One autumn day in 1974 I received a phone call from the local photography store where I had sent my film from a recent trip to the Far East for development. The store owner took me aside. Her words still linger to this very day in my memory bank. “You obviously have enormous talent, but why would you choose not to use it to show the beauty of the world rather than poverty and misery?” “Misery is everywhere,” said the woman. “Look a little harder and seek beauty.”
Sleep did not come to me that evening. I reflected for hours on the shopkeeper’s words. Little did I know that she had sent me on a journey that would take many turns, encounter many detours-A journey that I know within the deep confines of my heart will never end. I began a photographic pilgrimage in pursuit of beauty in the simplicity of life.
This photographic pilgrimage has taken me to the ancient ruins of Machu Pichu, to the Amazon jungle, through the ravages of the Liberian civil war, through the shifting sands of the Thar desert and over the highest roads in the Himalayan mountains. I spent an afternoon with a Sadhu in Nepal who sat for thirty-two years on a single rock to demonstrate his faith. His hair had grown to many times the length of his body and his fingernails resembled small daggers. I was offered the culinary delight of human flesh, so that I, like the holy man who had offered it to me, would partake of one of the most humbling experiences in order to set myself on the path of enlightenment. I have visited the room of the devil in a Brazilian house of condomble and experienced first hand how ‘evil magic’ can cause a man to go into a coma.
It has taken me over a half of my life to truly appreciate that those things that human beings share in common are in essence the most fascinating and meaningful. Mutual to all mankind is the necessity to eat, sleep, be shielded from the elements and the desire to propagate and stake one’s claim in the tides of succeeding generations. All men and women experience moments of joy, inevitable periods of sadness and grieve at the lost of loved ones. We all enter into this world naked, devoid of riches and have no control over when the final curtain will fall during our performance on earth’s stage. With a one-way ticket we pass through time and space, ultimately, all desiring to one day meet our Creator.
On my photographic pilgrimage, I have learned that when I not only looked at my photographic subjects but also listened to their life stories that I have been allowed to witness the grandest spectacle of all-beauty in the universal themes of humanity.