Sunday, January 31, 2010

Atlanta, Georgia

I will spend the day in Atlanta. I won't go on to Richmond until Monday morning. So many people were stranded by snow tomorrow is the first day I can find a flight with a seat. After two weeks in Eastern Europe I understand the value of a good scarf — even inside. I am a believer! I bought one in Dorking and am a happy man.
Photographed with an Apple iPhone
London to Atlanta

Waiting in Gatwick airport, London, for a flight to Atlanta, Ga. Snow in Richmond will close its airport and force me to overnight in Atlanta. Wading through customs, baggage claim, rescheduling flights and hotel vouchers makes it a 20 hour day before I get to bed.
Photograph taken with a Leica M8

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dorking & Shere, Surrey, England

The White Horse Hotel in Dorking is a wonderful place to stay. It is conveniently located in the heart of town and there is a comfortable feel to it.  A fire set in the front sitting room in the evening lends further warmth in more than the obvious way.

The view through the sheer curtains in my room takes in a courtyard and the church steeple.

The momentary doorkeeper at the local coffee shop greets visitors — until her mother calls her away.


Four miles from Dorking is the village of Shere. It is one of the most picturesque among a nation of picturesque villages. It has been the site for a number of movies — beginning in 1946 — more recently for one of the weddings in Four Weddings and a Funeral and in the English part of The Holiday. The church at Shere — St. James — is mentioned in the Doomsday book. It's basic shape has remained unchanged since 1190.

The main entrance to the church is through the Lych Gate (Old English for corpse), see previous photo, where bodies waited to be escorted by clergy into grounds for burial. Inside, above, is the Processional Cross hangs on the wall between services. Elsewhere Chanel Brasses commemorating people important to the life of the community grace the floor in front of the altar. Along one wall is a 10-foot long, oak Crusader Alms Chest used to collect funds for the Crusades to the Holy Land between the 1000s to 1200s.

St. James could be a post in itself. Outside is a plaque commemorating "John Wesley's Rule." They are still good words to live by.

On a peaceful amble through this quaint village along ...

... the Tillingbourne — a small stream that runs through the center of the village — we learn ducks can be startled by opening an umbrella.

At the center of town is the White Horse Pub. It was built as a farmhouse in 1425 and became an inn in 1700. It once grew its own hops and had a brewhouse attached to it. Barney waits at the feet of his person who enjoys an afternoon brew as many a dog and man have done over the past 300 years.

One of the oil lamps which once lit the pub.

The tap at the White Horse offers TEA ... look close, it's not what you think.


In the morning we are to leave for the states, but first have a meal with Jack and Sophie before ...

... they walk off into the night with their mother.
Photographs taken with a Canon 5D Mark II

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Prague & Dorking
Prague, Czech Republic

It is the warmest day since arriving in Prague and we are leaving. The ground crew checks the plane that will carry us to London as day breaks over the airfield.

Dorking, United Kingdom

From London the drive to Dorking — a historic market town south of London in Surrey — is a short 25 miles. William the Conquerer once held it and Dorking appears in the Doomsday book of 1086 as the Manor of Dorchinges. It was a stage post on the Roman road between the coast and London. Small mountains and sharp valleys make this one of the loveliest areas of England. I am here to visit with friends and their children Jack, left, and Sophie, right.

Jack, 7, is just starting to play the violin. He already has a touch for the instrument. There are none of the squawks and squeaks of most beginners. Sophie, 4, displays some of her toys. They are delightful children. Their parents are American, but they have lived here all their lives and their accents are decidedly British.

Dorking contributed William Mullins, one of the Pilgrim Fathers, to the Mayflower. His house still stands and is now a shop. It is a reminder of my own origins and the villages that contributed my Quaker ancestors to Virginia a decade later.
Photographs taken with a Canon 5D Mark II

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Prague, Czech Republic

It is our last day in Prague and Mike bundles against the cold as we wait for a tram to carry us into the center city.

The day offers a windchill of -12 degrees Fahrenheit. It will warn later in the day. But for now, it is brisk. Cheeks and fingers soon begin to sting with cold.

Not many people are on the streets as we walk from the tram to breakfast.

The last of our assignments is to photograph Linka as she teaches sign to hearing students ...

...there is only one today, an advanced student. Linka's instruction mixes video and demonstation, stopping the video to analyze the intricacies of a sign or movement through a series of signs ... 

... the student following Linka in a dance that imitates her every move. The session is the last piece in our story coverage and brings our assignment to a close.

The day ends walking through old town, buying gifts and trinkets. Mike examines a matryoshka or nesting doll — like the one he knocked over our first night in Prague (see earlier post) —for his daughter. Generally five to seven — sometimes as many as 20 — dolls nest within the largest doll. 
Photographs taken with a Canon 5D Mark II

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prague, Czech Republic

This morning (left to right) Anna, her daughter Petra and Linka gather for Bible study at Linka's flat. 

It is in the far northeast of Prague, part of the Soviet era flats built from the Balkans to the Baltics.

While Laura, Linka's daughter, plays in the next room ...

... the three women react to and discuss what they read.

If as it is said the eyes are the window to the soul ...

... the hands ....

... it is certain ...

... will lead you there.
Photographs taken with a Canon 5D Mark II

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brno, Czech Republic

Anna practices for a dramatic monolog she will deliver at the Brno Deaf church later this evening.

While people gather and greet one another at the small, storefront church, Laura, 4, center, sits in Andre's lap and signs the storyline from a comic book. Andre is her  mother's fiance. He and  Linka (see Jan. 20 post) will marry this summer. It will be her second marriage.

Both Jana, left, and Anna, right, broke a wrist while slipping on the ice this week. The weather is bitter and the sidewalks treacherous — and not just from ice — the church is on the ragged edge of Brno in an area known for pickpockets, thugs and prostitutes.

Anna's presentation is well received. She holds the audience's rap attention ...

... generating questions and spirited discussion. Some among the congregation are Roma (Gypsy). They are marginalized for more than just being Deaf. Gypsys are not recognized as citizens of the Czech Republic. They are unable to hold passports, forced to live in substandard housing, their children relegated to inferior schools, even though their families have lived here for generations.
Photographs taken with a Canon 5D Mark II
Brno, Czech Republic

Today is partially a down day for us. We get some rest, don't gather until 10:30 a.m. and spend the morning in downtown Brno. It is the second largest city in the country and the university town. It is again bitter cold so we don't spend much time outside, but scuttle between the car and a restaurant.

We find a restaurant in a cellar which has a Medieval theme. Ryan, who is functioning as our grip on this trip, is lit by the candles scattered across the rough wooden tables.

The men's room is the last place I expect to find a guillotine. I'm told they weren't installed in the women's room ... interesting.

Candles light the way along the dark passageway in and out of the restaurant.

Severa clowns at the beginning of her interview. The video lights and camera bring out the imp in her. She says she could be the Deaf Vanna White or model for the Price is Right ...

... I first photographed Severa in 2007 at a conference. She doesn't remember it. The image got a lot of play, but shortly after the conference she left for Prague. This is the first she has seen it.

Martin, right, is the hearing son of Deaf parents we interviewed earlier in another city. As such he lives in both the Deaf and hearing worlds, belonging fully to neither, he says. He is completing a masters in English at Masarykova University, the premiere university in the Czech Republic. Fluent in English, Czech sign and his native Czech, it is from him I learn that the "meat of the forest" I had from the menu of a restaurant the other day is wild boar.

Mike, left, Lee, right, and I are a multimedia team. Mike is the writer, Lee the videographer and I the photographer. Late this evening we set up for one more interview in a Czech apartment.
Except for the 2007 image all are photographed with a Canon 5D Mark II

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Valasske Mezinci, Czech Republic

It is cold again this morning, 5 degrees Fahrenheit. By tonight when we drive to Brno, it falls to -5 F. Ice is thick on the roads and we learn that Anna (see yesterday's post) broke her wrist in a fall.*

Today is spent at a Deaf church. The service runs  six hours with a break for lunch. When they have communion, it has a deeper symbolism. I wish I could experience it. They share a meal together with the Lord's supper as part of it.** 

There is more participation in the service than in our culture — and frankly more fellowship. When there is teaching, there is interruption and questioning. The speaker must be prepared to defend what he or she says. All talk. All pray. Even the young.*

It is beautiful. The time passes quickly even though I don't know the language. I once thought sign was mere translation of English — or in this case Czech — it's not. The Deaf draw pictures in the air. It is incredibly dynamic and visual — difficult to capture well in a still image.**

The day continues cold — I wonder if it ever got out of the teens — but not cold enough to keep a father from a jaunt with his son on a wooden sleigh. I don't mind this. I find it invigorating and use only my hat, gloves and fleece outside, never putting on my heavy coat.*

We end the day at Irca's home — the teacher of teachers at the Deaf school. She stands at the entrance to her kitchen before the art of her three children. She is the age of my oldest child and they share much in common. Both are bright, garrulous, teachers in their souls, given to testing the edges of life, and have had their share of troubles.*

 So the day ends as it began — in a dance of fingers, life expressed in rhythm, nuanced expression, dramatic and subtle shifts of bodies in which not a word need be spoken. It is a day spent amidst St. Francis of Assissi's aphorism: "Everywhere you go, preach the Gospel. And if necessary, use words."*
 *Taken with a Canon 5D Mark II
**Taken with a Leica M8