What's the story behind the photo collage?

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)

  1. Stained Glass Window, Beth Meyer Synagogue, Raleigh, NC
  2. Mokoro Poler and Passenger, Okavango Delta, Botswana
  3. Public Gallery Seats at Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, Scotland
  4. Flowers in Spring, Baden-Baden, Germany
  5. Bird by Miga, Maboneng Neighborhood, Johannesburg, South Africa

Second Row (L to R)

  1. Fish Market Boats, Male, Maldives
  2. Life is Beautiful, 15th St NW between R and S Streets NW, Washington, DC
  3. Woman Feeding Pigeons, Male, Maldives
  4. Streetart by Nelson Makano, Maboneng Neighborhood, Johannesburg, South Africa
  5. Rainbow and Waterfall, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Third Row (L to R)

  1. Stolpersteine (Stumbling Blocks) by Gunter Demnig, Prague, Czech Republic. Learn more about this project here.
  2. Candy Rack at a Convenience Store, Namibia
  3. Garden Love Seat, Cluny House, Findhorn Foundation, Forres, Scotland
  4. Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusmama, Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
  5. Quote by Nelson Mandela, Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa

Fourth Row (L to R)

  1. "And What's the Matter with Idealism, Darling?" by Charles Avery, Kochi-Muziris Biennial, Kerala, India
  2. Garlands for Sale at the Flower Market, Madurai, India
  3. Dangerous Women, Fort Kochi Beach, Kerala, India
  4. Lilac-Breasted Roller, Chobe National Park, Botswana
  5. Colorful Window, Mamallapuram, Tamil-Nadu, India

Bottom Row (L to R)

  1. Women's Bathroom at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern 2, Edinburgh, Scotland.
  2. Window, Charleston, South Carolina
  3. Alison Jumping on the Salt Pan, Etosha National Park, Namibia
  4. Sloss Furnaces National Historic Site, Birmingham, AL
  5. Street Art by hoxxoh, NOMA, Washington, DC 

Which images are your favorites?  Leave a comment, or get in touch via emailTwitterInstagram, or LinkedIn.