As always, I’m pretty sure I needed Kenya vastly more than it needed me, though I hope I served it in some way over the month I was there. Before leaving I felt like something was missing, like this digital ecosystem I’ve been so attached to was not only no longer fulfilling, but was, in fact, beginning to gnaw holes in my soul. And then I turned it all off a while, hopped a series of planes and walked out of the Nairobi airport into the warm evening air and felt like I was taking the deepest breaths I’d drawn in ages.
I spent the next couple weeks on safari, with friends and my girl and all the amazing creatures that make the Maasai Mara their home: elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, giraffe, zebra, and birds of a million colours. And then the woman I love hopped a plane home, replaced by my best friend, manager, and producer, Corwin, and we drove north for our fourth assignment with the Boma Project among the nomadic pastoralists of the arid lands south of the Ethiopia border and west of the Somalian. Somewhere in all the hard work I re-discovered my joy in making photographs, a joy that’s been hard to find lately. And I began to forget all about the pull of social media and email and the banal (but usually necessary) details that fill my days when I’m home. That forgetfulness happens when I start photographing places and people I love, when I’m doing something that feels important, vital, or urgent, when I’m making photographs I love so much that it doesn’t occur to me to wonder if others will to. It happens when what I’m doing is so important to me that I feel crushing heartbreak when I think about the possibility of failure. Makes me wonder how much stronger our work would be if that were our north star: to make work that risks heartbreak or the feeling that our souls would go hungry if we didn’t do it.
My goal this year is a return to soul, to push myself harder to experience deeper things and find new ways to express the experience, wonder, and hunger, in my photographs. It was writing my next book, The Soul of the Camera, that started to re-ignite this in me, this spark I once felt much more often, and pursued with greater desperation, as though it were life itself, which of course it is. This trip was a good start, surrounded as I was by people of such elegance, such dignity and strength. Here are a few of the images I came home with, pulled from the thousands I’m now editing.
You’ll notice an emphasis on water here. Significant parts of Northern Kenya are suffering a serious drought. President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared a national emergency. Herders are taking their herds and flocks to satellite camps hundreds of kilometers away, leaving families on their own, while the women walk several kilometers a day to get water at boreholes. Wells are drying up, one of them right in front of my eyes as men pulled the last of it up with buckets before moving on to find more.
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