I have always believed that in order to stay true to who you are, be passionate about what you do, that one must continue to find the joy in it. To stay inspired.
For me this means traveling; be it around the block or around the world — for not only is it a way to combine my passion for travel, people and portraits but it is also what keeps the nomad in me satisfied— I always want to know what lies over the next hill.
I’m also a photographer so it’s impossible to separate who I am and what I see when I travel. And like most travelers today, I carry a camera. But my roots in photo journalism coupled with a restless nature means that my eye is always searching for that storied something or someone unique.
On this last trip to Sri Lanka we found ourselves in a row of fish cutters, and I instinctively moved towards a man in a newspaper apron. And then I saw the knife. Maybe it was because I’m a bit of a knife enthusiast, a curator of sorts, but I knew in that moment that I wanted not only to take his portrait but that I wanted to find a knife like that for my collection. A Mana. I was drawn to the wooden handle, the weight of the blade.
As I shot, people gathered around and I learned that Nassir is considered “the best” of the cutters and that he had been a fish cutter since he was a boy.
Certainly there are times where I know it can be easier to simply snap a photo of someone without permission; but I don’t believe that gets you the good stuff. And it’s not the way that I would want to be treated. So afterwards we stuck around, and he and I did our best at working to connect, mostly eyeing each other’s tools of our trade.
And maybe during our imperfect communication my face told a little of my story — I didn’t just find a knife like Nassir’s, but I ultimately ended up with Nassir’s knife.
Later, as we returned home and as I unwrapped that knife and considered its place in the line-up above the stove, I couldn’t help but be reminded once again about why it is that portraits have become such a big part of my portfolio — that we not only connect with a face around which we get to create a story, but to which we connect our own stories — a connection in this case of not only a portrait taken, but also a knife given.