TOBACCOLAND - Harvest season life in Pinar del Rio - Cuba’s Westernmost province.
Excited that my project Tobaccoland is starting to see the light of day. It was shot over 2.5 weeks in Western Cuba. The farming community was so welcoming, and I’ll forever be indebted to the kind smiles and open doors from Ricardo, Ismelys, Bolo y Juana, Pepé y China, Lissette, and especially, Dear Roly and his family.
Though the project may take future turns and explorations, the introduction is over. Couldn’t have been done without the help of Katherine, who provided great help and time and sacrifice and understanding - thank you from the depths, my love.
For the imagery and caption infos, head on to —–> www.douglasdespres.org/tobaccoland
UPDATE #1: Tobaccoland published as a feature travel story by Nowhere Magazine on their website at https://nowheremag.com/2019/04/tobaccoland/.
Going back to our roots and family throughout New England has become somewhat of an annual pilgrimage. Massachusetts and Maine and a little New Hampshire. Blueberries, lobster, mosquitos, humidity, long days and late mornings and record players crooning with tea and Korean food and rich grass and musty halls and piano fury and crabs wrapped in seaweed..
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Rachel’s portrait session ended up happening on her birthday. We first met in Standing Rock, and have become better friends since. Her, Katherine and me headed up to Bolinas on a sunny California afternoon. It was her first legit photo session, so we were honored with a great many energies and emotions. An A/V piece corresponding with her first reactions to seeing these images is due out soon.
An image of Katherine in our kitchen from a kind friend’s Rolleiflex. Thank you Stephanie ~
Imagery from a trip to New England in March. My mom was injured after a fall off Wintry steps, so I traveled back from California to help in daily activities for a week. Though not photographing her road of recovery, here are images that floated up during the journey. Glad to say that she’s near fully healed.
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A New Hampshire road in March.
Bob Fogg, now retired, kept time in Hancock New Hampshire by winding the town clock twice a week for fifty years. He explains the timing gears while joking about the puddles of sweat on the floor in the Summer months. He still gives private tours up through the clock tower if you can track him down. It takes 168 revolutions of the heavy double-hand crank to lift the counter weight all the way to the top of it’s chamber, where it slowly steadily lowers towards the floor, two stories below.
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Bob Fogg explains the gear mechanisms inside the clock tower in Hancock New Hampshire, high above the First Congregational Church in downtown. Though retired, he still leads the occasional private tour.
More on Bob and his story can be found in the following three journalism articles by the Keene Sentinel, and Yankee Magazine.
Side-note… my first job, when I was little, was delivering newspapers throughout my local Jaffrey New Hampshire neighborhood for the Keene Sentinel, which I’d often do on rollerblades, trying to out-do my best time… think my record was 9 minutes…
1.Keene Sentinel - http://www.sentinelsource.com/news/local/father-time-himself-in-the-person-of-bob-fogg/article_e74877f5-dd78-5f5a-b1f2-58b1b21311d2.html
2. Peterborough Transcript - http://www.ledgertranscript.com/Archives/2015/12/haFogg-ml-122415
3. Yankee Magazine - https://newengland.com/yankee-magazine/living/profiles/clock-caretaker/
Excited that some photographs created in Standing Rock last year will be included at the 2017 Noble Peace Prize Forum exhibit “Across Dividing Lines” in Oslo, Norway. Thank you Stephanie Hope Smith for putting the call out, and to Jonathan and Romin for looping me in. Stephanie will be a panel speaker, discussing her work as a conciliator and mediator in regard to tribal nations.
Other journalists and documentarians covering the conflict will have images up, including Romin Lee Johnson and Jonathan Klett, among others. The imagery will be supporting materials for a panel discussion and two days of high level closed door talks. One of the forum’s main points will be to celebrate the work of activist Rigoberta Menchú, who won the Noble Peace Prize 25 years ago in 1992 for her work with environmental and indigenous rights in Guatemala. She will also be speaking on Monday, December 11 2017, which will be streamed live by the Noble people.
More about the inspiring and heart breaking history of Rigoberta’s career ongoing fight for justice and equality begins in this link on the Noble site… https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1992/tum-bio.html
The Northern California wine country blazes have been devastating throughout the counties North of San Francisco, especially for all the families. Family homes and family businesses. The ones that have little to no insurance, and are planning on crowd funding campaigns is where I come in. The most effective way I can help is with strong imagery, so I’m organizing a small mobile team to create documentary family portraits for the victims to use in their crowdfunding campaign efforts next week, October 16 through 20.
Research is currently underway for logistics and materials, and there are strong sponsorships coming through from the photographic industry. We have sponsorship from Samy’s Camera in San Francisco and Richard Photo Lab out of Los Angeles. If your organization wants to join the team as a sponsor for photographic goods or services, please send me a note.
Seeking press credentials (now) and media outlet coverage (now), so please contact me if you can help.
If you know of an individual, couple, family, or family business, with plans to crowd fund, please get in touch. GoFundMe is the leading place for recovery funds from fire tragedies, so that is the focus. The main image on there is where we want to put a powerful and real image to affect donations. I’m looking to photograph people in front of their damaged / lost properties if possible, which is incredibly hard emotionally, but pairs with the greatest potential for sympathy which in turn leads to monetary donations for their campaigns. We will also be on the ground near shelters and evac centers to do many portraits and advise / educate on crowdfunding.
* UPDATES *
* 10/13/17 update - Just got off the phone with Samy’s, and we’re good to go for equipment for next week.
* 10/12/17 update - American Red Cross comm director escorted me around to meet people and photograph a victims at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds evacuation center. Contact given to nearby Red Cross evacs.
Kris, A Santa Rosa Evacuee, spends his 58th birthday at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, where the American Red Cross has stationed one of the largest evacuation centers for the North Bay fires.
photo by Douglas Despres
May Day march through downtown San Francisco on Market Street, which was fully closed off to all traffic on Monday, May 01 2017. Please tap or click on photo to cycle through.
Photos by Douglas Despres.
Keanu Gutierrez of Alameda assists ticket holders for a live “simulcast” of the Academy Awards at the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex in Alameda, California on February 26, 2017. Patrons came through this Cinema Grill entrance were able to have food and drinks served directly to their seats.
January 21, 2017. A day after Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States of America, Women from all around the world spear-headed protests and marches. Throughout the U.S. there numbered near three million people. San Francisco, with about 100,000 people, was one such city.
Downtown, in the pouring rain, we rallied against the most unqualified and destabilizing president in the history of the United States.
Grateful to the Magnum Photos agency for the SF masterclass this past weekend. The encouraging words from the other students, but especially from Matt and Lauren from the agency, were so very valuable and appreciated. Thank you so much. I’ll keep your spirited thoughts in my head in the journey ahead and smile at spending time with new friends throughout the bay.
Visiting family in the far Northern reaches of Maine in the Summer, which involved bobbing in and out of Canada a couple times. Feels nice making images outside of commissions or projects. Please tap or click on large photo below to cycle through the images.
Kwi Nam’s feet covered in mud, Machiasport Maine.
Docent at the historic Roosevelt Summer House on Campobello Island in Canada.
A man walking towards his small boat in the St. Andrew’s harbor in Canada.
Katherine and her Mom in front of the barn door in Machiasport, Maine
Walking through Cutler State Park in Lubec, Maine.
Honored to have the good people at Nowhere Magazine feature my Standing Rock photos on their website and Annual print edition.
Proper thanks goes to all the indigenous-led water protectors and their allies for all that they do for themselves, the 18 million people down the river who depend on clean water, and indigenous, human, and environmental rights the world over. Thank you for the warm welcome and letting me document a little piece of magic.
Also big thanks to the other journalists who welcomed me, shared contacts and rides, and provided invaluable energy and support. This means you Romin Lee & Jenny Johnson, Bonnie Chan, Jeenah Moon, Terray Sylvester, Sara LaFleur, Jonathan Klett, Mark Manley, Wesaam Al-Badry, Alyssa Schukar, and Larry Towell.
Standing Rock Imagery on Nowhere Magazine… http://nowheremag.com/2016/12/standing-rock/
Standing Rock 25 pg feature / Nowhere Magazine Annual
Homepage image / Nowhere Magazine
Standing Rock online feature / Nowhere Magazine
So thankful for all the people in North Dakota who are fighting to protect the water today. Here’s an image of a group riding to the main camp on 1806 after a prayer service in September 2016.
It’s the base of all that is happening at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s main Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannonball, North Dakota. It’s also the gentle tide under the protective actions in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline, or “Black Snake,” as it is also widely known.
Care is either being used as a deep well of respect and action and prayer by the protectors, or against, in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline workers and their tentacles of Energy Transfer Partners, major US banks, and an increasingly aggressive local and regional law enforcement presence that is violating human rights on such a scale and frequency that the Obama administration, Amnesty International, and United Nations have mobilized.
Care is what is the heart of this movement against another systemic ripping of a national treaty, this time with the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. For more about the treaty and history of the what has been happening with the DAPL, please click on the links below at the end of this article.
Here however, focus rests on my direct time in the Oceti Sakowin Camp over nearly two weeks.
First, daily life around the camp is peaceful, slow, and filled with conversation, prayer, song, dance and communal meals. Conversations between thirty minutes and an hour and a half when you meet someone are normal. The direct actions and ensuing spot news headlines are but a sliver of the whole arc of the story. Protectors acting on behalf of their people, as well as all of the families of every color and size down the Missouri River, show their commitment by steadfast presence. At both ends of the day, and home away from any non-violent direct actions, this is where the majority of the people will be. This is the heart, along with the sister and original Sacred Stone Camp across the river. At any time of day or night, I felt infinitely safer than in the San Francisco bay area where I live. The possession of alcohol, drugs or weapons is strictly forbidden in the main camp, and regularly repeated over the center microphone throughout the day. There is a large banner hanging down from the the main camp entrance checkpoint that reads “WE ARE UNARMED.”
Second, here is what the camp really is to me.
Oceti Sakowin Camp to me is Dean on top of a hill fielding loving nuzzles of his young daughter as she giggles and kisses for his attention. It’s Roselyn inviting me inside her trailer after preparing me soup on a cold rainy day, to educate me about sweat lodges and the preparation of tobacco ties. It’s Rachel telling me about how she was put up for adoption as a baby along with one other of her seven brothers and sisters, because the government continued, even in the seventies, a culturally disastrous relocation program started in 1948 to take natives out of their lands and place them in cities were they would find more “opportunity.” It’s Frank galloping by on his horse wearing a trench coat and a smile, maybe with a woman holding on tight. It’s Tom politely asking me why I came to the camp and how I was aiming to help. It’s Ron helping at the donation tent and deadpaning that though his last name is His Horse is Thunder, that in fact his steed is “slow as shit.” It’s James preparing coffee at all hours of the day and seeing his eyes shine when describing his passion in making violins. It’s Warren offering a tent for me to sleep in in case mine is too wet. It’s Edward welcoming with a smile and showing his two white horses at sunset. It’s Phillip sharing coffee and explaining how his horses that he brings to the camp every week are also used in at-risk-youth and veterans therapy programs. Then telling me he is the fifth generation grandson Chief Running Antelope, the only Native American to ever grace the face of a US banknote. It’s the traditional dancers and singers of the Lakota, Cheyenne, Hopi, Apache, Crow, Algonquin, Aztec and Navajo nations around the central sacred fire. It’s Elijah discussing historic racism, advanced biology, chemistry, current affairs, astrology and human rights.. then learning he’s 15. It’s taking my hat or head-covering off during prayers that are voiced in any number of languages. It’s being asked not to photograph or film during sacred times. It’s being humbled to enjoy these experiences outside the viewfinder. It’s the delightful heart happy smell of smudge (tobacco / sweet grass / cedar / sage) near ceremonial sites and areas of gentle purification. It’s the grin of Dallas as he heads down the hill into the camp to be in ten thousand places at once. It’s Phyllis asking to be in the photo too, next to the congressman. It’s a community of communicators nestled around the solar arrays to charge their smart phones. It’s Robert telling me about sun dances and showing me scars from the ritual while tearing up about what is happening to the land. It’s Talon telling me about the Winter preparations for the camp and hearing his excitement about working with rescued BLM mustangs. It’s Kim proudly showing Tanka bars, made in North Dakota and sold worldwide, which were named after her little brother. It’s Waskuya explaining the family history of her great, great, great grandfather Little Crow while she shows me the steps of preparing sweet corn. It’s Courage dashing back and forth across camp to help with the kitchen, or teach a civil disobedience direct action class. It’s Deborah swiftly walking about in bare feet in a long dress and wide-brimmed hat while talking on the soul crushing emptiness of the wild buffalo herds. It’s hearing Victor and helping him connect with his girlfriend so that she can make it back over to the camp. It’s Erika holding her flag from Ecuador in front of a line of tipis. It’s Stephanie delighting in her ability to use her white heritage and privilege as a tool to secure paperwork and connections through government agencies. It’s Alicia and Liljana with their energetic group from Southern California setting up camp and looking for the chairman to hand deliver a large donation. It’s returning back to California with part of my heart left behind in Standing Rock.
Photographing for nearly two weeks in and around and main camp, there bubbled a constant theme - peace. Not just among the local people… or even the other indigenous nations who have appeared in solidarity by the hundreds with staked flags waving in long-term support on Flag Row… but also among the journalists, activists and allies the world over.
Donations come from every corner of the globe in forms of clothes, food, water, shelter, medicine, toiletries and day to day items such as lighters, flashlights, batteries and solar powered smart phone chargers. Larger donations include logging shipments on flatbed trailers, moose and buffalo meat, entire tipis and tents and sacred items such as pipes and regalia. Donations striking more of a personal chord are also arriving, such as a basketball and nylon nets from a kind heart in the San Francisco Bay area for the youth at camp who adore the sport. Also materials for the children’s onsite home school.
Asking for help spreads throughout all here. Coffee, chopping wood, meal prep, washing dishes, receiving shipments, building shelves, butchering buffalo, staking and clearing tents and camps - it all seems like a living, breathing organism fueled by generosity and balance. One palpable wonder? People help. People help instinctively, tapping into something that in mainstream US culture or big cities is largely lost… one person, two people, three or four.. a swarm of hands and eyes appear, often without a second asking.
Care is the real story of Oceti Sakowin camp, and what the protectors and their allies stand for. It’s a place of working together, in league with humanity and the earth, so that our grandchildren can be honored by our actions, and not shamed by them.
Here is a link to official Oceti Sakowin Camp’s website, for many more details and donation information - http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/
Images aligning with these words can be found in a series of photographs here - http://www.douglasdespres.org/standing-rock
Intro to info about the 1856 Fort Laramie Treaty - https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/sioux-treaty, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Fort_Laramie_(1868)
Intro to the water protection efforts at Standing Rock - http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/09/dapl-dakota-sitting-rock-sioux/499178/
Like many others, I’m filled with ….. that the next president is such a vile representation of the American culture.
There are those of us who will organize and fight, and stand up for all of our brothers and sisters that are fearful and scared. Please count me in.
The darker the situation, the greater effect of the light.
A story about the massive movement headed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the Dakota Access Pipeline for protection of clean water.
Spent 12 days there, getting the story and images prepped now. Shot on film with trusty little camera. Arranging plans to go back this month to continue the coverage.
Here’s a rundown of what’s going on… https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/12/north-dakota-standing-rock-protests-civil-rights. Beyond that article, Google up imagery and stories by the talented visual storytellers Romin Lee Johnson, Sara Lafleur-Vetter, Jonathan Klett, Jeenah Moon, Terray Sylvester, Alyssa Schukar, Bonnie Chang, and Larry Towell.
A few years ago a group of old and new friends got together for camping and nonsense in Central California… here’s an image from the experience.
I could spend days on end taking street photographs around Kyoto..
The trust and intimacy experienced as an invited on set photographer is incredible. Always so nice. This is from a short film with Hollywood actor Raymond Ma, starring alongside Katherine Park in “I Don’t Have a Phone” in Los Angeles.
“Do, or do not… there is no try.” Words that have stayed along through the decades… words from a wise, wrinkled, big-eared fellow who lived in a swamp.