Right from the get go expat photographer Karen Brodie immersed herself in photographing Belize culture. Over the course of her time here she has become very popular, having taken many many pictures of all things Belize.
Recently a large number town folk turned up to see Karen Brodie photography opening of The Golden Years Project at the San Pedro House of Culture. Without a doubt I knew it was going to be a good show and that Karen would bring out the best in her subjects be it sadness, happiness or the wide range of emotions in between.
As you will read in her story below, the the elderly of San Pedro were the subject of the show. Karen did a great job capturing the spirit of the people she was photographing. I talked to a few people opening night, and everyone I spoke to was really enjoying her work. You could tell as you walked around the room and saw peoples faces that the pictures were highly impactful and very sentimental. Well done Karen! Your work is wonderful and a great tribute to your new home. Big shout out to Sara who did an amazing mathematical feat in hanging the pictures. You nailed that one. Not an easy task.
I did not get a chance to talk to him at the event, but I knew my friend Zaman would have a thoughtful and inspiring story about that night and Karen’s work and he was willing to share.
Here is what Zaman Khan had to say
A photograph is simply photons, an instant in time. A swift click, a slap of the mirror and a clatter of shutter curtains opening and closing; simple, nothing more. A photograph however is more, it must tell a story.
My time in San Pedro is coming close to a year, during these months, I run, I study, and sometimes I mingle. The photographs adorning the walls of San Pedro’s hall of Culture whisper the stories of the island; the past generation, what this island once was. House of culture, what a perfect venue to celebrate the people who ARE San Pedro.
Ms. Brodie, didn’t just take pictures, she captured emotions, captured lives, captured the time that is and was. What a humbling experience to stand in front of a man who celebrates his own youth: “The key to looking young is to have a young girl on each arm” – Efrain Guerrero, “The owl comes no more.” What a humbling experience to stand in front of a man who spent his life fishing, what a humbling experience to see the same man I once ran past on a daily basis -the man who Sweeps the sidewalk in front of Grand Bayman- and feel the sorrow that I’ve never once spoken to him. [Interesting how the man that made Zaman feel sorrow made me happy as we often exchange pleasant greetings]
Notice how I say, in front of the man –not the photograph- because that is how I felt. I experienced more of the life that lives here in a mere half hour touring the facility than I have in months of living on the island. Some of the pictures moved me, some made me feel regret, some made me peer inside myself, all left me with a piece of San Pedro. I tried to thank Ms. Brodie during the gallery, she says: “Oh don’t make me cry” well don’t do the same to me, or do. Thank you Ms. Brodie: one of MY photographic influences, thank you for the experience.
Now for the star of the show Karen Brodie
If you were not able to make opening night of her show, you have a whole month to go and see it. Her story below about how the show all came about is very much a tale of San Pedro synchronicity and allowing the universe to help you create your vision while you enjoy watching it unfold. What a great Grand Finale Karen, thanks for the invite 🙂 See more of Karen’s work by liking Karen Brody Photography facebook page. You can also visit karenbrodie.com to learn more about the popular photographer and what inspires her.
The Story of the Golden Years Project
18 months ago I arrived in San Pedro to make my new home. Once I had found a place to live, I began thinking about undertaking a disciplined personal project in my photography journey. The photographers whose work I find inspiring speak often about the importance of undertaking these types of projects. While I’d organized, photographed, and run one day Help Portrait collaborative shoot projects with other photographers three years running, I had never deliberately set out on such an extensive solo project commitment.
As I started pondering the theme, every time I took my daily walk down the beach, I saw Miss Lourdes sitting in her wheelchair with a big smile on her face, gazing out to sea, and I thought what an incredible way to spend your days as an old woman. It was during one of those walks that I started to think “wouldn’t it be awesome to undertake creating a body of work focused on the elderly of San Pedro”.
Perhaps it was the anguish of leaving my children to check in weekly on my very independent 92 year old mother-in-law, May, living alone in the suburbs, that was weighing heavy on my heart that drew me to this project. May had always been more motherly to me than my own; May was nurturing, supportive and accepting of me as I am, unlike my mother.
I had no plan and no idea how I would convince the elders of San Pedro to let me take their photos. I simply figured that over time, somehow, some way, one photo at a time, I would undertake the project and create a body of work of maybe 40 or 50 photos, despite the fact that I don’t speak Spanish or Creole, let alone understand either of them. I had no plan or idea of what to do with the body of work once I made it; my only focus was on the making.
A few weeks passed and the idea continued to percolate in my mind. I didn’t share the idea with anyone. Even so, the universe began conspiring to make the project happen.
I had met Terryl Godoy – Man @ Work and made a few photographs for him. He suggested that I must meet Mito Paz as he was very involved with the art, music and culture of San Pedro. One day Man @ Work showed up at my apartment to introduce Mito Paz to me. During our introduction, I shared my idea. Mito was super excited. He had wanted to build up the museum archives with photographs for some time and already had lists of people to photograph and began talking about an exhibition. His enthusiasm was contagious and I am ever so grateful to him for facilitating the introductions, driving me around town with the gear, being the lighting assistant, translator, and ambassador of the project. and this exhibition
Early in November, 2013, Mito took me to meet Miss Cecilia Lara and photograph her for her 99th birthday … and so the project was born.
Since then more than 90 people over the age of 65 have been photographed. There are at least 50 more people remaining on the “to be photographed” list.
I am honored and truly grateful for San Pedro’s generous hearts and the entire experience. I extend a huge thank you to each and every one of the elders and their families for participating, opening their doors and hearts, and sharing a little of their life’s journey with me.
I hope you enjoy viewing the photographs as much as I enjoyed making them.
~ Karen Brodie