Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

2016 – A year in photos

There’s a military phrase that, despite my aversion to military terms, works well for photography. Some places I visit are clearly “target-rich environments,” in that it’s hard not to capture compelling images because the people and their surroundings are so beautiful. I’m not referring to some misplaced sense of the exotic. People aren’t interesting just because they’re different from me, but rather because their strength and resilience and spirit easily show through. And when they happen to live among some of the world’s most rugged mountains, all the better. That’s why I had always wanted to go to Nepal, and finally this year I got a chance.

The country suffered a massive magnitude 7.8 earthquake in April 2015, and I went a few weeks before the quake’s anniversary this year in order to prepare images, video and interviews that would help the member agencies of the ACT Alliance to interpret their humanitarian response to their constituents. I also worked on a piece about the country’s YWCA, which is supported by United Methodist Women, and I covered the work of Katherine Parker, a United Methodist missionary who is doing fascinating work empowering village women to better understand and respond to local issues of water quality.

Most of the time, however, I worked on the quake response. It was a fascinating time to evaluate the response of the government and NGOs. And thanks to some dedicated staff from Dan Church Aid and the Lutheran World Federation, I got to some remote communities that had been heavily affected by the quake and were still struggling with its aftermath.

A Tamang woman cuts branches to make a temporary shelter in the village of Gatlang, in the Rasuwa District of Nepal near the country's border with Tibet. In the aftermath of the April 2015 earthquake that ravaged Nepal, the ACT Alliance helped people in this village with a variety of services, including blankets, shelter and livelihood assistance. (Paul Jeffrey)

Kanchi Shrestha stacks blocks that she and other villagers in Sanogoan, Nepal, will use to build their new homes. This Newar community was hard hit by the April 2015 earthquake that ravaged Nepal, losing almost all their housing, but they've been helped by the ACT Alliance to rebuild their lives. The ACT Alliance has provided a variety of services here since the quake, including blankets, tents, and livelihood assistance, and is helping villagers form the tens of thousands of cement blocks they will need to construct permanent housing. (Paul Jeffrey)

A woman washes her hair in Salang, a village in the Dhading District of Nepal where Dan Church Aid, a member of the ACT Alliance, has provided a variety of support to local villagers in the wake of a devastating 2015 earthquake. The village's water system was destroyed by the quake, forcing women to walk two hours or more to a nearby river to fetch water. Working with a local organization, the Forum for Awareness and Youth Activity, the ACT Alliance rebuilt the village's water system. (Paul Jeffrey)

Anita Shakya cleans up rubble in Dhawa, a village in the Gorkha District of Nepal. (Paul Jeffrey)

This is Bishnu Kumari Banjara, who here holds two of her goats in Dhawa, a village in the Gorkha District. After the quake she received several baby goats from Dan Church Aid as a way to earn a livelihood and help kickstart the ravaged village’s economy. She lives in a Dalit village–the lowest caste in Nepal’s complicated weave of caste and class–which were priorities for agencies like Dan Church Aid. I call her the Goat Whisperer.

Bishnu Kumari Banjara holds two of her goats in Dhawa, a village in the Gorkha District of Nepal. Following the 2015 earthquake that ravaged Nepal, she received several baby goats from Dan Church Aid, a member of the ACT Alliance, as a way to earn a livelihood and restart the village economy. Helping people in this and other largely Dalit villages has been a priority for ACT Alliance agencies. (Paul Jeffrey)

I also spent a day shooting some UMCOR-sponsored reconstruction work, including schools.

A girl in class in Pida, a village in Nepal's Dhading District where the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), a member of the ACT Alliance, is helping families to rebuild their lives in the wake of the 2015 earthquake that ravaged much of Nepal. (Paul Jeffrey)

I can’t deny there’s a certain cute factor at play in photographing Nepali children.

Sophiya Tamang, 4, lives in the village of Goljung, in the Rasuwa District of Nepal near the country's border with Tibet.

A child in the village of Gatlang, in the Rasuwa District of Nepal near the country's border with Tibet.

Boys walk along a road in Dhawa, a village in the Gorkha District of Nepal. (Paul Jeffrey)

The role of women in the reconstruction process was an issue in many places, and I had the luck to be in one rural village on March 8, International Women’s Day, when local women staged a march to make clear their desire to be included.

Women march together in celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, 2016, in Dhawa, a village in the Gorkha District of Nepal. The banner reads, "106th International Women's Day" and "Implement the Constitution and Guarantee Women's Rights." (Paul Jeffrey)

My year was a bit shorter than normal because I spent October and November speaking in churches that support my work. But that still left a few months to get around. For example, I traveled to South Korea to cover a peacebuilding seminar between young women from Japan and South Korea. Those are two countries with a long history of animosity, and these young women addressed those issues head on, including the painful experience of sexual slavery suffered by the so-called comfort women. Supported by United Methodist Women, the seminar allowed ordinary people to make friendships across tense international lines. We spent one day on a trip to the DMZ, where the women donned helmets to explore a tunnel allegedly dug by North Korea in an attempt to breach the cease-fire line.

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As Colombia staggered toward finally ending its decades-long civil war, I went there to write about the role of the churches in the peace process. I also traveled to the violence-torn region of Barrancabermeja to see what peace could look like on the ground. That meant spending time with Doris Maria Trillos, who is seen here raking cacao drying in the sun outside her home in Garzal, a remote community along the Magdalena River. People in this community have struggled for years to stay on their land, despite threats and violence from drug traffickers and paramilitaries, and the success or failure of the peace process will best be measured in such communities. After that there’s a photo from alongside a highway in Barrancabermeja, where hundreds of people maintained a presence protesting government policies. The protest was part of a nationwide agrarian strike which at times closed major roads. In this image, during a dialogue between protestors and a police, a police official claimed none of his officers had mistreated anyone. At that point a protest leader whips out his phone and shows they guy a video of just the opposite. (I love the democratization of image making technology.) Following that is a brief video that I made for my supporting congregations. It was made as I came back from spending two days in Trillos’ village.

Doris Maria Trillos rakes cacao drying in the sun outside her home in Garzal, Colombia. People in this community have struggled for years to stay on their land, despite threats and violence from drug traffickers and paramilitaries. (Paul Jeffrey)

A protestor shows a police official images on his camera phone of police and soldiers mistreating demonstrators along a highway in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, where hundreds of people maintained a presence protesting government policies. The protest was part of a nationwide agrarian strike which at times closed major roads in the war-torn South American country. (Paul Jeffrey)

It’s no secret that I would much rather be traipsing around the jungles of Colombia than be in a meeting, much less photograph one. But I make exceptions, at times, one of which is the quadrennial United Methodist General Conference, which took place this year in Portland. Fortunately it wasn’t all just people standing at microphones. Here’s a protest that disrupted the plenary session.

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement disrupt the May 16 proceedings of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. The demonstrators marched into the plenary session chanting slogans and here hold a meeting around the central communion table. Photo by Paul Jeffrey. (Paul Jeffrey)

One of the visual challenges in a meeting like this is capturing images that speak for themselves. That could mean a closeup of demonstrators wearing rainbow tape over their mouths (protesting the denomination’s exclusion of LGTBQI+ voices), or a photo of Bruce Ough, the president of the Council of Bishops, presenting a proposal to defer decisions about sexuality and hand them over to a special commission. By upping the f/stop I could capture both the bishop’s face as well as the text on the screen far behind him. (Hmm, I guess the fact that I just explained each of the two photos means they didn’t speak so well for themselves!)

Demonstrators wear rainbow gags on May 14 to protest what they believe is an attempt to silence LGBTQ voices during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. The silent protest took place at the edge of a plenary session of the conference. The United Methodist Church does not authorize the ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals," but activists have for years demonstrated in favor of change at the quadrennial gathering of the world-wide denomination. Photo by Paul Jeffrey. (Paul Jeffrey)

Bishop Bruce R. Ough reads a statement about sexuality and the church from the denomination's Council of Bishops on May 18 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Paul Jeffrey. (Paul Jeffrey)

I also loved playing with the light in the plenary hall, what was essentially a huge dark room. That light could be harsh, and its white balance often presented a challenge. But it could also be used to isolate a subject against a black background, such as in this image of Bishop Elaine Stanovsky. It was a good choice, since she became my bishop a few months later. It’s my policy to take good images of my bishop, who reappoints me to my job every year. So any time you need good pictures, Bishop Stanovsky, I’m your guy.

Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky gives the benediction at a May 20 worship service during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Paul Jeffrey. (Paul Jeffrey)

In a trip to Tanzania, I documented the work of a church-related agency that’s improving health at the grassroots. So I photographed the testing of children for Lymphatic filariasis, as well as the lives of people, like Paulina Manyabweni, who live with the crippling mosquito-borne disease.

Testing for Lymphatic filariasis, Mwanaidi Mtui takes a blood sample from a boy in a public school in Vikuge, Tanzania. (Paul Jeffrey)

Paulina Manyabweni encourages Stephen Thadei to touch her leg--affected by Lymphatic filariasis, a mosquito-borne tropical disease--in Mbweni, Tanzania. (Paul Jeffrey)

I also spent a day documenting cervical cancer screening in a hospital in the remote village of Shirati. The staff and patients were wonderful in helping me get the photos I needed while respecting everyone’s dignity. The first image shows nurse Moureen Mbise doing an exam. After that, Mbise comforts Sherida Katibu as nurse Joyce Agutu uses a cryoprobe to perform cryotherapy on her.

Nurse Moureen Mbise conducts cervical cancer screening on a woman in the Shirati Hospital in Shirati, Tanzania. (Paul Jeffrey)

Nurse Moureen Mbise comforts Sherida Katibu as Nurse Joyce Agutu uses a cryoprobe to do cervical cryotherapy on her in the Shirati Hospital in Shirati, Tanzania. Nurse Elizabeth Peter does paperwork in the background. (Paul Jeffrey)

Given the alarmingly high rates of cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa today, these women are heroes.

The nurses who do cervical cancer screening in the Shirati Hospital in Shirati, Tanzania. From left to right, they are Elizabeth Peter, Joyce Agutu, Moureen Mbise, Grace Adebi and Sophia Nyosingo. (Paul Jeffrey)

I spent some time this year in the Philippines, working on a variety of stories, including churches responding to the epidemic of extrajudicial executions that followed the election of President Rodrigo Duterte. There’s a piece on human trafficking in the works. And I also spent some time with indigenous communities on the island of Mindanao. They have long been under attack by paramilitary squads that protect giant mining companies, palm oil plantations, and other enterprises that steal land from indigenous communities to make a handful of people very rich. I covered some of their protests, and spent time in a church compound in Davao where hundreds have sought sanctuary from the violence.

Indigenous people raise clenched fists during a demonstration in Koronadal City, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Many of the indigenous are displaced, having been chased out of their rural villages by paramilitary squads. (Paul Jeffrey)

Indigenous children displaced by paramilitary violence attend school in a makeshift classroom in a church compound in Davao, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Hundreds of indigenous are living in the church center, afraid to return home. (Paul Jeffrey)

Indigenous children displaced by paramilitary violence play with a balloon in a church compound in Davao, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Hundreds of indigenous are living in the church center, afraid to return home. (Paul Jeffrey)

I also just chilled out and listened to 98-year old Tonding Maguan sing and play a hegelung at her home in Tboli, an indigenous village on Mindanao. Maguan is blind.

Tonding Maguan, 98, sings and plays a hegelung at her home in Tboli, an indigenous village on the Philippines island of Mindanao. Maguan is blind. (Paul Jeffrey)

I traveled to northern Iraq to document the lives of Christians, Yazidis, and others who were driven out of their homes in Mosul and Qaraqosh by the Islamic State group in 2014. Tens of thousands now live in cramped camps for the displaced around Erbil.

Children walk along the street in a camp for internally displaced families in Ankawa, near Erbil, Iraq, on April 8, 2016. Residents of the camp, mostly Christians, were displaced from Mosul, Qaraqosh and other communities in Iraq when ISIS swept through the area in 2014. (Paul Jeffrey)

Adra Samar uses Skype to talk to a relative in Baghdad as she sits in a camp for internally displaced families in Ankawa, near Erbil, Iraq, on April 8, 2016. Residents of the camp, mostly Christians, were displaced from Mosul, Qaraqosh and other communities in Iraq when ISIS swept through the area in 2014. (Paul Jeffrey)

It’s a community in which the church has huge influence and importance.

People pray during Mass in Inishke, Iraq, on April 10, 2016. Present was Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and chair of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. He came to Iraqi Kurdistan with other church leaders to visit with Christians and others displaced by ISIS. Along with other church leaders, he celebrated Mass in the Chaldean Catholic church with local residents and displaced Christians living in local villages. CNEWA is a papal agency providing humanitarian and pastoral support to the church and people in the region. (Paul Jeffrey)

It’s a people whose faith has kept hope alive amid the tragedy of losing homes and neighborhoods. Here’s 4-year old Luis Firas, whose mother blesses him every morning by using a stick of oil to make the sign of the cross on his forehead before sending him off to school. The morning I was there to document their daily life, Luis then rather impishly grabbed the tube of oil and anointed his mother as well.

Every morning in Ankawa, Iraq, as her 4-year old son Luis prepares to leave for preschool, Raeda Firas takes a stick of oil and makes the sign of the cross on his forehead. As a photographer documented their morning ritual on April 7, 2016, Luis grabbed the stick and marked a cross on his mother's forehead, also blessing her. The Christian family was displaced from Mosul by ISIS in 2014, and live in a church-provided modular home. (Paul Jeffrey)

Some of the displaced are not content to simply wait and pray, and I spent a day with the Nineveh Plain Protection Units as they practiced for the fight they knew would soon come, and which has indeed taken place in the last few weeks as a coalition of Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga and others have slowly fought their way toward Mosul.

Members of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units training at their base near Alqosh, Iraq, on April 12, 2016. The Assyrian militia group was formed by Christians displaced by ISIS from Qaraqosh and other towns in the Nineveh Plain in 2014. Their goal is to take back their homeland and make it a semi-autonomous province within Iraq. (Paul Jeffrey)

Members of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units training at their base near Alqosh, Iraq, on April 12, 2016. The Assyrian militia group was formed by Christians displaced by ISIS from Qaraqosh and other towns in the Nineveh Plain in 2014. Their goal is to take back their homeland and make it a semi-autonomous province within Iraq. (Paul Jeffrey)

That fighting, of course, is not without cost. Here’s Rosa Majeed Nouri holding a photo of her son Fawaz at her home in a camp for displaced Iraqis in Dawodiya. He was killed in February while fighting against ISIS near Telskuf.

Rosa Majeed Nouri holds a photo of her son Fawaz at her home in a camp for displaced Iraqis in Dawodiya, Iraq, on April 10, 2016. He was killed two months earlier while fighting against ISIS near Telskuf as a member of a Christian militia called the Nineveh Plain Protection Forces. (Paul Jeffrey)

One highlight of my Iraq trip was getting to know the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, an Iraqi order that fled Mosel and Qaraqosh along with their neighbors. Despite their own suffering, they have remained faithful servants and witnesses in the midst of exile, accompanying other displaced.

Diana Sakaria, a novice in the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, prays in the chapel of the congregation's convent in Ankawa, near Erbil, Iraq. The sisters were displaced by ISIS in 2014, and carry out a variety of ministries among the displaced in northern Iraq. (Paul Jeffrey)

Sister Ferdos Zora helps a student draw in a preschool for displaced children run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Ankawa, near Erbil, Iraq. The children, and the nuns themselves, were displaced by ISIS from Mosul and Qaraqosh in 2014. The sisters have established a variety of schools and other ministries among the displaced. (Paul Jeffrey)

Sister Huda Sheeto kicks a football at the Al Bishara School, which is run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Ankawa, near Erbil, Iraq. Sheeto is the school's principal. The students and the Dominican Sisters themselves were displaced by ISIS in 2014. The nuns have established schools and other ministries among the displaced. (Paul Jeffrey)

Sister Muntahah Haday teaches a class at the Al Bishara School, which is run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Ankawa, near Erbil, Iraq. The students and the Dominican Sisters themselves were displaced by ISIS in 2014. The nuns have established schools and other ministries among the displaced. (Paul Jeffrey)

I happened to be home in Yakima on Martin Luther King Day, so photographed a local march honoring the martyred civil rights leader.

Participants carry a banner against prejudice in a January 18, 2016, march commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Yakima, Washington. (Paul Jeffrey)

I spent some time in the U.S. State of Georgia, documenting the work of mission institutions in Savannah and Columbus that promote financial literacy among women and do some creative and life-changing work to help women get out of poverty. I wrote about Sonnet Pichardo, for example, who is pictured here as she helps her daughters get ready for school in their bedroom early in the morning in Columbus. Pichardo successfully participated in Circles of Hope, a program to end poverty and build financial independence sponsored by the Open Door Community House.

Sonnet Pichardo helps her daughters Rhinaye (left) and Savannah get ready for school in their bedroom early in the morning in their home in Columbus, Georgia. Pichardo successfully participated in Circles of Hope, a program to end poverty and build financial independence sponsored by the Open Door Community House in Columbus. (Paul Jeffrey)

Every two years, I cover the International AIDS Conference, which this year took place in Durban, South Africa. It’s a fascinating environment to examine how we’re doing in the struggle against a major public health challenge. Yes, it is one more “meeting,” but among almost 20,000 participants something visually interesting usually breaks out, whether it’s an aerobics class (with HIV and TB participating) or a street demonstration turned choir performance.

Mascots representing TB and HIV, which are often fatal when they get together, join in an aerobics session in the Global Village at the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban. (Paul Jeffrey)

Demonstrators sing and chant as they march through the streets of Durban, South Africa, demanding better funding for HIV and AIDS treatment around the world. The demonstration took place on the first day of the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban. (Paul Jeffrey)

Not all the year was work. I fortunately escaped a couple of times to turn my lens on subjects close to home, including hummingbirds on Whidbey Island and a meteor shower at Frenchman’s Coulee in Eastern Washington. Both of these images happen to be part of a selection of my photos that the Langley United Methodist Church is offering for sale as a way to raise money to help upgrade my equipment. They are available both as regular prints and as canvas prints stretched over a frame made from sustainably harvested wood. Take a look at what’s available. Imagine what they’d look like on the walls of your home or office.

Composite image of male Rufous Hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) in flight on Whidbey Island, Washington. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The last year has been always challenging and often enjoyable. The months ahead are unfortunately going to prove more difficult, as recent election results in the U.S. mark a giant step backward toward xenophobia, hatred, and a criminal lack of stewardship for our beleaguered planet. I’m committed to continuing to tell people’s stories. Each of you can help in making sure the stories are not told in vain.

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