nineteen days

Ever since I was a little girl in padded pajama feet peering through the dark house towards the warm lights of the kitchen where my parents were having an early-morning breakfast before the sun rose, I’ve been intrigued by the fasting period before the Baha’i new year. It was the only time of the year I would ever leave the house when the morning sky was still black and go to McDonald’s and have breakfast on a styrofoam plate. When I turned fifteen and started fasting myself, I loved pulling myself from the grips of my bed knowing it was for a special purpose and a chance for me to exercise my will power and devotion. Now that I’m over the trips to McDonald’s (my dad and I have moved on to IHOP), I’m enjoying the 19 days of slowing down, becoming acutely aware of my surroundings and like in any body of water, seeing a clearer reflection of my self in its stillness.
For the last five years, this period of fasting has also born a creative dimension through my participation in an international collaborative project called “nineteen days” where paired photographers around the world take photographs around sunrise and sunset and post their photos and reflections on a blog. This year 36 photographers from 19 countries participated. These are the photos I entered for my post, followed by my reflection for the day.

Fasting always puts under a microscope what has been moving around in my mind for the past several months. I’ve pulled the brakes on so many things in my life only to devote more of myself to what really matters. And yet, at some point, we just have to let go of what we try so hard to protect and realize that we are all in the best of Hands, and everything will be just fine. Just fine.

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Ashley Southall - The photo of the little girl is incredible!

martedi grasso | venice, italy

While many Americans associate Marti Gras with beads, music and parades, my thoughts escape to misty cold Venice with its sea wind bobbing the gondolas and tunneling into Piazza San Marco where thousands gather to celebrate Martedi Grasso and walk among its ethereal masked revelers. Each time Victor and I boarded the 7am Eurostar train to Venice from Florence, we knew we were charging lens-first into a wild storm of people moving about looking in every direction but the one they were going. The most dangerous of the mob? The photographers, of course. Dozens upon dozens stacked on one another trying to get a shot of the graceful, airy, mannequin-like beings slowly floating their way through the square.

Because the revelers themselves were so hauntingly peaceful (I was always compelled to whisper when I thanked them), their serenity is seen in their photos. What’s not seen, however, is the throngs of people around them, as you can get a glimpse of in the skyline photo below. How was it done? Simple. Strapped with my two cameras, one loaded with slide film and the other with black-and-white film, I approached my beloved subjects in one of two ways:  straight-on and tight, or low and wide. Sometimes I could shoot over the shoulder of another photographer to be at eye-level with my subject, and unfortunately the dozens of people behind them. In those cases, I’d shoot tight where they, and no one else, filled the frame. Usually, however, I couldn’t squeeze anywhere into the pack of puffy-coated paparazzi, so I would creep beneath the lowest lens, plant myself in front of everyone, scusatemi, and shoot upwards towards my subject. This was my preferred position. By shooting from below, I could cut out from my view the people behind my subjects and use the sky, or better yet, exquisite architecture as my background. Where in reality, the scene was of me squatting with the knees and the weight of ten or twenty photographers on my back and the subject surrounded by crowds of people, the images on the slides were of pristine doll-like figures, their longing gazes and beautiful Venice behind them. This is the Martedi Grasso that I know and love and miss. Until next time… I’ll be sure to pack my knee pads.

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Mary Jane Poole - Negeen! these pictures are truly wonderful and your description so enticing! I have gone on Martedì Grasso only one time. The feeling of being swept along to who-knows-where-and-what quite overwhelmed me, but after experiencing it through your eyes I feel the urge to go again! And since it is now Ash Wednesday, I’ll have a year to get ready. How about you come too! Baci, baci! mj

negeen - MJ, Magari! xoxo

sholeh & jared [destination wedding photography]

The girl from down undah with bright blue eyes and a smile that lights up a room and the most romantic and smitten groom I’ve ever had the pleasure of photographing brought their families and friends together at the historic Green Acre Baha’i retreat center in Eliot, Maine, named by John Greenleaf Whittier and described by its founder as “a place where beside still waters, one may realize the peace that passeth all understanding.” Sholeh and Jared mingled that peace with their love for their family and their family-like friends, their deep adoration for their faith, their comfortable elegance, tousled-haired charm, and easy-going cheer (in true Aussie form) and created an intimate and joyful wedding day, while somehow enhancing the beauty of that treasured place. Now if only I could have bottled those still waters and serenity and brought them back home with me, I’d be set for a good while. Congratulations dear Jared and Sholz! We *loved* your Green Acre wedding.

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farah salamipoorian - Negeen joon I love your pictures good jab
love Farah

Aimee Piper - I love these photos! And I love these people!

Ali Akbar - The photo with the wedding dress hung on a tree branch blew my mind Negeen! Watching these photos made me feel as if I were there too, they made me live those moments. You are brilliance personified.

Nazareth

The annual Christmas message given by Pope Benedict XVI today drew attention to the importance of this day and his words below struck a chord with me, as it reminded me of conversations I’ve had with some of my Christian girlfriends about the challenge of maintaining a focus (particularly with their children) on the historical, Biblical and, above all, spiritual significance of Christmas while constantly being bombarded by commercialism. The Pope stated:

‎”Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light… Let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals Himself to the simple of heart…”

So in honor of this message of remembrance, I’ve selected a few images of Nazareth, the Biblical town I was fortunate enough to visit a number of times while living an hour away in Haifa. Among the places shown are:
The Basilica of the Annunciation – built over the grotto where, according to the Roman Catholic tradition, the angel Gabriel announced to Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become of the mother of Jesus,
A Woman Clothed with the Sun – the sculpture in the Basilica of the Annunciation created by American sculptor Charles L. Madden, inspired by the quote, “The grandeur of God… will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”
The Church of St. Joseph – built on the carpentry shop of Joseph,
The Synagogue Church – where Jesus preached (Luke 4:16) and
Mary’s well – where, according to other traditions, the Annunciation took place.

Enjoy this visit to Nazareth and Merry Christmas!

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sweater-less and simplified [oklahoma city family portrait photography]

Perhaps it’s all of the colors and lights that go up this time of year or that my retinas are still recovering from the visual overload of the midnight-to-dawn shopping marathon with my high school besties on Black Friday, but I’m finding myself wanting to monochrome every image I edit, especially when it is a part of a set like in the Christmas cards below.

Why It Works
Compliment, don’t compete – Even though the colors of the outfits below were beautifully coordinated with each other, turning the images black and white supports the design of the cards and helps punctuate the text. The red-and-white stamp and the green bow would have gotten lost among the bright hues of the original photos. Generally, if a photo’s “frame” (in this case, the card design) doesn’t compliment the colors in the image, try converting the photo to black and white. The same goes for the reverse:  if choosing colors for design is more of a pain than a pleasure, you can never go wrong with a simple white mat and a black or neutral frame for displaying a colorful photo on your wall.

Lighten up – Holiday cards can be dense:  greetings, photos, updates, design, and so much cheer. One way to let them breathe is by taking off the stuffy holiday sweaters, especially the ones with the reindeer and the candy canes and the snowflakes and the mistletoe. It’s Christmas, we get it. Now we want to look at your face, but your sweater won’t let us. Returning to the point above, your clothes should compliment you, not compete with you for attention. And they don’t necessarily have to be winter clothes. Even Kyle and Shay Payne’s family portraits taken in the middle of the hottest summer Oklahoma has ever seen work just fine in a Christmas card. And it doesn’t hurt that their kids are just.so.adorable.

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Katharine - “Santa Approved” Love it!