In case you missed it, this photo collage was featured in our launch announcement: Introducing Optimistic Anthropology!
Last year, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing mindfulness coach named Melissa Maher. Early in our collaboration, she asked me to make a list of all the things that bring me joy. Unprompted, I made the list and being a person who loves systems and taxonomies (I am an anthropologist after all), I organized the individual items on the list into categories: community, nature, art, and learning. Melissa encouraged me to do something that brings me joy everyday. And around that time, I found myself noticing things around me -- in my neighborhood, in my workplace -- in a different way. And when it tickled my fancy, I often pulled out my smartphone and snapped a photo.
While I was traveling from November to May, I took thousands of photos. There were so many moments of joy, even when the subject matter was not joyous. Almost every day I would upload one to three of them to Instagram. In part, I did this because it was an easy way to let the people closest to me know where I was in the world and that I was safe. But, what started to emerge for me, was that the photos and the stories and reflections and histories I was writing to accompany the photos were a simple way for me to process what I was learning, to see connections between different places I was traveling in, and share it with others. They became part post card, part travel journal.
So, when I started building the web site for Optimistic Anthropology, I realized I had many amazing images that I captured during these travels (and previous trips as well). And that the photos helped me realize that I am an optimistic anthropologist. I had framed the question "how do I want to contribute positively to the world?" and each experience and photo was an opportunity to do a little fieldwork, and understand the world and what I was drawn to a bit better.
So, I figured that I'd include a bit of that joy, and energy, and anthropology in action as part of the launch of this new venture through this photo collage. And I won't leave you hanging, here's a bit about each image.
Top Row (L to R)
- Stained Glass Window, Beth Meyer Synagogue, Raleigh, NC
- Mokoro Poler and Passenger, Okavango Delta, Botswana
- Public Gallery Seats at Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, Scotland
- Flowers in Spring, Baden-Baden, Germany
- Bird by Miga, Maboneng Neighborhood, Johannesburg, South Africa
Second Row (L to R)
- Fish Market Boats, Male, Maldives
- Life is Beautiful, 15th St NW between R and S Streets NW, Washington, DC
- Woman Feeding Pigeons, Male, Maldives
- Streetart by Nelson Makano, Maboneng Neighborhood, Johannesburg, South Africa
- Rainbow and Waterfall, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Third Row (L to R)
- Stolpersteine (Stumbling Blocks) by Gunter Demnig, Prague, Czech Republic. Learn more about this project here.
- Candy Rack at a Convenience Store, Namibia
- Garden Love Seat, Cluny House, Findhorn Foundation, Forres, Scotland
- Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusmama, Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
- Quote by Nelson Mandela, Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa
Fourth Row (L to R)
- "And What's the Matter with Idealism, Darling?" by Charles Avery, Kochi-Muziris Biennial, Kerala, India
- Garlands for Sale at the Flower Market, Madurai, India
- Dangerous Women, Fort Kochi Beach, Kerala, India
- Lilac-Breasted Roller, Chobe National Park, Botswana
- Colorful Window, Mamallapuram, Tamil-Nadu, India
Bottom Row (L to R)
- Women's Bathroom at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern 2, Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Window, Charleston, South Carolina
- Alison Jumping on the Salt Pan, Etosha National Park, Namibia
- Sloss Furnaces National Historic Site, Birmingham, AL
- Street Art by hoxxoh, NOMA, Washington, DC