Ramblings on Identity

I have been thinking a lot about identity lately. If you’ve ready my blog posts, you will see that I have moved around a lot. In the last five years, I have lived in three different countries (four if you count the one I come from) and have traveled around the world. I have seen polar opposite cultures, from women fully covered to women practically naked, or from bustling urban cities to empty, wide-open country. Each place is so different.

Moving from culture to culture so fluidly can be jolting and confusing. One moment everyone is speaking a language you understand until a five-hour plane ride later, you’re in a completely different place, with not only a different language, but a different set of rules to how you live life. It’s mind-boggling.

Living in the US you don’t experience this as much. Of course, every state has it’s culture and way of life, but it doesn’t feel that different for an American, especially compared to traveling to a different country. Traveling on a three-to-four-hour flight across the States takes you to another place where English is spoken and the culture relatively the same. On the other side of the world however, a short plane ride can take you to exponentially different places. Places that contain people who see life very differently than you ever thought or imagined. It’s a wild contrast and with globalization and the ease of travel, it allows such a change in just a day.

These days the ease of traveling makes transitioning from place to place more difficult. I have realized now that I need a buffer before I head back to the States. My mind needs some kind of adjustment period where I exit the culture I’m living in and enter my home culture. This transition gets easier every time I do it, but it still is a challenge. It takes a bit to remember where I am and how I relate to people.

Why is it that culture affects identity and how we live our lives? I have found pieces of me change as I’ve lived in each place. From how I dress, to how I interact with men, to even how I spend my time has morphed in the last half decade. Culture seems to have a great impact on people more than one would think.

I am unsure where to go with all of these thoughts (and this is just scratching the surface), but I have plans to build a project around these ideas. I plan to introspectively take a look at my life and how I have changed over these last several years and how culture has had an effect on that. Some of the imagery might be self portraits, but I have some other ideas that I want to experiment with. I’d love it if you’d follow me on this journey and I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on identity, culture, and globalization as well.

In the coming days, I plan to map out my ideas and see how I can start fleshing this out photographically. If you want to share your ideas with me, please comment below or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I do plan on continuing my project over fatherhood. I still have much interest in the topic and I can’t imagine dropping it as I’ve become quite passionate about it. So keep following me on my Instagram, as that’s where I’ll mostly be posting from that project.

For now though, I leave you a photo from a recent trip to Rome. I had never been there before and I was quite enchanted by the city. It reminded me of other parts of Europe, but the more we explored, the more we realized how different and beautiful it is in its own way.

Have a great weekend!


2018.09.20 - Rome 01.jpg

Final Project Progression

My project has been progressing well. I met with the professor for the course two nights ago and it was a very encouraging tutorial for me in many ways.

One of the things I was struggling with was how to take such a big project and break it down into bite size pieces. What was suggested to me by both the professor and the teaching adviser was that I make mini-projects for each module, breaking the project into smaller size goals, rather than one large project.

For this first module, I’ve decided I’m going to focus on the “Faces of Fatherhood”–a small mini-project where I will be photographing different fathers with their children. In this mini-project I’m hoping to discover about what fatherhood looks like by taking images of men and their children. I’m wanting to rid myself of my personal view of fatherhood, if I’m able, by being an observer in this society. Kind of like this picture below, you can see what I’m talking about:

The images might vary, but the general idea is to just catch a glimpse of what fatherhood/fathers looks like here.

I also was challenged in my project to not become universal in how I create this project. While I think fundamentally that humanity has many similarities just by the nature of how we were created in God’s image, it would be tragic of me to simplify the differences between cultures, reducing the value of the nuances and beauty that makes us all different from other nations. I felt this was really sound advice and something I want to be careful of.

Overall, I’m pleased where this project is headed and looking forward to what I uncover and learn in the process.

New Aspects of Culture

One fun thing about living in another culture is being able to experience new aspects of that culture which are very foreign to you. Such as this man above, selling powder to make beautiful designs. I had never seen this before! The circular looking items to the right are stencils that help you create the design almost flawlessly. 

I learned that these particular designs are called, "Rangoli", and is used during many festivals here. The powder is made from rice (or other materials, like flour) and you can find many colors--all being very bright! 

I thought they were really beautiful. Many of the shops we passed actually had designs like these on the side of steps in front of their building. I don't understand all the cultural meanings or implications, but it was something very unique for us to discover while we were out shopping the other day!

I sometimes wonder about what I think is normal in the State's that other cultures would consider fascinating. Just like Rangoli designs, this is something they do on a yearly basis--so while it's probably special, it's still common enough to know about and to not think of it's uniqueness. I imagine if I thought hard enough, I would be able to come up with many holidays, customs, and events Americans perform that would be strange or unique to other places.

All this to say, you don't have to live in an "exotic" place to capture interesting photos. I encourage you to go out today and to think critically about your life situation. What is unique? What is special? What do I think is "normal" that other places would see as interesting? Capture those photos and see what comes of it! Send me a link in the comments section if you go out--I'd love to see your work.


Use of Color

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/3.2, 1/200 sec, ISO-100

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/3.2, 1/200 sec, ISO-100

One thing I love about other cultures is their use of color. You can find an array of colors on buildings, cars, fences, walls, boats, buses, and so on. It's a photographer's dream! 

The people around this scene above probably thought it strange that I was photographing these old, distressed boats, but I obviously didn't care. While on a photo walk I saw them and couldn't help myself. :)

I have a few more of these photos that I'll post soon that are of different perspectives. Have a great Friday! 


Differences in Worship

Growing up, I really thought worship was defined as singing or playing an instrument. Little did I know that my upbringing in the West fashioned my mind to think this way. I'm not saying it's wrong at all, in fact, I love playing my guitar and singing! For me, it's something very important that I like to do often. Going to other cultures though and seeing the differences in worship, I can't help but ponder more about what worship is exactly. 

5D Mark II; 85mm f/1.8  |  f/2.2, 1/100 sec, ISO-1600

5D Mark II; 85mm f/1.8  |  f/2.2, 1/100 sec, ISO-1600

The definition of "Worship" from Google is this: to show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites. 

The worshipers at the Golden Temple (pictured above) decided to show reverence by bowing and touching their head on the platform. Some places people will throw flowers, give money, bow down prostrate or even do hand motions.

As a bystander in most of these situations, I find it fascinating to see what people do. I think it widens our perspectives to watch the practices of other cultures. It might not be what we think is true, but it gives us insight into humanity and how we were created. 

 How do people worship in your culture? Leave a comment in the comment section below.


Places of Worship

Remember the post from the other day about the Golden Temple and the men and women who walked miles to visit it? Well, if you don't remember what the Golden Temple looked like from other posts, can you see it below: 

Canon 5D Mark II, 85mm f/1.8  |  f/2.2, 1/100 sec, ISO-1600

Canon 5D Mark II, 85mm f/1.8  |  f/2.2, 1/100 sec, ISO-1600

It's pretty amazing in pictures and up, close and personal. You can see how much it glows from the reflection in the water. We didn't walk into the temple--it had a very large line and crowd. We decided to peruse the sidewalk that surrounded the temple and observed the people around us. It was interesting being a bystander!

Places of worship intrigue me. They can be ornate (like the Golden Temple) or as simple as a room in a home with no decorations at all. What people define as worship is also an interesting idea that I'd like to explore further one day, especially cross-culturally or between the East and West. I think I'd find many interesting answers!

Hope you're enjoying "The Week of Reflections"! More to come soon.


Cultural Moment

"Where is that chanting coming from?" I asked Joshua, as we were perusing a popular Sikh temple called the Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple. We began looking around, trying to find the rhythmic sound of words in unison. Eventually we saw them:

The barefoot crowd was led by the man with the flag. As they passed around the walkway, people bowed their heads in a reverence, while placing their palms together at the same time. The group was about 50 people and not just men, but women and their children.

At the time we were clueless to what was happening. Fortunately we learned that people will travel from villages to the Golden Temple. They will walk for miles together chanting, with the same goal of reaching the temple to partake in the service.

I'm amazed at their dedication. For someone who comes from a nation of many resources, I couldn't fathom walking for miles to go to a temple, even if it was my life-long dream. I guess in my mind I'd find another way to get there! I'm assuming for many of these people, walking is their only option. There also might be something I'm missing here--I'm not Sikh and I don't know much about their practices. It's possible that it's a requirement or maybe even something that shows devotion, so even people with means do it. I'm not sure.

It was a very interesting experience that I don't think I'll forget!


Fascinations of Culture

Culture is so fascinating to me. This man, among many others, regularly takes his cart full of baskets, brooms and other weaved items and stays out all day, hoping to sell as much as he can. Where my family lives in Houston, TX, you sometimes see people with their vehicles on the side of the road with things they're selling (like honey, lavender, a specialty fruit, or jams), but it's not 'every day' common. Not like it is in many places I've been in South Asia and Southeast Asia.

I'm trying to think of the things I consider normal in my home town that others would think are weird and I just can't think of any! Do you have any things you consider normal in your city that others would consider strange or abnormal? Tell us about it in the comments below! I'd love to hear about it.