I stumbled upon the beautiful photography of freegeppi on flickr. His images of children from Zinder, Niger are extraordinary – these beautiful faces pulled me in to an unexpected narrative of joy and contentment amid – as Americans might define it – poverty.
What could these children have found amid such material lack – that escapes the grasp of Western ‘abundance’? I wonder how different a world we’d be creating if our privileged children – and some privileged adults – spent summer vacations looking into these eyes vs the eyes of their privileged peers in ‘The’ Hamptons or Cape Cod or The Beach Club or The Country Club?
For me, I’d have wasted less of my life – and money – seeking contentment in things or through the approval of others. And I’d have spent less time imagining human differences gave me permission to create an “us/them” world.
And finally, with the drum beats of conflict in the air and mounting bodies on the ground – I’m left wondering – what exactly is it about our “American Way of Life” we believe to be worth so much more than life itself?
My work has always called me to observe, understand and participate in a highly-varnished world. I am a merchant, a marketer and story-teller trained in the world of luxury brands. I am immersed in a narrative of abundance, a story told in snapshots by, and through the prisms of social media and the internet.
When i am feeling disappointed or stuck in life’s ordinary fog I have a tendency to compare the arc of my life to the fragmented images of life that I share and absorb through social media. This is a bad idea, I know better.
I need reminders – to look at life through the eyes of my neighbors. Through their prisms I illuminate a very different and humbling perspective on life.
Whose prism are you using to view life?
Thank you NPR for holding Rashema Melson’s prism up to the light.
Rashema will graduate at the top of her class as the valedictorian of Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C. She’s headed to Georgetown University this fall on a full scholarship. She has spent the last six years living in a homeless shelter.
“I would just say keep your head up because you never know what’s going to happen,” she says. “You just have to have hope and faith and don’t let it change who you are. Don’t become ashamed and don’t be embarrassed. And just know who you are inside….”
Rashema is headed to Georgetown University this fall on a full scholarship.
I was asked by Trinity Boston Foundation to help with visuals for their 2013 Annual Report. In my career I’ve read more than a few. and been one of the executive culprits putting lipstick on the corporate-pig for too many of them. While long on ‘fact’ they tend to be short on ‘truth’.
With little money in The Foundation’s budget for marketing costs, we wondered if this annual report could do double-duty. In the retail world, we call this a BOGO – Buy One, Get One Free.
While fulfilling a legal and ethical obligation to The Foundation’s current stakeholders, this could also be an opportunity to engage – even peripherally – a wider audience. Never underestimate the peripheral vision of your audience. This field of vision is rich soil for planting seeds of thought. This is where thoughts take root, becoming actions ripe for harvest.
I wanted to create something that recipients would not slip into a dark filing cabinet – at least not immediately. Perhaps it would be left out – on coffee tables, kitchen counters and public reception areas. Could 10% of the printed reports ripple outward into the broader community of neighbors and colleagues? Might 1% say ‘yes’ to this unexpected invitation into partnership with Trinity Boston Foundation?
We chose a 9×9 square book with a boutique, consumer-facing appeal to set it apart from the corporate norm. After all nothing says “bore me senseless” more than a deck of 8.5×11 pages with “annual-report” splashed across the cover. Inside, we laid out two parallel narratives. First, a narrative of efficacy and fiscal stewardship as told through straightforward text and clean graphics. The second narrative told through photography would act as backdrop to the first. These background images would invite a wider community into partnership with Trinity Boston Foundation.
It was my pleasure to deliver the photography and the graphics for this project. It was a privilege to work with a team that trusted my instincts. I think the result got the job done. I want to thank the Foundation’s staff for their patience on the final round of edits and David Trueblood who was a great author and partner throughout this project.
It’s our hope we’ve begun to establish brand guidelines for future communication. Next up: their website…?
To learn more about the Trinity Boston Foundation and its extraordinary role in the life of Boston, visit TrinityInspires.org
I complained throughout our 10 minute drive to Jamaica Pond tonight. We were meeting a dear friend for our weekly walk and conversation around the pond.
“it’s raining cats and dogs…whose dumb idea was it to walk tonight?”
No sooner had we parked and stepped out of the car, the rain stopped and a rainbow shattered the clouds. Some day I’ll learn to just shut my mouth and open my eyes. These are the sacred moments that remind me to bow my head, and say thank you.
Returning from a client meeting last night I walked home through the Boston Common. Just past the carousel, in the shadow of the monument I could see thousands of little American flags carpeting the ground. It took my breath away.
There will be lots of gatherings and lots of noise this holiday weekend. Noisy parades. Noisy barbecues. Noisy neighbors. Noisy beaches. Noisy malls and noisy politicians. Amid the noise you will find an invitation on the Boston Common to enter a wordless narrative about grief – a unique grief wrought by war.
As I walked away from the display my inner merchant kicked in and was awestruck for different reasons. Here was an extraordinary example of believing in a vision and inspiring others to make it happen. Hundreds of volunteers spent many hours on their hands and knees in wet grass placing each flag at precisely the same height. Trying my best to overlook the flags-made-in-china-problem, this was an extraordinary example of showing one ordinary item on a scale that stops an audience in their tracks. This was visual communication – in this case 3-dimensional – at its very best. No words needed.
To the creative team and volunteers who executed this installation – bravo. To the soldiers whose lost souls are represented in those flags – and to their grief-stricken families – there are no words.
A quick trip to Ogungquit Beach, Maine – visiting friends before the tourists take over.
Choosing an extra hour of sleep, I missed seeing the expected apricot sun and citrus sky spilling over the morning horizon. But sometimes when we set the expected experience aside, we become open to unexpected gifts we hadn’t asked for.
Walking over the dunes this morning I was suddenly handed a new day on a silver platter. I hadn’t expected it – in fact I’m pretty sure I’d been warned to never expect it.
When observing strangers I have a habit of quickly gathering the visual data and filling in my own presumptive blanks of their stories.
If you’ve been to the Maine Coast in May – or August for that matter – you know too well, that the water is frigid beyond comprehension and frankly beyond human survival if exposed for long. These two children were frolicking barefoot in icy water with such exuberance I imagined they had likely never seen the ocean before that very moment. Perhaps no large body of water. Were they from our own American Heartland? The attire of the parents huddled by the rocks suggested they may have been from a distant land-locked nation. Perhaps a nation affected by oppression or corruption. OK….sometimes my stories have a dramatic flair.
Getting past my worry for their frozen limbs, I wondered what it was like to experience something as majestic as the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. This unfathomable body of water has been in my blood since birth – I have no recollection of what it might have been like to absorb it consciously for the first time. I hope this charming brother and sister hold this experience, and each other close to their hearts – and may their glee transcend their pain – always.