Vodou Footprints: A Wonderful Machine Interview

Below is an excerpt from Wonderful Machine, who earlier this week posted an interview about my project within the Vodou religion. It is an effort to learn more about the Vodou Footprints project, the preparation and experiences had within this magical culture, future direction and goals, as well as help spread the news about the successful publication in GEO Magazin. Share the knowledge and enjoy!

Cameron Karsten : Vodou

Dec 1, 2015
PHOTOGRAPHER NEWS

Largely misunderstood in Western culture, Vodou has often been depicted as an evil or sinister type of black magic, with the all too familiar dolls and accompanying pins and needles created to punish or torture your enemies. For photographer Cameron Karsten, who views exploring a new culture, place, or people as a continuous source of inspiration, he admittedly felt that he too hugely misunderstood this ancient religion. It wasn’t till extensive research and a one way ticket to West Africa that he began to have a clearer picture and deeper appreciation for this ancient religion. What transpired was a multimedia project spanning across two countries Benin in West Africa and Haiti uncovering the untold stories on the origins and evolution of Vodou. Read more of the Q&A with Cameron below!

The West Africa Project - Origins of Vodou, Ouidah Priest consultation

Zanzan the Witchdoctor of Ouidah pours a shot of venomous snake-infused gin. Take the shot, repeat, “Danji, Danji!” and you’ll be protected from your enemies.

How does this project fit into your photographic style? Were there any new approaches you took to capture it?

Having spent a ton of time out of the country around the world—traveling, writing and photographing—this project was a natural progression in the development of my career. The combination of both still and motion, along with audio components and writing, fit my skill set well. What I added to the stylistic approach is the option of lighting the individuals in an editorial style with strobes and modifiers. In the end, it’s a lot of gear, but with the amount of time I spent in-country and the amount of research, it was worthwhile and allowed for a unique form of storytelling.

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A boy vendor sells a dried gorilla foot at the Akodessewa Market in Lome, Togo.

Were there any challenges involved with this project? If so, how did you overcome them? 

The challenges were plentiful, though rewarding. Securing attendance into specific rare ceremonies and the related logistics around the timing of these events or celebrations was understandably tough. Additionally, West African Vodou is entirely different from Haitian Vodou. Although the religion traveled westward to the New World with the slave trade route, the metamorphosis was great, and this is exactly why it survived the brutality of slavery and the successive dictatorships that crippled the people. Keeping track of these differences, as well as making and maintaining key contacts across two opposing continents, required the creation of a new volume of research and planning to fully understand each real and true Vodou ceremony.

The West Africa Project - Origins of Vodou, Visiting the Kingdom of Allada in central Benin during Allada's Vodou FestivalDjagli spirits, known to chase witches from villages, rest after a performance in Allada during the National Vodou Day in Benin, West Africa.

What was involved in planning/preproduction? 

Before leaving home, I read and researched like mad. From books to blogs and personal tourist memoirs to anthropological university studies, I devoured as much as possible. Likewise, I reached out to locals via social media and email, asking for advice and on-the-ground knowledge. Finally, I organized, packed and carefully deliberated over gear—performing that rigorous judicial act of every seasoned traveler: what to bring.

The West Africa Project - Origins of Vodou, Ketou Guelede dancing mask ceremoniesKetou Guelede dancing mask ceremonies last all night, from sunset to sunrise. The costumes are rare these days, made by artisans from the Yoruba tribes of Nigeria.

What has the reaction to the images been so far? 

Reactions to the work from West Africa, specifically Benin and Togo, from the first trip have been phenomenal. The still and motion work, combined with the essays, have offered people exposure to a culture that has never before been documented with such visual impact and cultural appreciation. With the subsequent chapter in Haiti, the response has been likewise, as the images have carried a little more darkness and mystery behind Vodou’s changes from its place of origin across the waters in Africa. GEO Magazin picked up the West African piece, utilizing both stills and motion for their publication. National Geographic continues to show interest, encouraging the project to develop and progress.

The Vodou Trail in Haiti exploring the ceremonies and rituals of Haitian VodouVodouisants pray in congregation at Montagne Noire outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Any future plans for this project? 

The Vodou Footprints project has only just begun. In 2016, I will return to Haiti in July/August and October/November in order to complete that chapter before moving north in 2017 to document Vodou throughout the American south. After this, I intend to trace the historical spread of Vodou across the Caribbean, Central and South America, as well as east from West Africa into the surrounding countries as far as Zanzibar. The final goal for this long-term multimedia project is a complete visual encyclopedia of modern day Vodou, from where it originated in the cradle of Vodou to its evolution through the wake of the European slave trade. This will include a volume of books, traveling exhibitions, presentations and a documentary film.

The Vodou Trail in Haiti exploring the ceremonies and rituals of Haitian Vodou

Two pilgrims bathe in the sacred falls of Saut d’Eau

Did you learn anything through the creation of this series?

As with every foreign culture, it’s offered me glimpses into the complexity yet simplicity of our world. Vodou’s sole purpose is to celebrate life and death while providing all participants access to every human right: health, happiness and prosperity. It is a beautiful, mysterious and unique tradition, which has nothing to do with a doll or pins and needles. And of course, the more I develop this project, the more I myself develop—both as a growing presence in this ever-changing technological industry and as a critical practitioner of compelling storytelling.

View the video Cameron created below :

 

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To see more of Cameron’s work visit cameronkarsten.com

Robert Carlson’s Glass Mind

BobCarlson-15Robert Carlson is an internationally-renowned glass artist and a master not in disguise.  Bob lives his life as an artist, from his work to his art collections and the uniqueness of his home, to the way he parties and likes his martinis.  I had the opportunity to photograph Bob while he was an artist-in-residence at the Museum of Glass Hot Shop in Tacoma, Washington, where he came up with and devised his newest creations from an imagination wild. Bob is pictured up, sketching his latest invention, pulling from depths of his mind something real.

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BobCarlson-448On-hand apprentices assisted Bob throughout the week-long residency. Typically, after the glass is blown and cooled, he’ll spends months with the pieces, studying their forms and subtle messages found within shapes and processes.  Next he employs a reverse-painting technique using mirrors to create the imagery. These will appear on the back side of the glass structures, which take on a whole new dimension while viewing through the various refractions of glass.

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BobCarlsonVert-044-EditHowever, after observing the unusual orbs and their phalangeal crystals, Bob decided otherwise and kept the mirrors on their walls and the pigments in their cans. The work was completely new and glorious in their own form. They are both animalistic and alien. They explore the connection of sexuality and misplaced possession. The glass art can be placed on one side and quickly flipped to be placed on a new set of legs, changing the viewers understanding of what is and what can be. These pieces are works of a genius, derived from a life undisguised from beauty itself.

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The Lucie Foundation’s 10th Annual 2012 International Photography Awards: Cameron Karsten “Honorable Mention”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

2012 International Photography Awards Announces Winners of the Competition

Cameron Karsten was awarded in the International Photography Awards Competition. International Photography Awards (IPA) has announced the winners of 2012’s competition.

Cameron Karsten was Awarded: Honorable Mention in People – Lifestyle category for the winning entry “Mustang Matt”.

ABOUT Winner:
The soul of the roving Cameron Juan Karsten is within photography and writing. He yearns for expansive adventure of the deepest value in order to express the tales of humanity. In an expanded version, it is Cameron’s dream to create a life within these two industries, traveling the world to share culture, ideas and beliefs. He yearns for the assignment. He envisions National Geographic Magazine, Christian Science Monitor and other broad-minded publications, and will work with determination until its reality.

ABOUT IPA:
The 2012 International Photography Awards received nearly 18,000 submissions from 104 countries across the globe. IPA is a sister-effort of the Lucie Foundation, where the top three winners are announced at the annual Lucie Awards gala ceremony. The Foundation’s mission is to honor master photographers, to discover new and emerging talent and to promote the appreciation of photography. Since 2003, IPA has had the privilege and opportunity to acknowledge and recognize contemporary photographer’s accomplishments in this specialized and highly visible competition. Visit www.photoawards.com

Contact:
Cameron Karsten:
cameron.karsten@gmail.com
http://www.cameronkarsten.com

IPA Contact

Jade Tran
Competition Director
International Photography Awards
jtran@iawardsinc.com

Photo of the Day: ICP Award Selection & Burke Museum Public Opening Saturday, June 30th

Opening Day
Saturday, June 30
10 am – 5 pm

Join the Burke Museum as the winning photographs of the International Conservation Photography Awards are revealed at the exhibit’s Opening Day, and my award-winning image Lanes, pictured below:

“Lanes”, © 2012 Cameron Karsten Photography

Get a rare glimpse into how the photos were captured and the selection process behind the competition. Four of the honored photographers will speak about their work, photographic techniques, and passion for conservation on June 30. Judges from the panel will offer visitors guided tours of the exhibit.

Click here for a schedule of activities and details.

Opening Day activities are included with museum admission and are FREE for Burke members.

The 2012 International Conservation Photography Awards exhibit is organized by the Burke Museum in partnership with the ICP Awards.

One Life: An International Photography Competition – Vote for CK Photo!

One Life is launching a photography competition and I’ve uploaded my images to share with the world.  Please check out the slideshow highlighting the human element of people and their bodily expressions.  Then consider voting for my drive and passion within the field.  Thank you!

One Life: Cameron Karsten Photography

Visit One Life now to view the rest of the images and vote!

Fine Art Photography: Earth’s Spiral

Earth’s Spiral (21″ x 14″) – Queensland, Australia 2008

Black and White giclée fine art print

1st of 25 editions

Crescent moonlight matting with Nielson matte black framing

Matted/Unframed: $295

Matted/Framed: $345

by Cameron Karsten Photography

(currently exhibited in the Eastman Building next to Moda Salon – Bainbridge Island, Wa)

Global Team for Local Initiatives & Lori Pappas

Come join Lori Pappas, founder of BI-based Global Team for Local Initiatives (GTLI) on Friday, December 10th, from 5 – 6:30PM at The Bainbridge Commons on Bainbridge Island.  As founder of the non-profit, Lori spends over six months in Africa working with the Hamar Tribe of southwest Ethiopia and has returned to WA to share her stories of building a school to educate the Hamar women, as well as the trials of teaching the people basic hygiene and sanitation as preventative illness practices.  Earlier this year, Lily Brewis and I spent 10 days with Lori and the Hamar, documenting GTLI’s work with pictures and film.  I’m pleased to announce the debuting of the first short film I’ve helped put together about their work among the Hamar.  There will also be a slideshow, drinks and snacks to consume, as well as authentic Hamar jewelry and two fine art prints by Cameron Karsten Photography (matted and framed) depicting the Hamar people available for purchase.  Proceeds will go towards Global Team for Local Initiatives.  I hope to see you there!

Photography: Ethiopian Hospitality Revisited

Woodblock Seasons, Sweet Gum Prints

Woodblock printing is either a small-scale process or a large-range endeavor. Contributor Cameron Karsten explores the process and the result through artist Tracy Lang’s eye for detail and love of the end result.

via Woodblock Seasons, Sweet Gum Prints.

Photo Essay: RIP – Sir Howard of Fletcher

The greatest, most largest, most gargantuan red golden retriever has been laid to rest.  Sir Howard of Fletcher joins the ranks of eternal bliss.

At thirteen years old, Old Man Withers lived a beautiful regal life.  On his final day, a McDonalds cheeseburger and ice cream cone touched his palate like a king before two final injections sedated Howie and sent him to his final sleep.  We love you Howie.  You were the best companion!  XOXO