Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

Posts Tagged ‘ignite seattle

Can you give her 5 minutes?

leave a comment »

Here is a typical moment during a SalaamGarage trip.

This is Sarah Henderson: http://sirenapictures.comhttp://theultimateride.tv.  She lives in Portland, OR and came with us on the SalaamGarage Ethiopia trip 2010. She is awesome. We were working with the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, an absolutely amazing organization.

What is happening here? Fuji donated polaroid-esque cameras to SalaamGarage so that we could give photos back to the women rather than just taking them. Sarah Henderson is photographing patients at the hospital.

Most of Hamlin’s patients are from a remote village in Ethiopia.  We found a woman in physical therapy learning how to walk again.

She had a double fistula, double meaning both her vaginal canal and the rectum lining were torn during labor. These linings are commonly torn during labor because the women are married and pregnant before they are fully developed. Much of this is due to child marriages.

Her baby died in utero. While delivering the dead baby these linings tore. As a result she leaked urine and feces uncontrollably. Her family was ashamed of the way that made her smell and built her a hut in the back of her families hut and she lived in it  for 7 years before making to the hospital. During those years her leg and foot muscles atrophied until she could no longer walk, eventually resorting to a fetal position. Her family threw food out to her as she lay on the dirt floor of her mud hut for those 7 years. She said she ate like a dog, dragging herself up to the pile of food, eating while lying there in the dirt, leaking.

She made it to Hamlin, they performed surgery on her and we are all praying it will heal properly. Currently she has catheters connected to her for drainage.

Sarah was photographing patients at physical therapy and I walked up to see what she was doing. We had extreme restrictions around photography at the hospital, so I opted to walk around and check in with people rather than work on a story.

Sarah had completed photographing women with her regular camera and pulled out the Fuji camera so that she could give her a photo of herself.

She walks with a walker, and slowly made it up against the banister where Sarah was photographing women for their turn with the Fuji.  Her feet were completely crooked. Maybe a toe or a heel touched the ground as she walked. Mangled, I had never seen anything like it. She leaned very hard on the walker avoiding any weight bearing on her atrophied feet and legs to make it up to the banister. Once up against it she motioned for us to take the walker out of the photograph. From there she did her best to slowly stand up on those feet somehow and motioned for Sarah to take the photo, now. Sarah went to take a photo and wouldn’t you know it, the camera was out of film so she had to walk away and reload.  It was sort of a photo time-out and everyone took their eyes off her, except me. I watched her lean back onto the banister with an expression of sheer agony that sent shivers down my spine.  She was in so much pain standing there for us, so that we could take a damn picture.

Sarah came back with a loaded camera. The woman stood up and I knew she was hiding the pain this time. She motioned for us to get the walker out of the way again and then lifted her chin so amazingly high… more shivers down my spine… and Sarah took a few photos.

When Sarah was done the woman took the walker back, leaned up on it again and waited in agony for the photo to develop. Once it did Sarah handed it to her and she slowly, quietly smiled. She looked up at Sarah and whispered ‘amasiganalo’, ‘thank you’ in Amharic. Her language.

She  got back on her walker and slowly limped back, dragging her completely disabled legs and feet back into physical therapy so that she could finish up her session which we interrupted.

***

SalaamGarage is an absolute privilage. We find ourselves in these situations and get to tell you about it. I ask you, reading this, would you help her? Would you donate a few bucks to Hamlin? It will take 5 minutes. Here is how you do it: http://www.hamlinfistula.org/how-to-help/make-a-donation.html

You WILL change a women’s life forever. I know, because I met her. And now so did you.

And to us, the SalaamGarage team. We are NOT too busy. We are not at all too damn busy to get these stories out and help this woman, help the hospital. I don’t care how crazy our schedule is. We weren’t too busy to spend 2 weeks in Ethiopia. We weren’t too busy to take her photo. This woman stood there for us, in sheer agony so that we could take a photo. And then what? They weren’t too busy to tell us their story, share their lives with us. We have no excuse not to help. Get those stories out there and not for our own glory. Do it for hers.

You can start with a 5 minute presentation about  your experience at a Ignite in your town: http://ignite.oreilly.com/.

5 Minutes. Can you give her 5 minutes?

 

Written by amandakoster

January 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm

why ignite kicked my butt + why i want more

leave a comment »

‘are you nervous’ becky asked me. ‘you can’t be, you do this shit all the time’ nick laughed and poked more spaghetti into a gumdrop. i was quiet. this felt different.

***

what went thru my mind last night on stage:

“crap! my slides are screwed up! and crap! i just spent way too many seconds thinking about how my slides are screwed up! crap, while i was thinking about how my slides were screwed up, they keep advancing anyway… wtf… i better quit this thinking crap….!”

man, everyone ought to try it. what i love about ignite is pure passion. and i love pure passion. there is a rawness to the event. the venue was cold, sticky, dusty and i was nervous. yes, pretty darn nervous. i could hear it in my breathing.

why was i nervous? i speak all the time? huh?

few things: 5 minutes is a flash in the pan + eternity, i could not see the audience… seriously: the audience was pitch black and it felt like no one was out there, like speaking to a black hole… (is anyone friggen’ out there?)  the slides auto-advanced every (kind of) 15 seconds, my slides were screwed up (uh- they worked on my computer/s), i was in my home territory. i know the audience (even tho couldn’t see them). i have a crush on a few of the guys in the audience (they have no idea), i am used to talking to hundreds of strangers most of who i will never see again. this crowd knows me, i play with them, and they are ready and willing to give feedback (thank you kathy gill and brian dorsey… i truly loved that!)

and why was that awesome? because being nervous, feeling harmless fear is wonderful thing. it means i was challenged verses being on auto pilot. i felt like i was ‘just starting out’ again last night at ignite. i was out of my comfort zone on home base (seattle). oddly cool. delicious.

what an experience. to sit amongst the other speakers, feed off their nerves, passionate energy. the talks ranged from:  ’huh?’, ‘yer kidding’, ‘i don’t get it’ to ‘i really have no idea’, to ‘wow’, to ‘that’s hilarious’ to, ‘are you serious’ to…. wtf.

i loved them all. all the speakers, the energy, brady so diligently summoning us right before we spoke, the ignite team managing what someone called a ‘mac orgy.’ all of it. i simply love ignite. in some odd way it was a love-fest. i knew the people, many of them have seen + helped salaamgarage (and me) grow from where it was to where it is now, it’s a community that immediately embraced an outsider like me: a photojournalist and writer without an iphone (gnomedex) who gives a shit.

who are these people, where did they come from? how is it there is a community of people who are  willing to  listen to god knows what on a tuesday night, cheer you on, and forgive your screwed up slides? imagine.

ahhh. for me ignite is like a platform and a lasso for reckless creativity and passion. a little welcome love mat with subliminal messages that say ‘i love you, say what you gotta say, deal with the screwed up slides and make room for the next guy. and i still love you.’ and man, was i nervous up there and man, would i do it again in a heartbeat. it would be an honor.

thank you ignite. thank you for doing what you do and for opening your arms wide to anyone who says ‘this is what a geek looks like, give me 5 min. let me do my thing.’

Written by amandakoster

March 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm

wading thru images

with one comment

whoa. i made 7808 images in vietnam. man-o-man. digital.

if these were film days it would have been half as many. easily. we paid (differently) for each click back then. hard cash. now we pay with time. this is photography, the other side.

the beauty of digital is that i get to re-live my trip several times, as editing is a multiple-session (2-4ish hours at a time) process. with help: red wine, jetlag and pandora. this is good. reliving the experience.

had dinner with my friend becky tonight. we sat down and she asked me, ‘tell me about vietnam.’ i smiled.

you see, when we were skiing 3ish weeks ago i had just returned from south africa and she asked, ‘tell me about south africa.’ i looked at her, paused and said, ‘i can’t.’ like any really good friend she understood, nodded and we skied on.

this time i could tell her about vietnam. why? because yesterday, when i got home i could see the top of this specific mountain. i saw  a presentation and decided to submit a presentation to ignite seattle about my trip to vietnam (it helps that brady forrest -who kicks ass-  curator of ignite and web 2.0 punched me in the ribs at the last ignite and said ‘i wanna see you up there’ … he gets it). i may or may not be accepted, though i now have a goal, a presentation, a project where i can share my trip with images. this is how i express. whew.

i told becky about my presentation idea and she got it with very few words. ‘artists need to create, they need to express their experiences thru their medium. it’s how they work through life.’

bulls eye. so good to have friends, lovers, partners, etc., who understand us, isn’t it? in fact, it’s vital (for me).

luckily, i was asked to talk about my south africa experience at TEDx. thank god, as this will help… with that. so i am a happy, busy woman. this is where i belong, this is how i contribute.

so, wading through these images has been pretty emotional for me. it always is. i have to carve out time to do it, right away, after any project. i have a few upcoming interviews and presentations that will help. believe it or not, these SalaamGarage presentations (upcoming TEDx talk: 4/16, SxSW: 3/13, a few schools and buzz bruggemans ‘tertulia’ (private event) on 3/9 in seattle) help a lot. For me it is a way to process, create, share, EXPRESS and complete. guess this is why i used to do photo exhibitions. however, life is moving pretty fast right now for me…  so public speaking is my new exhibition. my book (and next one) helps a lot as well. ah. just figured that out as i write right now. i am grateful for every opportunity to present my experiences, as it helps me to process what i just saw.

and man, what i just saw was potent.

stay tuned.

Written by amandakoster

January 27, 2010 at 7:18 am