Category Archives: The Good In Mankind

“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

“All Cops Aren’t Bad…Just The A**holes.”

“The problem with a lot of the statements/comments I’ve read lately regarding police officers, federal agents, private security employees and various other areas of employment involving ‘positions of power’ is that they’re ‘blanket statements’. Too often people are so quick to say ‘All cops are bad’. Unfortunately blanket statements are used in all types of situations these days, especially via social media…where an image/video can spread like wildfire before the truth of the event actually unfolds.”

“I try to avoid making these types of statements because I’ve traveled the world and have had the opportunity to meet different types of people of various races, religions and backgrounds. I’ve learned not to assume that the attitude, negativity and bad behavior I receive from one person will be the same attitude, negativity and bad behavior I’ll receive from other people of that same race, religion or background. In other words, what people look like and what they do for a living doesn’t amount to the type of person they are. The type of person they are is determined by exactly that…the type of person they are. Some of my dearest friends are police officers, security guards, federal agents, and bouncers. They’re not racist, bigots, biased or violent people. They’re confronted every day with situations that test their will, resolve, patience and survival, yet they behave in a manner which coincides with their character. They’re not good people because they’re cops, agents, or security. They’re simply good people who happen to be in those jobs.”

“The men in the video below for example are, for lack of a more politically correct word, a**holes. Again, I don’t know the logistics of the situation, I’m simply making an assumption due to what I’m seeing in this video. Could they be two great cops that are treating the cameraman in this manner because the cameraman is a scumbag they know from ‘around the way’? Sure. Could they be two cool dudes that were just told to act this way by their overbearing superior? Yes. If they are in fact just a**holes however, they’re not a**holes because they’re cops, they’re simply a**holes who happen to BE cops. If they were teachers, farmers, construction workers, or McDonald’s fry-guys, they’d probably STILL be a**holes.”

(Click to watch video via YouTube)

(Click to watch video via YouTube)

“Of course, there will be those of you that disagree with me. Like I said, everyone has had different experiences in their lives and everyone is different than I am, thus everyone won’t think the same way that I do…some people just hate uniformed individuals. There will be those of you that say having a gun, a badge, a siren and the daily duty of dealing with criminals MAKES you an a**hole…but this is an observation I won’t agree with. I was a bouncer for years in NYC. Did I talk a little more trash because I knew the nightclub or my fellow boys in black would back me up? Sure. Did I expect to get to the front of the line at certain spots because of who I was and who I worked for? Of course. But deep down inside I was the person that I was, with the responsible mindset and moral integrity that I had. I never beat someone to within an inch of their lives or worse because I could get away with it, because deep down inside I simply wasn’t the typer of person that would do that…regardless of the power behind my position of authority.”

“I know my words here won’t be world-changing. My thoughts on this matter should be taken simply as they are…my thoughts on this matter. If you’re the type of open-minded person that might learn a thing or two from people other than yourself however, here’s the one seed I’d like to plant: take people for WHO they are, HOW they act and WHAT they do. Exterior appearances can be deceiving. They can lead you to believe something untrue about someone. They can also cause you to miss out on knowing some of the best people on this earth.”

“Try not to see your fellow humans as the clothes they wear, the jobs they have, the car they drive or the entity they pray to…try to see them for who they really are.”

  • F

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Filed under Controversy...Ya Gotta Love It, Globetrotting, Really America?, The Good In Mankind

“Disaster Strikes…But What Can I Do?” (Nepal Earthquake)

Planet Earth as a whole is an unbelievably large place; oceans to seas, mountains to plains, cities to villages, it covers nearly 200 million square miles.

Often times when we hear of a tragedy occurring on a different continent or in a different country than ours, it doesn’t have the same effect on us as it does to those living where it happened. This doesn’t mean we’re not paying attention, it doesn’t mean we care less…it’s just simply difficult to be able to see, feel and hear about the various disasters, big or small, that occur around the world on a day to day basis.

 

Yesterday however, for the first time since I can remember, a natural disaster occurred thousands of miles away from me, yet I felt it in my being…the earthquake in Nepal. I was blessed to be able to see Nepal a couple years ago while on assignment with several surgeons and medical staff from Mission: Restore. It is a beautiful country, and the people we encountered there were friendly, generous and hospitable to us every step of the way.

 

As I scanned the internet for more information on what was occurring in the cities I had visited while there (specifically Kathmandu), I came across a photo of Patan Durbar Square, which now lies half in ruin. I had taken a photo in the exact same spot, from the exact same angle that this photographer had taken theirs. The place where I had been standing a few years ago was gone, demolished, covered by brick, stone, mortar and dirt. I stared at this particular photo for a very, very long time. 

(Patan Durbar Square / In 2011, and today)

(Patan Durbar Square / In 2011, and today)

 

I tried to mentally reconstruct the buildings in their entirety as they had been when I was there. I tried to picture myself being there after such a disaster struck, would I be able to help, or would I be as helpless as so many others I had seen in the photo? I then imagined being there moments before the earthquake hit…would I even be alive now?

 

Perhaps distance, time and space is enough to keep us from physically being side by side with others when tragedy strikes, but with today’s technologies, means of transportations and online methods with which to share infromation, we can get to them quicker and help them much faster than we ever could in the past.

 

If you have the means, if you have the resources, if you have the time, share those things…via Mercy CorpsUSAIDDirect ReliefUNICEFHabitat for Humanity and so many others. It doesn’t matter if you only have a couple dollars to send, a tiny little bit of help from billions of others just like you reaches much, much further than you think.

– F

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Filed under On Assignment, The Good In Mankind

“There Has To Be A Way…”

The United States of America. I love this country, I love another country as well because I grew up there and consider it home, but having lived here the last 20 years or so makes makes me as American as I am Italian (as does the combination of my American father and my Italian mother). One thing that I’ve seen, in the USA as well as Italy, is the ever-increasing number of homeless on the streets. I feel a certain pain inside my soul when I see someone in those conditions, not because I don’t want to help, but because I can’t help…at least, not by myself. Although this is a beautiful country we live in, we can’t seem to find a way to take care of our own citizens…let alone anyone else’s.

There has to be a way to come together as a whole. There has to be a way to provide food, shelter and decent living conditions to the civilians of this great nation…especially to its veterans, who have fought tooth and nail for it. I know that it’s possible. I know because I have been around the world, and I’ve seen the good that mankind (and womankind) can do. I know because while in Union Square here in NYC one day, I saw a man approach another man. They didn’t know one another as far as I could tell. They had only the shirts on their backs and the bags in their hands. But when one asked another if he could have a cigarette, a cigarette is what he got…no questions asked.

If two people who have nothing can give to each other, why can’t we all..?

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

-F

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Filed under Blog Quickies, Hear Me Roar, New York City, Really America?, The Good In Mankind

“The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Looks Like It’s My Turn…”

So yeah, I was recently nominated to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge…to which I responded with a video.

(Click to see the video in its entirety)

(Click to see the video in its entirety)

If you don’t have time to watch the 2 minute video, here’s a written paraphrase:

“I’ve officially been challenged by my friend Jonatan Pitkonen in Sweden to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Basically, I think the challenge was a good idea at first and I think that people did it to raise awareness. I think it’s been receiving the awareness that it needs so I won’t be dumping ice water on my head today. Since the initial purpose of it was to raise awareness I think people should know that ALS is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or #Lou Gehrig’s Disease for short. It’s where the motor neurons that fire from the brain to various parts of the spinal chord (and are re-fired to other muscles of the body) don’t receive those signals and eventually die…which causes the person to suffer severe paralysis and possibly death.”

“It’s not pretty. And for a lot of families that we know, and people we don’t know, they deal with this every day.”

“I think not only bringing awareness to it but also donating what you can to help possibly one day find a cure (or at least to do the necessary research towards that goal) is a good thing, and I’m all for that. Even though I don’t feel drawing attention to oneself by becoming wet on public media is necessary unless of course you are donating money as well…then it’s fun, brings awareness and raises funds. I’m not officially going to nominate anyone, I’ll simply nominate everyone who’d like to donate to this cause that feels that they want to do so from their own hearts and their own spirits.”

“I also nominate those of you that are dumping buckets of ice water on yourselves to donate money instead.”

– F

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Filed under Hear Me Roar, The Good In Mankind, This Thing Called Life

“37 Years Of Robin Williams…” (An Homage)

I can’t really explain in words why the passing of Robin Williams has affected me so…

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Yes, there is a touch of ‘celebrity fascination’ there. Yes, it’s always sad when another human being’s flame goes out. And yes, the hint of suicide makes it even more shocking, true or not. But for me personally, he’s kinda ‘been there with me’ in one form or another throughout my entire life. He has portrayed characters that for me were relevant, believable and timeless. Crazy ones, funny ones, vicious ones, bad ones, good ones and even futuristic robotic ones. I can safely say that I’ve been influenced by him at various times in various different ways as far back as I can remember.

Sure, I didn’t know him. Sure, there’s probably another billion people on the planet that will say the same thing. But the truth is, the more we see and hear someone, the more they’re in our everyday lives, the more we remember and are guided by the things they say…even if we only know them through media. I remember the lines from his movies, including all the songs from the animated ones. I know the jokes from his standup routines and the one-liners from his videos and cassette tapes. I ‘know’ who he was, or at least who he wanted us to think he was. So I’m ‘sad’ that he’s gone, or whatever you’d like to call that feeling you feel when you know you’re going to ‘miss’ someone, even if you didn’t ‘know’ them.

After hearing of his death, I began to read up on him and his past. I realized his career happened to extend the span of my life…37 years to be exact. So just for him (and for you if you’d care to join me) I’m going to pay homage to his life in my own little way with this: ’37 Years Of Robin Williams.”

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(Click the photos to view video clips)
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1977: HBO

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199: THE RICHARD PRYOR SHOW

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1978: HAPPY DAYS (AS MORK)

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1978: POPEYE

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1978: MORK & MINDY

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1982: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP

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1984: MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON

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1987: GOOD MORNING VIETNAM

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1988: ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN

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1989: DEAD POETS SOCIETY

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1990: AWAKENINGS

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1991: HOOK

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1992: ALADDIN

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1993: MRS. DOUBTFIRE

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1995: JUMANJI

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1995: NINE MONTHS

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1996: JACK

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1996: THE BIRDCAGE

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1997: GOOD WILL HUNTING

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1998: PATCH ADAMS

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1999: BICENTENNIAL MAN

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2002: ONE HOUR PHOTO

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2005: ROBOTS

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2006: HAPPY FEET

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2006: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM

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2009: OLD DOGS

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2009: WORLD’S GREATEST DAD

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– F


PS. Bangarang, Peter.

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Filed under A-List / B-List / No-List, The Good In Mankind

“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