Hope for Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi on the Road to Democracy

For the first time in more than two decades, Burmese people have something to celebrate, and because of that, so do we.

According to an article in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, has unofficially won a seat in Burma’s Parliament (click on the link above to read the entire article).

The utter joy and disbelief expressed by the people in this photograph below says everything.

Screen capture NYT Aung San Suu Kyi

Even though she will be joining a government that is still overwhelmingly controlled by the military-backed ruling party, it is a powerful symbolic step in the right direction.

Time Magazine with photo of Aung San Suu Kyi

Many of you may remember that Jeffrey photographed Aung San Suu Kyi in 1989 when she was first placed under house arrest during a brutal military crackdown.

If you missed my posts describing those heart-racing moments, you can click on the two links below to read about it and see what life is life in Burma (now called Myanmar).

Beyond Rangoon Part I

Beyond Rangoon Part II

During the past twenty-three years Aung San Suu Kyi has spent the majority of her life under house arrest, and when she pulled off a stunning political victory in 1990 (even though she was was under detention and forbidden to campaign), the elections were promptly overturned by Burmese generals.

After so much time and so much suffering, it’s exciting to think that things may finally be moving in a positive direction for the Burmese people and Aung San Suu Kyi, who has sacrificed everything for her country. Let’s hope this first step is one of many to come, which will lead Burma in a brave new direction.

“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”–Thucydides

Thursday’s Picture of the Week: China

Photo of a man doing tai chi in Rutan Park in Beijing, China

Behind the Scenes: The year is 1995 and Jeffrey is photographing on assignment for The New York Times Travel Section in Beijing, China. He’s there to do a story about Ritan (Temple of the Sun) Park.

This expansive park is one of the oldest sites in Beijing and is like an oasis in the midst of a teeming metropolis. Commissioned by Ming Dynasty emperor JiaJing in 1530, it is filled not only with massive trees, gardens, pavilions, and small lakes, but many places for people to gather and recreate. Tai chi and ballroom dancing are common forms of exercise found here.

When Jeffrey comes upon this elderly gentleman wearing a traditional Mao jacket, fully immersed in the solitude of his early morning ritual, he knows he has captured the essence of Ritan Park and also created a wonderful symbol of ancient China–still alive and well in modern day Beijing.

At its core, tai chi is a martial art (also referred to as shadow boxing), but it is now commonly practiced to strengthen and promote mind/body health. Jeffrey loved how the man was entranced in the shadow of his own dance, and how the traditional Chinese red wall and green tiles melded with the shadow and gesture, creating pure harmony.

This image was created with a Nikon F4, a Nikkor 85mm lens and Fuji Velvia film.

Postscript: A week after it was published as the cover of The New York Times Travel Section, Broadway’s legendary song and dance man, Tommy Tune, wrote a letter to the editor extolling the artistic merits of Jeffrey’s photograph and how he captured the magic of the moment.

“It was quite an honor coming from Tommy Tune, whom I admire for his artistry and accomplishments in the field of dance,” said Jeffrey. “The fact that he would take the time to write a letter to the editor…there really is no higher compliment.”

Name That Photographer

Name That Photographer GraphicSee if you can NAME THAT PHOTOGRAPHER from the following five clues:

1) He was an American photographer born in 1923.

2) He once said, “If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up. I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible.”

3) His portraits are easily distinguished by their minimalist style, where the person is looking squarely in the camera, posed in front of a sheer white background. He is also distinguished by his large prints, sometimes measuring over three feet in height.

4) His obituary published in The New York Times said that “his fashion and portrait photographs helped define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century.”

5) His son was famous for writing a book about an exotic and distant land.

Find out if you know the correct answer by clicking here: ANSWER. After you take a peek I’d love to know what you think of this legend’s work. Which are your favorite photographs? If you’d like to see more, click here: MORE PHOTOGRAPHS.

Thursday’s Picture of the Week: Cambodia

Photograph of a boy in Cambodia with an AK-47 gunBehind the Scenes: It’s 1989 and the Khmer Rouge are still fighting in Cambodia. Pol Pot’s official reign of genocidal terror has ended, but the aftermath of the “Killing Fields,” as it was coined in the grizzly 1984 film, still lingers.

Jeffrey is in Cambodia with Harry Rolnick, a foreign correspondent for the Bangkok Post. They are there to tell the story of the restoration quietly taking place at Angkor Wat Temple Complex. A handful of scientists from the Archaeological Survey of India have begun work on Cambodia’s most important archaeological site.

Photo of Angkor Wat Temple complex moon riseAngkor Wat, an ancient city built by King Survyavarman II in the 12th century, has taken a beating from years of neglect and non-stop fighting. Khmer Rouge guerrillas have looted temples, decapitated sculptures, and sold the spoils on the black market to raise cash for the war. The site’s exquisite Khmer architecture, which is often compared to that of ancient Greece and Rome in importance, has also been strangled by the encroaching jungle. Vines and roots have damaged structures, causing many of its sandstone temples, reliefs, and statues to crumble.

The restoration of Cambodia’s most important site (and symbol) is a tiny glimmer of hope for a country that has not dared to hope since the Khmer Rouge murdered approximately two million of its people (one quarter of the population).

Photo of Angkor Wat Temple Complex SoldiersBecause the U.S. still has not established diplomatic relations with Cambodia after Pol Pot’s reign of terror, Jeffrey and Harry must first fly from Bankgok, Thailand to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to obtain a visa to enter the country. A few days later they will backtrack to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, then they will catch a puddle-jumper plane to Siem Reap, the province in which Angkor Wat is located.

After a hard and fast landing (to avoid gunfire, they are told), they head to the Grand Hotel, the only hotel operating in the area at the time. Tourism has been at a standstill for more than a decade. When the bellman of this dilapidated establishment leads Jeffrey and Harry to their rooms, Jeffrey notices that his bed is pushed awkwardly into a far corner. When he asks about it, the bellman explains, “That is for your safety—in case there is gunfire. Bullets will not be able to hit you over here if they come through your window.”

Photo of Stone statues at Angkor Wat Temple Complex in CambodiaThe next day an interpreter and several Cambodian soldiers meet Harry and Jeffrey on the outskirts of Angkor Wat. The complex is over five hundred acres, and they must walk through the jungle to the temples where the archaeologists are working. The men are told under no uncertain terms may they leave the single narrow path they plying. Live mines litter the landscape everywhere else. Nearby gunfire reminds them that this is no idle warning.

Jeffrey and Harry walk cautiously and stick closely to the Cambodian soldiers who know every inch of the area. The emptiness of Angkor Wat and the heavy air blanketing the jungle creates an eeriness that makes the back of Jeffrey’s neck prickle. Harry continually looks over his shoulder. Even the slightest snap of a twig from a jungle creature or birds taking flight makes them pause. Jeffrey can’t help wonder, How do we know the Khmer Rouge haven’t laid another mine on the path last night and how do we know we won’t be ambushed now?

Photo of Angkor Wat Temple Complex in CambodiaEventually they arrive where the archaeologists are working. The interpreter introduces the men and points out many of the sites wonders, including giant Hindu sandstone faces, exquisite bas-reliefs, and temples covered in roots more massive than each of them. It doesn’t take long before Jeffrey is able to create a powerful visual story about what is taking place here.

After spending the entire day at Angkor Wat, they make their way back out to the other side where a car is expected to be waiting for them. As they reach the outskirts of the site and walk along a road near a small village, they come upon a young boy carrying an AK-47 rifle. This barefoot youngster, who is wearing nothing more than threadbare shorts, is protecting his village against the Khmer Rouge. As he walks under the weight of his gun, his onyx eyes reveal a life that has already witnessed far too much.

Jeffrey can’t help but think back to his own carefree childhood, and tries to swallow the sadness rising in his throat as he gets down on his knees to create this boy’s portrait. He can only hope that peace will come soon to Cambodia, and with it, a return to childhood for this young “man.”

This photograph was created with a Nikon F4, a Nikor 24mm lens and Fuji Velvia film.

Postscript: Jeffrey has returned to Angkor Wat on assignment two more times since his first trip in 1989, and each time he has witnessed it coming back to life more and more. Restoration is now nearly complete and Angkor Wat has been listed as a World Heritage Site, along with Cambodia’s largest tourist attraction. The best part is that Jeffrey has never come across another child carrying an AK-47 rifle in Cambodia.

If you want to learn more about Angkor Wat, click HERE.

Photo of Angkor Wat Temple Complex in CambodiaPhoto of Angkor Bayon at Angkor Wat in CambodiaPhoto of Angkor Wat Temple Complex restored reliefPhoto of a young monk at Angkor Wat in Cambodia

The Answer to Name That Photographer

Clearly I made yesterday’s photography quiz WAY too easy. As many of you guessed, the answer is ALFRED EISENSTAEDT, a legend affectionately known as “Eisie.”

Portrait of Alfred EisenstaedtFor those of you who don’t know about Eisenstaedt, you will make your life better if you take a moment to discover his work. He was a master in every sense of the word.

Here are a few links to check out his way of seeing the world:

This beautiful YouTube video-Masters of Photography (click on link to see it) is well-worth watching.

Or you can simply click on this Google search of his images. and marvel at the breadth of his portraiture–from Marilyn to Einstein to Kennedy. Or take a peek at this  Wikipedia page and learn a bit about his background.

Here is my favorite Eisenstaedt photograph: Children at Puppet Theatre, Paris, France, 1963. It sits next to my desk so I look at it every day. I will never cease to be amazed at the diverse range of emotions expressed by these children while they are all experiencing the same moment.

Photo of Alfred Eisenstaedt's Children at Puppet Theatre

I will leave you with one of Eisie’s quotes, which I think not only relates to photography, but to writing and many other aspects of life as well.

“Once the amateur’s naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur.”

- Alfred Eisenstaedt

PS: If you missed yesterday’s quiz, take a peek here to read the clues and learn a few more fun facts. The next quiz won’t be nearly as easy!

Name That Photographer

Put on your thinking caps, photography fans! I’m starting a fun new quiz. See if you can NAME THAT PHOTOGRAPHER by reading the following five clues:

1) He was a Jewish German-American photographer born in 1898.

2) In 1936 he became one of the four original photographers at LIFE magazine, where he produced 2,500 assignments and 92 covers.

Photo of V-J Day in Times Square, 19453) He was best known for his photograph capturing the celebration of V-J Day in Times Square.

4) He once famously said, “It’s more important to click with people than to click the shutter.”

5) He lived to the age of 96 and photographed President Clinton and his family on Martha’s Vineyard when he was 94 (the last photos of his life).

Bonus clue: He created one of my all-time favorite images ever in Paris called, “Children at Puppet Theatre.” It sits right next to my desk and makes me smile every day.

Write your guess in the comment box, then check back tomorrow morning (March 20th) for the answer.

AND NO CHEATING!

Steve & i: One Photographer’s Improbable Journey with Steve Jobs Now on Kindle

Steve and i book coverJeffrey and I are excited to announce the launch of our ebook, Steve & i: One Photographer’s Improbable Journey with Steve Jobs. 

It is now available for Kindle devices at Amazon.com and will be available for the NOOK, Sony Reader and iPad soon.

We hope you will be one of the first to download Steve & i, and if you feel inspired by what you read, please leave a review on Amazon.

Of course, we’d be thrilled (and eternally grateful) if you would tell others about it too.

Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. Amazon now has a free app you can download for both your Mac and PC. Here are the links: Kindle for Mac. Kindle for PC. If you have an Amazon account you can purchase the book and read it on your computer. You can also download a free Kindle app for your iPhone. Just go to the app store and batta boom, batta bang, you’re all set.

Our book is priced at $2.99 and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to several leading cancer research institutes because…well, as you know, cancer sucks, and it took Steve Jobs’ life far too soon.

Book description: When photographer Jeffrey Aaronson received a call from Newsweek in 1984 to photograph Steve Jobs, he had no idea who Steve Jobs was or what impact Jobs was about to have on his life or the world.

Steve & i: One Photographer’s Improbable Journey with Steve Jobs tells the captivating story of a young photographer and a young entrepreneur, and the friendship they forge when they are both twenty-nine years old—just as Aaronson is beginning to offer the world a new view through his lens and Jobs is beginning his mission to change it by introducing the most user-friendly personal computer ever conceived.

This 38-page little powerhouse of a book is packed with personal anecdotes and rarely seen photographs, which not only chronicle the launch of the first Macintosh personal computer, but also capture the essence of Steve Jobs the man before he became the icon.

It’s a must read for those who want to experience and be inspired by a side of Steve Jobs that few people have glimpsed.

Early reviews of the book read…

“A critical moment of shared inspiration is captured in this short but sweet profile of an intimate friendship between two highly motivated young men, forged immediately in trust and professional integrity. A rare, honest glimpse into the ensuing creative sparks that fly in the early blossoming careers and bonding of two visionaries who decide to be inspired by others AND courageously follow their callings and dreams. Bravo!”
-Bill Black, Director of Photography, Reader’s Digest

This is not just a story about how friendships evolve from humble or chance beginnings.  Rather, it’s an object lesson about mutual respect, curiosity, and a passion for excellence as the ingredients that propel true visionaries. Bravo, Jeffrey Aaronson, for enlightening us with the quieter, gentler side of the genius Steve Jobs. ”
-Larry C. Price, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist

“This is a sweet little book about a hugely talented and creative photographer’s relationship with a hugely talented and creative entrepreneur. With warmth, insight, and keen appreciation, Jeffrey brings back to life a man who for all his reputed prickliness and short temper was capable of simple, deep friendship.”
-Bob Morton, Former Editor-in-Chief of Abrams and the Aperture Foundation

“Photographers and Apple fans alike won’t want to miss this moving portrait of a private but profoundly influential man.”

-Russell Hart, Former Executive Editor American Photo

Artists with a Sense of Humor

If humor is one of the highest forms of intelligence, then clearly these street artists are brilliant. I hope you are as bowled over as I was by these creative minds.

Photo of street art wall with straw

Photo of street art cheerleader

Photo of street art cigarette sewer

Photo of street art face and branches

Photo of street art shoe crosswalk

 

Photo of street art wall face

Photo of street art chalk tiger

Photo of street art kids chalk walk

Photo of street art eyes wall

Photo of street art more people climbing steps

Photo of street art scissors cutting street

Photo of street art sink hole with bicylist

Photo of street art steam roller

Photo of street art face on bombed building

Photo of street art love shadow

Photo of street art afro tree face

Photo of street art blue waterfall

Photo of street art guns and pencils

Photo of street art face skyscrapers

Photo of street art pastel steps

Photo of street art titanic building

Photo of street art treehouse building

Photo of street art zipper tree

Photo of street art subway steps

Photo of street art three friends

Unfortunately, I do not have the original source to properly credit the photographers or the curator of this delightful collection of images, but here’s a big shout out to Hensley Peterson for forwarding this piece to me via email. If anybody knows the original source, please let me know.

If Life (and eBook Publishing) is Mount Everest, Then Attitude is Everything

Last month Nancy Mixon, an awesome mom at our daughter’s elementary school, organized a Family Night in which a woman named Petit Pinson was invited to speak to our children about her experiences climbing Mt. Everest.

Photo of Petit Pinson at Mt. EverestPetit Pinson couldn’t be a more fitting name for this wiry, fiery, spunky outdoorsy woman. She epitomizes the notion of what it means to chase after life, and lights up a room like the 4th of July.

Petit showered the kids with stories and images from her trip, and even let them try on her climbing gear—suit, boots and all.

But it wasn’t Petit’s Everest climb that impressed me most, or that fact that she had been on an extreme adventure reality TV show, or that she and her team had given up their opportunity to summit Everest, just one camp away from the top, because they were busy saving the lives of a Japanese climbing team that had gotten into trouble and run out of oxygen.

What impressed me most was what she taught our kids about attitude.

Her approach was so simple, yet so profound, it has popped into my head numerous times over the past month.

What did she say? She simply used a Sharpie marker and wrote two words on the palms of her hands, holding them up for the audience to read.

One hand said GET and the other hand said YET.

Photo of hands with the words GET and YET

To paraphrase this portion of her talk (in the extreme), she suggested that instead of grumbling about all the things you “have to” do in life (homework, chores, exercise, etc.), think about how lucky you are that you GET to do these things. You may dread taking out the trash or doing the final edit on your manuscript, but if you think about it, you’re darn lucky to live in a place that has trash service, and you’re uber fortunate to have a manuscript that’s in its final phases.

By changing your wording, you change your mindset so you no longer feel like you’re being forced to do something you don’t want to do. Instead, you feel like you’re being given an opportunity, which makes you feel lucky.

Her other point touches on perspective. When you’re feeling frustrated that you’re not good at something, remind yourself about the word YET. You may not be good at writing query letters or playing tennis YET, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be later—after you’ve practiced hard trying to master it.

Few people are great at things they try for the first time, whether it’s writing, painting, taking pictures, climbing, learning a language, or conquering a new computer program. We all stumble, and even fall multiple times before we become proficient.

It’s all about attitude and perseverance, and remembering the word YET.

The reason Petit Pinson has popped into my head numerous times over the past few weeks is because Jeffrey and I have been working hard trying to master the art of ebook publishing.

Nothing about it has been easy, especially since our book is filled with photographs and captions, and ebook publishing is still in its infancy. Navigating through all the inconsistencies in information and formatting feels a bit like climbing Mt. Everest.

Steve and i book coverMany times I’ve wanted to head back to Base Camp and call it a day with a cold Negra Modelo, but then I’ve thought of Petit Pinson, and reminded myself that I’m the one who chose this path. I’m the one who wanted to figure it out on our own instead of handing it over to a third party publisher.

Because I chose this more difficult route, I GET to learn how it’s all done, and I GET to publish a book exactly how I want it—in all its various formats—for the Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook, and iPad. I also GET to learn several cool new computer and design programs and master things my non-technical soul usually sucks at (for lack of a better term).

Right now, it’s a slow grind up the mountain, but I keep reminding myself about the word YET. We’re not there YET, but we will be. It’s not perfect YET, but it’s close. We will get from Camp IV to the summit because Jeffrey and I are nothing but determined. Best of all, once we finally master this new challenge we’ll GET to add these new tools of knowledge to our creative backpacks for our next publishing adventures.

So here’s a shout out to you, Petit Pinson, for not only inspiring our kids to reach to new heights, but for reminding me that attitude is everything in life (and ebook publishing).

Photo of the North Face of Mount Everest in Tibet

The North Face of Mt. Everest in Tibet, taken at Base Camp in 2000, when I was fortunate enough to venture to the Roof of the World with my dear friend, Janet Cook. This image is my perfect reminder about attitude. ©Becky Green Aaronson.