Saturday, September 25, 2010


Sarah Rhodes is one of my favorite people and a former roomate at the IXTEEN (aka The Claire Houe). Besides her agonizing aversion over washing any dishes, I was so fortunate to be able to live with her to learn from, to share in creative ideas, and to talk to about boys, naturally. But like 3/4 of the other IXTEEN girls, she was swept away by a boy and has since married. Sarah and her husband Josh make up Team Rhodes. This creative duo can be blamed for numerous great promo and wedding photos throughout the south, as well as great fine art and design that you will probably see popping up more and more. Portland has taken their heart so they won't be around the south much longer, but if you get a chance to see these two in action, take it!

I recently was able to interview Sarah:

se // Who/what first inspired you to pursue photography?

sr + I was in Bible College thinking about ministry but not knowing what to do with my life, and thinking a degree in ministry seems silly unless you want to be a pastor. I'd always loved taking pictures with my point and shoot. My friend Mia enrolled in a photography school in PA, and looking at her photos was so magical and inspiring to me... and the Lord brought everything into place and directed me to which school to go to and everything!

se // What is your favorite thing to shoot? (people, places, etc)

sr + Definitely people! Nothing else is like shooting people.

se//What are your goals as an artist?

sr + That's a good question - I don't have any set goals (maybe I should!). And I also don't tend to see myself as an artist since all I like to do is capture what is already created, and already beautiful! My aim is that my photography conveys an enjoyment of life. Joy, Love, Hope, Honesty, and Contentment in who we are as people - these are the things that I really love to capture. And since this is my full-time job, another goal is just to make enough money to live! Let's be honest! :)

se // What do you want people to take away from your photography?
sr + I'd love for people to look at the photos I take of other people and be able to see proof of a loving and beautiful Creator. I'd love for people to know they are beautiful and they are loved by the Lord - made in the image of Christ.

se // Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

sr + Still working with my best friend in some way - if not photography maybe something fun and crafty... or traveling... either way, I'll still be taking pictures along the way.

se // Any crazy/fun/funny stories/experiences you could share about a photoshoot? (or just your NYC story i think that's my favorite hehe)

sr + Which NYC story? The one where the guy punched my camera? RIDICULOUS!
Well each photoshoot is so different but I feel like each one definitely has its challenges that you can't plan for. For example this past Saturday when we shot Jesse and Julia, my camera about 10 minutes in went crazy. The autofocus stopped working, the screen on the back stopped working, and I couldn't change anything like the white balance or anything. So basically I was shooting blind since my diopter was off (the wheel that adjusts to your eyesight). It was so crazy!! I was so stressed out and panicked, but we made it through and shot for 5 more hours like that. I just had to kick into "pretend I'm shooting film and also I'm blind" gear, and just uploaded images like every 10 minutes to make sure they looked ok. :)

se // Any advice you would give to an aspiring photographer? (ex. school, business, gear, etc)

sr +
1. Save money whenever you can.
2. Shoot Canon :)
3. You don't have to go to Brooks Institute to be a good photographer! I went to a community college and it was amazing, I was shocked. The education was awesome, the tuition was silly-cheap.
4. It helps to have your picture taken by a photographer friend whenever you can - you have to know how to be comfortable in front of the camera in order to make others feel comfortable in front of the camera!
5. Learn from other photographer friends - everyone does things differently, and it's fun to see and learn from each other's workflow.
6. Also if you are thinking about advertising, just see how far you can get with free advertising (being featured on different blogs, using the free vendor guide websites, using facebook and twitter). We made the mistake of shelling out a lot of money for advertising with a big wedding company, and haven't booked anything from it. We have gotten a zillion times more interest from being featured on blogs than we ever have from our paid advertisement!

se // Any last tips/post production secrets you'd like to share?

sr + I use a lot of Photoshop actions and then tweak them to how I like! Actions are a brilliant time-saver. I make a lot of actions for batch processing a ton of photos. Also, I try not to use artificial lighting if I can get away with it. Natural light is so beautiful, and even at noon on a sunny day you can find some shade. At most I use a reflector, unless we are doing a really swank and fancy photoshoot. :)

My favorite of her most recent photoshoots are of our other former saucy minx roomate Julia and her Husband Jesse. Julia has always been my favorite clogger :) Sarah, Julia, and I shared our love for coffee, Starbucks, and Cornerstone. Though I've always been quite concerned about their fascination with metal...

These cannot be experiences without Jesse's playlist. Scroll and listen along to see the full shoot: CHECK IT OUT!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Would Jesus have Facebook?

This past week, I've been asking myself: why the heck am I here? I believe one of my purposes for being in Ethiopia in this time is to get out of this "lifeboat" Donald Miller describes in his book Searching For God Knows What (I'm only half way through but it's already on my you should probably read to understand me a little more list). Before I came to Ethiopia, I believe I had one foot in and one foot out. Meaning I sought acceptance in this world through the ways others view me (who doesn't?) I’ve never been much on fashion, and I surely don’t own many nice things (I would probably break or lose them if I did). But what artist isn’t looking for the approval of others?

Every human being in his/her own human nature has one main drive: to be accepted, loved, and desired by others. Our human nature drives us to buy the clothes we buy, listen to the music we listen to, live in the neighborhood we do, even associate with the boring people we choose to associate with - all for the acceptance of others. All to be seen as hip, or rich, or cool. Whatever you want to call it. Since childhood our main goal has been to be the best of the best, to be in the "A" group as we called it at my middle school. To keep up with the Jones's.

But I don't even like the Jones's. They are boring and stiff and have no real friends. They have no community and the friendships they do have are (as Mean Girls like to put it) plastic.

But what if this desire was gone? What if our motives in life were NOT to get others to like us. What if our main and only motive was to make God happy and to simply allow Him to enjoy US?


I wonder how many times God speaks this to us in His word? It's the message He has been trying to get across to us since day one. Literally. Through Adam. These past few years since I entered the ministry and saw the things and the people who Jesus loved most: the poor, the motherless, the brokenhearted, and that's when I really began to realize how much that "stuff" didn't matter.

The fall of man came when Adam and Eve chose not to get their everything from God. They were so loved by him that it didn't even matter if they weren't wearing clothes! They were so madly in love with life and the Creator that nothing else on this planet seemed of need. But they (by their free will) chose a different course. This separation brought about a need and desire for something to fulfill that relationship that was lost - that relationship with God. The separation from God was so drastic that humans began to kill in order to be the best and rise to the top (Gen 4:5-10). Or as Miller likes to point out: it was so drastic that we all started wearing clothes...

These things have continued since the dawn of time. But where has is gotten us? I don't want to be known for my "stuff". The hardest thing that I'm trying to put down is the fact that I don't even want to be known for my art, my photography, design, but for how I love and serve my God. It's sometimes hard to put away my camera and serve when I secretly and thinking to myself, oh, what a great composition, or I bet this person would take a great portrait. Instead I need to turn my thinking into, wow, how I can I serve this person better today? Maybe it is through art, but most of the time it is not.

I think the most drastic thing that I have thought of in the past but am just now coming back to is how Jesus never once wrote about himself. There are no recorded writings from Him (other than the time he scribbled something in the dirt - which I've always wondered what that something was. Was is a picture? A story? Was it about heaven? Or you? Or me?) But because He was so great, His life was told by others. Those are some pretty tough shoes to fill. Especially in these days of Facebook, and blogs, and flickr that can make anyone look like they’ve achieved greatness by having a huge following.

I do thank all for the compliments on my art and am gratified beyond belief from what I've heard about my design. But what I would really want to be known for is how I serve and give to those in need.

So I'm putting down my camera for the time being until I can use it to serve. I hope you understand this. Maybe I can share my photos and experiences over coffee instead of over the internet one day. Don't be shy, I love a nice smooth Ethiopian blend :)

House of Mercy

Upon arrival you feel as if you've reached a tropical oasis getaway - a diamond in the rough in this grim, dusty, roughly-paved part of town. The trees gallop on each side of your land cruiser as the islanesque interior of the compound welcomes you in.

Fifteen years ago these corridors fell home to 35 orphans. They’ve since grown to be adults and are now all on their own. Working jobs, finishing university, or managing families. The side building was formerly the boys’ bedrooms but now host as classrooms for disabled children.

Each classroom is adorned with the art work made by these precious hands. There are necklaces strung from the ceiling made of wood and pieces of painted metal. Hand prints of all colors and pressed leaves carefully placed stem by stem hang by string. The classrooms remind me of Mrs. Candy's Kindergarten class. So colorful and full of a child's innocence.

The children are taught by a class-level system. A, B, C, and D by which they enter to the next by their mental development. Here in Ethiopia, the culture sees mental and physical handicap as a sign of sin. They are outcast from society and more than likely shunned by their families. On the days these children are not at the House of Mercy, they are more than likely locked inside so neighbors will not see them. These children are allowed to stay in school until they reach the age of 18. Then they are released to other programs, hopefully being taken care of or placed in simple jobs.

It is 10 am and time for tea and bread. A daily ritual looked forward to by all. During our break I watch Yebo, a small young boy with down syndrome sit away from the other children on the outside stairway. Smiling - as happy as can be, spilling his chai all over himself, dancing to the music unheard to the rest of the world.

The compound is lined with palm trees and other greenery helps keep the filth of their homes a distant memory for these few hours each day - except for the twenty days a year during the rainy season. These few weeks are a struggle for the children. They miss the companionship, teaching, and fellowship during this time - locked away by their families.

In the open-air dining hall, little babies lie everywhere. Some infants stay strapped to their mothers’ backs as these poor new moms learn to cook and care for their new babies. A free gift the House of Mercy gives to needy women of the community for a few weeks after their child is born. They are taught basic healthcare for the young babies, how to cook on a budget (since none of them have jobs and some have no other family members), and are given a stiffen of food each week for their provision.

There is one mother here with her daughter. The young girl, almost two, is called China by her neighbors for her pale skin and exotic eyes. China's mom moved to Addis Ababa from the Eastern countryside with her boyfriend. She became pregnant and even though the couple seemed to be in love, the boyfriend left mid-pregnancy, leaving the woman without a family to care for her and a broken heart. Because of this stress and heartache, she gave birth three months prematurely. China's real name is Yesabele which means God Saves. China struggles with many illnesses due to her premature birth, but her mother, with a big smile and high hopes, keeps pressing on.

I love seeing these organizations thriving. There are so many people who care for the poor. There just seems to be unfortunately too many poor to care for. House of Mercy is funded by a small church in East Germany, but I hope my words can encourage someone to help fund this great ministry. I'm hoping to return to learn more stories and see how I can help the children there because this is just a portion of what this small group of staff actually does.

For more info on how to donate: visit their site!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sweet Home Addis Ababa

I made it safely to my favorite land of injera, coffee, and incense. It's been a rough 3 days adjusting to being in rainy, cold Africa. I researched the weather and knew it would be like this, but still I denied it, and only brought my summer clothes. Liz, please bring me socks!

Traveling in Addis is one of my favorite things. It costs a whopping 80 cents to get across town and back. I met a nice guy named Daniel today and talked about how one of the greatest needs here is for education. I agree. He showed me around his part of town as I waited for my next taxi to come. I needed an internet card and wanted to find a bookstore.

I was hesitant to follow him. Obviously.

He said, "Come, sister. Do you know the meaning of trust?"

"Well, yes."

"In trust there is no spirit of cry, only that our love grows!"

After this, I had to see what this guy was up to. He showed me the best road side books stores and helped me to find some magazines. I opted for the Exploring Our World school book. It's filled with pages about Ancient Greece, Egypt, Atlases, German tribes invading the Roman Empire, and even a short article about St. Francis of Assisi.

The last and only person to check it out from Curtis Intermediate was Rae-Lynn Kush on May 27, 1963.

I wonder where good ole' Rae-Lynn is today?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Aspire to Inspire.

Sometimes I forget that I am a part of the world that is beyond my small reality known as Herrnhut. I look at other blogs, online newspapers, video sites and forget that I walk on the very same land mass as everyone else. It's crazy to me to find how we are all connected in one way or another.

I ran across a super cutsie/girly craft blog today and after getting inspired by HER photos, I found that she has been inspired by me too :)

It sort of took me be surprise. You better believe I did a double-take. I'm sure she found me from Promise's blog, but I still marvel that someone would take the time to acknowledge me.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

      "Love is that disciplined act of absolute
      spiritual daring that eviscerates the
      old self of externality so something
      new and inward can come into being."

    - Simon Critchley on Kierkegaard

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Current Reading.

"Eighty-five percent of church resources go to maintaining overhead
and top down programs, whereas two cents of every dollar goes to
support global missions. Opportunities are readily available to invest
in women struggling with poverty through microfinance, for example,
or to help children who are trafficked or who live in trash dumps in
developing countries, as opposed to perpetuating high overhead with
church building programs or new mega sound systems."

-Taking Flight

I think I just threw up a little.

P.S. I donated a little here today. I think you should too :)

Ethiopia! It's official

September 18 - October 26 I will be in Addis Ababa helping a good friend Anna with the Garbage City girls home.

There I will be documenting the daily life of the girls and getting a few interviews with the locals about their thoughts on the area of Korah (Garbage City) Ethiopia.

I may even head back down to the Karo Tribe in the south for a week to see my buddys Bona and Biwa! It's a 3 day drive through Arba Minch and Jinka to the Omo river.

Oh what beauty is ahead!

Thursday, September 2, 2010