Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Book Recommendation - A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel

I love to read. I read mostly non fiction because I also love to learn. And since I am a photographer, images appeal to me. I was recently in our local library when I noticed the shelves where the librarians showcase their recommendations. My friend, Kim, is a librarian there, and her shelf caught my eye. A beautiful image in glowing orange (my current favorite color) and piercing eyes stopped me in my tracks. Then, the title of this book, "A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs by Annie Griffiths Belt" sold me completely. I snapped it up, brought it home, and have been reading and pouring over the images ever since.

I was reading it in bed one morning and my 2 1/2 year old was dozing next to me. When she rolled over and woke up, I was looking at the above image, and she started laughing and talking about the silly kids.

Annie Griffins Belt, is a National Geographic Photographer. In addition to some of her best images, this book showcases her excellent prose. It is a memoir. Her start in photography began at the age of 21, during a University photography classes (it was the University of Minnesota, in my hometown of Minneapolis). From there, she worked her way to National Geographic, a dream job for any photographer. But, what makes Griffins Belt different is that once she became a mother, she continued to work for National Geographic, all over the world, for months at a time, with her two kids in tow! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have this kind of opportunity, but since I wasn't already working for one of the most well respected documentary magazines in the world before having my first child... oh well, I can dream. And I can say, Right ON, Annie!" to this amazing woman who brought her kids with her for 5 years before even saying anything to anyone! Determined not to be an absentee mother, she just made it work. She paid all their expenses, and brought nannies, when her husband could not come with. These kids have seen the world, and they are now something like 16 and 19... what a gift!

Griffins Belt mentions returning to Africa, herself, for the 14 and 15th times, so you can only imagine how many countries she has been to around the world. Mexico, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Jordan, the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Dominican Republic, Kenya, Thailand, Haiti, Cambodia, Burma, Bosnia, Kenya, Tanzania, Bolivia, Bermuda, Australia, Israel, Syria, Brazil, China, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, England, Zambia, Italy...


Above is one of my favorite images in the book. It is of a Somalian mother and her child awaiting evacuation from Kenya. Although I cannot imagine what this mother is going through, I look at this image and I feel that I can understand how much she loves her child. We are both mothers. It makes me feel for her, and her child. It makes me weep.

My favorite paragraph written by Griffins Belt, who tries whenever possible to work without an interpreter, is:
"And I have learned that even without a shared language, it's easy to let people know that their children are beautiful, their homes are lovely, their tea is delicious, and their stories are worth sharing with the world."

I admire this kind, sensitive, and brave woman, this mother, and I think this book is excellent! Thanks, Kim :)

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