documentary

Vladimir Preshepha (Владимир Иосифович--Кто такие мормоны?)

I cannot believe I never posted the 5th and my favorite of the short documentary series I created while in Russia two summers ago.  This one is of Vladimir Preshepha, a former Russian cosmonaut.  They were a series of videos created with Brigham Young University for The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints, sending me to Moscow to complete the project.  Vladimir was one of my favorites, one of the nicest and smartest older man I've ever met.

 

Credits:

Jed Wells, director, editor, and mentor

Jonathan Wright, photographer and assistant to the director

Christine Armbruster, photographer

Joseph Belliston, Sound mix

Kaleidoscope Pictures: Color correction

Seth Adam Smith for the initial Vladimir edit


Throw Back: Gold Mining in Elko, Nevada

  I do a lot of cool and crazy thing.  And sometimes, I forget about some of those things.  Like that time I photographed in a gold mine in Elko, Nevada.  I was putting together a new portfolio and decided to dig out a few portraits to include and found all these gems (I know I was just talking about mining... but I didn't mean to use the word "gems"..and "dig"... that's just the way it happened.)  I don't know why I never posted them... but I do find them to be quite wonderful... especially the geologist at the end who was just so excited about rocks.

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Images taken in a gold mine in Elko, Nevada while filming a shot documentary film.  Taken November, 2010.

A sad story that turns out ok in the end

Once upon a time I was planning a trip to Jordan.  I packed my bags, and committed to shooting my entire upcoming documentary project on film.  I took one backpack, filled one third with film, one third with cameras, and the rest with clothing and a toothbrush. Upon arrival, a series of events unfolded and I ended up living in a cave in Petra.  On my third day of adventuring around, photographing everything, my Bronica ETRS broke.  Leaving me with two gallon sized Zip-Lock bags of medium format film.. only three rolls shot.  Unable to fix it, I retired the camera and took up my digital camera to complete (or at that point, start) the project I was going to work on... carrying now half my backpack full of unusable things.  As sad as it was, as beautiful as the film would be been with that harsh Arabian sun, my photographs turned out just fine.  If not, great.  I developed those three rolls just recently, only to find this hidden gem.  Omar, a donkey driver who gave me free rides on his donkeys while in the tourist sites.  His donkeys were named: Shakira, Michael Jackson, and Ferrari.

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Hebron, Palestine

Things in the whole Palestine/Israel area are interesting.  People are skeptical of one another, scared to do anything or go anywhere.  However, it is a place, just like any other.  There are good parts, bad parts.. it's just the bad ones are extra bad.  However, it is nothing to be afraid of.  I met a handful of people who had been living in Jerusalem before I crossed the border.  One of which gave me this interesting and insightful guide to Jerusalem.  It is a guide of the city from two perspectives, showing both sides.     Naturally, controversial, but fascinating from the outside point of view.  As I planned the trip further, another friend showed me this Lonely Planet guide to West Bank tourism.  An interesting article I recommend anybody reading, whether you ever plan on visiting the area or not.  It encourages simply talking to people, getting to know an area and not just listening to the media.  I took this advice and went to Hebron.  An area known for large military forces and parts of the city that are forbidden by the other side.

Naturally, the Jewish family I was staying with, strongly encouraged me not to go to this Arabic community.  And so I went.  More comfortable by the Arab culture that I had been surrounded in for over a month, I felt at home in this war torn city.  I was welcomed by smiling faces and treated like a guest as I crept in between buildings to see large gardens and olive groves in the back of all the buildings.  Just as the Lonely Planet guide had said.  One of my favorite people who I met was this man: Joseph.  A banana seller.  He spent nearly 30 minutes talking to me on the street, feeding me bananas as he asked about my life and told me about his.  I must have eaten six bananas because he would not stop giving them to me.  When I asked to photograph him, he asked why.  I simply told him because I will eat these bananas and possibly forget this city and our conversations, but this photography will be my souvenir of Hebron and help me to remember you.  And so he obliged.

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[image of a parking lot in Hebron]

Shepherds

While in Jordan I made this photograph one day while driving to the cave.  A young boy riding a donkey caring for his sheep.  I thought it was interesting in comparison to a throw-back image of mine, taken in the Dominican Republic of another shepherd...or cowboy I guess he would be called.  I loved the man on the motorcycle, herding his cattle as well as the boy, perfectly blending into his landscape.  Two very different lives and two very different places.

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Life in the Cave [an instructional post]

Many of you have been asking about Jordan.  My daily life, my living conditions.  So, I decided to do a post about it.. a "behind the scenes" if you will.  Living in a cave in the Middle East.  No electricity, no running water.  2 months.  Sounds hard, but mainly it was dreamy.  So, in photo format, here is a story and images so you can see what I have been up to.  

This was the home.  The set up of the caves.   There were three, a fourth in a totally different location was being built about a mile away on private land.  These caves were from 400 B.C., on government land, they are open for anyone to live in.  Private lands have caves too, but you have to own the land to sleep there.  On government land you can take anything that no one is currently living in.  Locked up by a door you (or previous tenants have installed), it is safe.  Your belongings are safe.  It's like a home.  It is a home.

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The kitchen.  A built cave.. more like stone hut with a bamboo roof and tarps over the top to prevent rain from creeping in.  Yes, it rained   And when it rained, flash floods happened, making every road and valley extremely dangerous.  Slot canyons death traps.

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Inside the kitchen cave at night.  Candlelight, editing some photos.  There is a light at the top of the photo that can be plugged into a generator.  I think in two months we used it 3 times, only when we had a lot of company.  I'm sitting by the fire where you could cook slow dinners or just be warm.  There was a gas stove for quicker meals.  Also, the kitchen doubled as a bedroom for Ghassab (the cave owner) and many of the local Bedouins who would come at night to hang out and often sleep over.

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This was my cave.. a sign outside carved in Arabic saying "Christine's Cave" to prove it.

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This is inside.  Simple, kept my things, I slept here.  Notice the rug---it's of The Treasury.  One of the main monuments in Petra.  Which I find to be humorous.

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The landscape was amazing where I was at.  These are some of the rocks outside of my cave at night.

 cave life

To light fire, we had to find firewood.  In a desert, this is hard.  Bedouins have found a trick to this problem: digging up ancient roots.  There are plenty of them anywhere you dig.  Vineyards and forests used to be everywhere.  Now, you just have to dig and you have firewood for the night.

 living in a cave

One of the other cooking methods was this stove Ghassab made from an old can of olive oil.  Bent pipe inside, you build a little fire in the opening and put your pot on top.  It's just like a stove.

 middle eastern caves

Wildlife in Petra was not as abundant as I thought.  There were no creepy-crawly things lingering in my cave.  No snakes to watch out for.  I was there in winter though, I hear summer can be worse.  However, we did have a handful of pets.  A donkey at one point (who ran away during a thunderstorm and never came back), twelve cats (4 were pregnant , two rabbits (one pregnant), and my dog which only lasted a few days before his owner came and found him.  I was hiking one day when he came around and followed me home.  He slept outside my cave, blocking the door when I got up and would follow me to the kitchen where he would stay all day until I went to bed again at night.  I would like to say it was because he was protecting me, but in reality it was probably all my leftover chicken I was feeding him..

 middle eastern homes
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The rabbits!  Always together, always in love.

The wild pet cats.  They created havoc all day and slept in the car at night.  If you were sleeping outside though, or in the kitchen, often you would wake up, having collected cats all night, with three or seven on top of you.

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When I was not hiking, photographing, working, or going on tours, I was helping with a new cave.  The one on private land.  I was a demolition queen, tearing down a wall and then helping to carry stones to make terraces.  One day it will have a big outdoor kitchen, place of tents, and a selection of fruit trees.

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Steps to the new cave.  It has 56 aloe plants!  Collected from the mountains and planted to use for medicine.  Aloe plants were Ghassab's specialty, one of the main things he used to treat a variety of illnesses.  Notice that beautiful red door in the background?  That was my project.  I painted it then smothered it with sand while it was wet in hopes of making it blend into the rocks a bit.

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Me with Ghassab's famous pink car.  Older than I am, that car got me through mountains, sand dunes, and floods.  It was how I got water and food from the village.

Pilsenite, Henry

We have this thing called Pilsenites.  Those of us who live in Pilsen, Chicago.  During the end of summer, I was walking home from the great Pilsen neighborhood grocery store, La Casa Del Pueblo, and met Henry.  A true Pilsenite.  His family were some of the first in the originally Czech neighborhood of Pilsen.  Now it is primarily a Mexican neighborhood, few Eastern Europeaners still live there.  However, Henry remains true to his neighborhood having lived here his whole life.

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