Monday, March 29, 2010

Liberation from my personal Egypt Part II: WEW.LA

I finally posted some of my professional photojournalism work on line.  I've been making photographs since I was 14 years old, and now I'm 52.  That's a helluva lot of images.  I've worked for the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and gone overseas for International Medical Corps to photograph their war zone work in Somalia, Southern Sudan and Rwanda.  And I've just found it in me to value what I have to say with a camera enough to post some photos on my Facebook profile.  Yeah.  I know.  Just this past weekend.

A few years ago I bought a film scanner and my own domain name with the intent to create a website of my work, and enough Leica gear to do the more quiet, introspective projects I've been putting on hold.  A couple of weeks ago I bought a Leica M9,  allegedly the supreme act of confidence and faith in my own talent, desire and commitment to telling those stories.  Yeah, well, sort of.

It says a lot about an artist when he or she finally believes in their value, the power of their message, and I can tell you, through a lot of scotch and tears stained dark nights of the soul, you don't ever get there alone.

I got there, finally, just now, because of Illana Shoshan,  Dr. Galit Dayan, and Meirav Oz.  I am blessed enough to be a part of Illana's organization, WEW.LA   She has pulled together these two phenomenal Israeli women and for the past two weeks, all three have worked tirelessly to empower other women to believe in themselves, to reach for their dreams and to market themselves with the confidence it takes to succeed.

I've been photographing and videotaping their empowerment seminars, from San Diego to Orange County to Beverly Hills to West Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley (missed an amazing one in San Francisco) and heard their presentations in Hebrew and in English around a half a dozen times, and even though that kind of elusive confidence does not necessarily transmit through just listening, their presentation was so incredibly powerful, it did.

Listening to Meirav tell her personal story of how she followed her dream of publishing her first novel, "One Wrong Move" and personally, through her own marketing campaign, made it a terrific success is nothing short of inspiring. Her marketing strategy, done on literally no "real" money, but when added to that incredibly overlooked intangible source- creative and networking generated funding- is pure genius.

Listening to Dr. Galit Dayan, a brilliant Egyptologist who re-invented herself to be an organizational management consultant to the top companies in Israel, speak candidly how she combines being a Mom and being the wife of a diplomat moving around the world every few years with her own business success gives perspective to the balance: I don't have a husband or kids, but I am caregiver to my parents and have many other stresses governing my life,  ones that I've allowed to take me away from my goals and dreams, always taunting me to give up on myself. 

Most of all,  the visionary force behind this empowerment mission is Illana Shoshan. Elected Miss Israel 1980 and now, because of her dedication and single mindedness to the economic and educational empowerment not just for Jewish and Arab women in Israel, but for all women no matter who or where they are, Illana's just been elected Israel's Queen of Beauty for all time.  It's an understatement that she is beautiful inside and out, but truthfully I don't think the title does her justice.

Most traditional definitions of beauty don't include qualities like the selflessness, incredible courage, creative intelligence, strength, passion, guts, stamina, sacrifice,  focus, fearlessness and pure love required to take on a cause like this.  Listening to Illana speak about how important it is for women to be economically able to take care of themselves and their children, to be respected, to be equal in every way, to be able to educationally compete in the workplace, there is no mistaking her purpose.

Photographs are little points of darkness illuminated by light, and I've always believed women are the bearers of that light....Illana, Galit and Meirav are definitely the bearers of those torches. They help light the way for all of us to liberate ourselves from our personal Egypts.

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