the beautiful faces

The first thing I noticed when we landed in South Sudan was all of the beautiful, interesting faces of the people. I guess that’s just the photographer in me. Many of them are truly striking.

But it’s more than just the aesthetics. My experience so far photographing the South Sudanese is that they wear it all on their faces. The sorrow, pain, hope and even the joy. We in America seem to have on masks that can hide the deepest parts of our souls. I see this all too often as a photographer.

Experiencing this raw, honest humanity has been moving. To visually witness the joy exuding from these believers’ faces is overwhelming and contagious. Their love for Christ and how He has set them free is evident. And reflecting on this yesterday, I was led to Psalm 27.

Verse 8 says, “You have said, ‘seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘your face, Lord, do I seek.’ Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!”

I feel as though I have seen God’s face in his people here. I have also seen His work being done through Seed Effect, which tells me that the Lord will not hide His face from us, or His people here in Africa.

What a blessing it has been for me to see this, and to capture all the beautiful faces of Kajo Keji and Nimule, South Sudan.

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margaret dradu, anzo-aa

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all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

thoughts swirling of africa

we landed in Africa a few days ago and it is unlike anything I have ever experienced. needless to say, my words feel incomplete and somewhat insecure at this point.

but a day or so before we left for south sudan, a friend of mine shared some thoughts she had while living in Africa some years ago. i found it really poignant and thought it worth sharing…. thank you Prisca.
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“Before I came to Tanzania I thought extreme poverty and destitution were equivalent. My image of poverty in Africa came from ‘starving children’ commercials and glossy magazine ads showing dirty, distraught looking faces. Perhaps the fallacy of that image did not fully strike me until an African friend asked me not to photograph dirty children for show in America. He objected because he believed Americans would misinterpret their dirtiness as a sign of neglect, degradation, and want. Although children in the village near where I live are poor and often dirty, neither they nor their parents are destitute.

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Destitution is living without the things necessary for human dignity. When Americans see people who lack things we think we (and by extension they) need to maintain self-respect, we see destitution. But the American concept of what comprises a dignified life has been formed with little knowledge of life in the developing world.

The poor in Tanzania live without excess, but not without dignity. Homes are small and constructed of mud bricks and straw. Clothes are few and well-worn. Ugali, a dough-like substance of maize flour and water, makes up the bulk of almost every meal. Yet Tanzanian villagers living on pennies a day practice generosity and hospitality. They maintain codes of interpersonal courtesy as intricate as those of the British court. They are individuals with complicated personalities, intelligence and humor. The poor have dignity proceeding not from their lifestyles or material possessions but from their humanity.”

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all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

wyoming | last look at soda

as always, it was very hard for me to leave wyoming.

so i took a short tour of soda lake before starting my long drive home.

i was met by what felt like some old friends.

soda lake is usually the first and last place i visit when i’m in pinedale… i guess you could say a home away from home.

to sear an image like the one above in my brain before i leave is somehow therapeutic.  looking at these photographs now, months later, makes me long to be back in the mountains.

but it also compels me to explore new landscapes… foreign territories.  unfamiliar terrain.

and then i’m reminded that i’ll have that opportunity soon….

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

south sudan | seed effect

i shot this image a few years ago in beirut, lebanon.

it is a simple a detail of a wall, but for me it says a whole lot more.

the middle east is full of faceless, nameless people.  the forgotten.

but it’s not just this part of the world that the forgotten call home…

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which brings me to my point; Elle and i have been invited by Seed Effect to use our photography to help give faces and names to the forgotten in South Sudan, Africa.

The Seed Effect from Seed Effect on Vimeo.

we are giving our time and talents to Seed Effect because we believe in what they are doing, and we want to keep as much money in the hands of the Sudanese people as possible.

because of this, Elle and i are raising support to help pay for our travel expenses.

if you appreciate what Seed Effect does, and what we will be doing for them, please consider supporting our efforts with a tax deductible donation.

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we also are holding a pre-sale for the Africa prints we’ll produce after the trip to benefit Seed Effect.

the proceeds from the print pre-sale will help with our out of pocket expenses, and will also go towards Seed Effect’s general fund.

visit the link below for more information.

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please consider helping Seed Effect bring us along in january to give greater exposure to their cause through photography.

and please check back regularly throughout the weeks and months to come to follow along with us on our journey!

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

wyoming | elk hunt

i was incredibly excited to be invited on Mike and Ellen’s elk hunt at the end of my trip to wyoming in september.

at that point, Elle had to head home, so i spent the last 10 days mostly by myself in the wild.  and of the last 3, my friends were kind enough to host me at hunting camp.

Jim also showed up.  he and Mike go way back.  and actually, he and i do too… randomly enough.

when i lived in pinedale in 2005, i tried my hand a few other jobs after quitting my job at the newspaper.

in this part of wyoming, everyone knows that able bodied folks can make a VERY good living roughnecking in the oil fields.  even i was tempted by the high pay they were offering.

one problem though…. no experience.  in steps Jim.

he runs a water well rig, which is very similar to the oil rigs out in the fields.  and Jim was looking for a bit of help.

long story short, i apprenticed with Jim for one day.  quickly realized i’m not the roughnecking type :)

but Jim was incredibly nice to this city slicker, and i will forever be grateful.  he’s a good man.

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buster found a good spot for a midday nap.

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only the essentials… whiskey, guns….. and a broom?

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unfortunately, there was still a fire ban… so we had to use camping ingenuity… thanks to Ellen, we were all warm.

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when you’re at camp with Mike and Ellen, you’re not going to go hungry, that’s for sure.  breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we ate like kings.

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we woke up very early on opening day to get the horses ready…

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it was a beautiful morning.  but opening day is a tough day to spot animals… lots of other folks out looking for them too…

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no luck.  we searched all morning only to find that we may want to look for a new spot.

so we decided to take an evening drive down from our camp to scout a new location…

along the way, Jim spotted a few grouse…. mmm.  dinner.

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tastes like chicken.  especially when smothered in bbq sauce…

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we found a great spot.  but we would need to return the next morning before dawn.

and on the way back… more grouse.

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so we went back to our spot early the next morning, before sunrise. it was the day i would have to leave wyoming.

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it turned out to be a great location… we saw several good bulls.  but one thing that i learned about hunting is that you don’t always get to shoot, even when you see what you’re looking for.

we never got the right looks, or they were never close enough.  the last thing a hunter wants is to wound an animal right before nightfall, or spoil the meat with a bad shot.

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so we explored a bit… and found a moose family.  a cow, calf, and bull popped out of the willows and we had a chance to see them on the move together.  a real treat.

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seeing the moose family was a nice way to wrap up the morning… but the sun was climbing higher, temperature rising.  not a great time for hunting.

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so i decided to say my goodbyes and get on the road.

i had a really long drive back.  but my route took me back through pinedale, and for one last stop at soda lake.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

wyoming | antelope hunt

** GRAPHIC HUNTING PHOTOS… PLEASE BE ADVISED**

i felt kind of silly writing the above disclaimer… but then i thought about it, and many of the folks that frequent my site are expecting beautiful landscapes, portraits, and *living* wildlife photography.

this post incorporates all of those elements, but it also adds photojournalism.  a documentation of what the vast majority of humans throughout the span of time have done in order to survive.  with graphic detail.

Elle and i are not big hunters, but we are both meat eaters and have a great respect for the people that go out into the wild to bring meat home for their families.

rarely, in this day and age, do we city-folk ever see the animals that we eat prior to their processing and packaging at our supermarkets.  i think it’s good for all of us to experience a hunt.  it gives us the opportunity to develop respect for the animals, and a thankfulness for the bounty of food that results.  to get our hands dirty.

so here is our first real hunting experience in the sagebrush sea of sublette county, wyoming with our good friends Mike and Ellen.

elle was excited and nervous when we hopped in Ellen’s truck that morning.

Mike and Ellen had already harvested one antelope of their two for the year, so they were just ready to get the meat that they needed for the long wyoming winter.

antelope hunting is unique.  there are tens of thousands of high mountain desert acres in wyoming.

antelope roam those plains, sometimes alone, and sometimes in groups.

because of that, it is common for hunters to drive miles of dirt road until they spot a suitable animal.  so we drove.  looking….

after a while of looking… we spotted a huge, lone male.  so Mike set up for the shot.

Elle loaded the 30-06 magazines.

it was a really long shot… probably around 750 yards.  needless to say, Mike missed quite a few times.

the one that got away.

more looking….

then, finally… Mike found ‘the one’.  it was downhill from us and still a very long shot.

not a clean kill, unfortunately, but Mike eventually got the kill shot…

now it was time to gut the antelope.

just as it sounds, gutting just means to cut out the insides in the field so that the internal organs don’t turn and spoil the rest of the meat.

really sharp knives are helpful…

it can be a messy activity.

all in all, Ellie was not a huge fan of the experience.  though she understands hunting for food and respects people’s right and need to do so, she feels it’s not for her.

i, on the other hand, am fully prepared to reap the harvest of wild game… if i need to feed my family… and there are no cows or chickens nearby to ‘hunt’.  though generally prefer to shoot animals with my camera.

we live in an interesting time.  one in which most of us never see where our food comes from, and many certainly like it that way.  ignorance is bliss, right?  and so is a fresh steak.

but still, there is something comforting about knowing exactly where your food came from.  and wearing the earth and blood to prove it.

i look forward to taking part in many more excursions with my frontier friends… to see how it once was, and still can be.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

ballin’ with birds of prey

i play basketball every day.  i know, i know.  hard to picture.

regardless… it happens.  every day.

it can get pretty mundane i will admit.  but today was vastly different.

i walked up to the court, head down.  did my stretches.  heard a loud screech.

one that i don’t usually hear in the middle of dallas.

i looked up, and this is what i saw.  remarkable!  a red-tailed hawk about 15 yards from me.

what a phenomenal bird.  he allowed me to get within 10 feet of him too!

he caught a squirrel, so i think he was concerned with defending his meal.

but he sat there and watched me as i played basketball for a half an hour.

what an unusual treat today…

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012