The Visual Advocate Blog


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Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

One of the many news vans parked outside the local mosque in my city.

I didn’t plan to write this post until last night when I found out that someone tried to set the mosque in my city on fire because the 19-year old Somali immigrant who tried to detonate a bomb during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Pioneer Square in Portland, Oregon occasionally worshiped there.

As soon as my wife and I heard about this we called our Muslim friends to tell them we were praying for them and ask if there was anything we could do. I ended up going to the mosque to talk and eat with the leaders as a sign of my friendship and support.

I arrived right before evening prayers began so after chatting briefly with a few of my Muslim friends, they took their place in line to pray and I sat in the back and waited for them to finish.

After the prayers ended we went downstairs to eat and talk more about what had happened at Pioneer Square and why someone would try to burn down the mosque.

Remnants of Qurans that were not totally destroyed by the fire.

Everyone I talked with shared the same thing; they didn’t want people to think that this terrorist represented them, their mosque or the global system of Islam. Having spent a lot of time with these guys as well as with Muslims around the world, I knew what they were saying is true. We must not believe the major media that makes it seem that terrorism is a foundational part of Islam. The reality is that only about 4% of Muslims world wide are the fanatical types behind acts of terrorism like what happened in Portland.

Flowers and notes outside the mosque demostrating support for the Muslims in our city

So I just want to end with this. Please don’t let fear stop you from taking the steps to reach out to Muslims you know. In our post 9/11 world we must not let fear drive up to believe stereotypes and biases about people that are not true. Yes there are people in the world who call themselves Muslims and are doing horrible things. But the reality is there are people from every religion in the world doing things that dishonor God and perpetuate hateful stereotypes, biases and prejudice that divides peoples and cultures. Let’s not let our lives be ruled by fear.


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A simple way to give back soon

Around the world on December 4th, photographers and others will be dedicating their time, energy and skills to bless and benefit those in need in their communities by taking their portraits for free. The vehicle for these acts of benevolence is a movement called Help-Portrait.

So if you are a photographer, artist or just someone who wants to bless others, find out if the Help-Portrait has reached your city yet. If not why don’t you think about being the one to bring it to your community!

I know it is still a little less than a month away but I thought I would just put this out there. I will put some pics from our community’s Help-Portrait event.


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Home sweet home!

I am finally home from Cape Town, South Africa and what a trip it was! While I was there for a conference, which took most of my time, I did have a chance to sneek out and do some shooting in the mornings and evenings. Without a doubt, I spent the most time shooting in the Bo Kaap neighborhood, which turned out to be right across the street from my hotel.

As I said in my last post I was very excited about shooting in the Bo Kaap neighborhood, not only because of the vibrant colors but also the chance to interact with the Muslims living in the neighborhood. I have to say that Bo Kaap did not disappoint at all! The colors of almost all the houses were so vibrant and neon even that it almost feels like you are walking through a
3-d commercial for crayola crayons!

The people also turned out to be as bright and vibrant. One of my favorite conversations was with a 75 year old Muslim man named Mohammad Zain who I met on the last day of my trip. While his ancestors were originally from Yemen, Mohammad had lived in the same house for his entire life, which was true of many of the older residents of Bo Kaap I talked with. Anyway, Mohammad and I talked for over 45 minutes and even let me taste a doughnut that his wife made and sold every Sunday morning called a “Cooked Sister”. My only regret during my time in Bo Kaap was that I didn’t have more time to talk with more of the residents over a cup or three of chai tea. I guess that means I will have to take another trip to Cape Town someday!

In addition to getting to shoot almost every day in Bo Kaap, I also had the privilege of visiting a community development project called Sobambisana that was working in the Crossroads Township, among others, of Cape Town. It was a great day of shooting and interacting with the local kids and residents who were either at the school or volunteered with Sobambisana.

Click here to check out my Sobambisana gallery

Click here to check my Bo Kaap gallery

P.S. I also said I was going to start trying to tell some of the stories behind my images from India and other travels. I was going to start that while I was in South Africa but the internet was terrible. My aim is to start this next week….cross your fingers!