Category Archives: Diary Of A Traveling Photog

“To Be Human…”

I was seated at a restaurant in the center of Verona one day, enjoying a meal alone in Piazza Bra, when a middle-aged man quietly approached my table. He was dressed in plain clothes; a short-sleeved shirt tucked into his workman’s pants, black boots on his feet, an old ball cap lazily placed atop his head. He began speaking in a language I could not understand, all the while pointing at the tiny, customarily-served ramekin of Italian olives on my table. I presumed he was asking for permission to eat them. I passed them over and watched as he began to place them into his mouth one by one, savoring them. My mood that day was pleasant, and seeing how I had some time to kill and no company to keep, I pushed the chair across from me out from under the table and pointed at it, offering him a place to sit. He looked at it, sat, and resumed eating…slowly, methodically.

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(photo: Fidel Amos)

 

Somehow I felt very natural having him there at the table with me. I felt as if we had been friends for years. I felt as if we had made an appointment earlier in the week to have lunch together and he had just now arrived to join me. I felt as if the logical next stop should be to call my waitress over and order him something to eat…so I did. A few minutes later she returned with the bottle of water and dish I had asked for and placed it on the table. His gaze fell to the plate before him and his eyes narrowed. He looked at me, his face showing signs of confusion. I made a “for you” gesture towards his meal and smiled slightly. He looked down at his plate again and suddenly began to cry. He covered his mouth as if to hold in emotions that had been longing to burst free for hours, days, months. I looked away for a moment, giving him time to experience those emotions…not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do.

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(photo: Fidel Amos)

 

He then began to eat. As he ate he told me of his past, his troubles, his worries, his present situation. He shared his life with me. He poured his soul out to me. A stranger, but not a stranger. A friend, but not a friend. I didn’t understand a word he said…but I understood every word he said. As if understanding that I understood, he stopped sharing. For the next ten minutes we sat in silence. For the next ten minutes we were simply two people enjoying a meal, enjoying each other’s quiet company.

After a while the waitress returned and I asked her for the bill, adding a little extra so ‘my friend’ could enjoy dessert when he finished his meal. I gathered my things and stood to leave. He looked up from his meal and raised an eyebrow, curious. I told him that I had to go. He seemed ready to object, as if asking for me to stay so he could thank me in some way. I told him he didn’t need to…my God was good to me, so when I could I returned the favor to others. He stretched out his hand, so I did as well. We shared a handshake. We exchanged foreign goodbyes, then I left.

I left because I wanted him to enjoy a few moments to himself, because I wanted him to savor the rest of his meal in peace, because I didn’t want him to feel obligated to thank me for the dessert that I knew was coming, because I wanted him to take his time, because I wanted him to be human again…

 

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(photo: Fidel Amos)

 

– F

(I’m not sure why I stole a few photos of him during this experience. Probably because it’s what I do. Or more likely because I don’t ever want to forget that day…or him)

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Filed under Diary Of A Traveling Photog, The Good In Mankind

“The Doc Meets The Dude…”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

I took this photo while on assignment in Dehradun, India with a non-profit group consisting of surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses from around the world. Locals in the area had heard of the team’s arrival and came from miles away to receive free medical care for their burns, scars and wounds.

One of these locals was an adorable little boy our team aptly named ‘The Dude’, as he didn’t speak English and none of us knew his name. Although he suffered from extreme burns to his hand and face, his presence at the hospital was a cheerful and amicable one.

In this photo he is meeting for the first time one of the surgeons that would later tend to him…and he was all smiles about it.

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Filed under Blog Quickies, Diary Of A Traveling Photog, On Assignment, The Story Behind The Shot

“The 37 Year Old Virgin……To Surgery.”

The first surgery I ever witnessed will live in my memories until the day I die.

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However short it may be, that simple sentence in and of itself describes the entire experience. First and foremost, most people on the planet don’t get to witness surgeries. It’s generally a sight reserved for those that have the knowledge and training required to perform or assist with surgeries. Of course, in this day and age there are videos and tv shows and various other media at hand with which to watch recordings of surgeries. But to be able to stand in a room where another human being is being, in one way or another, taken apart and reassembled?

No, most people don’t get to see that.

The person I was about to watch go ‘under the knife’ was slightly younger than your average patient…3 years old to be exact. She had slipped into a fire pit after awaking in the middle of the night in a tiny village miles away from a tiny town in a country with over a billion people in it. With no medical care readily available and no money to seek any out, her entire left leg had burned, curled and fused itself to itself. The once separate foot, ankle, shin and thigh were now nearly one mass.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

I remember the sight of the sleeping, naked, burned little being in front of me. I remember this machine beeping, that machine hissing, another moving up and down and another providing vital signs. I remember the smell, temperature and taste of the room. I say taste because four of my senses were so in tune with the overall quiet, sterile calmness of the room that my taste buds began to follow suit in their perception of it all. I remember a surgeon asking me if I’d “ever seen a surgery”, to which I calmly answered “um, no”. I remember a second surgeon giving me quick instructions on what to do should I become faint or lightheaded, something along the lines of “sit on the floor” or “try not to fall on the patient” followed by “you can wait outside if you need to”.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

Come to think of, I had never considered what my body might do upon witnessing such a sight. I had never considered that accepting a job as a photographer for a group of international surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and support staff halfway around the world might land me in the middle of a real life surgery. I knew that I’d be covering their day to day life during a their travels to countries I had never seen. I knew that would obviously entail documenting sights, sounds and experiences that I had never beheld. But I never thought in my wildest dreams that they’d let me behind the ‘closed doors’. Yet there I was, scrubs on my body, booties on my feet, cover on my head, mask on my face, camera in my right hand, mic in my left.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

As machines beeped, as bad jokes were told, as Johnny Cash and Jimi Hendrix played, as surgeons talked me through procedures, as hours went by, as I watched through my lens…a little Indian girl was cut, opened, mended, stretched, folded, closed, glued, held, stapled and gauzed back together again.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

After she was awoken…

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

…after she was returned to her mother’s waiting arms…

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

…after the surgeons retreated to their own, individual, time-developed post-surgery rituals, I went outside and sat on a curb in front of the hospital.

I sat there, in my borrowed scrubs and mask.

I sat there, camera still in hand, mic still in hand.

I sat there, sweating, thirsty, thinking about the surgery I had just seen.

I sat there…forever changed.

Then I got up, went back inside, and photographed a dozen more.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

– F

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Filed under Diary Of A Traveling Photog, On Assignment, The Good In Mankind, The Story Behind The Shot

“The Homeless Delhi Girl…”

I shot this from the backseat of a taxi while on assignment in Delhi, India.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

This little girl was weaving in and out of the traffic that had stopped for a red light…she was begging for money and food. Not visible in this photo, her legs were dirty and her feet were shoeless. I remember thinking to myself how in the United States, a young person with her look might model, or do television commercials.

But in her country, in her city, she was just another street kid with no hope for a real future.

– F

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Filed under Diary Of A Traveling Photog, Globetrotting, On Assignment, The Story Behind The Shot

“When In India…”

They say “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”…a saying I’ve tried to adhere to in every city in every country I’ve ever visited. To truly experience a culture (especially as a  photographer) one must allow oneself to become immersed entirely, to try new things, to fit in.

Often times in my travels I’ve noticed foreigners in other countries acting like, well, foreigners. More specifically I see Americans abroad complaining that it’s too hot, or too cold, or too dirty. They walk around upset because they can’t find a McDonald’s, Burger King or Budweiser. In my opinion, finding myself in a country lacking the “comforts of home” is exactly the reason I went to that country in the first place! Tasting the local cuisine, walking the streets and soaking up the essences that make that particular country what it is…that’s what traveling is all about.

…and that is exactly why on assignment in Delhi, India, I found myself meditating, yoga style, for the first time ever.

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I can’t wait to go back.

– F

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Filed under Diary Of A Traveling Photog, Globetrotting, On Assignment, Uncategorized