Good Vibes | Music, Hope, and Monochrome Mayhem

I always want to talk about important subjects, but with hope. Music is supposed to heal people. — Fatoumata Diawara

At the beginning of the year, I thought I’d focus on developing my monochrome photography skills, but life got in the way. Before I pressed pause on that venture, though, I was able to coordinate and complete two “Monthly Monochrome Mayhem” swaps in the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.

Through the swaps, I made another photographer friend, Betty H., from the United Kingdom. She does a lot of concert photography, so she shared photos from a show at Birmingham Town Hall that featured Fatoumata Diawara and Staff Benda Bilili, singers from the continent of Africa.

Diawara is a Malian singer-song writer and actor whose music:

draws elements of jazz and funk into an exquisitely sparse contemporary folk sound – refracting the rocking rhythms and plaintive melodies of her ancestral Wassoulou tradition through an instinctive pop sensibility. At the centre of the music is Fatou’s warm, affecting voice, spare, rhythmical guitar playing and gorgeously melodic songs that draw powerfully on her own often troubled experience.  –from Fatoumata Diawara’s Facebook Page.

Diawara opened for Staff Benda Bilili, a group of disabled street musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The group consists of:

Four senior singer/guitarists sitting on spectacularly customized tricycles, occasionally dancing on the floor of the stage, arms raised in joyful supplication, are the core of the band, backed by a younger, all-acoustic, rhythm section pounding out tight beats. Over the top of this are weird, infectious guitar-like solos performed by a [young] prodigy on a one-string electric lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can. –from Staff Benda Bilili’s Facebook Page

The name of the group translates roughly to “see beyond [appearances].”

Betty says the musicians were “a joy to photograph.” I can tell! There’s so much energy in the photos that I can feel the good vibes.

The spark is even more apparent in the original color photos.

Aren’t the photos spectacular? Betty confessed that she frequently converts concert photographs to monochrome because “working around the choices of the lighting technicians” can be challenging. I see her point, but I love the mysterious aura of the color photos too.

Indie Week’s interview of Fatoumata Diawara outlines her philosophies of music and life. And if you have never heard this soulful singer, please take a listen to Fatou, her debut album.

And then, turn to the rhythmic fusion of soukous (influenced by rumba), rhythm and blues, and reggae found in the music of Staff Benda Bilili.

As Diawara points out, there’s a lot of difficulty in life. There’s also hope, joy, and laughter, which make the tough stuff bearable. I feel all of this in the music of Staff Benda Bilili and Fatoumata Diawara. Don’t you?

Until next time…

Haiku | Bashō | Winter Solitude

Winter solitude
in a world of one color
the sound of wind
Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)

The “Winter Scene” card above was crafted by my mixed media photography art “inspirer,” Diane W. (midteacher on swap-bot). She sent it to me two years ago, but it has been hiding in a pocket  in my Traveler’s Notebook. Now, that it’s been “found,” the photo creation is an able companion for Bashō’s haiku.

So Many Stories | #WordlessWednesday

One of the things I love about New York City is that the city is constantly moving. I can stand in–or walk through–the same location for hours and watch hundreds of stories unfold. I’m convinced NYC never runs out of stories–and that the story is rarely what it seems.

I captured the photo above several years ago as I walked through or near Union Square [I think]. Though we are naturally drawn to story of the couple in the foreground, the more interesting stories take place beyond them.

What words–or stories–do you have for today’s photo?

Quotes Challenge Day 2: Wild and Free

Today’s quote–All good things are wild and free–comes from “Walking,” an extensive essay written for The Atlantic by Henry David Thoreau, the American essayist, philosopher, and naturalist best known for Walden and “Civil Disobedience.” The essay, published after his death, was a combination of two lectures, “Walking” (1851) and “The Wild” (1852), which Thoreau combined, separated, and combined again for publication (1862).

The opening of the essay provides a clear snapshot of the content:

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil— to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.

When I shot the photo above (last year, late spring), my “real” camera was out of commission, but I was determined to still take advantage of photo opportunities. As a friend and I were leaving a bookstore late one morning, a mini-daisy field caught my eye. How odd it seemed in the middle of all the commerce! Neither the magazine purchased nor the hot beverage consumed could evoke the good feelings that a moment with the daisies yielded.

The one sentence from Thoreau’s essay captured my feelings–“all good things are wild and free.”

The full quote sums up preceding paragraphs in which he valorizes the “untamed” or natural over the “civilized” and cultivated.

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice—take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance-which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as I can understand.

Take a moment to read the entire essay. If you want to know more about Thoreau, see the Walden Woods Project. There’s a series of links near the end of the Thoreau background information page that you will find useful.

“The Spirit of Sauntering,” a Brain Pickings article published a few years ago, offers an analysis of Thoreau’s “Walking.” You might want to check that out too–or instead, if Thoreau’s writing style does not appeal to you.

Today’s challenge nominees (see previous post for rules):

It’s almost the weekend! Be sure to tune in tomorrow for my final quote of the challenge.

Suddenly…Spring

I dream’d that as I wander’d by the way
Bare Winter suddenly was changed to Spring,
And gentle odours led my steps astray,
Mix’d with a sound of waters murmuring
Along a shelving bank of turf, which lay
Under a copse, and hardly dared to fling
Its green arms round the bosom of the stream,
But kiss’d it and then fled, as Thou mightest in dream.

–Lines 1-8, “A Dream of the Unknown,” Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Vision: Looking Ahead

I’m working on being more intentional about improving my photography skills this year, so I’m participating in Dogwood Photography’s 52 Week Photography Challenge 2018. I considered the challenge last year, but wanted to start fresh–at the beginning of the year. So this year, I’m “all in.” I think.

The goal of the challenge is to encourage photographers to push themselves in various ways. Each week we are presented with a prompt that falls under one of five categories–vision, composition, technical, creative, or wild card.

The Week 1 prompt, “Vision: Look Ahead,” falls under the “vision” category, which

is designed to push you to go beyond sight, to insight; to take inspiration and make it a reality. Vision exists in your imagination and is revealed your photographs; expressing something otherwise invisible. Developing a vision for your work is showing to others what you see in your mind’s eye.

The brief description for the prompt reads, “New year. New beginnings. New you. Look ahead. Interpret as you wish.”

Initially, I considered a straight road or path, but felt no connection to the idea. That is certainly not how I’m approaching 2018. The path I’m taking is not straight or sure. I may even have to find another path. I’m not even sure it I’m on a path!

I received some news a few days ago that underscored this reality, so when I was playing around and shooting “ice” last week, the patterns formed in the ice of one frozen fountain in particular provided the material I needed to illustrate my feelings as I consider–or envision–2018.

Ice Vision: Original (No Editing)

I know the ways in which I’d like to grow this year, but for me it’s not a “straight shoot” to December 31, 2018 and all will be well. It doesn’t involve checking a series of things off the to-do list, or taking one step forward right after another on my way to achieving goals.

Nothing is clear at the moment, but I expect to find grooves and curves and dips, and of course areas that are impenetrable (without the proper tools), along with some smooth areas. I also expect to take a few steps backward or to retrace my steps occasionally.

For now, though, I’m stuck or “frozen in place”and incapable of doing anything until I unravel some of my thoughts and figure out how to begin.

Growth is a meandering process, but with time and work, it is inevitable, just like it’s inevitable that the ice will melt–eventually, with the right amount of heat.

[^^^ An edit and some macro views–click an image to get a closer look]

I’m looking forward to the challenge and will often–if not always–share my photo responses to the prompts here on Pics and Posts.

Have a happy week!

 

Following Wasps and Finding Hearts

I was sitting in my backyard an hour ago, clearing the clutter of the day from my mind, trying to feel human again–talking to God, listening for His voice, affirming His promise of peace.

As I was lost in thought, a wasp flew by and I absent-mindedly followed its path to a log I found interesting enough to photograph. As I poised to take the shot, the wasp changed its course and led me to this beautiful gift.

“Found Heart”

A found heart! The second one for the day!

My day started with a found heart my penfriend Christine posted on Instagram this morning.

Christine’s “Found Heart”

The hearts are reminders that no matter how utterly mired in the muck of life we find ourselves, love is the fundamental principle, the basis from which we should operate and the truth we must walk in. It is the thing we must cling to in the face of all the stuff tossed our way. It is what keeps us okay–sane and whole.

In the crazy rush of doing and getting it is easy to forget love, so I wish to remind you as I must remind myself from time to time:  You are indeed loved.  Be sure to take some time each day to bask in this knowledge and let it fill you to overflowing.

Hugs and hearts…