Out of the blue, on a lonely stretch of road, a car slowed to a stop and the driver rolled down the window and yelled out “there are no secrets on Easter Island”. I was on assignment on the island and I was shooting a portrait of this Rapanui man in a very remote spot on the island which was is one of the most remote places in the world. It was also mysterious and a wonderful place for exploration and photography.
One night I attended an indigenous dance performance. It was exhilarating and alive with sexual energy capturing the primal spirit of the people. I knew immediately that I wanted to photograph him with the barren environment of the island in the background.
He agreed and we set up a time and place. He drove up on a scooter sans makeup and tribal dress and proceeded to strip down naked in the middle of the road using the mirror of our car to apply his makeup. The shoot was memorable and what I remember the most was the fierce wind that was blowing and the engaging spirit of this man. His eyes tell the story and secrets of this mystical island.
Gail Mooney is an award-winning photographer and storyteller.
I was always the “new kid” in school. My family moved more than 10 times before I graduated from high school. We weren’t a military family, running from the law or in the witness protection program. My Dad was moving up the corporate ladder, our family was growing and it just set up a series of moves.
Being the perpetual “new kid” forced me to take risks every time we moved, forming new friendships, adjusting to new schools, dealing with the inconsistencies in the curriculum from school to school, and learning
new neighborhoods and the local culture.
In my early years, I was not the one who was initiating “change” or deciding to take a risk – my parents were. Nevertheless it made me the person I am. As a child I was learning that it was OK to take chances and in fact, it was a good thing. But I also knew that we were not a “normal” family and at times I longed for a life that was less transient and more like the families I saw on TV.
I was actually going to do this by myself until I received an email from my daughter telling me that she wanted to quit her job and sublet her apartment and go with me.
At first, it surprised me when she said that she wanted to do this with me. She had only been working for a year after graduating from college and was lucky to have a job. But she was willing leave her life as she knew it, apartment, take a trip around the world for four months and face looking for employment upon her return. Then I realized I shouldn’t be surprised at all, she too had grown up with the notion that “taking a risk” was normal.
These days, I see young people growing up in a society that has been so over litigated in an attempt to make our lives more risk free that it seems like we are teaching our children NOT to take chances. Losing or failing is looked at as a bad thing and that instead everyone has to be a winner. It seems that fitting in and becoming part of the status quo is what we should strive for rather than being unique or original. The problem is, if everyone thinks and acts that way, innovation will die. No on will dare to be different.
In the last few years, I’ve probably had to face more rejections than I’ve had to over my entire career, or at least it’s seems that the way. On the other hand, I have had the most incredible experiences and successes of my life. To be honest, I’m scared to death just about every day but I grew up thinking that was normal and that came with growth. Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me the courage to spread my wings.
As I prepare to head out of the country next week I’ve been thinking about why I travel. I’ve been a bit of a rolling stone most of my life, moving 10 times before I graduated high school and pursuing a career as a professional photographer which has taken me to over 100 countries.
I think if I ever had to give up traveling I would wither and my spirit would die.
Here are my top ten reasons that I think every American (and other citizens of the world) should travel:
It gives you a much better perspective on our world rather than just experiencing it virally. Let’s face it, when you are an armchair traveler, you are getting someone else’s perspective.
It makes one grateful for what they have. Many, if not most Americans are very privileged but don’t really have an understanding of that because they isolate themselves in their own environment.
You get to be a true diplomat for your country. When I’m traveling I try to give people from other countries and cultures a more realistic idea what an American is beyond our government’s policies and how we are depicted in the movies.
It creates lasting memories of importance or at least memories that last longer than buying a consumer product.
It teaches you a lot about yourself. When you travel things don’t always go according to plan. You get to see how you handle stress in situations beyond your control.
You learn how to communicate. Many times you don’t understand the language and you learn to read body language and pick up people’s vibes.
You meet people you would never get to meet at home. It makes you less fearful when you get to meet people from other lands.
As a photographer my camera has given me access to incredible experiences that I have shared with the world.
You can affect change.
When you travel you realize that regardless which country you come from we are all part of the human race. We all share this planet and we are all stewards of keeping it healthy.
It brings wonder to your life. I have had many awe- inspiring moments and not all of them were at typical tourist sites. Some of my greatest memories are the simple conversations that I’ve had with people all around the world.
This past weekend I watched as a video we made went viral. In a little over two days it has been watched by over 300,000 people! The audience response has amazed me and it is still growing.
This video is part of a series of short videos we are doing about women who are breaking barriers and working in professions that were typically dominated by men. I am usually working on a personal project and many times it centers around a cause I am passionate about. In this case, I hope that these videos will create awareness and empower other women to pursue the careers they feel passionate about. Ultimately, I hope to eliminate gender bias from our conversation.
I’ve seen a lot of positive changes and opportunities open up for women since I entered the workplace some 35 years ago. It’s been a slow forward movement and I am very encouraged by the reach and impact that social media has.
I didn’t set out to make this video go viral and I don’t know if I ever could again. I merely took notice of a request from @Verticalmag to share the file so they could post it on their Facebook page. The file had already been uploaded to my Vimeo site and website but I opted to upload this particular video of Natalie Jones, a helicopter pilot with Erickson to the project’s Like a Woman Facebook Page. Then I passed the link to Vertical Magazine to post on their FB page. Within an hour the video went viral. Not only that, other videos from the project which were uploaded on the Facebook Page doubled or tripled their views.
My next step is to put out a call to action, asking people to pick up their phones and record a short message about what they are doing to break barriers so that gender inequality in the workplace is a thing of the past.
I have fond memories of my grandmother telling stories as we lingered around the table long after the family meal had been consumed. If she never had a story to tell, my mom would. Maybe that’s why I became a storyteller, as a still photographer and as a filmmaker.
My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly. We had no warning and then one day she was gone from our lives forever. I’d give anything to hear her voice again. Or hear her giggle. Or listen to her tell a story that she had told a hundred times. But other than some scattered photos, random letters and a few mementos, all I have left are my memories of her. But sadly they have begun to fade.
I’m a commercial photographer and videographer and have shot on assignment for magazines, non-profits and corporations all over the world. I love what I do and the value it has for my clients and their products or message and God willing, I will do that till the day I die but I wanted do something more. I wanted to create personal films (videos) about and for families and preserve their legacy in a keepsake memoir. More importantly, I wanted to capture those family stories through the eyes and voices of a family’s loved ones, while they were still here to tell them and before the memories were gone.
After my mother died I did connect with members of the family to interview them. I must tell you that it was awkward at first but somehow I knew that it was important to do. Here is a short trailer about my mom’s story told through her siblings. Her brother had died before I had made this and a sister has died since but I feel very fortunate to have captured their stories when I had the chance.
I am working on a film now about the Pitney family. The Pitneys had inhabited a property in my town for 11 generations and their story is rich in history not only about their family history but also about our nation. Sadly, the Pitney homestead was destroyed by fire this past winter after over 300 years but the family lives on. I’m so grateful that I was able to capture and preserve a part of their legacy. Please look at the trailer about the Pitney family and the fire and let me know your thoughts.
A film has the power to preserve family stories with imagery, interviews, sound and music. Imagine capturing and preserving your family’s story through the power of cinema. Imagine
what a priceless gift that would be for future generations.
A laugh, a giggle, a blurred smile, a glance, a wink, a memory – a life’s story preserved.
I’ve had a long career with a lot of successes and failures. Here are 3 tips with examples of lessons I learned along the way.
Get rid of the resistance in your life – Long before I became a photographer, I was on a different path. I was studying architecture at Syracuse University. During the summer of my sophomore year my friend and I went on a hitchhiking journey to Canada. Along the way we stayed with people we met while on the road. I remember one such stay very well. It was pouring outside and we decided to just hang out rather than face the elements. There were quite a few other travelers sitting around the room smoking dope and talking about what everyone talked about those days – their disenchantment with the war (Vietnam) and everything else that was status quo.
One fellow erupted and said – “I’m sick and tired of hearing the same old complaints – why don’t you all do something about it.” Those words have stayed with me my entire life. To this day I try to get rid of the whiners in my life and be the one who does something. My proudest achievement to date has been making the documentary Opening Our Eyes, a film about individuals who are creating positive change.
Don’t hide your vulnerabilities – It took me a long time before I could tell anyone one of my biggest embarrassments, but when I did it was liberating. I was working on an assignment about Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for the National Geographic Traveler Magazine. I had made an appointment to photograph Walter Cronkite, who was a well-known figure on Martha’s Vineyard. The day before our scheduled appointment, I called Mr. Cronkite to confirm. This was way before cell phones and email and even before everyone had answering machines and his phone just rang and rang and rang. I kept calling throughout the day and the same thing happened. By evening, I was upset because I thought that Mr. Cronkite had stood me up. That night, I had a terrible feeling. I thought perhaps that when I had re-written my production notes and contact info for the job, I might have written down the wrong number for Cronkite. I had kept my old notes and discovered that I had been calling the wrong number all day. Imagine how horrified I was when I discovered that it was I who had stood up Walter Cronkite – not the other way around. I called the correct number, Walter answered and I was profusely apologetic as I explained the situation. He was kind and understanding and rescheduled and then he said, “Why didn’t you look me up in the phone book?” I replied that I assumed someone of his stature would not be listed. I learned never to make assumptions. It took me years before I could tell anyone this story. It’s really hard to admit mistakes but when you do, you gain trust.
Be who you are – not who you aren’t – I had just graduated from Brooks Institute and I wanted to pursue my passions. I wanted to be a photojournalist and use my craft to gain access to a world full of stories. Before I enrolled at Brooks, I had spent a year backpacking around the world. I had one camera and one lens and came back with my snapshots and a whole lot of desire. But it was a bad time for magazine photojournalism – Life Magazine had just folded (the second time) and everyone was telling me that if I wanted to make a living as a photographer, I needed to do commercial work. I bought into that and built a pretty good commercial photography portfolio. Then I went to see legendary NY photographer Jay Maisel, a man known for being blunt. He looked at my work, threw a print at me and told me it was “garbage”. Then he asked me if this was what I wanted to do. I told him no, that I wanted to be a photojournalist but that everyone had been telling me to pursue commercial work. He asked me how old I was and I replied “25” and then he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re 25 years old and you’re already making compromises”. It changed my life and I remind myself every day to be who I am and dream big, even though I may have to settle for less.