"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

50 Portraits—A Project For 2013

Posted in 50 Portraits Project (2013), Photography, Portraits by matt on Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A self-portrait taken on the roof of our office building.

Happy New Year! I hope you’re well and looking forward to 2013.

In the spirit of new beginnings and unrealistic expectations, I’ve decided to try something a little different. I’ve never really committed myself to any kind one-year resolution or project; this is new.

It’s uncomfortable.

It’s over my head.

It’s the perfect thing to plaster all over the internet at risk of my own humiliation.

I’m going to take 50 posed portraits between now and the year’s-end.

If you were waiting to read something epic like shark-dueling or scaling Everest, well, sorry. But this is actually a good challenge for me. It’s a portrait a week in a year when I’m slated to travel and work quite a lot.

A few rules upfront:

1) There can only be one subject in the photo. There can be other people in the shot, but they shouldn’t be the focus. The subject also has to be human.

2) There can only be one non-ambient light source. The sun or other ambient lighting is fine, but I only get one manually-added light source. This one shouldn’t be hard to follow considering all I have is an old Canon flash.

3) The subject must be posed and aware that their picture is being taken. That means ninjaed snapshots and street photography don’t count. Each subject will be informed of the purpose of the portrait and will be offered a free 10×5″ print.

4) I have to post at least 50 of these portraits on this blog. I can post more here or in other places, but that’s the number and locale I’m aiming for.

5) I can’t just post the shots I like. Given my penchant for self-criticism, I doubt I’ll reach 50 if I only post the ones I really like anyway. Shoot, I’d be lucky to reach 10. So I’m going to show you whatever I come up with, and we’ll see if I manage to improve over time.

Now, someone in the nice, friendly suburb of Pleasantville, America might laugh at this little challenge of mine. “50? How is that a challenge? I could walk around my award-winning neighborhood and do that in 2 hours!”

Sadly, I don’t have access to that kind of sunshine.

In my town, you’re guilty until proven innocent; you’re CIA if you travel a lot, a womanizer if you talk ‘too much’ to girls, and a crusading culture-stealer if you talk ‘too much’ about your faith.

People here can be way sensitive.

Iraq has more cultural scars than I’ll probably ever understand. Eyebrows are easily raised, and can I really blame them? They’ve been used and abused by governments, despots, wars, and so on.

But I digress.

Given all that cultural bizness and my busy schedule of travel and work, I will be very pleased with 50 portraits. So stick with me and offer constructive feedback whenever you’re in the mood. If my shots are looking too similar, tell me. If you see something I should tweak or try to improve on, leave a comment.

The whole point of this is to bless people I meet and to improve my camera-work!

VIDEO: Dance Parties In The Rain | Bringing In The New Year, Kurdish Style

Posted in Videos, Videos By Me by matt on Sunday, January 8, 2012


Well it’s only a week late, but here’s a short video Cayla and I put together from our time wandering the streets together on New Year’s Eve.

Clustered parties lined one of our city’s main drags for the last 6 hours of 2011. I’m always surprised at how furiously Kurds will celebrate the holidays of others, and this was no exception. Their cultural new year isn’t until March, but thousands of people still partied, ate and danced the year away.

It was an excellent ending to an excellent year.

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