42 imagesThese images document India's Devadasi System--an ancient form of religiously sanctioned prostitution still practices in India today. Kavita Kurbati, 18, sits inside her family home in the bustling town of Gokak, India, waiting for a customer. She wears a red and white flowered salwar kameez and her two daughters, Rakshita (3) and Chaitra (1), sleep peacefully at her feet. When Kavita reached puberty, her mother, drawing on an ancient religious tradition, dedicated her to the Hindu deity, Yellamma, thus turning her daughter into a Devadasi or "female servant of god". This meant that Kavita was "married" to Yellamma, which made her ineligible to marry a mortal. Instead, as a means of pleasing Yellamma and bringing better fortunes to her family, she would serve as a "temple prostitute", satisfying the needs of men in her community. While her position as a "temple prostitute" has its roots in an ancient and complex religious tradition practiced in India since as early as the 9th century, as a modern Devadasi, she lives as a common sex worker. With her earnings of approximately 300 rupees a day (just over $6), she supports her mother, father, three sisters, two brothers and daughters. Like Japan's geishas, Devadasis were once revered within the community and financially supported by higher caste men; however, over time their position has been denigrated and today there is little to distinguish them from other sex workers. The most recent iteration of the system simply uses the religious tradition to funnel girls from impoverished, lower caste families into the lucrative sex trade industry in India's urban centers.
20 imagesInvisible Selves--An Exploration of Female Identity and Experience Since my early days as a young girl growing up in South Africa, I seemed to be drawn to photo- graphing women. Perhaps, because I was female, their lives were more accessible to me, and more relevant. In search of my own identity and place in society, looking through a camera at the lives of other women helped me navigate my way into adulthood and shaped my perception of the world and all its complexities. As I advanced in my photography career, I found myself frequently amazed and frustrated by the plight of so many women I ran into as I worked on projects in India, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, Thailand, The United States etc. Over the past 14 or so years working as a photographer, I have been engaged in projects centered on women and women’s issues. Among the women I’ve photographed is a Tanzanian women who is being housed in a protective home after villagers accused her of witchcraft and cut off one of her hands, a Zanzibarian women who is involved in a program that teaches women how to cultivate shellfish as an alternative form of protein, an American woman the day before she had a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time, two Indian teenage-girls playing a spinning game in a rescue center after being "rescued" from a brothel and a 105 year-old Cape Verdean-American woman who remains the powerful matri- arch of her family. My project, “Invisible Selves”, which is a collection of images created over the course of my career, is an exploration of female identity and experience in our present day. Women have long sought self-definition and yet are daily confronted with the limitations of their own lives and media images that contradict their experiences and seek to define them. How others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves too, are often so incongruent. We all struggle with the roles meted out by the particular society we live in--the expectation of motherhood, ideas about how we should behave, how we should look, what we should achieve and whether we are valuable. With the portraits of women in this collection I hope to present a diverse and striking range of images of women in a multiplicity of cultural contexts that will stimulate dialog about female identity and experience across cultures. I also hope these images provoke questions in the viewer about their own assumptions and the societal influences that inform these assumptions. The photographs are printed on a relatively large scale (24”x 36” and 16”x 24”) on an alu- minum surface. The aluminum surface lends the images an extraordinarily vibrant and almost life-like appearance. The intent behind this is to create the effect of the women being present in the gallery space, as if to participate in the show and give voice to their own experiences.
10 imagesAn Intimate Look at the Lives of Modern Cuban Women The Cuban Revolution affected women’s lives and gender relations dramatically and on paper, it offered them equality and gave them access to more channels of political and social power. But what is the reality of women’s lives in Cuba today? Having long explored issues of female identity and experience in my work as a photographer, I was interested in looking at the lives of modern Cuban women and finding out what their experiences were in Cuba’s current post-revolutionary political and social climate. The portrait series that emerged–which was shot solely with a Leica camera and includes in-depth interviews with each of the women–is an intimate look at the struggles, perceptions, hopes and dreams of its subjects.
69 imagesMost people don’t know this but there are actually cowboys in Hawaii. Yes, there are also palm trees, mai tais, surfers and hula dancers and the weather down by the shore is pretty near perfect every day but the cowboys or “paniolos” as they are called locally, have been around longer than cowboys in the west and must certainly have preceded mai tais. The Hawaiian cowboy culture emerged back in the 1800s and to this day remains insular and completely unique to Hawaii with its own music, rituals, language etc. Sadly, in recent years, high land taxes, increases in energy costs and a changing climate have all negatively impacted the viability of ranching in Hawaii. As a result, large areas of ranchland have been sold for development and many of the ranches struggle to survive. ATVs have begun to replace mounted horses for herding cattle in open ranges and many cowboys have been laid off. Today, the number of cowboys are small and they hold tightly to the community they live in. Nobody knows how long they’ll be around for. Determined to document and preserve this culture before it disappears completely, I spent many months over a two year period photographing this community and recording interviews, music and ambient audio. I focused primarily on two large multi-generational paniolo families–the Ho’opais and the Keakealanis– to create a photo story and multi media project that would reflect the cultural richness and examine the paniolos’ future outlook. I had such a wonderful experience working on this story. I photographed on horseback during a few cattle drives, shot aerials from a tiny 1955 piper cub about the size of a mini cooper, woke up at 4am on too many mornings, ate calf testicles (a paniolo delicacy) five minutes after “removal” and got to experience the closeness of these multiple generational families. I was struck by this extraordinary privilege to document a piece of living history and the power photography has to create a visual record of a culture that may be on its way out.