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Paying Forward

Some of the most influential people in my life have built their careers around helping others. Many of my favorite artists, whether they be visual, literary, or musical, use their work to advance humanitarian causes.  As an abstract painter for 25 years, I had little opportunity to make a statement with my work, and, aside from the occasional disappointing charity auction, little opportunity to do good.  I rationalized this, saying that by creating beauty I was performing a necessary role in society, but while that might technically be true, it does not satisfy my need to contribute, to pay forward what I have been given.  Photography provides the opportunity I have been missing.  I can help people travel the world through my images of Cuba, Southeast Asia, Jordan, and other locales I have been fortunate enough to explore.  I can help people see their own neighborhood differently through my lens.  I can record the lives of families for their personal memories, or performances of musicians for posterity.  These things still feel superficial, however.  I want to give something tangible.  For the past several months, I have been photographing Tucson, Arizona artists at work in their studios with the intention of shining a spotlight, however brief, on their work.  I hope to crowdsource funding for a book which will be a partial catalog of the Tucson art scene in 2015.  The goal is not to make money.  I will never recoup the hundreds of hours spent taking the photos, processing them, and promoting the book, but it will hopefully lift a few creative people into the attention of Tucsonans.  I will be very pleased if I can accomplish that.  Still, it is not enough.  As I said, I want to be able to give something tangible to someone who needs it.  This is where Guatemala, specifically the Mayan community around Lago Atitlan, comes in.  I spent several months over three years studying Spanish in San Pedro Atitlan.  I fell in love with the area, its people, and its culture.  This is an area stressed by population growth and tourism, a people still living with the memories of a brutal civil war, and a culture in danger of fading away.  The last time I visited, the germs of an idea took root.  I want to photograph the elders of the community, the ones who remember the changes in their country and yet still keep the traditional ways.  Then I want to make a book of these photos, combined with whatever each elder wishes to say to future generations.  Again, publication will be crowdsourced, but all the resulting books will be sold in their cultural center, with the proceeds benefiting the community.  A way to give back, tangibly.  I hope you will all help me promote and fund both the Artists of Tucson project, and the Ancianos De Atitlan project when I put them forward.

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