The Last Great Adventure

•September 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Last year, Hala—my best friend in the whole universe—and I embarked on a two week European adventure. It came at the tail end of a rough summer. None of these monuments/museums/sites would’ve been as impressive without my gal and favorite architect along for the ride.

Editing them in anticipation of her visit to NYC today. Ya know, instead of showering.

This is the Turkey/France edition. Stay tuned for Spain (which hopefully won’t take me another year to edit).

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Matching was just a random bonus.


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We walked all the way up the Eiffel Tower. Then laid down. That could sort of sum up our entire trip.

Jessi & Randy

•July 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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My dope friend Bess had other dope friends getting married and they tapped me to shoot.

When I met Jessi & Randy, and they told me they were getting hitched on 7/11, I asked if they knew what that meant. Jessi replied something along the lines of “Yeah yeah, Beyoncé’s song…”

“No. 7-Elevens nationwide have free slurpees. So your guests might have mad sugar highs,” I replied. That was my professional input as a self-proclaimed “fatty Midwesterner.”

Somehow they ended up hiring me. And then they let me do whatever I wanted, like the following stop-motion video.

Jessi & Randy from Kholood Eid on Vimeo.

Strangers & Surprises

•November 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

_DSC2469My first view of the West Bank after crossing in.

Based on my previous post, there’s clearly a recurring theme happening here. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m still in a transitional phase (although when you think of it, isn’t Life one big continuous transitional thing? Sorry, it’s a rainy day with Radiohead blaring in my ears…).

This summer, as many of my friends and family know, I spent a little over two months in Haifa. What a strange place and time it was. I’ll delve into my experience as well as the women I met and photographed, who taught me much more than I expected to learn, another time. For now, a brief trip to the Old Country.

Unfortunately, I was only able to travel to the West Bank twice this summer—once to surprise relatives the evening before Eid Al-Fitr, the other for a beloved relative’s funeral two days before leaving the country. If I should ever finish this damn master’s project, I would like to dedicate it to Khalti Asia—one of the greatest women I’ve ever known. Strong, gentle, selfless, kind, beautiful. These adjectives don’t even begin to do her justice.

But, still, I will go back a little further. To my first visit—and the journey home.

About two or three nights before I left Haifa for Beitin, the small village my parents grew up and where I spent three years of my own childhood, the infamous Qalandia checkpoint burned. I sat up late, glued to my laptop, watching images of thousands of people marching from Ramallah towards Jerusalem. I watched a wall of flames rise, there on my screen in a relatively safe Arab neighborhood in Haifa. I felt a little nervous about traveling to the West Bank after that, since I would have to go through Qalandia, but things quieted down. Or at least as much as they can in that region.

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God, it was so quiet when I got there.

I was dropped off on one side of Qalandia with a few others at dusk. Anxiously, I looked around for signs of soldiers. But there were none. I was too nervous to stare too long at the watch tower so I kept going forward, through the deserted checkpoint. No sign of anyone. Aside from me and a few others, no one else was coming or going.

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I went on. Then, I saw the charred signs of the mayhem from a few nights earlier. It looked like what I imagine Hell looks like the morning after.

I had to keep moving so I could (hopefully) find a taxi in Ramallah that would head towards my village. I clamored into a taxi van that dropped me off in Ramallah and, by then, it was dark. I asked people on the street where the cabs could be found—it’d been five years since I was last in Palestine and the garage where cabs used to be looked empty. They pointed me in the direction of an empty parking lot.

There, I found a small wooden bench under a tarp and sat with other women, also waiting on cabs to return them to their villages.

Eventually, they asked me my age. When I answered “27,” one, who didn’t look older than 20, laughed and said, “We thought you were 17 and wondered why you would be traveling alone!”

The women and their children—which I later learned where made up of daughters, mothers and mother-in-laws—all warmed up to me quickly. As it was the last night of Ramadan, when the prayer call rang out in the otherwise still night, they all went under another torn tarp in the corner of the lot, spread out hummus, falafel, chicken, yogurt, bread, water and soda and broke their fast. One young woman came back to the bench to invite me and the older woman sitting next to me. I kindly refused but she wouldn’t return to her group without me, so I joined them.

They shared whatever food they had with a total stranger.

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As a “thank you,” I offered to take photos of them and gave them my contact information. The younger women and their children were excited to have their photos taken as the older women watched.

And, naturally, I had to take a selfie with them.

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They knew of my plan to surprise my aunts but were determined to take me back to their village for the holiday and return me to my family later. I graciously thanked them but was firm in my resolve to get home. So, they told me I had to call someone. After I did and told them someone was coming for me, they kissed me, filled my purse with chocolates, wished me a happy holiday and took off. Even the older woman who sat next to me for the duration of our wait (I was in the lot for at least an hour and a half), handed me a plum before getting in her van (I kept it and ate it three days later on my way back to Haifa).

I called the only aunt whose number I had and she sent a cousin who lives in Ramallah to look for me. He took me to my aunt in Ramallah’s home until my uncle, who was already in the city to attend the funeral of a youth killed in the Qalandia protests, could bring me to Beitin.

When I arrived at my aunts’ home, well after midnight, I assumed my mother had informed them I was coming. When I knocked, I heard one say to the other, “Who could that be?” She poked her head through the curtain.

“It’s Kholood!”

The surprise was not ruined after all.

I like telling this story because, to this day, I’m still so moved. The kindness of strangers in what is becoming a less personal world is something I cherish. That was my surprise—or friendly reminder.

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Away From Home

•November 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This weekend, I headed to Florida for my brother’s engagement party. It was the first time I’ve seen my family since leaving Missouri for New York two months ago (yesterday marked two months since I arrived in NY shortly before midnight after a 16 hour drive).

Needless to say, I’ve missed them. I was able to catch up with family and still have time to wander. Still, I was sad to see them go.

Above is a photo of my dad, on our way to the car en route to the airport. I dropped off my dad, mom, uncle and sister at the airport. Then, instead of going back to the hotel (I was in Boca Raton for an extra day), I made a detour to try and catch a sunset. I regret not spending more time at the beach when I was living in Haifa this summer.

Then, another reminder of home.

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When I got to the beach (the same quiet, sparsely populated one that my little sister and I visited earlier in the morning), I came across these two women. Shortly before I left the beach, I approached them and asked if they spoke Arabic. They did. We got to talking and I asked where they were from.

“Falesteen,” was the elder, Ghada’s, response.

I always get especially excited when I meet fellow Palestinians scattered along the road. Maybe it’s a common feeling that most Palestinians experience—when I told them I too am Palestinian, Ghada (left) and Tasneem’s faces lit up. I asked where in Palestine they’re from.

“Gaza,” Ghada again replied.

I didn’t know what to say. Should I tell her how the rest of us mourned? How so many outside of Gaza felt heartbreak and horror at the summer’s atrocities? Finally, I settled on, “Allahy e’einhoom.” God help them.

“Allahy e’ein al jamea’a.” God help us all.

Ghada left 22 years ago.

Shooting Family

•June 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Just for the record, I don’t always photograph myself on assignment. But it was my first time in a limo. Paul’s, too.

Why were we in a limo in the first place? My cousin Amera’s wedding (Ahmed was there too). It was only the second Arab wedding I’ve ever shot, the first was another cousin’s (back in December. Waddup Ibrahim…). Some might wonder why I make the distinction “Arab wedding” as opposed to just “wedding.” Well, for one thing, it’s a two-day affair. The henna is the day before and tends to be more intimate and have more “tradition” involved—from the attire to the practice of writing initials in one anothers’ palms with henna (hence the name, I guess). It’s a whirlwind of food, (loud) music, relatives from all over. Basically, every Arab wedding is like a huge family reunion but minus the BBQ.

I shot this wedding a few days before taking off for Haifa to do my master’s project. In the meantime, while I’m not shooting for that, I’m trying to catch up on editing (so much editing…).

Anywho, I’ll let the photos take over from here. These are some of my favorites thus far but I’m still going through the wedding and working backwards to the henna. Amera and Ahmed were so wonderful to work with—very laid back and sweet. And Amera is an absolute doll, so it really was a pleasure to be so involved in her special day.

Wishing the couple the happiest of days ahead.

*Also, I have to give a special shout out to my friends at Tiny Attic Productions, Paul and Chelsea (she’s in a ton of other photos). They’re always a good time, whether it’s work or play. Or both. Talented, passionate, lovely friends.

**Another side note: These photos aren’t as out-of-focus when you click on the individual image. Not sure why this template softens the images…?

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_DSC5116__BW_27This photo makes me think of Beetlejuice. Not sure why, but it makes me like it.

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_DSC5667_52Did I mention I have a big family??

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 I know I said earlier that I don’t always—or even often—take photos of myself while working, but come on, she’s family.

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Wait—Where the Hell Did the Story Go?

•May 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Seems the project I’ve been working on that I mentioned in the previous blog post has spiraled a little out of control in the editing process. I had a similar problem while working on my first micro documentary—when it came time to edit the material, I got lost trying to decide which thread of the story to follow.

But I will have to apply that same process-of-elimination method to the project about Deborah now.

Things I’m trying to keep in mind as I wind down the final hours of this madness:

-What is the specific theme/storyline I’m trying to tell? Life is complicated. No one’s story is easily compact into a precise little box. There are multiple themes and supporting characters that interweave. It’s my job to select which I find most worth sharing (for the time being).

-Think about your audience. Would I want to sit through a still-and-audio slideshow for over 6 minutes? Doubtful, unless it’s really goddamn compelling. Something else to note here is something told to me by David Redmond, who visited Mizzou a few months ago and offered insight to that micro doc: “Allow your audience to grow with the character.” Proper pacing should help with this.

-Ring the bell. Both my roommate and professor emphasized that, often for photographers, stories aren’t “done.” But at some point, you have to take a step back, fold up your sleeves and make the most of what you have for the sake of honoring deadlines and moving on. This new “chapter” in Deb’s life fell into her lap recently and so, it fell into mine. But with so little time to manuever such a delicate addition, I found myself overwhelmed and frustrated. I want to do the story—and Deborah—justice. But I will have to stick with my instincts in that I’m unable to fully implement that into the present story. Not right now, at least, and not in as much detail as I’d have liked. I don’t have enough of the visuals to support the audio telling about the new child’s arrival and, due to his status as a foster child, I’m restricted in what I can photograph. I tried getting unidentifiable photos of him but he was always surrounded by so many other children—Deborah took six kids to church on Sunday since she also watches kids as a source of income—so the photos get cluttered and he gets lost.

So, time to finish. For now. I hope to maybe pick this story back up if/when Deborah goes through the adoption process. But, for today, I need to ring the bell.

Navigating Through Sensitive Stories

•May 8, 2014 • 1 Comment

For some time, I’ve been interested in mental illness. How could I not be? There’s so much ambiguity and mystery surrounding the inner-workings of the mind. And, unfortunately, when issues of mental illness appear in the news, it’s often associated with violence, confusion and chaos. It’s a topic that raises more questions than answers. And, it seems, the lede is often “What could have been done?”

As fascinated in the topic as I’ve been, I never thought I’d spend the second year of my masters program focusing my projects on it.

Personal matters in my life got me started on a project for my independent art studies class last fall where I’ve been photographing and interviewing people diagnosed with or suffering from a range of mental illnesses. It’s a project I will continue working on, but will at least be publishing a portion of it sometime early next week. That project lead me to another, one I’ve been working on since October. It was and still is unexpected—at least for me—in so many ways.

I first met Deborah through her daughter Tara, who has bipolar disorder. Tara mentioned how her mom recently became the legal guardian of three children all diagnosed with mental illnesses, the oldest being 7 (at the time I began this project. He recently turned 8). I spoke with Deborah and she was more than willing to work with me, which I found surprising given her situation. Deborah is 62, single and was unemployed (she recently received her state license to watch children at her house). She was frustrated and needed an outlet. Back when I met her, she was trying to place the eldest in a residential facility given that he’d been hospitalized multiple times in the last year and has had a number of violent outbursts at school, as well as suicidal tendencies. But she could not afford any such facility to place him in, and in order for the state to pick up the tab, she’d have to relinquish custody, which she’s unwilling to do for the time being.

And so, she let me into their lives under one condition—that the children’s names be kept anonymous. She hopes to adopt them, maybe sometime next year, but there is some resistance from family members (the kids are distant cousins of hers and were in their grandmother’s care until entering Deborah’s home as foster care. Eventually, the legal guardianship followed). That seemed a simple enough request to oblige.

But now I’m kind of stuck.

I’ve been interviewing Deb since the fall, with the original intent being to use the audio as a form of notes that I could transcribe later. But I always made sure to have clean audio, just in case I turn this into a multimedia piece. I love multimedia and that’s where I’m gravitating. Recently, after listening to some of the audio, I realized how wonderful of a storyteller Deb is. I kind of fell in love with her voice. One of the main challenges I face now is that the interviews don’t censor the children’s identity, so I have limited options for what to do with the audio. I can either:

-Dip the audio when the names are mentioned. This may seem jarring but it’d be less so than if I were to incorporate some kind of artificial noise here (although I don’t know why I would do that?)

-Cut and paste pronouns. This would not only be time-consuming, but potentially add confusion since she talks about three kids (although the eldest is her main concern and the one she discusses the most).

-Redo the interviews. I’m especially hesitant to go with this option because she says some poignant things and I’m reluctant to risk losing that.

Whichever option I go with (and I have to decide very soon, since this is due Monday), I’ll be sure to include a disclaimer addressing the absence of the kids’ names and the reason why.

A few other unexpected dilemmas recently popped up. This morning, I called Deb to touch base and she mentioned that she was at a therapy appointment for the kids’ younger half brother who is not usually in her care. I asked what that was about and it seems that, at least for the time being, he’s in her care as a foster child (long story involving neglect, drugs and domestic violence). I’m hoping to photograph and maybe interview Deb one more time between now and Monday and I can’t show this child because of his foster status I’m thinking I can and should still photograph this child to show how Deb’s load has increased, but I just need to approach it in a way where he can’t visibly be identified.

Another issue that came up today is the fact that my main focus is Deb, her sacrifices, struggles, her relationship with the kids and the decision to keep fighting for them. This Sunday is Mother’s Day and I should spend it with her. I know I should spend it with her. But there are other potential plans in my personal life that I’m hesitant to back out of. Finding the balance between my personal life and my shooting life is something that will only become increasingly challenging as I continue in this field. The best thing I can think to do is spend the latter part of the day with her, which means I will likely miss church—an important part of her life that I’ve not yet had the chance to photograph (for a number of reasons, one of which being that she’d been shopping around for a new place of worship). Still not really sure what I’ll do come Sunday. Or with the editing. But I know I’ll need to start wrapping this up really soon—this project is now one for my Picture Story class (which is the capstone course in the program) and, if I haven’t mentioned earlier, it’s due Monday.