My trip to Perpignan, is one for the books. I have met so many amazing and beautiful people. I can’t even describe how I feel because it is all so surreal.
Going to a place where you know no one and coming out feeling like you have a new family is something special. I feel like I finally found what I was looking for that I didn’t know how to find. I feel like my life has changed in so many ways. I truly understand what it is to be a photojournalist. I understand why these photographers do it. I understand their sacrifices and their will to keep going, no matter what. I thought that I understood why, because I too, am a photographer and will never quit taking photos; but when I met these people and heard their stories and saw their images, I get. it. now. There is a strong feeling that I can’t put words to. It’s that feeling deep down in your heart when you think of something so big it brings tears to your eyes and you get goosebumps on your arms. A feeling of change, a feeling of movement, and growth.
Listening to the panels at Visa, an international photojournalism fest, brought new light to situations that seemed like a million miles away in foreign lands and it all of a sudden felt so much closer and more easily attainable to try and help. I had first seen Yannis Behrakis’ work in the exhibition and as I walked down the row of images, tears filled my eyes. It hurt so much to see people who sewed their mouths shut because they were on a hunger strike, or little girls scared in the middle of chaos. I heard Yannis’ was speaking at a panel and had to go. He spoke about his project over his exhibition that covered the migrants coming into Greece. It was very moving. “I have to help,” I thought. I stood up and asked, “What is there that I can do and that all of us [the audience] can do? You have done your job showing us what is happening, now what do we do to do ours?” I asked him. He responded simply, “Even one Euro can save a life with a thermal blanket.” That got me thinking. What can I do to raise money for this cause for people to have food and a warm blanket? It is not much to ask for in the big light of things.
I went the beach the day after Visa was over and to my surprise I ran into some amazing photographers there. I don’t know if this was life being amazing but Im thanking the photo gods. Yannis was there accompanied by his beautiful and charming wife and so many others. I introduced myself and sat with them at dinner. Joãl Silva was another legend, Bang Bang Club photographer who stepped on a land mine and lost both of his legs below the knee…he still photographs war photography. I mean, what motivation. I try to wrap my mind around it but I don’t think I can fully. I was so honored to be sitting there getting to know them and to laugh with them, talking about normal things and telling dirty jokes. I talked to Yannis about what I could do to help out all of these people and told him I want to do a fundraiser. I was thinking a 5k would be a great way to make money, I know a lot of runners who would run for that cause. Its about three months planning, but Im am ready for the challenge. So starting in December when I get back from my NatGeo photogrpahy workshop, I will be setting off in this feat to put together a 5k for the migrants displaced in Greece. You can see some Yannis’ work that moved me so much, here and a story about it here.
Above all, I met some great people and great photojournalists that I feel like I will grow with along the years. Very much so looking forward to next year.
P.S. I had to wait a week or so to write about this amazing endeavor. I tried to start writing about it after it was over but there were so many emotions that I couldn’t even say what I was feeling. Finally after being back in California, I can step back a take a look at the bigger picture. There were many amazing things that happened there in regards to meeting people, but I feel the bit of story that I have shared with you is the most important.