning fivesome of chubby young people. Walking away I thought, why didn’t I exploit this invitation and ask to photograph them more?

The light wasn’t good, behind their backs. And I was so low energy by now—and sick of people—that I chose to not pursue this thought.

At the Rockport train station on our initial meeting I’d asked each to specify one thing they’d like to work on today, color, light, frame, detail, texture, patience, border between dry and wet land, etc. Which might have helped seed the initial exercises: first the 4 point awareness exercise, facing the 4 cardinal directions and gazing from low, the nadir, to high, the zenith, observing, then choosing one thing to photograph, thinking it thru using the steps I’d suggested, aware, light, position, etc, and make a series. The 2nd 2 exercises were one thing, 10 different ways, and one frame, 10 different times. I sent them off with these instructions, asking us to reassemble at the concession stand at 4:30, giving us about 1.5 hours for the photography.

My first stop was the water itself, out about 10 m because the slope is so gradual I was up only to my knees. Here I first photographed a boy lying in a small pool of water, until he seemed to notice me. Then others sitting or walking, especially families. And on to the rocks where I was stunned by the configurations of folks climbing the rocks.

Several memories from Wingaersheek beach distracted me: most recently with L3 here last summer, biking and then what, a little stroll, relaxing on the sand, I forget. And before that, with the Boston Lighters, the group comprising some of my former students, one of our last and best outings, at nightfall, brilliant photos mainly because of the light.

Have a look here.

Arriving at the beach I noticed a sign announcing that the parking lot was closed, residents only. And so I fretted. Now what? Can’t park along the road. Might try short-term parking for quickies of the environment, hardly satisfying. Or go to an alternate location, maybe return here later in the day. Luckily, when our car driven by David, ridden in by Cheryl, Whitney, Brianna and me from Cambridge, reached the gate, we were allowed to enter. I’d anticipated the high parking fee, $25 per car, so we’d met at the West Gloucester train station and carpooled.

Next and last stop on this hot tiring day: Conomo Point a little further west and on the inlet that hosts the Essex river. Here an entirely different terrain, milieu, ambiance, and spirit. Quiet, serene, peaceful, few people, rocky shore, small houses, fishing boats, a few people in the water or on it. We met a couple picnicking on the shore, sitting on a bench, devouring fresh melon. They told us about the greenhead fly traps, consisting of boxes with screens trapping the insects who are not able to scoot out once inside. They told us about possible boat trips, a tour on the Essex River on a float boat. And about small roads that lead to green spaces, perhaps giving us access to the water. One was called the Essex Greenbelt(was this whereL3 and I had tried to access, failed?)

Later we learned from another resident, a slightly overweigh t friendly woman, that the land dispute continued. Dating from 1999 when the town of Essex, perhaps pressured by residents wishing better water access, decided to not renew leases for land at this point. Thus the uncertainty. She felt the resolution will allow residents who own their homes, mostly not year arounders, to remain, by developing some land to improve water access.

However, our job was not gathering history and lore, but making photos. For this task I suggested 2 more exercises: one shot only, as in the illustrious photographer One Shot Harris, and synecdoche, the part standing for the whole. Launching out I quickly came upon a large SUV parked on the grass between 2 small homes, looking out to the water. This somehow emblemized the situation: people and land, at times people misusing the land. I struggled with a somewhat related concept at the point, framing a large anchor against a streaked sky. Trying my polarizing filter, which I’ve had little success with, I hope to bring out the clouds dramatically.

Here also I had a memory of L3. I believe we biked here or near here, cruising by Steve Gersh’s conference and retreat center, out a narrow winding bumpy road to this general area. Some parts looked familiar, some not. Surely we did not stop to photograph.

By now the sky had cleared considerably. The air was relatively cool, the bugs absent (except for those attacking David).

—Journal of July 13, 2008

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