Humanitarian Photographer

FALL, Kashgar

When I was young I’d go with my mom shopping at a market in Berkeley. Nearby, there was a record store that had racks of notecards for sale. I remember being mesmerized at the faraway places depicted on those cards. They were so magical to me. Those images—I had never physically journeyed beyond my little world at that time—blew my mind. As a child, I could gaze at them and instantly travel into the places they showed. All things were possible.

Many years into my career I recognized in hindsight that I had initially begun making images to create my life, to make visual notes of possibilities. I did it to save myself. The “all things are possible” impact of a photograph—mine or other photographers—gives me energy. It’s a portal and my whole spirit can be uplifted by it.

This fellow travels to market along the Silk Road a few times a week to sell his lettuce. I love to walk and wander in bazaars or markets where people put up tents and sell their wares. They create a shop for a day, then tear it down.

The stunning Poplar trees the farmer ritualistically passes on the way to market change color with the seasons. It was in the fall when I made this image. I recall shivering, much like the gentle trembling of the tree leaves in the wind. Poplar trees shimmer as light dances off the glistening leaves. When the leaves fall away to the ground deeper in winter, you are suddenly more aware of the tree’s whitebark skeleton. It offers stark beauty braided with strength, as the slender trees are known for their resilience. The farmer also, in his consistency, purpose, and steady gaze expresses stability and endurance.

Ultimately, this image is about the connection between man and the land. This man is clearly about to be moving on to a market. The moment you see is here for a few seconds and then, it vanishes. In recognizing the eternal and the fleeting quality of life and how we hover within the balance, our differences dissolve. During the holiday season, I hope you will hold on to your notecard. Gaze into the infinite worlds of possibility. The next moment of beauty begins in the road ahead.